Dimitrov: "How Did I Lose That Match?"
If there’s anything Grigor Dimitrov learned in 2017, it’s how to rebound from big losses.
It was the semi-finals of the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam. The opponent was Rafael Nadal, a marquee name on the ATP World Tour with more Grand Slam titles than he had fingers to count them. He won the event in 2009. He was a former World No.1 in the ATP Rankings.
Dimitrov? He was ranked lower, had far less experience, and an unfavourable record in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. In a tight five-set, nearly five-hour decision that would end up being one of the best matches of the year, he lost the match.
But Dimitrov’s 2017 season would end up being his best yet. After sweeping through the field to claim the title at his home tournament in Sofia, the Bulgarian would end up claiming his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, eventually punctuating an already stellar season with the trophy at the prestigious season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.
All of that began with a loss.
“Right after I finished the match, I watched it the following day,” said Dimitrov of his epic Melbourne encounter with Nadal. “Almost the whole thing. I was so inadequate; I was just out. I was thinking, ‘how did I lose that match?’”
But after giving himself time to reflect on the match, his perspective changed. “I saw on the break points, for example, I couldn't have done anything else. I played the right shot, the right thing. But he came through with his game. That was it.
“I've learned so much from that match. There's so many bittersweet memories from it, [it] kind of set up a great year for me. I think I really, really learned a lot from it. After I came back to Europe, played good indoors, had kind of a good start of the year.”
Dimitrov hopes that 2018 will be yet another season in which he can hit the milestones that he has long expected of himself, but insists that he doesn’t want to change too much in the season ahead. With tennis careers becoming more like marathons than sprints, the 26-year-old Bulgarian aims to stick to his guns.
“Obviously I've achieved certain things that I've always wanted to. I always wanted to be a top-five player. I did it. Obviously I wanted to win a Masters 1000 event, and I did it,” said this year’s third seed at the Australian Open. “So as a player, you like to set yourself goals. That also helps you get up in the morning and make sure you work towards that.
“But, again, I just don't feel like I want to do anything different or change things up because that's what I've been doing pretty much all my life,” he added. “That's all the buildup that I have till now. That's why the results are coming.”
Dimitrov kicks of his Australian Open against a qualifier, with Andrey Rublev, the No. 30 seed, looming in the third round. Dimitrov was upset by the #NextGenATP Russian at the US Open last season—and only time will tell if he learned from that match.