Grigor Dimitrov has had a stunning comeback, but what can we expect from him in the future?
A Switch Finally Flipped
Date: 25th July 2016.
Grigor Dimitrov was down a set and trailing 5-3 in the tiebreaker of the second set.
His opponent? A then unheralded journeyman, Yuichi Sugita. The result seemed likely: Dimitrov was 2 points away from another loss to a player he should be winning against comfortably. His ranking had already plummeted to a career low of 39, and there seemed to be no end to his downward spiral.
He was destined to go into the history books as another player who wasted his talent and one who would be best known for his uncanny resemblance to Federer. Baby Fed seemed like he would forever remain that: just a pretender, nothing more.
Back to the match. At 5-3, a rally ensues. Both players are drawn to the net and exchange a few volleys before Sugita lobs the ball over his opponent’s head. Dimitrov puts on a chase and you can’t help but feel that Sugita was about to secure 2 match points. However, Dimitrov reaches there and hit a lob of his own.
It landed in. Dimitrov then proceeded to win the tiebreaker and then the match.
It may have not seemed like a massive deal then, but that match kick-started his road to the top.
Dimitrov Climbs Back To The Top
Fast forward 14 months and here we are today: Dimitrov is now the world’s 4th best player (ended last year as no. 3), a master’s 1000 title winner, an ATP finals title holder and a genuine threat at nearly every tournament. However, his recent stretch of success has inspired the question: Can he maintain it?
Can he go higher?
On the basis of what we have seen this year, the answer to both of those questions looks like a yes.
Dimitrov started the year in Brisbane winning his first two matches and reaching the semifinals. Both wins involved 3 sets one of which involved his saving 3 match points. Both wins were indicative of the mental fortitude that Dimitrov has developed over the last 14 months. While he did lose to Kygrios in the semifinals of Brisbane, Kygrios was on a roll the whole tournament with his serve. Not a great run, but a positive, encouraging start to the year.
Australian Open Woes
Dimitrov’s Australian Open campaign will go down as a mixed bag and a wasted opportunity. While Dimitrov rose to the occasion in the 4th round and played a clutch match vs Kygrios (winning all three tiebreakers in the match), he underperformed in the quarters against Kyle Edmund, a match which he really should have won. The loss would hurt Dimitrov even more given that Nadal was knocked out by Cilic in the quarters (albeit Nadal was injured). He would have backed himself to get past Cilic into his first grand slam final. However, that wasn’t to be.
Dimitrov than pulled out of Sofia and played at the Rotterdam Open last week. His run to the Rotterdam final was filled with positives, having not dropped a set en route to the final. However, Dimitrov looked surprisingly flat in a swift final which Roger Federer wrapped up in less than an hour (although Dimitrov looked like he was carrying an injury of sorts).
Will Dimitrov Break Through Into Greatness?
So what is the road ahead for Dimitrov? It is safe to say that Grigor will be making deep runs into most of the hard court and grass court tournaments at the very least. He seems to have achieved a degree of consistency that was absent for the majority of his career.
However, he still possesses poor records against both Federer and Rafa, which is something that would need to be addressed if he is to become a grand slam champion.
His clay court record is a head scratcher as well: For a guy who moves as incredibly well as him and also possesses a strong forehand (which is so critical for success on clay), he has never really found his groove in the clay court season. However, it seems safe to say that Dimitrov will eventually find a way to get consistent results on clay as well, quite like Andy Murray did 2 years ago.
While the current state of men’s tennis makes it nearly impossible to predict anything, Dimitrov is one of the most likely players to crack the grand slam code in the near future.
Dimitrov is putting the right pieces together. He is gaining mental strength and consistency to add to his already unbelievable talent and physical gifts. All in all, the future looks bright for ‘Baby Fed’, who is fast shedding this moniker to become what he truly is once and for all: Grigor Dimitrov.
- Ishaan in from Pune, India. He is taking The Slice worldwide and is an article writing machine! Find him @zeladder.