Dimitrov finally comes of age

A Grand Slam title remains missing from his CV, but Grigor Dimitrov is finally ticking things off his must-do list and starting to live up to the hype.

Ever since his former coach Peter Lundgren likened his playing style and potential to that of one Roger Federer back in 2009, the nickname Baby Fed has stuck. With his smooth one-handed backhand, it was easy to see why.

He initially found it flattering (who wouldn’t when you are being compared to one of the all-time greats?) and funny, but Dimitrov has always maintained that he is “a different person, a different player”.

He made people sit up and take note in 2013 when he finished runner-up to Andy Murray at the Brisbane International and then won his first title, the Stockholm Open.

It was a sign of things to come as the following year he won three titles on three different surfaces and also reached his first Grand Slam semi-final after destroying defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets at Wimbledon.

However, a “rough 2015”, as he described it, followed as he not only failed to win trophies, but also failed to reach a single final, or even the latter stages of the Grand Slams.

Naturally questions were raised about whether or not we would ever get to see the best of Dimitrov as he also struggled at the start of 2015, but during the final few months of the year you could sense that the Bulgarian got his act together and perhaps turned the corner.

Suddenly it all clicked for Dimitrov.

He picked up two titles in the first two months of 2017, but bigger and better things were still to come.

First there was his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title when he beat Nick Kyrgios in straight sets in the final of the Cincinnati Masters. Along the way he also brushed aside Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner.

He then claimed the biggest title of his career as he went unbeaten en route to winning the 2017 ATP Finals with a 7–5, 4–6, 6–3 win over David Goffin.

It took him nearly a decade, but Dimitrov has finally shaken off the Baby Fed tag.

But while 2017 has been the year he finally came of age, he still has something missing on his CV: a Grand Slam.

“One of my main goals is to win a Grand Slam tournament. This has always been a dream of mine. Now, slowly, I think [I’m] getting there.”

Naturally he will want to kick on in 2018 and get that monkey off his back, the sooner the better.

The Big Four of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, though, will be tough to crack come next year’s majors. And even outside of those four, you have Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic who are regularly there or thereabout when it comes to Grand Slams.

However, what Dimitrov has on them is age as he will only be 26 when the Australian Open gets underway in January.

The Grand Slam breakthrough might not come next year, but he should sit tight as, along with Raonic (27) and Alexander Zverev (20), their time will come as Messrs Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray won’t be around forever.