Grigor Dimitrov (above).
It’s time that we start taking notice of the great tennis prodigy Gregor Dimitrov, who was ranked 750 in the world in September 2008, and 338th in the world on January 1, 2010 has aceded to his highest ever ranking this week–106th and is poised to break the top 100 this month. Dimitrov, who turned 19 in September, has long been noticed by tennis fans like myself who are on the hunt for the game’s next great 1 hander. Dimitrov has been catching attention with his play for years, and was an accomplished amateur who won many impressive titles, including the Boys Orange Bowl Under 16, Junior Wimbledon, and the Junior US Open. Dimitrov is a groundstroke machine who hits perhaps the most aggressive 1-hand backhand in the game. His former coach, Peter Lundgren, made waves when declared that at 17, Dimitrov was a better player than Federer. Lundgren also coached Federer as a junior, but Federer is widely regarded as the better player at an early age, having reached the top twenty by the age of 20–something that with a good year Dimitrov could acheive in 2011.
Dimitrov changed coaches early in the summer, dropping Lundgren for savvy Australian Peter McNamara. McNamara, an all-courter in his day, reached #7 in singles in 1983, and also won the doubles at Wimbledon in 1982 with long time doubles partner Paul McNamee, defeating John McEnroe and Peter Fleming in the final. The Aussie pair occupied the top spot briefly in the men’s doubles game, partnering for 13 titles, and 3 majors, all on grass (2 Wimbledon, 1 Australian). McNamara’s very even personality and emphasis on fundamental tennis has seemed to really propel Dimitrov. Grigor, or who his friends refer to as “G-Force”, has won 6 satellite tournaments since July (Bangkok-2, Bangkok-1, Geneva, Spain F10, Germany F10, Germany F-9), taking two on hard courts and four on clay. Recently at Orleans, Dimitrov lost a tight final to Nicolas Mahut, beating Lukas Lacko and Michael Llodra on the way there. In fact, Dimitrov has has several impressive match and tournament victories on the satellite circuit of late, and at #106th right now, he is almost assured of being in the main draw at the Australian Open in January.
Dimitrov has tended to be an “ooh” and “ahh” type player, capable of hitting any shot under the sun when right. There are some clips of him in the above link, and in one of them, Dimitrov is playing Nadal on indoors at Rotterdam from 2008. Dimitrov totally rips the backhand in all of the clips, and in interviews has said that he considers his backhand an offensive shot. Dimitrov has modeled his game after Federer’s, and glides around the court looking for put aways when he is at his best.
We saw him play his matches on television from the Eastbourne championships, a Wimbledon tune-up. Dimitrov seemed to play very well, but without a consistent weapon when serving, he had to play too many points and lost too many close ones. But the kid is 6’2 and he’s not buzzing through the challenger circuit without popping his serve. I think he’s going to win a few rounds in Australia where the courts will suit him, and that he will start to become a fixture in the men’s game next year.