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Christian Groh has become a vital part of Team Bulgaria's success at the inaugural ATP Cup.

How Personal Coaches Are Flying Their Players' Flag At The ATP Cup

Christian Groh has been key to Bulgaria's early success

The ATP Cup’s motto is, “For the love of country”. And this week, countries competing in the inaugural 24-team event have been adding honourary members.

Christian Groh began coaching 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov just last month. And while he’s German, Groh has had no problem making himself a key part of Team Bulgaria.

"I came here with Grigor and obviously, since there’s no other coach here, I help out a little bit with the other guys and they’re a good group. Nice guys, younger guys," Groh said. "So you want to help them a little bit too, and it takes some weight off Grigor’s shoulders because he also needs to look after himself and get ready for his matches. So I enjoy it."

Not only has Groh coached Dimitrov, but he has helped the rest of the Bulgarians in the Team Zone throughout the country’s ties, even when Dimitrov has to leave to warm up for one of his own matches.

“It's super nice to see. We embrace him a lot. I think we are very warm in general as Bulgarians. I think he really enjoys that part, as well,” Dimitrov said. “I have worked with so many different coaches throughout all the years, and now it's not so much about that. It's more of how much you're going to get along with a person. You're going to spend pretty much 24 hours with them, and week-in and week-out. So you better make sure he's a good companion.

“We spend a lot of time also off the court, going for long walks, going to the restaurant. So everybody has been pretty much together. So he's been a part of the whole team. I think that's special for him as well.”

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The other Bulgarians have been thankful to not just have the guidance of their captain, Dimitrov, but also Groh, who has been key to the team’s first two tie victories over Great Britain and Moldova, respectively.

“It's amazing,” Kuzmanov said. “Obviously it's really tough for [Grigor] to manage all the things by himself, because he also has to warm up, to get focussed before his match. And as it happened the first day, as it happened today, he had to leave after the first set. But I already knew that, because we were discussing it. Every time I'm either a set up or set down, he has to go to get focussed, to get prepared for the match. But Chris is always there.

“I'm really happy for that, because Chris is a great coach. He sticks really well with the team. It looks like he's Bulgarian. He had the same team spirit, the same commitment, the same energy. Everyone gets [along] with him so well on the team. I'm really happy to have not only Grigor in the box, but Chris as well. As you can see during the points and during the whole match, he's really committed, and you can feel the energy.”


After Bulgaria defeated Moldova on Sunday, some of the team’s members headed back to the practice courts for a couple of hours. With them was Groh, who even hit with the guys for a time. It's as if he's an adopted Bulgarian for the event, his first with Dimitrov.

"It’s fun to be in that team environment and I think so far Grigor and I, we’re getting to know each other still. We just started," Groh said. "But I think we’re getting along very, very well and I think there’s already a good bond as it is and the team environment maybe that could just get accelerated so to speak." 

Groh is not the only personal coach who has taken to the team environment and become a part of their player’s country, for this event at least. Craig Boynton, Polish No. 1 Hubert Hurkacz’s coach, is American, yet he has enjoyed the unity shared by Team Poland.

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“Any time you have an event where it’s a team, it’s unique to the ATP Tour, because it’s always been the player. There’s a team event to the player, but it’s all based around the player. This team event is based around the flag, so it’s a unique situation,” Boynton said. “It’s been fun to be on the inside. It’s always been fun to be a part of a team because you have a camaraderie and a togetherness and I’ve had the pleasure to be associated with the Polish team.

“As a small country, they really bond tighter. I think all the smaller countries might bond a little tighter because they have a harder road to go [down] to get there. So it’s been a lot of fun to see the guys and the camaraderie and the togetherness.”

Magnus Tideman began working with Radu Albot last season. His charge has broken virtually every record for Moldovan tennis, and Albot qualified his country for the inaugural ATP Cup.

“If Sweden was playing them, I’m a Swede. But I’m very close to Radu and here it’s very easy to follow them and be with them. I want them to win,” Tideman said. “Of course I’m not Moldovan, but I would say it’s my second country now.”