Grigor Dimitrov is rounding out his best season since 2017, and is on the cusp of returning to the top 10 after the biggest rankings spike of any player at the recent Paris Masters.
With the Bulgarian now in his early 30s, how do we assess his career?
If it were to end soon do we look at it as potential fulfilled?
Success can be measured in many ways, especially in this modern era which has been dominated by three players.
Do you need to sit atop the tree to ultimately be successful? In a time of the giants in tennis, do we have to measure success of others differently? And by those different measures, where does Dimitrov land?
Few players look as good on the eye with their technique, flare, quality and power, and we need to remember that Dimitrov was labelled “Baby Fed” early in his career due to this style.
Winning junior titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2008 always meant he was going to enter the tour with high expectations, and in many respects they have never left him.
Results haven’t always matched those expectations but again that does not mean he has not been a success.
Dimitrov was probably the form player in Paris last week, before falling short in the final against Novak Djokovic.
This final was the second masters 1000 decider of his career (after he defeated Nick Kyrgios at Cincinnati in 2017).
As it stands right now, Dimitrov is the highest ranked Bulgarian tennis player of all time. He was also the first Bulgarian male to win an ATP Title.
He recently notched his 400th ATP Tour victory, which is a mark of his longevity and he reflected on his career this past month when chatting to the ATP Website.
“I’m a person that loves the game and I’ve, in a way, lived for the game,” the 32-year-old told ATPTour.com. “I think this has been something for me that was not the most important thing, but at the same time I try to do the right things for the sport itself. I think when you do these things and you win, it adds up.
“This is an achievement in itself. For me, I never set myself a goal to have 500 or 300 wins or whatever it is. You just never know how it is going to be, but I’ve been on Tour for 14 years now so it’s nice when you have that approval and you’ve done it yourself out there. You’ve gone out there 400 times and won, so I think it’s pretty cool.”
Dimitrov is a former World No.3, and currently holds the record for the longest active streak of grand slam appearances without a miss, at 51.
He hasn’t missed a slam event since 2010, but conversely has only progressed past the fourth round once in the last four years.
He has also only done it just six times in that run of 51, with four of them coming in Australia.
He hasn’t been immune to injuries, with shoulder issues, and an injury against Aslan Karatsev at the 2021 Australian Open costing him at least a quarter-final berth.
His career on reflection has consisted of spikes that wet the appetite, and give the impression he has more in him.
He has won eight ATP Titles, but they have come in clumps.
He won four between October 2013 and June 2014, and another four in the 2017 season which was his best. But none in any other season.
In that 2017 season he also won the ATP Tour Finals (minus Nadal and Djokovic), and the Cincinnati Masters.
His 84 wins at slam level sits top six amongst active players but does he need to win one?
He has the talent, but one thing this generation has shown us is how difficult that is to do.
Is he of a similar ilk to a Tomas Berdych, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, David Ferrer? Or can he do a Stan Wawrinka and peak late in his career?
“I think this has been one of my best seasons, absolutely, no doubt about that,” Dimitrov said.
“If I look back at 2017 it was my best year overall in terms of winning tournaments but I was a bit patchy. I’d play well for a month and not too well for a couple of months. It was very patchy.”
Dimitrov is very much eyeing off renewed success and deeper runs now that he is in 30s.
“It not only motivates me to play well, but to develop more,” said
“Nothing lasts forever, especially in our sport, so use that window as much as possible, enjoy as much as possible, love as much as possible, play as much as possible and how the cards fall, you never know. The only thing I can try to do is give 100 per cent of myself.”
An immense talent who is twice his country's athlete of the year, and the best tennis product they’ve ever produced.
Success comes in many forms, and Dimitrov has been a terrific player, and just maybe there is more to come for “Baby Fed.”