The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - by John Weaver

Ris­ing ten­nis star Grigor Dim­itrov is eye­ing Grand Slam vic­tory after his ATP Fi­nals win

Grigor Dim­itrov is set­ting his sights on win­ning his first Grand Slam after his dra­matic vic­tory at the ATP Fi­nals this week gave him the biggest ti­tle of his ca­reer. His vic­tory against Bel­gium’s David Gof­fin also makes him the first debu­tant to win the sea­son fi­nale since Alex Cor­retja in 1998.

The Bul­gar­ian came into the ti­tle de­cider un­beaten at Lon­don’s O2 Arena, with a healthy 4-1 head-to-head record against Gof­fin, in­clud­ing a 6-0, 6-2 win in the round-robin stage. But sev­enth seed Gof­fin was buoyed by wins over world No 1 Rafael Nadal and a gutsy ef­fort against sec­ond seed Roger Fed­erer, com­ing back from a set down to beat the Swiss in the semi­fi­nals.

Re­gard­less, the Bul­gar­ian sixth seed held his nerve to beat Gof­fin 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in a grip­ping con­test at the O2, fi­nally seal­ing the match with his fifth cham­pi­onship point.

The fi­nal was the first time in the tour­na­ment’s his­tory that two play­ers who qual­i­fied for the first time faced off in the ti­tle de­cider. Dim­itrov’s vic­tory takes the 26-yearold to the dizzy heights of third in the rank­ings

be­hind only Nadal and Fed­erer as he be­gins to de­liver on his rich prom­ise.

Nick­named “Baby Fed” early in his ca­reer for the sim­i­lar­ity of style in his game to the Swiss, Dim­itrov has strug­gled to live up to the com­par­i­son and was as low as 40th in the world in mid-2016. But he has bounced back strongly to en­joy the best sea­son of his ca­reer in 2017, win­ning four ti­tles in all, in­clud­ing his first Masters ti­tle in Cincin­nati.

Dim­itrov has never been be­yond the semi­fi­nals of a Grand Slam, reach­ing the last four at Wim­ble­don in 2014 and re­peat­ing the feat in Aus­tralia ear­lier this year. “I’m still try­ing to think about what I just did,” said the Bul­gar­ian after his vic­tory against Gof­fin. “I think now def­i­nitely we [are] go­ing to sit down with the team and re­assess the whole year, see what we’ve done good, what we can im­prove.

“Of course, one of my main goals is to win a tour­na­ment, you know, a Grand Slam tour­na­ment. This has al­ways been, again, a dream of mine. Now slowly I think this thing is get­ting there.

“I think I’ve had good re­sults in the past, but now, as I said, I need to be even more con­sis­tent on those kind of events, and in the same time raise up my level on oc­ca­sions like this. Ob­vi­ously, this is a great, un­be­liev­able achieve­ment for me, yes. But, yeah, I just still have a lot to give.”

The fi­nal that no­body ex­pected came just a year after No­vak Djokovic and Andy Mur­ray bat­tled it out in Lon­don for the No 1 slot. But the

ATP Fi­nals have had an un­usual flavour this year, miss­ing both Mur­ray and Djokovic while world No 1 Nadal was forced to pull out in­jured after his open­ing round-robin match. Fed­erer’s de­feat in the semi-fi­nals was also a huge shock.

But Dim­itrov said it was too soon to pro­claim a new era and write the obituaries of the

“Big Four” who have dom­i­nated ten­nis over the past decade and more.

“Next year I think is go­ing to be ob­vi­ously pretty in­ter­est­ing, es­pe­cially the be­gin­ning of it,” he said. “There’s still quite a few names that are go­ing to come back and play. That’s just ob­vi­ous. You should never count them out.”

The Bul­gar­ian said his win in Lon­don had lifted him into the con­ver­sa­tion about the top play­ers, but he had to work hard to cap­i­talise on that. “Am I one of those guys? Well, right now I’m right here. I’m the win­ner of the tour­na­ment. So, yes, I’m happy with it.

“But that’s about it. Like, the im­por­tant thing is just to stay on the ground and put your head down, even work harder be­cause once you get to that point, ev­ery­thing be­comes so nar­row for you.

“I just want to keep the same line. I don’t want to get too hyped up be­cause I’ve done well, now I’m No 3 in the world. No, this makes me even more, I think, locked in, more ex­cited about my work and for what’s to come.”

Dim­itrov is the first debu­tant to win the ATP Fi­nals since 1998.

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