Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:10 AM Thread Starter
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Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

Some of you have already made this prediction, but I thought I'd share my opinion on the matter. I apologize in advance for writing a novel here on MTF.

I last year I found myself spending way too much time watching Dimitrov highlights from 2013-2014 to reminisce about the "good old days" when our boy was on the rise, classic wins against Djokovic, Murray, Anderson, Dolgopolov and Lopez, and of course his heartbreakingly good Wimbledon semifinal loss. But each time I would inevitably remember those first few disappointing defeats that kept him out of the top 10: Monfils, Djokovic, Berdych. Then of course the rollercoaster ride of 2015. Detractors on these forums have sense gleefully declared that “Baby Fed” is all hype, no substance. Fans like me were confused. Who do we hold responsible? we asked. Bad coaching, Sharapova, too much pressure on young shoulders? There were certainly flashes of brilliance during the dark ages of 2015 and 2016, but Dimitrov couldn’t seem to string three wins together. At any given tournament he’d become an expert at making the highlight reel but hardly ever managed to make the quarterfinals. When playing against strong opponents he looked like a talented junior: all flair and passion but no gameplan. He even managed to lose to other hotheads like Paire. His confidence had plummeted and with it his first serve percentage and his topspin backhand. I watched almost all of his matches live during this period. I found myself getting used to his losing ways and doubted whether he could even beat journeymen on a regular basis. And after watching the infamous Istambul final, I even began to question whether or not the haters were right. Was all his prior success just a fluke?

Things started to change for me while watching his first round Rogers Cup match, a match he had no business winning or losing. Facing match point, he chased down a lob so casually you’d think he was fetching a beachball, and flicked it right over Sugita’s head like it was nothing and soon took the TB and the match. Then he won his next two matches, eventually losing to Nishikori in the quarterfinals. Cincinnati was even better. He cruised past Simon, played a gritty match against Lopez, and then produced some ridiculously good shots under pressure against Wawrinka and Johnson. Only in the third set of his semifinals match against Cilic did 2015trov rear his ugly head by getting rebroken twice. Here it goes again, I thought.

Despite losing an important tournament I thought he really could have won, I got the strong sense that a quiet shift had occurred in Grigor's mind. Whatever Vallverdu was doing was working. You could tell that he really wanted to win again, and he was willing to play a much more conservative game to get himself there.

Since then I've had this nagging feeling that 2017 will turn out to be like 2014, but even better. But I was afraid to express this bold opinion, being so accustomed to disappointment whenever it seemed like Dimitrov was turning a corner. As we all witnessed in this last tournament, he exhibited an impressive command of the fundamentals along with the faithful execution of a solid game plan. There was no showboating, nothing worthy of the highlight reel, aside from that ridiculous forehand passing shot from fifteen feet behind the baseline. I for one watched his match against Thiem at the edge of my seat, convinced that he'd crumble in the 3rd, that he'd resort to old, bad habits. But he pulled through convincingly. All the usual haters in the comments section proclaimed, "Thiem was playing horribly"; "It's the first tournament of the season"; "Let's see how he does against a real opponent. And then Dimitrov had the nerve to beat Raonic in straights while outserving him and returning amazingly in the TB. It's like the roles suddenly reversed. Grigor was the clutch player, refusing to panic when precious minibreaks evaporated before his eyes, not wasting any set points. Again the haters proclaimed that Raonic merely served poorly. It was obvious to me that his return positioning was key to dismantling the Raonic serve. He hovered inches from the baseline, boldly blocking back 200+ kmh serves deep into the court. Then came Nishikori, a terrible matchup for Grigor. But by now I had this eerie feeling that he couldn't lose the tournament. He came out the gate hot, tactically outmaneuvering Nishikori by controlling backhand exchanges with his slice, and abruptly changing up the pace on groundstrokes. His return was more aggressive too. The all too familiar dip came in the second set, but he pulled it together for the win in the third. At the end of the day Grigor was the calmer player. Haters found a way to hate, but more than a few of them started to see that something is very different about his game this season.

Aside from the technical stuff, I think the biggest improvement is his dedication to staying calm and playing smart during big points. Looking back I think that his fall from 2014 form was inevitable because his game was unsustainable. It was too reactive and unstable. Yes, he’d produce some amazing winners, but more often than not he needed them to get out of a jam that he himself created. Before long players figured out how to push him from side to side to elicit errors. Ultimately, he’d just beat himself. The mental toughness that many of us saw in his early career matches against the Big 3 began to erode the longer he remained in the spotlight. Grigor needed to have his mental game broken down and rebuilt in order to play the tennis he was always meant to play. And most importantly, it looks like he’s having fun again on and off the court. Now that Dimitrov has less pressure on his shoulders (and few points to defend until the fall hardcourt swing) he can start playing the sort of dynamic, aggressive tennis that can challenge the sport’s biggest competitors.

