Dimitrov Cancels ‘Pity Party'
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on 2 September. The Bulgarian is into the Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals.
Everybody goes through tough times. But it’s not those difficulties that define you; it’s how you respond to them. And Buglarian Grigor Dimitrov has faced his adversity and surged out the other side at this US Open.
The World No. 78 entered the season’s final Grand Slam having lost seven of eight matches. But after dismissing in-form #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday, the former World No. 3 is into his first quarter-final in his ninth trip to Flushing Meadows.
“[It’s] absolutely amazing. I don't take anything for granted, especially this tournament, this time,” Dimitrov said. “I've worked for it the past weeks. I've put a lot of hours on the court and off the court. You just never know. I mean, tennis is like this. You just never know when a little bit of luck smiles at you. You also have to seize your opportunity.”
Ironically, Dimitrov’s lowest point of the American summer came at De Minaur’s highest. Dimitrov lost to World No. 405 Kevin King in straight sets in the first round of the BB&T Atlanta Open, an ATP 250 event that De Minaur eventually won. But the Bulgarian went unbroken against the Aussie in New York.
“Grigor played great. He’s a quality player and he brought the old Grigor back today and he deserved the win,” De Minaur said. “He was too good today.”
Dimitrov doesn’t see this run in New York as a return to the “Old Grigor”, though. He doesn’t believe this is a new him, either. Dimitrov is focussing on the task at hand, and not worrying about anything else, and that’s how he’s advanced this far.
“[The] only way is forward,” Dimitrov said. “Overall I feel like a different person, a different player. I mean, there's no point to sit here and talk about the past six, seven months, to welcome everybody to my pity party. It is what it is.”
Although Dimitrov has not had his best season, the Bulgarian has reached incredible heights on the ATP Tour in the past. In 2017, he captured his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open, and then went on to triumph at the Nitto ATP Finals. At his best, Dimitrov was capable of beating any player on any day.
But Dimitrov’s standing of No. 78 is his lowest since May 2012, just after his 21st birthday. It’s only been two years since Dimitrov’s triumph at The O2 in London. “I faced the adversity, faced everything I had to. Back on the court is always a great feeling. I'm back. I'm enjoying it, as well. I'm feeling free,” Dimitrov said. “Of course when you get out on the court, you can't hide.”
Heading into the US Open, Dimitrov had an opportunity, though, and he has taken full advantage by reaching the last eight. Entering this tournament, he only had 145 ATP Ranking points to defend for the rest of the season. A trip to the quarter-finals earns him 360 points for this event alone, which will vault him safely back into the Top 50.
To other players on the ATP Tour, it was just a matter of time until Dimitrov found this breakthrough. The eight-time ATP Tour champion has practised well, but simply been unable to bring that to his matches.
“It’s pretty amazing that a player of Grigor’s calibre went through the slump he did. It’s amazing because you still watch him hit the ball and he’s hitting the ball great. But just confidence-wise, he wasn’t winning matches and a couple tough draws, a couple bad matches and he got into this slump of just not winning matches,” De Minaur said. “I think he’s got his rhythm back. He’s always been a hell of a player and when he gets rolling, he’s very dangerous.”
Dimitrov will hope that is true when he takes on five-time US Open champion Roger Federer next. The 38-year-old Swiss has won all seven of their FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, five of which have come in straight sets.
“I'm happy that things are going better for him after he won Cincinnati a couple years ago now… also the World Tour Finals. He had a bit of a slump. This is the big quarters for him, obviously with an opportunity against me. I'm aware of the fact it's a big match for him,” Federer said. “I've done well against him in the past. But new match, new Grigor, new me again.”
Dimitrov began this tournament on Court 11, grinding away against Andreas Seppi in a search for solid tennis and most importantly, some confidence. But three wins and a walkover later, he has gotten better step by step.
“Whatever it is, I kept on going forward, just tried to look in that particular moment what I can do well, what I can do better," Dimitrov said. "You put that little brick every single day. You control the things that you can control. That's what I've been focussing on the most.”
In reality, Dimitrov doesn’t have much to lose against Federer. But dreaming too big about what a win would mean isn’t what helped Dimitrov climb out of his slump. And he won’t let that change.
“Excitement? Yes. So is every other feeling you could possibly think. But it's one of the most important things, not to look too far ahead,” Dimitrov said. “Enjoy the moment for a second, appreciate the situation, and we move on. Hopefully in a couple of days I'll be sitting here again.”