Dimitrov gets back on track
Grigor Dimitrov, a former top ten player who has slumped in the rankings and for some time better known as Maria SharapovaÈs boyfriend, is regaining his classic form.
... an emotional win for me, but at the same time, it wasnÈt unexpected.
Having dropped down to 40 at the start of 2016, he ended the year at 17 and in his first event of the new season, has upset the rankings by defeating the world number 5 for the Brisbane International crown, his first title on the ATP tour since 2014 and fourth of his career.
He won the first of the Australian Open warm-up events 6-2 2-6 6-3 and part of his reward will be an improvement of two places in his rankings, to 15.
Nickname Baby FedÈ in his early days for the similarity between his and Roger FedererÈs game, the Bulgarian admits he has been working hard to regain his form, saying after his win: I think that was kind of an emotional win for me, but at the same time, it wasnÈt unexpected.
I think I have put in the work. I think I have learnt a lot. I have set myself quite high goals for the first six months, and one of them was actually to win a tournament, he added. And it happened during the first week of the year.
The warning signs for Kei Nishikori were evident when Dimitrov defeated the world number three, top seed and title favourite, Milos Raonic of Canada, in the semi-finals to claim his place in the championship match.
However, the Japanese had never previously lost to the 25 year-old Bulgarian in their previous three meetings and started well only for Dimitrov to turn the tables by breaking him twice for the opening set, completed in just 36-minutes.
He was unable to maintain that momentum in the second and was broken himself at 2-2 handing Nishikori the initiative which he grabbed by running off four straight games to level the match.
A medical time out was called for attention to a hip injury to Nishikori and on resumption, the match was evenly poised until the eighth game when Dimitrov got the all-important break which he consolidated to take the top honours.
"It’s been a pretty emotional past year, so this trophy means a lot," admitted Dimitrov later. "These 10 days have been the most fun I have ever had on a tennis court."
He also revealed that he had been relaxing during the week by attending video-game arcades! Since I have been here, every night IÈve been going to the arcades for an hour and a half, he laughed. ItÈs given me tremendous joy. You know, itÈs something so childish (but) every time I was going to bed, I was, like, Wow, that feels so goodÈ. ItÈs just something so small.
Meanwhile NishikoriÈs hip injury has forced him to withdraw from the Sydney International in order to ensure he is fit for Melbourne the following week.
"I hurt it during the match yesterday in the final. It’s not too bad but obviously I needed some rest," the 2014 US Open runner-up said.
"It was a really tough tournament," Nishikori admitted following his week in Brisbane. "There were five of the top 10 in the tournament. I played Dimi in the final and it was another tough match and I used a lot of energy on the court last week."