© Henk Koster

Rotterdam second seed Grigor Dimitrov remains motivated and optimisitc that he can carry his 2017 form into the future and attain new goals.

Dimitrov: "I Always Want To Do More"

Bulgarian star is not resting on his laurels after career-best 2017

There is a spring in the step of Grigor Dimitrov as he walks along the corridors of the Rotterdam Ahoy. Nine years on from being awarded a wild card by Tournament Director Richard Krajicek into the 2009 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, much has changed for the amiable Bulgarian.

The target on Dimitrov’s chest has magnified since his first steps on the ATP World Tour in February 2009, when he beat Tomas Berdych before falling to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Last year’s runs to the Western & Southern Open trophy in Cincinnati, the emotion of winning the Nitto ATP Finals and a career-high year-end No. 3 finish in the ATP Rankings, fuelled the fire of what may be possible.

Dimitrov knows there are more goals to chase, 2017 is over. His love of the challenge, of testing and proving himself, of managing his own and fan expectations, has strengthened.

“I always want to do more,” said Dimitrov on Sunday. “I always expect more from myself, but that can also be dangerous. Regardless of how high your position in the ATP Rankings, you never lose your respect for the game. You must remember the process, what works and not take anything for granted.

“I’ve learned that over the years, you’re going to have ups and downs, but it’s important to maintain a certain level. You can see the younger players, younger than me, are hungry!

“The dot on your back becomes a little bigger, but that’s what I play tennis for: to compete, for the love of the game, to prove I can do better and sustain it on a daily basis. It really means something to me.”

This week, Dimitrov competes in an ATP World Tour 500 field that includes 2005 and 2012 champion Roger Federer, who, with a Rotterdam semi-final run would return to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, Alexander Zverev, last year’s runner-up David Goffin, 2015 titlist Stan Wawrinka and 2014 winner Tomas Berdych.

Unable to defend his title at last week’s Diema Xtra Sofia Open, due to a shoulder injury, Dimitrov is now focused on performing well in Rotterdam. “You want to compete against the top players, you want to challenge yourself,” the 26-year-old admitted. “That’s why I compete.

“My shoulder injury is holding up well [and] I am slowly beginning to serve a little bit faster. I have done the work in the gym. I never stop working. If I don’t practise every day, I go to the gym, or go for a hike. On my days off, I like to go to the gym, just get your body moving, in a routine, a rhythm.

“I have recently felt that my body is getting to maturity and holding up well to absorb the hard work. So I am very positive about the future, I am excited to play and to compete. I know [that] if I put in the work day after day, extra effort, the results will come. The ranking then becomes automatic."

With a 6-2 match record in 2018, including two battles against a hungry Nick Kyrgios, first a loss in the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp semi-finals, then, victory two weeks later in the Australian Open fourth round, Dimitrov has highlighted once again, how his off-season work with coach Dani Vallverdu, is laying the foundations for a strong season.

“I want to try to improve at tournaments I didn’t do well at in 2017. I want to do better at the Grand Slams. That’s the priority for any top player. Last year, I did a lot of good things on and off the court, being more consistent and playing well in the big matches, and also winning close matches.

“When you put all that together, good things can happen. I surprised myself a little bit too about my year (2017), but physically I did feel I was in a position to compete well.”