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Grigor Dimitrov rolls back the time

Grigor Dimitrov rolls back the time

Ever since Grigor Dimitrov broke out as a teenager by winning the junior Wimbledon and US Open back to back in 2008, he has carried a crushing and frankly unbearable burden. He burst on to the scene playing a style that bore an uncanny similarity to Roger Federer’s, and in no time, he was nicknamed ‘Baby Fed’ and pushed to the front of that imaginary queue of tennis’ next great champions.

Over the next decade and a little more however, as the two travelled the world and crossed paths at many a tournament, they represented two divergent strands. Their game mechanics matched, but not fortunes. If the service motion, fluid on-court movement, the crisp and snappy forehand and the one-handed backhand mirrored each other’s, results were chalk and cheese. Federer raked up more than 100 Tour titles and 20 Slams; Dimitrov barely touched double-digit trophies and didn’t reach a single Major final.

It is only now, well into the third decade of his life and with Federer’s shadow no longer looming large, that the Bulgarian is running his own race. Last week, en route the Miami Masters final, Dimitrov, soon to be 33, came roaring back into the top-10 (No. 9) for the first time since October 2018. And marching in tow was the one-handed backhand — a purist’s last-remaining link to the tennis of yore — which was exiled for the first time in ATP rankings history when Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas slipped out of the top-10 in February.

“Whatever I say will not do justice [to the achievement],” Dimitrov told the press in Miami about the feat. “I’m on a very different path in my life and my career. I kept believing and having faith in myself. When I didn’t, the team around me was constantly pushing me in the right direction. I had very good discipline. My family was by my side, and all the close friends. It’s all love at the end of the day. This is just a cherry on the cake.”

Rising to the top again

This journey of Dimitrov back into the upper echelons of men’s tennis is a story of diligence and rigour. Last May in Geneva, he made it to his first Tour-level final in more than five years and followed it up with semifinal runs at Washington 500 and Shanghai Masters. He ended 2023 on a high, felling Daniil Medvedev and Tsitsipas at the Paris Masters before finishing a worthy runner-up to Novak Djokovic.

At the 2024 season-opener in Brisbane, Dimitrov secured his first trophy since the ATP World Tour Finals way back in 2017. And in Miami, he…

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