It is always special when a player starts showing that he is more than pure talent. It is like a diamond getting a well-needed polish. Yet, not all of the diamonds need the same jeweller, and finding the right one may prove difficult, tricky.
This is just what is happening with Grigor Dimitrov.
Indeed, the Bulgarian is only 22 years old in a time when tennis players reach their prime around and over 25 years of age. However, until recently, he had been labelled an unfulfilled promise, an extremely talented player who could not go beyond his talent and perform at the highest level.
In other words: a diamond that needed polishing.
Dimitrov appears to have found the perfect coach to help him going from “immense talent” to “complete top player” in the person of Roger Rasheed. The Aussie is known for being a man who makes his charges work very hard, especially on their endurance. In a time when rallies are long and longer still, and when matches will often pass the two-hour mark, this is a well-needed aspect of the game a player needs if he is to climb in the rankings.
What happened in Acapulco is proof of how far Dimitrov has gone since he is working with Rasheed. A point like this one which, a year ago, would have left him cramping, now only served to fuel him up to continue and fight until the end, this time, successfully:
In fact, the pre-Rasheed Dimitrov would not have made it past the semifinals this week in Acapulco. He might not even have clinched the win against Ernests Gulbis in the quarter-finals. And he would not have played the finals he did after that gruelling 2h55 semi against Andy Murray, which finished way past midnight and had him suffering a pressure drop when the adrenalin left his body.
What did he do to recover in time for the final? “What can you do?” said Dimitrov. “Try to keep your body good, bring some food, proteins… do everything the same way you do. I mean you obviously have to do your electrolytes and just do your routines.”
This has been the key for Dimitrov since the quarter-finals: he kept to his routines, he managed to recover well, something that was lacking in him only a few months ago.
And he believed. That is what motivated him throughout his 7-6(1), 4-6, 7-6(5) final victory over Kevin Anderson. “I told myself, ‘Believe’. That’s the only thing that kept me today”, admitted the Bulgarian after the match. “There’s not much to say. I didn’t think I was going to come back after last night’s match. I felt I was really bad after the match and I had to take a few minutes to kind of relax and to do my things but… what can I say? I’m just really happy, I’m happy. This title means a lot to me. And yeah, I’ll get on the plane tomorrow and on to the next tournament.”
He then added: “Every match that I played was very tough, especially the last three matches. I played three sets, around three hours, acutally, a few over three hours, so… Body’s holding up for now but it will be great to get a bit of rest. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll just let it go a little bit and get back on the routines. There’s not much time to waste. Indian Wells is coming, Miami is coming so you got to be ready for those weeks.”
This is a major change in the Bulgarian’s attitude, and one that is starting to bring dividends. Since the start of the season, he reached his first Grand Slam quarter-finals, lost a tight second-rounder to another player coming to maturity, Ernests Gulbis, in Rotterdam, and now won his second career title, showing immense fighting spirit in the last three matches he played this week.
On top of the title, Dimitrov will reach a career high ranking of about 16 on Monday, and has everything to enter the top 10 before the end of the summer, if not before.
The talent is there, and with the help of Roger Rasheed, Grigor Dimitrov has now started to go beyond his gifted skills. Like every diamond, once polished, starts to sparkle. Such is what Grigor Dimitrov is starting to achieve: he is beginning to sparkle and dazzle.
(Photos: Abierto Mexicano Telcel)