© Getty Images

Grigor Dimitrov reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2014.

Dimitrov Breaks Into Top 10 of Emirates ATP Rankings

Today, Grigor Dimitrov becomes the first Bulgarian man to break into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. ATPWorldTour.com pays tribute to the 23-year-old record-setter.

The transition can often be fraught for the talented that shine brightly on the international junior circuit. Often, the starlets find the path to the upper echelons of the ATP World Tour insurmountable. Winning multiple Grand Slam junior titles is not always a guarantee of future success.

Laden with trophies as a junior — including the 2008 Wimbledon and US Open crowns — Grigor Dimitrov soon found himself afflicted by the burden of being touted the 'next' Roger Federer. “This thing was starting to get a bit out of hand,” he said, and for a few years the moniker weighed heavily on his shoulders.

Professional satisfaction was initially achieved on the ATP Challenger Tour (11-1 record in singles finals), yet prior to this year, Dimitrov had reached the third round just once — at 2013 Roland Garros — in his 12 Grand Slam championship appearances. The pressure to succeed was always there, self-imposed, yet the weight of expectation from the media continued to build. Last season, after long periods of academy training, Dimitrov decided on the direction of his career.

Roger Rasheed, his coach since September 2013, recalls, "This kid came to me pretty strongly when I stopped with Jo [-Wilfried Tsonga]. I said, 'What do you want to be? Honestly?' When you say you want to be the best player in the world at some point in your career, it means you're really prepared to be accountable. And if you're prepared to be accountable it opens a lot of skeletons, a lot of doors, and you've got to be honest with yourself. To his credit, he's wanted to do that.”

In joining forces with Rasheed, Dimitrov’s thirst to improve on a daily basis benefited from the establishment of attainable goals: to improve his physical strength and tactics to befit his talent level. One month after teaming up with his Australian coach he picked up his first ATP World Tour title at the If Stockholm Open (l. to Ferrer). “I learned something about myself,” said Dimitrov. “It just clicked, but our goals are higher. We are just at the beginning.”

Over the past 12 months, Dimitrov grafted in order to prove himself among the established stars. “Roger has taught me to be more disciplined [and] use better shot selections,” he admitted. “We really give 100 per cent to each other, every day.” Together, they have won a further three titles in 2014 — on different surfaces — the Abierto Mexicano Telcel hard (d. Anderson), the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy clay (d. Rosol) and the grass of the Aegon Championships (d. Lopez).

Dimitrov is now playing with greater calm and composure, and he has learned the ability to switch his focus when he has to in matches. “He plays higher percentage tennis and makes better decisions,” says Andy Murray, who lost to Dimitrov in the semi-finals of this year’s Abierto Mexicano Telcel and The Championships at Wimbledon. “Technically, he hasn’t made any changes to his game.”

While 23 was once considered a mature age to break through, the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ since the start of 2004, has seen Federer (16), Rafael Nadal (14), Novak Djokovic (7) and Murray (2) – win 39 of the past 43 Grand Slam championships. It has left many players thirsty.

Dimitrov treats every match like a gladiatorial battle. His willingness to play on the front foot resulted in a recent run to the semi-finals at The Championships (l. to Djokovic). Dedicated, disciplined and hungry, his rise into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings is just the start for the richly talented Bulgarian, who is at the forefront of the next generation of stars.