Grigor Dimitrov living up to Roger Federer comparison
AFTER training in darkness for six weeks at a Swedish boot camp, Grigor Dimitrov can finally see the light.
The Bulgarian 21-year-old, once rated "better than Federer at the same age" by renowned coach Peter Lundgren, realised his full potential yesterday as he reached his first ATP final at the Brisbane International.
Fitter, stronger and more mentally prepared than at any stage of his career, Dimitrov staved off a serious challenge from Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) to secure a clash with top seed Andy Murray.
Dimitrov left Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach of Serena Williams, last year to join a Swedish team headed by former pro Mikael Tillstrom in Stockholm.
Both Dimitrov and Mouratoglou had been romantically linked to Williams in the past year, but the world No.48 only said his move was about taking his career forward after becoming stale.
"I think there is a time in life when you want to find the best way for you and improve in what you do," Dimitrov said.
"I mean, the years are rolling and you don't want to be stuck at a certain spot, so you've got to try things until you actually find the right formula for it.
"I felt it was time for me to change and experience something new."
Already the youngest player in the world top 50, Dimitrov is determined to live up to the early comparisons made in his career and deliver on his potential.
It was in the darkness of Stockholm where Dimitrov laid the foundations for a 2013 surge after only showing flashes of brilliance until now.
"We were hitting tons of balls a day, just hitting and hitting and hitting until actually you don't want to hit any more," he said.
"It wasn't much fun, I can tell you that.
"Then after, when I came here, I saw the sun for the first time in six weeks, I felt rejuvenated."
Murray said Dimitrov had the chance to reveal his big-match temperament.
In his first ATP final appearance, Murray said it would be interesting to see if the Bulgarian played fearlessly or was crushed by nerves.
"I played Federer in my first final in Bangkok, so there are nerves, but also I went into that match with not much pressure because you're not expected to win," Murray said.
"He's going to be incredibly pumped up.
"Everybody deals with situations differently. I have no idea whether he'll be nervous tomorrow or whether he'll really enjoy it."
Murray advanced to his second straight Brisbane final when Japan's Kei Nishikori withdrew in the second set with a knee injury.
After a slow start, Murray was on track to winning the semi-final on his own terms, coming back from 1-4 to win the first set 6-4.
There has been much hype about Dimitrov, one of several young guns, including Nishikori, who are making moves towards the top 10.
But Murray cautioned against heaping too much expectation on the new generation.
He said the gap between junior and professional tennis was a gaping one, requiring physical and mental evolution.
"We'll have to wait and see how they come along physically," Murray said.
"When you play in the Slams in really hot temperatures, physically that's tough.
"That's when you find out about them, when they have to come through some long five-set matches.
"When you're used to winning and hitting winning shots in juniors, then (in the Grand Slams) those shots are coming back four and five times.
"You have to get stronger so that shots that were winners against you aren't winners anymore."