Grigor Dimitrov opens up about the mental and physical impact of his fight with Covid-19

Grigor Dimitrov looking sad

Grigor Dimitrov has admitted the Covid-19 virus, which he contracted last year, has had a big mental and physical impact on him, adding it gave him time to “put a lot of things into perspective”.

Speaking on Eurosport’s Players’ Voice series, the world No 16 and three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist spoke about his difficulties recovering from “long Covid” during his return to elite professional tennis.

His story should act as a warning for those who believe Covid-19 does not affect younger people, as this fit and healthy athlete was struck down by the virus he contracted while playing in Novak Djokovic’s controversial Adria Tour.

On the effect Covid-19 had on him:

When they told me I had coronavirus, it literally took my breath away; I had met so many people around that time including kids and families, so the first thing I needed to do was to make sure that they all knew. That included my own family because I think I saw everyone at that same time but lucky enough, nobody was affected. Then it was also very important for me to send the right message more widely. I didn’t shy away; I could have easily kept quiet but I just wanted everyone to be aware that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do and how fit you are.

It came at a very uncomfortable time, I had kept safe for so long and put in a great amount of work prior to it. It was one of the times that I really could put in some extra work and because I suffered from shoulder problems the year before, it was a good chance for me to make up for that lost time. But when it hit, there’s not much else you can do other than just accept what it is in that moment and seize it as an opportunity to look at the career and re-evaluate everything. It gave me a lot of time and it put a lot of things into perspective. It also makes you release how weak you are and how insignificant everything is, especially when it comes to health.

On the recovery process:

It was definitely a learning process for me but I was very happy to have great people around me like my team, my family, the people who love me. I started playing again but I was just not there – both physically and mentally – and I wasn’t prepared to do the hard yards. But little by little, I started to find my own rhythm and returned to a sort of normality.

Now it’s just nice to appreciate the little moments as I think we often neglect the things that surround us, whether that’s the beautiful sunrise or being able to just sit and have a coffee with friends. We’ve taken so many things in life for granted which is kind of normal; life speeds up, we want many things and set goals that require so much more of us that we lose sight of things. But I think that perspective changed for everyone and maybe happiness will now filter through a little differently to us all. At the end of the day, we are all great individuals; we just want to find our own little spot under the sun where we can achieve our goals and turn those dreams into reality.

On the immediate future:

Soon I’ll be turning 30 and I can’t say I have put too much thought into that but the one thing I can say for sure though is that I’m excited. It’s not young, it’s not old but it feels like you’re entering a new phase of life where you start looking at yourself differently, you understand yourself a little bit more and you can start to cut the unnecessary things that surround you; you don’t want to waste time on things that really don’t add to your life.

Physically I’m feeling good, mentally I don’t feel 30 which is a good thing but I still feel like I’m maturing a lot in my head. So who knows what’s going to happen? Only time will tell. I would love to keep on playing for as long as my body allows me to compete at the highest level. However, tennis is just a temporary thing, it’s not going to be forever. We’re athletes and every athlete has an expiration date, that’s just how it is. Right now we’re just living our dream but after that, the real life begins.

Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov share a joke

On the future:

So aside from tennis, having family in the future is hopefully on the cards as well as working on other things that I’ve always wanted to do. Then one day, when it’s time to say goodbye to one thing, I’ll be ready for the other one with open arms and excited for the next chapter in my life.

I recently set up my own foundation which I hope will play a big part in that. It’s something that has always been at the back of my mind, I just wanted to wait to find the right time. When I was a kid growing up in Bulgaria, my mum used to pick me up from school and we would pass kids who basically had no chance of help around.

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