Britain’s Cameron Norrie dominated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday to book a title clash with Nikoloz Basilashvili at the ATP Indian Wells Masters.
The 26-year-old Norrie overpowered Dimitrov in their semi-final to become the first British finalist since 2009.
Norrie kept Dimitrov off guard with a strong serve, blasting four aces and hitting a number of precision forehands and backhands in the one hour, 27 minute match on the main stadium court in Southern California.
“I am so happy,” said Norrie. “Unfortunately he didn’t bring his best today.
“I was very solid. I went a lot to his backhand he was getting frustrated with that. I managed to serve well and in the big moments I executed when I needed to.”
Several Brits have reached the final in the California desert without success, including Andy Murray, who lost to Rafael Nadal in 2009.
Tim Henman lost two finals in 2002 and 2004, and Canadian-born Briton Greg Rusedski was runner-up in 1998.
Norrie was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and grew up in New Zealand before becoming the No. 1 college player in America while attending university in Texas. He has represented Great Britain since 2013.
Norrie is seeking his second career title after winning earlier this year in Los Cabos.
“I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow and really looking forward to going out and enjoying it again,” he said.
He broke through in Los Cabos following a string of runner-up heartbreaks, including earlier this year in Estoril, Lyon and London.
“I’ve had some opportunities there to make the second week of a slam, but it’s not gone my way,” said Norrie who has never gone past the third round of a Grand Slam. “It’s all been great learning for me.
“Hopefully with these results I can put myself in a higher seeding and maybe have some more chances.”
Dimitrov was coming off a couple of upsets over top 10 seeded players. The Bulgarian battled back from a set down to beat top seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round and outlasted eighth seeded Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
There were no players ranked in the top 25 in the world in the men’s semi-finals. Norrie, at 26, was the highest ranked semi-finalists.
Norrie easily won the first set by breaking Dimitrov on three of four service games. He got the early break in the second then held to serve to wrap up his 46th win of the season.
Norrie clinched the match on the first match point when Dimitrov hit a backhand into the net.
Norrie is going up against another surprise finalist in the 29th seeded Basilashvili, who defeated American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to post one of the biggest wins of his career.
Basilashvili, of Georgia, is gunning for his third ATP title of the season after earlier triumphs in Doha and Munich.
He clinched the win over crowd favourite Fritz on the fourth match point, hammering a forehand winner that froze the American in his tracks.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” said the 29-year-old Basilashvili, the son of a Georgian national ballet dancer. “I am super happy. I was nervous and stressed. I got very tight, but I just tried to focus on the game.
“When you focus, the stress goes away. I know I can play good tennis I just have to not get too tight.”
Basilashvili saved three set points to take the opening set in a tiebreaker.
The players stayed on serve throughout the match until the seventh game of the second set when Basilashvili got the break he needed to go ahead 4-3.
The 23-year-old American fought off three match points before surrendering on the fourth one to end the one hour 41 minute contest.
Fritz, who was born in nearby San Diego, blasted 11 aces but had three double faults to Basilashvili’s one.