Grigor still has a lot of work ahead of him if he is to ever capture a Slam or even a Masters. The backhand will always need work, and honing his shot selection will be a matter of striking the perfect balance between intelligence and artistry. Making it to the top of the men's game without enormous weapons requires a level of grit and determination that he does not yet possess. But it seems to me that the right pieces have fallen into place. He's gotten a taste of what it means to win and to lose and has chosen the former. We may be witnessing the beginning of a Wawrinka-like renaissance, albeit a couple years early. And though he lacks a Wawrinka backhand, Dimitrov has Djokovic flexibility, Nadal athleticism, and Federer fundamentals. His unique mixture of clutch serving, unpredictable variety of both wings, clean volleying, and dogged backcourt defense will surely spell success for Grigor at the biggest stages.


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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:31 AM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

I too have been excited about Grigor since Cincinnati. Back in 2014 the guy lacked a backhand and any idea of point construction. He got by without them because his self-belief was so high. Now his slice is the best in the men's game, his topspin backhand is harder and more stable, his net game looks more deliberate and effective, and he looks calmer on court.

Of late he's reminded me of a sort of fusion of Roger and Novak. He lacks the extreme potency of Roger's forehand and serve, but he makes up for it with incredible athleticism and flexibility in defense. He's hard to hit through and hard to defend against. He returns well. If he can keep building upon his current level, there's no reason he shouldn't be challenging guys like Zverev, Oldovic and OldRay for the #1 ranking in a couple of years.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:36 AM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

I love your post but you have watched matches in Brisbane with rose glasses. It was gift from Federer.
All those guys Raonic,Nishikori made a gift to Grigor. And Grisho knows it.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 07:32 AM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Originally Posted by paca View Post
I too have been excited about Grigor since Cincinnati. Back in 2014 the guy lacked a backhand and any idea of point construction. He got by without them because his self-belief was so high. Now his slice is the best in the men's game, his topspin backhand is harder and more stable, his net game looks more deliberate and effective, and he looks calmer on court.

Of late he's reminded me of a sort of fusion of Roger and Novak. He lacks the extreme potency of Roger's forehand and serve, but he makes up for it with incredible athleticism and flexibility in defense. He's hard to hit through and hard to defend against. He returns well. If he can keep building upon his current level, there's no reason he shouldn't be challenging guys like Zverev, Oldovic and OldRay for the #1 ranking in a couple of years.


He is not there . Still lack confidence in his game. The war is now who could be #1 Kyrgios or Pouille or Dimitrov ?! Federer likes to be Dimitrov or Pouille but he knows Kyrgios is Australian and history is there. That is why the draw will be very interesting. There should be new rivalries but which one will be best for the game?! Nadal and Federer are already only business.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 09:21 AM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Originally Posted by Dimitard View Post
Hi Dimitard. Great essay! I like it and I can relate to a lot of the things you mentioned, especially of how you felt towards Grigor and the doubdts you had through his "dark period". I would only add the fiasco with the racket change, which exacerbated the problems. Many people don't agree that the racket change had any effect on the results, but the mere fact he had to revert to his old racket shows how he could not ajust to the new one...

On the issue with the best season yet: I think it is still early to say this. Having been burnt several times from my great expectations of Grigor after a good run, I've learned to be patient and am now cautiously optimistic. All the good signs are there, of course after the fantastic last week, but most importantly, Grigor seems to be in a good place, a good state of mind. The relationship with his coach and team seems to be great and the thing that he mentioned about playing arcades, childish games, and it giving him great pleasure and joy, then being able to go back to court for practice, reinvigorated... I think that's it! You need to be in a happy place to be able to show your best tennis. "Amor i Paz" of some sorts, if you like...

So yeah, we all here hope you are right, but let's wait and see and let's only REALLY praise and hype him once he wins something BIG, or starts winning small tournos regularly and playing at least consistently well in the majors.

Let it be!
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 03:00 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

Yeah, I also think he started changed things around starting with that comeback win against Sugita. He turned a page there. And this year, after a good offseason, he's looking like a threat to anybody.

He's serving well again, he's playing smart (neither too defensive nor too agressive) and mainly he's not panicking when things aren't working.

He completely dominated Nishikori since the 5th game of the match, but somehow found a way to lose the 2nd set. I though he would chicken it out it like in the match against Cilic, but he kept his composure and played a extremely solid 3rd set.

With the best level he showed in Brisbane, he's a top 5 contender for the AO (Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov, Raonic, Kyrgios).

PS Can't rate Federer's chances, because last time he played a serious match was in early July.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Of late he's reminded me of a sort of fusion of Roger and Novak. He lacks the extreme potency of Roger's forehand and serve, but he makes up for it with incredible athleticism and flexibility in defense. He's hard to hit through and hard to defend against. He returns well.
I'm glad others are noticing the Roger-Novak fusion. I've always seen more of Novak in Grigor's movement and defense. I find "Baby Fed" comparisons to be very superficial when you consider their many differences. Moving forward I'd like to see him adopt Roger's calm and Novak's determination.

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I love your post but you have watched matches in Brisbane with rose glasses. It was gift from Federer.
All those guys Raonic,Nishikori made a gift to Grigor. And Grisho knows it.
That's quite Christmas gift! I hope Grigor continues to play well against them so that they can raise their own level accordingly, which is a gift in itself.

