By Sandra Harwitt
Grigor Dimitrov is coming into his own these days, making good on the potential people have been seeing in the 23-year-old for quite a while.
The talented Bulgarian’s reeled in three of his four career titles this season at Acapulco, Budapest and Queen’s Club, having won the Stockholm trophy last year.
It is his recent victory at Queen’s Club that’s put him on the map around these parts, better known as Wimbledon, or even better yet The Championships as if there isn’t another in the world.
Truth be told, however, in many ways it is The Championships and the one that most players would choose to win if they could only win one.
For sure, after the 11th seeded Dimitrov posted a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 second round win over Luke Saville on Wednesday, he let it be known how excited he was for the opportunity to play on the most heralded court in the world.
“I think, first of all, I just want to say how honored I was to play on the Centre Court,” Dimitrov said. “I think it’s every kids dream. I was just really happy to get out there and play a match like that — a convincing win. I was just trying to be solid and well-composed on the court.”
It’s also a dream for every player to at the very least reach the second week at Wimbledon, if not win the tournament. And Dimitrov can pull off that achievement if he bypasses 27th seed Alexandr Dolgovpolov of Ukraine in the third round on Friday.
Anyway, before we digress into the subject of Grigor at Wimbledon, let’s look back to Queen’s Club.
His dramatic — as in D-R-A-M-A-T-I-C — 6-7 (8), 7-6 (1), 7-6 (7) final victory over Feliciano Lopez kept spectators on the edge of their seats. And chief among those onlookers was Grigor’s girlfriend, Maria Sugarpova — Oops, I mean Sharapova. (Shouldn’t there be a rule about a finely-tuned professional athlete selling sugary candy to the masses – it isn’t very healthy and it doesn’t help any of us trying to mimic her perfect willowy body). But there was Maria, fresh from her French Open victory (She does have the better trophies with five Grand Slam titles to her credit) She jumped, she looked nervous, she could’ve been biting her nails down to the quick for her man.
It was that Queen’s Club victory that put Dimitrov in good stead at the British betting parlors, coming into Wimbledon as a 16-1 option to take the title according to the bookmakers.
“It’s a great feeling to come play a tournament with odds like that, I’m sure,” Dimitrov said. “I got to take each match at a time. Especially nowadays, I think the level of everyone is quite high, everyone is playing great tennis. You just have to be really optimistic, as well, It’s not just what the odds are and how you do everything else.”
Admitting to feeling comfortable for the moment, it should be pointed out that Dimitrov has already had some success at the Big W. In 2008, he won the Wimbledon boys’ junior title.
“Yeah, I think it’s more mental, I would think,” said Dimitrov, when asked if that junior victory has any bearing on his Wimbledon performances these days. “It brings back good vibes for me. I know the ground pretty good. Now I’ve played almost on all the courts. It’s always a good feeling coming out here.”
When you have a five-time Grand Slam champ on your arm some might think you look to that source for some tennis advice and inspiration. But that’s certainly not the way Dimitrov sees it — professional is professional, personal is personal.
“I think in the end it’s not about what I’m going to learn from her,” Dimitrov acknowledged. “It’s about what I want to learn from myself and for the game. That to me, in a way, [is] more valuable because I’m competing in that sport and I wat to be at my best. I’m trying to find all the ways possible on my own. Of course, it’s great to have….support like hers.”
So for now it doesn’t seem likely that Maria and Grigor are trading state secrets about tennis. I assume it’s acceptable if we want to imagine that they’re sharing dessert packages of Sugarpova gummy candies with catchy names like “Flirty, Cheeky, Splashy and Sporty.” But I’m guessing we’re not supposed to be presuming that any day in the near future things will change from Grigor being Maria’s arm candy to Maria being Grigor’s main squeeze.