By Chris Oddo/ Monday, October 21, 2013
It has been an up and down season for Grigor Dimitrov, but when viewed with perspective, the 22-year-old's exploits have been quite impressive.
Photo Source: AP
Before we get fully immersed in the WTA Championships, as well as ATP Basel and Valencia, let's catch up on the studs and duds of the tennis week that was:
Last Stop Istanbul: WTA Championships Preview
Hero: Grigor Dimitrov
There has been so much anxiety and expectations about the development of wildly talented junior phenom Grigor Dimitrov over the last two years that sadly we rarely stop to appreciate what remarkable strides the 22-year-old Bulgarian has made.
Instead of appreciating how far Dimitrov has come this year—prior to 2013 he had never finished inside the ATP's top 45 and he currently sits at No. 22 with his first career title under his belt—we tend to roll our eyes and focus on what he hasn't done yet. He cramps in a match in Madrid, where he records his first career victory over a reigning No. 1, and we make note of the fact that his physical conditioning is lacking. He makes a coaching change in October with the goal of taking his own unique set of skills and circumstances to the next level, and we wonder if he's choosing his girlfriend and the laid back Hollywood lifestyle over his tennis.
Maybe we should criticize Dimitrov less and be blown away by his abilities (and also, dare I say, his work ethic) more?
At 22, Dimitrov is right where he needs to be in terms of developing his game. He's got a 4-22 record against the ATP's top 10, but upon closer inspection the true thrust of Dimitrov's career arc comes into sight. He's won three of his last seven against the top 10, and two of those losses came to Rafael Nadal in three hard-fought sets, one on clay in Monte Carlo.
On Sunday in Stockholm, Dimitrov showed just how far he's come in the span of one season. In his first tournament with Roger Rasheed as his coach, he reached his second career final, then proceeded to outlast one of the toughest warriors on the circuit, beating the indefatigable David Ferrer in three hotly contested sets. It was a final that showcased Dimitrov's talents in multiple ways. Yes, he was his usual electrifying self from a shotmaking perspective, but also he was gritty and intelligent and patient, working the points against Ferrer and keeping his cool down the stretch with a clutch performance in the decider that elevated him to his first career title—the first ever by a Bulgarian in ATP history.
Dimitrov Makes Maiden Voyage in Stockholm
Dimitrov set his sights on the top 20 at the beginning of the season, and now, with a new coach and his first title in tow, he may just get there. “One day can change everything,” Dimitrov said after his win in Stockholm. “There are still two tournaments to go for the year. If I keep doing well, there's a good chance to get into the Top 20. If not, I won't be disappointed considering the year I've had so far.”
For Dimitrov, who came into Stockholm with a season-worst four-match losing streak, the future definitely looks bright. In fact, it's glaring, white and hot. At 22 years and four months of age, Dimitrov is the youngest player in the ATP's top 50. By this time next year, he just might be the youngest player in the top 10.
He's had his ups and downs in 2013, and he's still looking to reach the second week of a Grand Slam, but Dimitrov should be commended for making drastic improvements to his game this season, and for having the wherewithal, at a crucial time in his career, to pick the right coach to take him even higher.
In Rasheed, Dimitrov has chosen the taskmaster that suits his needs perfectly. With more discipline and fitness injected into his already mindblowing game, Dimitrov could be the game's biggest breakout star of 2014.
Zero: Sloane Stephens
Stephens rises to a new career-high ranking of 11 in the world on Monday, but she has lost to Stefanie Voegele in her last two quarterfinals, and still is the only WTA top 20 player to have not reached a final.
Hero: Simona Halep
Halep wins her fifth title of the season at the Kremlin Cup, taking out Sam Stosur in the final, and finishing the week at a career-best ranking of 14 in the world. Remarkably, Halep had an 0-3 record in career finals before 2013. She has won all five she has played this season. With wins over Petra Kvitova, Kirsten Flipkens, Andrea Petkovic and now Stosur in those finals, Halep's rise is clearly no fluke. Keep an eye on this 22-year-old heading into 2014.
Halep Wins Fifth Crown in Moscow
Hero: Richard Gasquet
Gasquet moved ahead of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the race to London with his third title of 2013 at the Kremlin Cup. The title is Gasquet's 10th, and this year is the first time that the Frenchman has won three titles in a single season since 2006.
The Frenchman's rise to the top 10 has been a highlight for many fans in 2013. Blessed with one of the most beautiful—and effective—one-handed backhands of all-time, Gasquet has shored up his forehand and serve and is a more confident, more fit player than he ever was. There is a newfound fighting spirit in the game of Gasquet this season, and he's just one win away from reaching his career-best mark of 49 and two away from his first 50-win season. When he gets there, it will be well-deserved.
Zero: Maria Sharapova's shoulder and Andy Murray's back
Both players will be sorely missed at this year's season-ending championships.
Hero: Tommy Haas
Haas was at it again in Vienna, nailing down his 15th career title and third of the year with a win in the final over Robin Haase, all at the age of 35, which makes him the oldest ATP title winner in 2013. Remarkably, Sunday wasn't the first time that Haas has won the Vienna title. He also won it in 2001, back when he was just a wee-little 23-year-old. What can Haas possibly do for an encore in 2014? Wait a second, he's not done in 2013, as his title kept him alive in the hunt for a London bid. Haas himself admits his chances are slim and he'll probably need the title at the Paris Masters next week to do it, but given his capacity for amazing achievements in 2013, let's not put it past him.
Hero: Caroline Wozniacki
Woz nets her 21st career title in Luxembourg and sneaks into the WTA Championships as an alternate. Not mind-boggling, but impressive nonetheless.
Hero: Mikhail Kukushkin
The Kazakh reached the Moscow final from qualifying and climbed from outside the top 100 to No. 67 in the world for his trouble.
Zero: Gael Monfils
Lamonf dropped a first-round match to the world No. 205, Jaroslav Pospisil, in Vienna. Surprised? We didn't think so.
Hero: Robin Haase
The talented Dutchman upset Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to the Vienna final.
Hero: Yvonne Meusberger
The Austrian, who recently turned 30, cracks the WTA's top 50 for the first time this week.
Hero: Su-Wei Hsieh and Peng Shuai
The Taiwanese-Chinese pairing make their individual top five doubles debut this week.