Dimitrov: "I've Got The Spark Again"
Grigor Dimitrov would be the first to admit that 2015 did not go as planned. But with Franco Davin in his corner, the 24 year old is feeling alive again on the tennis court and ready to go full throttle in preparation for what could be a pivotal 2016.
“I'll be honest, it's been very hard,” says Grigor Dimitrov when drawing conclusions on his 2015 campaign.
Expectations had been high for Dimitrov coming into the season. The right-hander, had appeared to be on the brink of realising his enormous potential at the end of 2014, having risen to World No. 8 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and beaten Andy Murray to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon.
But mixed results in the first half of 2015 heralded a change in team for Dimitrov, who parted ways with Australian coach Roger Rasheed following a third-round exit at Wimbledon. He would finish the season just inside the world’s Top 30 at No. 28, with his best results coming in semi-final showings at ATP World Tour 250 tournaments in Brisbane and Istanbul.
“At some points, a few doubts have come into my head and even though I'm working, sometimes I've just felt down,” Dimitrov explains. “Even though I was working, I still didn't have a good perception of myself. I was like, 'OK, I'm working hard but nothing is coming, nothing is paying off'.
“But that's part of the game and right about now I'm starting to understand what happened to me this year and all of the mistakes I made. In a way, as negative as it has been, I think it's good that everything happened to me that way. I've experienced both worlds now. One day you're Top 10 - I was No. 8 in the world - next day I was No. 28. So it's a great contrast for me and I'm looking at things in a different way right now.”
A learning curve it may well prove to be, but at a time when he was expecting to push on in his career and begin to challenge for major trophies, 2015 presented Dimitrov with obstacle after obstacle, disappointment after disappointment. It was too much frustration in one season for the Bulgarian to digest at times.
“I wish I could say it's only been character building for me this year, but too many things happened” he reflects. “The main thing on and off the court was structuring a team, which is one of the toughest things. I think that took a lot out of me.
“When things are not in place, I tend to get a little bit impatient and I just want to do what's right for me. In doing so, I felt like I neglected my game a lot with the way I've been practising and the way I've been doing things. I can only blame myself for that and no-one else.”
But it is with a sense of excitement and hope that Dimitrov finished his 2015 campaign. You only need to scroll through his Instagram account to see that Dimitrov is a young man who loves life. And it’s hard to keep that spirit and energy subdued for long.
The Haskovo native installed Juan Martin del Potro’s long-time coach and mentor, Franco Davin, in his team just before the Asian swing. After just a few weeks together, Dimitrov’s self-perception has already taken a big upswing.
“It's good to finally feel alive again a little bit and I think that's been happening to me in the past weeks,” Dimitrov reveals. “I feel like I've got the spark again and I'm feeling motivated, which is a pretty good feeling.”
The Bulgarian closed the season with a run to the third round at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, where he claimed his biggest win since May when he upset No. 11-ranked Marin Cilic in the second round before falling in a close contest to David Ferrer.
While such testing draws could be a source of frustration now that his ranking has dropped, Dimitrov is almost revelling in working his way back to his best and challenging himself against the world’s best.
“[A big win] happened in the last tournament of the year, which is fine. Better late than never, I guess! It was a good test for me to see where I'm at, how I'm moving physically and where my game is. I have to struggle a little bit now as well, playing Cilic in the second round is no fun. But that's the beauty of it I feel.”
Having begun his pre-season preparations in Monte-Carlo, Dimitrov will now continue his work with Davin in the sunnier climes of Florida. With a more settled foundation off the court, the Bulgarian is excited at what next season could bring. Whatever happens, it won’t be for lack of hard work or honest self-reflection.
“I'm really looking forward to a long-term approach now, for whatever I do,” says Dimitrov. “It took me so long structuring a good team. It's always hard finding the right people around you, but once you have it, you've got to treasure it and work.”