2009 was a bit year at the Queens Club. Andy Murray had won his first ATP title on home soil but there was also a notable debutant.
Tournament director at the time Chris Kermode who then went onto become ATP CEO in 2013 gave Grigor Dimitrov a wildcard that year.
In 2008, weeks after his 17th birthday Dimitrov played his first ATP tour match in s-Hertogenbosch losing to Igo Andreev (ranked 37) 1-6 3-6 with Dimitrov ranked down at 744.
Next year at still 17 years old he made his ATP500 debut in Rotterdam defeating Tomas Berdych ranked 455 places higher than him 4-6 6-3 6-4. It was a short lived but fantastic experience for the Bulgarian who went down with a big 5-7 6-3 2-6 fight against world number one Rafael Nadal.
Despite this run eyebrows were raised as to the wildcard given to 18 year old Grigor Dimitrov at Queens Club.
Dimitrov turned up ranked at 361 and with some good results under his belt. He defeated Ivan Navarro from Spain 6-4 4-6 6-3 before losing to world number seven Gilles Simon in a close 6-7 6-7 defeat.
The next year he came back to Queens Club and once again left in round two with his ranking at the time just one better than last year.
There was no Wimbledon for Dimitrov that year and if anything it spurred him on.
From June onwards at ATP Challenger level he won 26 of his 32 matches until the end of 2009 including a win against a young David Goffin ranked at 301.
At the ITF level it was a similar story for him. 19 wins and 3 defeats and ended his year ranked inside the top 120 and six titles!
I’ve enjoyed watching Dimitrov throughout his career, he’s a very open person and doesn’t doubt his skill.
He’s had a lot of limelight and some brought on by his off-court activities but some through media. Of course his relationship with Maria Sharapova and Nicole Scherzingher makes headlines but on the court in his early years the tag “Baby Fed” was attached.
Similar looks, similar styles and I didn’t believe he was allowed to be himself and that’s a shame because I think it did hold him back.
Expectations put on Grigor were massive, everyone expected soo much from him at such a young age and I put that down to what people had experienced watching a young Federer, Nadal and Djokovic when they broke through less than ten years prior.
I’ve enjoyed following his career to date and there have been many great moments.
Winning Queens Club in 2014 was a fantastic moment for him and for the tournament which believed in him all those years before.
Something we can’t forget is the level of tennis he showed to win the ATP Tour Finals in 2017 was out of this world! It was absorbingly brilliant to watch, you couldn’t dream of better tennis.
Even more recently beating Federer at the 2019 US Open, it was a glimpse into the talent and the search for consistency.
One of my all time favourite moments from Dimitrov is coming through a battle with Verdasco in 2018 in Montreal. He came through a tough battle with the Spaniard and it was a mental and physical battle. Confidence wasn’t there at the time but he had hope and three words he said to SkySports after the match I’ll never forget was:
“Hope dies last”
That sat quite deep because he never stopped fighting and for me that epitomised his 2019 season, when I wrote about Grigor I used that phrase a lot.
Dimitrov began 2019 at 20 in the world and we know it’s easier to slip down the rankings which he did to outside the top 70 but finished his year back inside the top 20.
That takes quite something to do that and I applaud him for it. He’s never given up.
We can look back at 2019 and think, good comeback in the rankings and everyone will talk about the win against Federer but for me it was about a match in Paris against Dominic Thiem.
The performance was up there with my top ones of the year, everything he did was simply poetic it had a feeling of what he did in London. You can read more on this particular performance below: