On 23 July, Grigor Dimitrov lost a modest tournament on the main circuit when he entered Atlanta, against the 405e world and tumbled to 78e rank, its worst ranking since 2012. A month and a half later, the Bulgarian eliminated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the US Open (3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 ), his best result in New York. Friday, September 6, he will challenge the impudent Russian Daniil Medvedev (5e) for a place in the final.
The 28-year-old returns from a distance. For a year and a half, tournament after tournament, the Bulgarian was only the shadow of himself. Mind down, tennis stammering, from January 2018 to August 2019, Dimitrov won only 37 games for 34 defeats. Its 2019 season was hitherto looking like a descent into hell. His record landing in New York? Seven defeats in his last eight games.
"I was losing very tight games against players that I should not lose, he summed up Tuesday night after his victory against Switzerland. I kept believing, I kept working, I kept trying to improve everything I could improve. Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult. It was not an easy time, I will not lie … "
Do not call it "Baby Fed" anymore
There were many who thought that with his coronation in November 2017 at the London Masters – which brings together the eight best players of the season – Dimitrov had shed the weight of expectations placed on him since its inception. Finally released from its status of great hope and future Grand Slam winner. This 2017 season remains the best of his career, with four titles and a third place in the world.
It was over, he thought, the nickname "Baby Fed" that stuck to him on the racket, he whose technique and elegance on the court reminisces evidently those of Federer. " This type of comparison, it does not matter anymore, he assured. Today, I'm focusing on my game. Trying to get into someone's footsteps, to look like him, it's a big mistake. "
The sobriquet has never been to his taste. At Roland Garros in May, opposed to Stan Wawrinka in the third round, he did not appreciate that a spectator encourages him by referring to it. And Dimitrov to replicate, tired: "I really look like a baby according to you? "
"Do I look like a baby to you?" Grigor Dimitrov not impressed as one to support shouts 'Come on Baby Federer' # RG19 https://t.co/YNZ1j4txij
With his victory over Federer, certainly diminished by back pain, all observers immediately trumpeted that the student had finally passed the master. In seven confrontations and seven losses so far, the youngest had won only two small sets against his eldest. He had not yet won any of his Grand Slam duels against members of the "Big 3".
In New York, his revival operation was partly facilitated by the absence of cadors on his way to the first rounds: he first beat the Italian Andreas Seppi, benefited from the withdrawal of Croatian Borna Coric in the 2e turn, before getting rid of Poland's Kamil Majchrzak, and sticking a lesson to Alex de Minaur (7-5, 6-3, 6-4) in eighth.
"I've worked hard in recent weeks to be therehe explained after his victory over the promising Australian. There is no story of old and new Grigor. The only thing that matters is moving forward. My feeling is that I am a different person and a different player. There is no need to evoke the last six or seven months and return to my agony. It's like that. I overcame the bad times and ate my black bread. "
His coaches Stepanek and Agassi absent in New York
In the past six months, his search for results had been hampered by a problem in his left arm and shoulder. At the end of all the counters to zero, the Bulgarian also took the opportunity to change his racket and coach, and on the eve of Roland Garros, announced the beginning of his collaboration with the Czech Radek Stepanek, former world No. 8 .
Another ex-glory at his bedside in recent weeks: the American Andre Agassi, former advisor to Novak Djokovic, with whom he collaborated for the first time at Bercy in 2018. Irony of the situation, at the moment when their protege did again talk about him on the court, the two men are absent in New York … But the Bulgarian ensures that he communicates with them by phone.
"Going to a tennis court is always a great feeling. Yes, I'm back. And I'm having fun, he continued Tuesday evening in front of the reporters. Friday, the shock against the young Russian Daniil Medvedev, the strong man of the American tour, promises an opposition of style. Aesthetic tennis on one side of the net, lanky play on the other. Smooth temperament on one side, sarcastic character on the other.
Since his arrival at Flushing Meadows, the Russian has become the public enemy number one of a New York crowd that he takes pleasure in taunting, like a John McEnroe in his time. Facing him, Grigor Dimitrov will have the ambition to offer his first Grand Slam final and whistle at the same time the end of the "Medvedev show".