Grigor Dimitrov is the 2014 Bucharest champion. He beat last season’s winner Lukas Rosol 7-6(2), 6-1 to win the ATP 250 title. The win not only earned him 77,315 euros and 250 ranking points to move him up to 14th in the rankings, but shows he has what it takes to become the Grand Slam champion many believe he has the potential to be.
Dimitrov saved his best tennis of the week until the final. The Bulgarian star said he was pleased with his performance in the championship match after struggling in his previous matches.
Rosol did put up some resistance, saving set points when serving to stay in the first set tiebreak, but Dimitrov, who has risen from 29th to 14th in the rankings in the past year, showed why he is one of the game’s biggest hopes when it comes to filling the shows of the slam-winning likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. The Bulgarian ran away with the breaker and then dominated the second set to take his third career title in the last seven months.
Dimitrov won the BRD Nastase Tiriac trophy in front of the two time Slam champion and former world no.1 himself, which he said was a pleasure. Dimitrov, whose victory in Bucharest was his third career title, is some way off Tiriac’s 58 singles titles, but few would be surprised if he got close to or surpassed that number. Dimitrov, like Tiriac, has been praised for his exceptional gifts on the tennis court and the 22 year old, who will turn 23 on May 16, is already the best player to ever come out of Bulgaria, much like Tiriac is Romania’s finest tennis export.
Dimitrov’s career trajectory has been encouragingly steady since he entered the professional tour in 2008. The Bulgarian was a star junior player, winning junior slams at Wimbledon and the U.S Open and holding the no. 1 ranking. To say the tennis world was excited by him is an understatement as Dimitrov was christened “Baby Fed”. The similarities to the Swiss legend are striking within a few points of watching the world no. 14, his single-handed backhand, big forehand, all-court flair and artistry all as easy on the eye.
Those skills were on full display when Dimitrov won his first title at the end of last season, an ATP 250 event in Stockholm, beating David Ferrer in the final. He followed that breakthrough up with another big career step when he made the Australian Open quarter-finals in January. Then in March he won his biggest title yet at the ATP 500 hard court event in Acapulco.
With his trophy cabinet filling up and his game progressing month to month, Dimitrov is beginning to look more and more like the Grand Slam champion he is predicted to become. Winning in Bucharest, a less prestigious event than his previous titles, also affirms that Dimitrov has what it takes to fulfill those expectations. It is one thing to rise to the occasion and knock Novan Djokovic out of ATP 1000 Masters events, go toe to toe with Rafael Nadal in Slam quarter-finals, and oust Andy Murray on the way to winning ATP 500 titles, but it is another to play your best tennis week in, week out at the less prestigious events.
Beating opponents ranked below and on courts out of the spotlight is all a part of breaking through at the slams, too. Dimitrov has been prone to early defeats at the game’s biggest events, for example his second-round defeat to 55th ranked Grega Zemlja on an outside court at Wimbledon. A couple of months later, he was knocked out of the US Open in the first-round by 95th ranked Joao Sousa, a surprising loss considering he had taken a set from in-form Rafael Nadal a couple of weeks before in Cincinnati. However, with this Bucharest title win, Dimitrov has shown he can handle the pressure when he is the favorite, and his inconsistency might be a thing off the past.
How Dimitrov copes with going into the French Open as one of the top 16 seeds will be of great interest to fans worried about the star’s ability to cope with the pressure. He will be the favorite in his first three rounds, and, despite his star status, unless he is playing a Frenchman or an unseeded dark horse, he will be playing on a non-show court devoid of the glitz or glamor of Madrid’s Magic box or the Rod Laver Arena. Dimitrov will have to get up for it and produce his best tennis under those circumstances if he wants to get his first slam trophy. However, fans need not worry. If Dimitrov’s Bucharest title run is anything to go by, the Bulgarian certainly has it in him to join Tiriac and Federer in the Grand Slam hall of fame where so many believe he belongs.
Commentary by Christian Deverille