Grigor Dimitrov – Still a "baby"

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2015 – A forgettable year for the Newcomers

2014 was ATP’s year of the newcomers, of sorts. The Big Four deadlock was finally broken at the Grand Slam level, not once but twice. It felt like the youngsters were finally ready to take up the mantle of the aging quartet and usher in an era of fresh talent and possibly a new world’s best player.

Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Ernests Gulbis, and even a resurgent Marin Cilic looked set for world domination. In the near future, at least.

Fast forward to 2016, none of the players in the list, with the exception of Nishikori, are in the Top 10. Not even a single breakthrough run in 2015 at the GS or even Masters 1000 level, throughout the entire season. No real dark horses or dangerous contenders either, with the big serving Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Ivo Karlovic (having their best seasons on tour) playing that role.

Those players who failed to make an impact, are supremely talented athletes with loads of firepower. Some of them were even Federer-like in pulling off unbelievable hot shots every now and then. But it wasn’t enough. It was never going to be. More on that later.

A fabulous 2014

Dimi new racket

Speaking of Federer brings us to a certain Bulgarian by the name of Grigor Dimitrov, who probably showed the most promise of the lot. In dismantling defending champion, home favourite Andy Murray at Wimbledon 2014, Dimitrov sent a strong message to the locker room. In his very next match, he was stuck in a thriller against World No.1 Novak Djokovic, before wasting chances to send it into a decider and losing in 4 very tight sets. He could be forgiven for failing to capitalise his chances, because after all, he was relatively new to the sport’s highest levels. Playing the SF at Wimbledon can turn anybody’s stomach. As a consequence of his remarkable run, he reached a career high World No.8 ranking.

After winning 3 titles on 3 different surfaces in 2014, Dimitrov was seen a serious contender who was there to stay. Indeed, the guy nicknamed “Baby Federer” had a lot to live upto in 2015.

A Dismal 2015

Every now and then, he’d be part of a thrilling three setter, but end up on the losing side, breaking any momentum he had built up in the process. At times, he was playing very competitively, particularly against the erratic Fabio Fognini and a resurgent Nadal. At other times however (against Murray, Federer, Nadal, Fognini), he simply seemed to lack the motivation to give his 100% in tough situations, where mental strength mattered the most.

In the aftermath, Dimitrov failed to win a single title in 2015. A true sophomore year, not very unlike the humbling season that Eugenie Bouchard went through after a stellar 2014. And he had no one to blame except himself.

Failed efforts to redeem his game:

It wasn’t that Dimitrov didn’t care about his game. He decided to part ways with coach Roger Rasheed (who was more of a fitness trainer than anything else) and hired Frank Devin in September 2015.

Baby Federer

What’s more? He even switched to newer larger racket(in matte black!). {Insert your own Baby Federer joke here}

What he needs for a great 2016: inspiration from the successful ones

Dimitrov has all the weapons necessary to do well – a big serve, huge forehand, a decent backhand and good volleying skills and athleticism that rivals the best in the sport, but lacks one major aspect that has been hurting him really badly over the years – cohesion.

What makes a tennis player great is every part of his game working together perfectly. His backhand is not up to par with the rest of his game and can’t hold its own in baseline rallies. The modern men’s game is all about the backhand (just ask “daddy” Federer) and if you can’t do well, then you’re starting off with a considerable disadvantage. Federer(oh no, not again) seems to be hitting his backhand much better since 2014 and hopefully, Dimitrov can do the same with his own “weakness”.

Mental fortitude of the Big Four:

When you need inspiration to get out of a tough situation, look no further than the Big Four. Just watch them in losing situations, the fire is still burning inside and you can see it in their eyes. At no point in the entire match do they look like they’ve given up on it. They keep fighting until it’s GSM.

big four emotions

They express their emotions too, on court, in their own different ways. We even saw the stone-cold Federer shouting at his towel and smashing balls out of play, Djokovic & Murray screaming and swearing to their heart’s content and Wawrinka constantly ranting about something(nobody knows what, by the way). After all they’re human and feelings get the better of them at times. But they never let any distraction disrupt their rhythm in the game. Perhaps, Dimitrov can learn a lesson or two from them in being level-headed.

Determination for success:

Despite his unfortunate situation, Dimitrov has time on his side and a fit body to rely upon and push harder. Here’s hoping the Bulgarian romeo (move over Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova; enter, Nicole Scherzinger) gets his on-court act together and justifies his immense talent with great performances throughout 2016.


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