© Ella Ling

Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov: "burned out" by Federer comparisons


Arguably the most talented of the new generation, the 20-year-old Bulgarian talks to The Tennis Space about “getting burned out” by comparisons with Roger Federer, about the occasion he shoved an umpire in the chest (“I did a bad thing”), and how he loves the weather in England (“I don’t know what’s wrong with me”).

When you won junior Wimbledon in 2008, your style of play was compared to Roger Federer. You even look a bit like him. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? “At one stage I was sort of getting burned out. I was like, ‘come on people, the guy is the greatest player of all time and I was 180 in the world when they first said that’. I can’t say we don’t have similarities, certainly on some shots. But people can only see what’s on the surface; they can’t see what’s on the bottom or what’s on the inside. With time, I think people will realise that my mentality’s probably different but you can’t really compare anything, except shot-wise. I have a very different vision than most of the people on the tour, I would say. Hopefully I will get better and better and then I can release some of what’s really going on.”

You spend quite a lot of time in England, I understand? “I love England. I love the weather there – I don’t know why or what’s wrong with me. I actually could see myself living there. I was planning to move there. I enjoy to walk in the parks. Sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays I take the train (from his home in Paris) – it’s so great – there’s such a lot to do there, museums, walk around the river.”

What about football? “I play a lot of soccer and I like Manchester United. They have a Bulgarian too (Dimitar Berbatov). I like watching soccer a lot. I lived in Barcelona for two years and went every week to watch the matches. It was fascinating to watch the way they played.”

They used to have Hristo Stoichkov? “Exactly. He was a great player, unbelievable player. I am actually great friends with him now. But I think he’s in Africa hunting lions these days.”

I hate to bring it up, but you had an incident at a tournament in Helsinki at the end of 2010 (when he pushed an umpire in the chest)? “I did a very bad thing, I admit that. I admit that totally. I’m not that type of person at all. The situation was, there was a lot of pressure on both of us, it was a very important match and I just…basically I just tried to disconnect after this match. I really didn’t think about it afterwards. But I think it’s a learning thing. It was a big thing for me but I tried to forget about it. I didn’t want to speak about it because there’s obviously no point, it’s in the past, you can’t change the past.”

Do you learn more from mistakes than the things you do well? “Of course, sometimes you’ve got to lose maybe a lot of matches just to realise your mistakes. I take every match as a learning process. To me when I lose a match, I lose, but when I don’t lose something else, like my favourite people, or something like that. I can lose, but losing is also winning.”

You have a lot of variety in your game – might it take you longer to fulfil your potential than someone, for example, who relies on a big serve? “I think it will take me longer, definitely. Even in practice, I make mistakes and I don’t know why. When the ball comes I have a million ideas coming into my head, so sometimes I just laugh at myself, because I’ve got it all but I’ve just got to put it in order. Despite the fact I can be even better, it’s a bit scary.”

You’re nicknamed PrimeTime and you’ve said in the past you think you have the ability to be number one one day. What’s your immediate goal? “Being between 70 and 80 (where he is now) – and getting to the top 40 – I think that’s the biggest jump of all time. You need those big points. I wish I could buy them. I think when you enter the top 40, from then on, you think everything is possible. This thing between 80 and even 40, you need to guts it out. It’s just about working hard and believing.”