Fast 5: Grigor Dimitrov Gets Hot Under the Collar
By James Henry
(August 14, 2018) CINCINNATI — The question made Grigor Dimitrov hot under the collar — literally.
He hemmed. He hawed.
Caught off guard, the Western & Southern Open defending champion adjusted the collar of his shirt.
“In the future, should Roger or Rafa choose to coach, which one would you choose if you had to, and why?”
Dimitrov, ranked No. 5 by the ATP World Tour, laughed — a lot — thought about icons Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and then answered: “I wish I could say both, but obviously I cannot. You can take definitely certain things from either/or. There’s a lot of things that I can say I like about Rafa. There’s a lot of things I can say I like about Roger.
“So, I mean, I wouldn’t want actually to have one of them coaching me. I would like to pick maybe a little bit of their brain, I think, because ultimately you get out there on the court and you play on your own.”
Dimitrov joked tennis fans will miss Nadal, who pulled out of the Cincinnati tournament after winning the Rogers Cup title in Toronto — his 33rd Masters 1000 trophy — more than other tennis players.
“All jokes aside, I love spending time with this guy. It’s pretty funny conversations, always,” he said. “I love practicing with him. I love playing matches against him. I’m the last person to say I don’t want to have him around.”
Here are 5 other fast facts Dimitrov shared at the Western & Southern Open.
1. He feels free in Cincinnati: “I enjoy coming out here, regardless. Even if I would have lost first round last year, I would still be just happy to come back here and play. It’s one of my favorite tournaments. It’s actually one of the first 1000 events that I played coming on tour. So, every time that I am back here, I’m just like, ‘Oh, that’s an unbelievable week to prepare for the Open.’ You have plenty of courts to practice. The facilities have improved so much. The tournament director Andre Silva has done an unbelievable job with the players. You have your own car. You have that freedom. This is what I keep repeating: That freedom is really, I think, important for us. When we come out on the court, we’re all, in a way, I like to call us artists. Our freedom, the way we express ourselves, the best of when we’re out there, and I think that also helps us to do better.”
2. He is looking ahead, not behind: “I don’t want to think that way. One of the hardest things is when I came on tour was always knowing like, ‘My God, if I play good the first year, how am I going to do the second year?’ Of course, that’s an inevitable way of thinking as any young player coming out there. But I think with time I realized that’s not all, knowing if you play well, you’re going to have the result, you’re going to be better and have a better ranking. If you don’t, it is what it is. But, above all that, one of the even bigger things that I’ve discovered also is it’s way more important to be positive in moments like that, even if your things are not going the right way. I know that’s one of the hardest things, to remain on your own lane, not to think of ‘What can I change? What else can I do?’ — not to overthink it and overanalyze things that actually have gone well for you before. Why would I want to do something else all of sudden just because I’m not winning a few matches?”
3. The key is to believe: “There’s no place for excuses. So, get your, you know, together. And get out there and perform. One of the best things is when you can give yourself a chance. I think once you give yourself a chance, you let the game guide you after that. … Whatever tournament you are starting, it doesn’t really matter, you know it starts basically from ground zero, but if you start building up, by the quarters, semis, you’re even more eager to get out there and perform, you’re more focused, you’re more aware of your game and your current state of mind.”
4. Long live the one-handed backhand: “Trust me, I wish everybody had a one-hand backhand. What can I say? I don’t know how to hold a racket with two hands. … Knowing how tennis has been throughout all the years and seeing one of the best players having a one hand, I mean, to me, it’s just an art. That’s it, period. You can hit the slice. You can hit the backhand. Of course, you have a lot of disadvantages, some on the return, some when they play a high ball to your backhand, yeah, we’re all aware from that. But, you know, when you have your passion, and that’s tennis for us, it’s a completely different view. Of course, we’re frustrated when we lose. And, of course, we have tough moments mentally and you want to break a racket or say things that you should not say to the umpire, or to your opponent, for that matter. But that’s just all part of the game. It’s all part of the game. And I think, ultimately, even if you throw the racket or say I don’t want to play and then two or three days later you’re starting to get itchy to go play again, those are the times that obviously when you pass through you get to know yourself a little bit better and you realize a lot more also for yourself.”
5. Family is everything: “He’s a pretty strong man, my dad. Pretty much, I owe everything to him. Obviously, my family has been the best supporters that I could ever ask for. They are, like, my rock. If there is something, they’re always going to be there. My dad is one of those people that just says things the way they are. … Even now, he just wants me to do well. It’s just simple as that. I think also the fact that he is my father it is very hard for him to just put it aside and just look at me as only a player. And I think in moments of doubts or when there’s periods that I don’t perform well or play like that, he always calls me and he’s like, ‘Hey, listen, I’m here as a father.’ So, that also adds up a lot. And hearing just a few words from him makes a huge difference for me. Not having to ask him or anything, obviously, he feels me. We have an amazing relationship together. I think also throughout the years, we’ve been also building up and growing stronger.”
James Henry is covering the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati for Tennis Panorama News.