‘Those Are Happy Tears’: Despite Defeat, Dimitrov Proud Of Paris Run
Grigor Dimitrov’s disappointment at just missing out on the Rolex Paris Masters title on Sunday was plain to see. Yet the Bulgarian’s courtside tears were not necessarily just a reaction to his championship-match defeat to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“It's difficult to explain emotions, I think,” said Dimitrov after Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-3 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in the French capital. “You want it. It's tough when it doesn't happen. Only I know, in a way, without feeling sorry for myself, what I've gone through the past months on and off the court.
“Those are happy tears. I don't want to have them as something negative. I'm human, after all. At the end of the day, I think just the buildup, not only of the last two weeks, the last months of hard work and the big trip in China, everything has been kind of snowballing day after day, match after match.”
Dimitrov was appearing in his first Masters 1000 final for six years, and his biggest championship match since his 2017 triumph at the Nitto ATP Finals. The 32-year-old has now gone six years without lifting a trophy, but he can still reflect on 2023 as a year of undoubted resurgence.
“Of course, in the end I was so close to making something that I wanted to do for such a long time,” said Dimitrov who racked up 41 tour-level wins this year, his highest tally since 2017. “I don't want to have this as a goal, just to win the tournament, but it was just more of my mental and physical way that I was dealing with and through these past months.
“I'm not ashamed of [the tears]. It just happened. I'm sad. Of course, I'm sad that I lost. It's never fun when you lose in a final. I think for me now, I have some time to reflect and move on.”
Dimitrov produced some of the best tennis of his career to reach the final in Paris, where he took out seeded opponents Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz and Stefanos Tsitsipas inside Accor Arena. Djokovic proved a step too far for the Bulgarian, however, as the World No. 1 delivered a typically solid display to seal a record-extending seventh title in Paris-Bercy.
“I think today, specifically today, his depth was amazing on the ball,” reflected Dimitrov, who has won just one of his 13 Lexus ATP Head2Head clashes with the Serbian. “Even if he was not feeling physically at his best, he was able to put me in a very uncomfortable position and made me work for every shot. I also think my serve today didn't work at all.
“Overall I was a little bit flat. That's also my summary of the match. But of course, Novak in the final is probably one of the biggest achievements you can have in our sport, to beat him… When it comes to those clutch matches, he's always been able to maximise his game, even if it's not at his best, but he's been able to maximise and put you in uncomfortable situations.
“On that end today, I think he executed a lot of points and games in a very good way.”
With his Paris run, Dimitrov will rise three spots to No. 14 in Monday’s Pepperstone ATP Rankings. It will be his highest position since he fell out of the Top 10 in November 2018, and the former World No. 3 is ready to build on his recent progress when he returns for the 2024 season.
“I want to make sure I capitalise on those moments,” said Dimitrov, who also reached a final in Geneva in May before semi-final runs in Washington, Chengdu and Shanghai. “This week again in quite a few matches, things could have turned completely different for me, but I was able to stay. I was able to be very good mentally and physically, as well, even though I was struggling with quite a few things.
“So all in all, there are a lot of positives that I can take from that. At the same time, I need to look at some of the things that I can improve, some of the things that I can come back and maybe do better. I feel there are very small details that I'm sure, if I improve a little bit, can make a very big change in my game.
“Of course in tennis, everyone is so competitive. [There are] a lot of good players, a lot of good competitors. How everything else will happen, we don't know, but the one thing I want to feel is at the end of the tournament, whether I win or lose, I want to make sure I've left everything I have out there.”