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On the issue with the best season yet: I think it is still early to say this. Having been burnt several times from my great expectations of Grigor after a good run, I've learned to be patient and am now cautiously optimistic.
That's a smart attitude to adopt when rooting for Grigor. At this juncture, however, I'm inclined to start making slightly bold predictions. I think that a player ranked 15 finishing year-end 10 isn't even that bold considering that he had a six match losing streak during the middle of last season.

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He's serving well again, he's playing smart (neither too defensive nor too aggressive) and mainly he's not panicking when things aren't working.
Not panicking is crucial for Grigor given that he plays such a varied game. Watching top 10 players make more errors that him was very reassuring.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:00 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

He should be able to reach top 10 at the very least this year and can push it beyond that like top 5 imo.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:39 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Of late he's reminded me of a sort of fusion of Roger and Novak. He lacks the extreme potency of Roger's forehand and serve, but he makes up for it with incredible athleticism and flexibility in defense. He's hard to hit through and hard to defend against. He returns well. If he can keep building upon his current level, there's no reason he shouldn't be challenging guys like Zverev, Oldovic and OldRay for the #1 ranking in a couple of years.
I said years ago on MTF Dimitrov is kinda hybrid of Djokovic and Federer. Of course I didn't mean he is as great as both (), but he possesses the skills to shotmake and the skills to finish point in several different ways (like Federer) and he's an outstanding athlete, just like Djokovic or Monfils.

Rasheed was the first coach who saw the great athlete Dimitrov is, but he made him play too defensive and that was never going to work in the bigger picture. Other coaches made him play too agressive, due to his finishing skills. Valverdu is the first one who is making him play the right way so far.

On the bolded part, Federer's serve isn't much potent, he barely serves over 200-205 kmh, what make his serve so effective and unique is the fact he can hit pretty much every serve variation in the sport with the same accuracy. And he also follows the serve with a 2nd stroke better than anyone ever did probably.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Rasheed was the first coach who saw the great athlete Dimitrov is, but he made him play too defensive and that was never going to work in the bigger picture. Other coaches made him play too aggressive, due to his finishing skills. Valverdu is the first one who is making him play the right way so far.
I will always wonder what Grigor could have done had he been given the right direction early on. I'll save those theories and my ideas about Tsitsipas for another thread.

You're absolutely right about Rasheed. Their partnership would have been more successful with another coach leading the team and Rasheed acting as a fitness coach. What makes Grigor a headache (and joy) for coaches is that he's capable of top 10 defense and offense but must use a tricky combination of the two to have consistent success. As many of you have probably observed, his backhand slice is his most reliably effective weapon. It's consistent, accurate, and usually sets him up for a favorable forehand (and control of the point) or a volley. He's also exceedingly good at half-volleys and awkward reaching volleys, so when he uses the slice to transition to the net, opponents have a very hard time passing him. And if he wants to stay on the baseline, he can switch things up with a slice down the line to open up the court for a forehand winner.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 08:24 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

It is still toо early to make any general conclusions about Girigor's hopefully positive 2017 season. However I saw some good things in his game in Brisbane. Things I haven't seen in a long time. The thing with Grigor is that he is very emotional. Sometimes he will just give in to his emotions and repeat his mistakes, what I mean by this is that he just won't adjust his tactics for the current match, even if they are loosing. Or as it happened many times last season when he is trailing in the result, he will find a great way to counter his opponent, by changing his tactics and play style and when he converts his advantage to a break of serve, he will resume his play style before the break putting him in a disadvantage.
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Last edited by Mr.Cool; 01-11-2017 at 08:32 PM.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 08:57 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

I agree with a lot of your arguments guys and share all of your hopes and expectations. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to expect a great season from Grigor after this dream week in Brisbane. At the same time though, there's a lot that could happen to/with Grigor, which can easily screw things up...

I really cannot wait for the AO to start. Hopefully, a good draw, which will help Grigor gather some momentum, more confidence and good rhythm. He should rally make the 2nd week here and then who knows...

Should be fun to revisit this thread after the AO. Hopefully to say how obviously right Dimitard was
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 12:40 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

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Originally Posted by pepita1964 View Post
I love your post but you have watched matches in Brisbane with rose glasses. It was gift from Federer.
All those guys Raonic,Nishikori made a gift to Grigor. And Grisho knows it.
What on earth has Federer got to do with Grigor's success in Brisbane? Do you realise he was on the other side of the country at the time?
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 06:03 PM
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Re: Why I think 2017 will be Dimitrov's best season yet

I liked his FH the most last week - good placement without being too risky, crisp and heavy without being hit to the max. Kei was struggling at times to take the ball fast as is his style. Plenty of variety. I like his deep topspin FH - nice. It cracked in the 2nd set of the final but Grigor manage to regroup after that, thankfully.
But in tennis you have to prove every week. Brisbane is in the stats now.
Maybe he has the right team now, positive, friendly and calm atmosphere.

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Last edited by riff; 01-12-2017 at 06:05 PM.
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