Grigor Dimitrov will be playing the Sofia Open in 3 weeks, and the news is so good that it has superseded all the excitement and disappointment of his early exit in New York at the US Open. Yes, that open is not our open as a caliber tournament, but Grisho will appear in front of his home audience in the Arena Armeets hall, which has been waiting for this for five and a half years.
One question is important, and the answer – we all want it, can give a platform for a new restart for Grigor, who seems to have suffered in the last year not from sports and technical reasons (he always had them), and in terms of emotional charging and inspiration for great deeds. There’s the injury factor, of course, but at times it’s as if our first rocket is looking for the spark to ignite the engine of motivation and ambition. He lacks something that is not in the racquet, nor in the training.
And Sofia at the end of the month (from September 25), if we believe the story, can give it to him.
Grigor came to Sofia as the world No.13, already with a reputation as a top player, having won five ATP Tour titles, including a month before the 2017 Sofia Open when he took the title in Brisbane. Then he played exceptionally at the Australian open, reached the semi-finals and made an epic against Rafa Nadal, which is still in front of our eyes today.
“The whole of Bulgaria stopped, the only Bulgarian working at that moment was Grigor,” the ATP website wrote at the time. The country experienced the semi-final with its sports hero, and the hope was that this was only the beginning.
And – here it is in Sofia. “Our Boy”. Any of his colleagues who attended his press conference in “Arena Armeets” before the start of the tournament will never forget it.
Grigor was smiling, open, talked for a long time, cracked jokes and obviously felt great. He said something that is also unforgettable:
“I don’t get to come very often, and now I’m here and it feels great.”
He took a selfie with the hall with the reporters behind him, posted it on social networks. Until recently it had close to 2 million views, likes, shares.
On all days, the hall was bursting at the seams when it came time for Grisho’s match. Flags, banners, children with painted faces… Such things we see when Bulgaria plays a big football, volleyball, basketball match. And for Grigor.
When he came out for the first match, he was visibly caught in the vortex of emotions and failed to play strongly, at times he was chaotic, as if succumbing to the euphoria around him.
He almost lost at the start to the 267th in the world Jerzy Janović, defeating him with a twist – 4:6, 6:3, 7:5. The crowd finally lifted him, and the Pole admitted after the match that it was an honor for him to play in such an atmosphere, but it will not be easy for anyone against Grigor on this court.
Then – three wins in two sets:
6:3, 6:3 over Victor Troitsky
6:1, 6:3 over Nikoloz Basilashvili
7:5, 6:4 over David Goffen in the final, and he was even ahead of Dimitrov in the ranking, #11 at that time.
The hall was a sea of flags and noise, and Grisho fell and kissed the court. It cannot be forgotten! Then he got up, grabbed his phone and a selfie stick, and took a 360-degree video selfie with the entire audience screaming with joy.
And this video went around the channels of the world tennis media. In the hall were a bunch of sports heroes such as Dimitar Berbatov, politicians (where without them), artists, stars from other fields, as well as thousands of euphoric fans. This title was won with the emotion and energy of the hall, not only with Grisho’s skills.
Undoubtedly, this is the week in which Bulgaria as a sporting nation and its most prominent individual representative in sports for the last decade at least, were in the closest chemistry.
You may say that we pay too much attention to emotion, but positive energy, such as a surge of inspiration and mental strength, is not to be underestimated.
Because Grigor left Sofia not only with the trophy in his jacket. It was loaded with jet fuel.
There came the quarter-finals in Rotterdam (lost to Goffen), the round of 16 at the Madrid Masters, the third round at Roland Garros, the semi-finals on grass in Queens, the round of 16 at Wimbledon, lost to the great Federer in three sets, but probably one of the most beautiful not only for that edition of the tournament.
Grigor was in the headlines – it was clear that this was no longer just “the talent from Bulgaria, technically gifted to beat anyone and do incredible things at times”, but a player with experience, with a routine and titles to chase the top.
First Masters title came in Cincinnati in August, then a narrowly lost match against Rublev stopped him at the US Open, another high point – semi-finals in Beijing, lost in three sets to Nadal, quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters, again with the world no.1 from Spain, again in epic three sets… Lost the final in Stockholm to Del Potro, but in November came the absolute highlight of the year: Title at the ATP Finals in London.
Along the way, he defeated the world No. 8 Goffen twice, the ninth-ranked Sock, the fourth-ranked Thiem and the tenth-ranked, his traditionally particularly uncomfortable opponent – Pablo Carreno Busta. Five successes in London, a title, the unforgettable shots with the parents and staff, with the trophy under the fireworks in the hall…
Grigor finished that 2017 as #3 in world tennis. And today we can think about it – to have the world No. 3 in a sport with such competition… How significant is this actually? Excellent!
In the months since the 2017 Sofia Open to the 2017 ATP Finals title, Grigor has been on an upward trajectory. This was his strongest period, as if electrified.
Yes, it is possible that other factors are important that we – apart from his daily work, headquarters and subtleties – do not know about. But we are convinced, the “positive energy at home” factor was key.
Now, five years later, Dimitrov will return to Arena Armeets for the first time. The interest is so great that there is no doubt – the atmosphere will be similar again.
And we hope the effect is the same. Whether he wins the title or not is not the most important thing. But he can fill the tank with the rocket fuel of emotions, with which he can go again in the direction in which both he and we want to see him – only onward and upward.