2017 Flashback: Dimitrov Completes Dream Run In London
Bulgarian star caps an emotional win
The stranglehold of the game's elite on the Nitto ATP Finals trophy has been firm and relentless since the tournament moved to London in 2009. The trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray had accounted for seven consecutive titles in that span, dominating on the ATP World Tour's biggest stage.
But, as players entered The O2 for the 2017 edition, Djokovic and Murray were notable absences due to injury. And with Rafael Nadal pulling out during the tournament, it created a significant opportunity for the rest of the field. Grigor Dimitrov took full advantage.
Seeded sixth, Dimitrov was a relentless force throughout the week in London, completing a perfect 5-0 campaign. It all culminated with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over David Goffin in the championship, giving the Bulgarian the biggest title of his career.
“Obviously, this is a great, an unbelievable achievement for me," Dimitrov said after the final. "But I still have a lot to give. I want to perform better and better... This means a lot to me, and to even qualify and then be successful in the group has been a great reward for me and my team. They really deserve this as well."
It appeared as if Federer would storm to a seventh title at the season finale, but Goffin pulled the upset of the tournament with a dramatic three-set semi-final win. The victory came less than a month after the Swiss routed the Belgian 6-1, 6-2 in his hometown of Basel. With an improbable title match set between Dimitrov and Goffin, both competitors were thrust into the spotlight in the biggest match of their careers.
The final would go to a deciding set and Dimitrov pulled through, breaking in an 11-point game when Goffin spilled a backhand wide. The 26-year-old was emotional in his celebration. He lied face first on the court, sobbing, before hopping to his box and sharing long embraces with his family and friends.
After joining forces with coach Daniel Vallverdu in 2016, everything changed. The Bulgarian thought that a maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati would be the pinnacle of his breakthrough season. But that was just the beginning. Dimitrov made a stunning charge up the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 3, as he raised the trophy at The O2. Dimitrov announced his arrival in grand fashion, having sat at No. 40 just a year prior.
“With the right set of mind, with the right people, with the right support, things happen. For me, that period really helped me a lot. I think I needed that,” Dimitrov said, referring to his fall in the ATP Rankings and the subsequent Vallverdu hire. “In that particular moment, I really realised what I really need to work on, who are the real people around me, who really counts on me, who matters to me. There's so many lessons that I took out of that period.”
Dimitrov concluded the season with a personal-best four titles, also including victories on the hard courts of Brisbane and Sofia. Having never claimed multiple Top 10 wins in a single tournament, he achieved the feat twice in 2017 - three in a row in Brisbane and five straight under the bright lights of The O2.