The shiny, sublime Grigor Dimitrov

Written by  //  September 1, 2011  //  Sport  //  4 Comments

His knees are bent and his racquet’s head is pointed gently upwards. As he tosses the ball up, his entire body rises, seemingly, in perfect unison. The index finger of his left hand is pointed at the ball and then he strikes it at its highest point. His body, angled backwards, is propelled forward at great force, allowing him to generate tremendous velocity on his serve. It is a beautiful, powerful motion. Indeed, it seems, Grigor Dimitrov cannot play a single ugly stroke on the tennis court.

At the Louis Armstrong Stadium, on Monday, the opening day of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov took on the number 7 seed, Gael Monfils. He lost in three, straight sets. The Frenchman, Monfils was too strong for the twenty-year-old Bulgarian. Yet, I left the arena not dazzled by Monfils’s typically ragged showmanship, but by the beauty of Dimitrov’s tennis.

I had up until the point, watched parts of, an old favorite, Tommy Haas’s match against Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy of France in the new, impressive, Court No. 17, and I had seen Alejandro Falla overcome in five, thrilling sets, Victor Troicki at the Grandstand. The man I wanted to see, though, was Dimitrov. I had heard and read much about him and I had seen enough of him on the television to be convinced of his talent. But his game needs to be seen in its flesh – his lithe, graceful movement across the court, forever attacking and purposeful is a sight to behold.

In a day and age when counterpunching has become the norm, Dimitrov’s slick, aggressive tennis served as a welcome respite. His forehands are hit with an easy, relaxed motion, and a little snap at the end provides it with topspin, often very heavy. He is excellent at the net – his volleys are thoughtful and precise. But it is his backhand that is most remarkable. A more elegant stroke, bar Richard Gasquet’s backhand, you will not see in men’s tennis today. He hits it with a single hand, often on the rise, leaning forward in a handsome posture and he finishes with a flourish.

The single handed backhand has both its strengths and weaknesses. It obviously gives the player greater reach, but returning high, deep balls with heavy topspin can often be difficult. It is a weakness that Rafael Nadal has exploited on countless occasions against Roger Federer. But Dimitrov, against Monfils, seemed capable of dealing with such balls with relative ease. He was able to stand up on his toes and direct his backhand with both adequate topspin and power.

His backhand slice is also equally exquisite. But that he seldom uses it is certainly a sign of his confidence in striking the ball on that wing. It was clear that he liked to strike first – to take his game to the opponent. He is no counterpuncher. He thrills with his stroke play, unafraid of aiming for the most acute angles.  In the end, his attacking game might have brought about his downfall, on this occasion – there were far too many unforced errors. But this was only his first U.S. Open.

4 Comments on "The shiny, sublime Grigor Dimitrov"

  1. MylaporeclubMaestros December 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm ·

    Pity you may not have seen too much of a Stefan Edberg. His backhand, which was a thing of beauty, will remain a joy forever.

  2. Suhrith December 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm ·

    I’ve written about Edberg here: http://www.criticaltwenties.in/sport/of-wimbledon-edberg-chang-and-ivanisevic

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