Over the next two weeks, the first serve series will be previewing our top male and female players and top returnees as we build up to the first grand slam of the year. We’ll analyze what they’ve got going for them and what they need to do to be successful in 2018.
Today, we’ll be looking at our World #3’s on the ATP and WTA tours. We’ll start with Grigor Dimitrov. At the start of last year, Grigor Dimitrov was almost a forgotten man. On the heels of two consecutive disappointing seasons, not many tennis followers were talking about him. He hadn’t given people much to talk about. Even when he captured the Brisbane title to start the season, most people waved it up as the typical Dimitrov flash in the pan. After all, a guy with that much talent was bound to have a good tournament every now and then right? That was until the Australian Open happened.
Since then, Dimitrov has slowly and painstakingly clawed his way up to a level most people felt he should have been at, a long time ago. He captured his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati and then ended the year perfectly (literally) with an undefeated run to the World Tour Finals title. During his title run, against the eight best players in the world, Dimitrov did not lose a match. What does this say about his 2018 season? Dimitrov has made it clear that the slams are a focus for this season. Why shouldn’t they be? A man who has won the Year End Championships should realistically be looking at the four big ones next. Despite this, these factors should play a big role in exactly what kind of season Grigor Dimitrov will have.
Keys to Success:
- Managing Expectations
- Playing to win
- Seizing the big moments
One of the things I noticed about Grigor during the World Tour Finals, was just how dialed in he was for each and every match, set, game or point he played. He was there every time from start to finish. It isn’t something you can always say about him. Maintaining that sort of focus, every week, should be a major goal for Dimitrov this year if he hopes to make his grand slam dreams a reality. He’s got a good team surrounding him so he should be mentality ready to commit.
His team should also help him with managing his expectations. Grigor has been known to go off into a bit of a tailspin when he doesn’t meet the targets he’s set for himself. His ability to recover and shrug off the painful defeat has to improve if he wants to remain at the top of the game. Taking things one step at a time will only help him. He’s got the game to win a grand slam, no question. But wanting it too badly as I suspect he’s done in the past, won’t help him.
Another trait of Dimitrov that certainly won’t help him, is his propensity to showboat. He is a kindred spirit to the likes of Jack Sock and Gael Monfils. They are always on the highlight reels of hottest tournament shots. Since 2017, he’s focused his game on winning and plays more efficient points, but he can still wander off into the showboating zone at times and that’s when the best professionals are there to pick him apart. He’ll need to control his appetite for the unreal and save his best for the big moments in a game and in a set. That’s when his shoulders get tight and he starts missing. To win a slam, he’ll have to navigate his way through his fair share of big moments with a combination of focus and his natural creativity.
Summarily, the key to Dimitrov’s success this year is balance. If he can balance his mind and his natural tennis gifts, if he can balance his goals with his accomplishments, he will go far. He’s currently ranked #3 and the two players ahead of him are no easy pushovers. If he wants to make the push, he must continue to come together as a player. I expect him to have a solid 2018 and perhaps make one grand slam final.