We first saw Grigor Dimitrov in Cincinnati in 2011. At the time, we weren’t aware of his “Baby Federer” nickname, but after a few minutes of watching his movement on the court opposite David Ferrer, we were instantly reminded of Fed. Dimitrov’s arch in the serve, his forehand, and his one-handed backhand were clearly modeled on the young Bulgarian’s tennis idol. Whether it came from practiced study, or just from natural osmosis from watching Roger more than anyone else, is up to Grigor to tell you.
At this first live match we saw, J.D. also pointed out the matching Wilson racquet and bag, and the Nike clothes that made Dimitrov resemble the Swiss player even more. Clearly there was a bit of hero worship going on.
Much has been made of the comparisons between the two players since then, especially as Dimitrov’s level of play drastically improved–but his results have not yet matched his predecessor’s. The young rising star eventually began to ask fans and journalists to please discard the “Baby Fed” nickname. It’s a lot of pressure to try and live up to the 17-time Grand Slam winner, and as you can see from this charming video, Grigor wants to be his own man.
While it isn’t fair to expect Grigor to mirror Federer’s career, it is still fun to see how he mirrors some of the Maestro’s shots. Fans have matched up side-by-side photos of the two players, but I thought this one was fun because it was the backhand follow-through from opposite angles. Part of what makes people think of Fed when they see Dimi is this extreme follow-through, with their chests stuck out and both arms extended behind them. If you look at another one-hander like Stan Wawrinka, you’ll see he has a more open follow-through.
Speaking of Stan, this photo of Roger was taken during their excellent semi-final match in Cincinnati in 2012. Roger had to really work to nab a victory over his fellow Swiss, so I was able to capture a lot of nice photos of his most intense tennis. I also thought it would be fun to use a 2012 picture for Fed since his white and navy kit so closely resembles the one Grigor donned in ’11.
As Dimitrov has matured, he has definitely begun to find his own rhythm and style on the court. Fans will always see a bit of Fed in that elegant body arc on the serve, though, or in that delicately bent hand on the extreme backhand whip, and we just can’t find a reason why that’s a bad thing at all. As powerful and athletic as tennis has become, we hope there’s always room in the sport for some Fed-esque grace.
PHOTOS: c2012, 2011 Valerie David for TennisInsideOut.com