7 Reasons Grigor Dimitrov’s Win in Sofia Was Totally Awesome

Grigor Dimitrov is currently trying to work his way through the draw in Rotterdam, but we wanted to share some of our thoughts and fannish excitement over his recent win in Sofia, Bulgaria. Much has been said about the “lost generation” of tennis players who are now in their mid-twenties, but we can’t help hoping that Grigor just may have been Found in 2017.

So please join us as we give you allllll the reasons why last weekend was totally totally totally awesome:

1. Importance of “Small” Titles — The Slams tend to get a lot of the press in tennis, with perpetual discussions about potential total Slam wins, how it affects the GOAT debate, who will break through and win a Slam….etc. But the tour is 11 months long, and there are only four Slams. That leaves a lot of other tennis to be played, and the smaller tournaments can be just as important to players as those epic ITF events.

Dimitrov, who reached a career-high #8 in the rankings in the summer of 2014, had dropped down to #40 two years later. When he kicked off 2017 with a win in Brisbane, there was no thought of “damn, it’s only a 250!” Grigor hadn’t won a title since Queen’s Club in 2014, so another title was an impressive accomplishment–especially as he beat three Top 10’ers en route to the trophy: Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic, and Kei Nishikori.

Dimitrov then followed that up with a semi-final at AO, and a trip to his home country Bulgaria to scoop up a second title in Sofia–beating #11 David Goffin in the final. We all know how loud a mere handful of Bulgarians can be as they chant for their “Grisho” at tournaments around the world–now imagine a stadium packed with thousands of his fans. Playing in front of family and friends, and getting “Big Four” levels of crowd love was both inspiring and nerve-wracking for Dimitrov. (Just ask Stan Wawrinka how tough it can be to win at home.)

As you can see from the tweet above, the sensitive Bulgarian was pretty verklempt about the whole thing. It doesn’t always take 5 sets to make the best tennis drama: the happy ugly crying kind.

2. Mom Hug of the Year — Speaking of happy ugly crying, after giving love to the court and crowd, a teary-eyed Grigor made a beeline for his player box–specifically for his adorable mum. You can watch it up above. The two warmly embraced and no I totally was not crying I have allergies just shut up.

3. Bromance with Coach Dani — The love fest continued as Grigor hugged and smooched every person he knew…and possibly some people he didn’t. Just get in there, random people, he’s on a roll! But he made sure to get some quality smoosh time in with Daniel Vallverdu, who for so many years has seemed so freakin’ stoic and unreadable…only to turn into Sweety Darling McFluffy with his new charge.

This can only be good for tennis, not only because it’s so freakin’ adorbs, but because a Happy Grigor on the tennis court can lead to some pretty amazing things.

4. Exorcising Demons — Unless you’re Novak Djokovic circa 2015, tennis players have a lot of ups and downs. If you’re lucky, the lows don’t last too long, but when they do–it can be hard to dig out again. Sometimes it’s just a string of losses, but in Grigor’s case, it started to be a trend that he’d lose matches where he was so obviously the better player. He’d be up and close to a win, and then somehow it would all slip away.

Grigor looked to be cruising to an easy straight-set win in the Sofia final, and was serving for the match at 5-1. As Goffin suddenly surged to nab a break instead, and then a hold, and then another break…commentators and journalists and fans started getting deja vu for last year’s Istanbul final, when Dimitrov was up a set and 5-2 before losing 7-6 6-7 0-6 to unseeded Diego Schwartzman, with that last game being conceded in a default for going on an angst-ridden racquet-smashing spree.

Last year’s demons weren’t the only stress Dimitrov was facing, however. He’d come so very close to beating Rafa in a 5-set thriller at the Australian Open, and all the “if only” regrets were still fresh in his mind. But Grigor seems determined to reverse bad patterns, and he capitalized on Goffin’s own nerves and broke him for the final set victory in Sofia. It was a big, important moment at a “small” tourney.

5. Wood Nymph Seething — Goffin, aka the wood nymph, was clearly not happy at being thwarted in his 2nd set comeback. If you watch the poorly edited clip above, you’ll see what we mean. That is a whole lot of Evil Eye for so small a person. His #DeathStare was so impressive our tweet even made it into a Deadspin article. We don’t have the heart to tell them The Curse of the Nymph came at the end of the match, not at a changeover, ’cause hey, we now live in a world of #AlternativeFacts.

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6. The Effervescent Joy of Grigor — When Dimitrov first started getting noticed for his Baby Fed style on court, one of the other things that was so striking about him was his unbridled enthusiasm. He loved being out there, coming up with trick shots, chasing down balls, panting for returns like an excited puppy. When the Big Results that people were expecting from him didn’t arrive, and pressure increased a hundredfold, that eagerness sadly began to fade more and more.

So it’s been a real treat to see some of our Grisha’s joy return, adding new fire to his game. And then there was the Sofia final, when he had gotten past the happy ugly crying and moved into grinning like a dorky little mischievous boy. Just look at that dorktastic video he filmed while on court. That’s the Gigor we know and love.

7. Welcome to The Real Grigor — Dimitrov may be reaching his Goldilocks moment, when he’s finally found the “just right” balance of his skills and personality. In the beginning, Grigor put on a great show but didn’t have enough consistency or physical stamina. The raw talent was there, but he had some learning to do.

In the next phase of his career, Dimitrov got serious about his fitness, and fatigue and cramping became largely a problem of the past. Unfortunately all the rigid training and focus on form rather than flair seemed to dampen his spark of ingenuity and instinct. Commentators often described his plethora of skills that gave him “too many options” and led to confusion, like a little kid who gets sat down at an elite restaurant and isn’t sure which one of the 12 forks to use first…or maybe it’s supposed to be that little spoon at the top of the plate?

Dimitrov has long been a work in progress that always seemed on the cusp of its final, near-perfect form. Even in his most dismal slumps, there was always a glimmer of the potential his fans hoped he’d reach. With Vallverdu it seems Grigor may have found the final flourish; his recent matches show a constantly improving blend of style, tactics, and emotional calm in the face of pressure.

It’s tough not to be reminded of Stan Wawrinka, who went the distance with Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2013. Though it was a brutal loss, it was a catalyst for his late-career Renaissance, which has so far netted him 3 Slam wins, his first Masters, and assorted 500s & 250s. Whether his tough loss to Rafa becomes a launching point for Grigor or not, like Stan, any good results won’t have come from nowhere. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of hours, and even a lot of soul-searching to get Dimitrov to this point, and we are really hoping it’s just the beginning of those long-promised Big Results–at tourneys both large and small.

Thank you for reading, and please share or RT if you enjoyed!! Let us know if you’re excited about Grigor’s awesome start to 2017, or if you’re still waiting to be convinced….

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