x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov is emerging from shadow of 'Baby Federer' moniker

Now 21, Dimitrov is starting to realise his massive potential, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Grigor Dimitrov is starting to emerge from the shadow of being known as 'Baby Federer', though the Bulgarian appreciates the comparison to the Swiss 17-time grand slam champion.
Grigor Dimitrov is starting to emerge from the shadow of being known as 'Baby Federer', though the Bulgarian appreciates the comparison to the Swiss 17-time grand slam champion.

Last week, Grigor Dimitrov was the talk of the tennis world.

On Tuesday, the Bulgarian battled cramps in the ATP Tour's longest three-setter of the year to stun world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Madrid Open.

It was the 21 year old's first win over a top-five player and Bulgaria celebrated the occasion, with one of the newspapers in the country claiming that Bulgaria had found a "new hero after Hristo Stoichkov", a former football superstar.

"Grigor made us proud to be Bulgarians," said Stefan Tsvetkov, president of Bulgaria's tennis federation. "It's an incredible win and it can only be compared with the victories of our national [football] team in 1994."

"Very happy for young Dimitrov, such a charismatic player to watch!" tweeted Rob Koenig, an ATP commentator.

A day after his win, Dimitrov was the talk of the tabloid world after his romance with women's world No 2 Maria Sharapova became official.

That love angle is certain to bring a lot more attention to the world No 26, but he is probably used to the limelight after earning the tag of "Baby Federer" following his triumph at the 2008 Wimbledon and US Open as a junior.

The game's connoisseurs have been waiting for his success on the men's tour since, and this could be the year that Dimitrov steps up.

Leaving the Mouratoglou Academy in France for Magnus Norman's Good to Great Academy in December, Dimitrov reached the final in his first tournament of 2013 before losing to Andy Murray in Brisbane.

He did not perform to expectations at Sydney, the Australian Open and Zagreb, but has picked up his game since and stretched Rafael Nadal to three sets in the quarter-finals at Monaco last month.

"I had kind of rough matches in the past weeks, so it gave me, of course, a lot of confidence, even though I lost them," Dimitrov told CNN's Open Court television show earlier this month.

"I felt quite good about myself and the way I was progressing."

In the same interview, Dimitrov also urged people to stop comparing him with the Swiss 17-time grand slam winner.

"Of course we have some similarities here and there," he said.

"I'm flattered with that and actually, I thought it was really cool at the beginning. But with time, I've realised what I am.

"I'm trying to build up my own style and when I'm on court, I do my own shots. I think that's eventually what everyone will see."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

 

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