Friday 25 October 2013
Having become the first Bulgarian to win a tournament on the ATP World Tour, Wimbledon.com wonders if we can expect more and more from Grigor Dimitrov...
It's something he has been asking for for years. As Grigor Dimitrov prepares to play Roger Federer in Basel this evening, the time has surely come for tennis to 'retire; the 'Baby Federer' nickname that has haunted the Bulgarian ever since he came to the fore with his junior Wimbledon win in 2008. Now only sixteen ranking places separate Dimitrov from his supposed inspiration, meaning the 22-year-old can finally get on with being his own man; at next January's Australian Open, he will be seeded at a grand slam for the first time, so he hardly needs nannying anymore.
In fact, there wasn't much that was baby-like about Dimitrov when he defeated Spain's David Ferrer in the Stockholm final at the weekend to become the first Bulgarian to win a tournament on the ATP World Tour.
Dimitrov's girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, is a career Grand Slammer - having won all four majors in the women's game - but she knew what a significant event this was in his career, observing, "wow, what a special moment".
Will 2014 be the year when Dimitrov, with his elegant game, goes deep into a Grand Slam for the first time? He clearly knows his way around the lawns of London, so perhaps he will feature heavily at Wimbledon next summer. In 2013, he was Wimbledon gossip column fodder, after the pre-tournament firefight between Sharapova and Serena Williams; let's see whether next summer he can gain membership of The Last Eight Club, for those who reach the quarter-finals and beyond.
It was when Dimitrov won the 2008 boys' singles title at the All England Club that people started calling him 'Baby Federer'. At first, he liked it, but in time he realised that he would be lugging that label around like a sack of coal in his racket-bag. "I've been carrying that for many years. I don't know what I have to do to get rid of it," Dimitrov said earlier this year. "I thought it was cool in the beginning, I must say. I thought I was there already at 17, 18. I was like, 'I am the thing'. Well, in the end I wasn't nearly close to the thing."
Winning his first title doesn't make him "close to the thing" either; he appreciates now that you can't do much on talent alone. Hard graft is required.
Dimitrov, who recently moved to Los Angeles to spend more time with Sharapova, was working with a new coach, Australian Roger Rasheed, in Stockholm. "It was nice to start our relationship with a tournament win. That's new for me. We were just trying to be really basic, focus on what we have to work on against my opponent. Obviously it helped at the right time," Dimitrov said. "I was very overwhelmed after winning my first title and still am. I am very happy. It means a lot to me and my team and everyone who has been supporting me through the years - my family, my girlfriend, and everyone else who has been around," he told ATPWorldTour.Com.
One newspaper even described him as "a prince" - ("This is big not only for me but also for my country - they need to see that everyone can succeed"). It was also a satisfying moment for all those who have believed in Dimitrov's talent for years.
But what next for the boy who once won Wimbledon? Here's a young buck with an exciting future.
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