Grigor Dimitrov will not be playing in the upcoming World Tour Finals next week in London. Yet, recent comments he made about his decision not to attend as an alternate have stirred up plenty of controversy, so much that the Bulgarian is arguably receiving more attention than the players who have actually qualified to compete.
“If I go, it is because I deserved to be there, not hope someone gets hurt so I get to play” Dimitrov said to the French newspaper L’Equipe. “So no, I don’t think it’s my thing.”
Does Dimitrov deserve to be at the World Tour Finals?
Absolutely not. He has admitted as much and the point system makes it pretty hard to argue that Dimitrov should be playing in London. He has had a very successful year, perhaps one even more successful on paper than someone like Milos Raonic, who won one title to Dimitrov’s three. But in the same breath, Raonic racked up more points throughout the year and displayed an obscene level of consistency, one that his fellow Wimbledon semifinalist could not match.
Now the question is whether or not Dimitrov should have attended the World Tour Finals as an alternate?
Some are arguing that Dimitrov is acting in a holier-than-thou manner, that he believes he is too good to be a mere alternate at the World Tour Finals. For a player who not only receives direct entrance, but also a seed at nearly every event he plays, the idea of being an alternate may be tough to swallow. With this said, I don’t believe that Dimitrov’s comments don’t reflect such a mindset. In fact, his comments seem to support the opposite, one that appreciates all it takes to reach the World Tour Finals. He knows that he shouldn’t be there, that the only way he would end up playing would be through a stroke of misfortune for another player. For this reason, it’s more than understandable for Dimitrov to want to back out.
Others have argued that it’s a disservice to the fans who pay a lot of money for tickets, that they deserve to see the highest quality players square off against one another. At present, the two alternates are David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. While David Ferrer was already in position to be an alternate, Lopez received his spot after Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ernests Gulbis chose not to accept the final slot.
The problem with this argument from is that supports the idea that players are in the business of serving fans. It may be a harsh reality for some, but players are making career and business-related decisions. They play to maximize their own tennis and earning potential. When a spectator purchases a ticket for any sporting event – whether they realize it or not – they do so with the risk that the event or game could end at any time or not take place at all. Grigor Dimitrov just completed a season that spanned eleven months, and he owes nothing to fans who would ask him add an additional week as an alternate.
Finally, there is a belief that he has something to gain from attending as an alternate. Whether this be practicing with the qualifying players or sitting courtside to watch the matches, there are those who feel Dimitrov is avoiding a golden opportunity to improve his game.
The fact of the matter is this: following the US Open, Dimitrov took to the court in five events. In four of those events, he lost to half of the World Tour Finals field. In four matches against Federer, Murray, Djokovic and Berdych, Dimitrov won a single set, which came in a tiebreak against Berdych. He hasn’t seen much daylight against these guys over the last month or so, and it really begs the question of what showing up in London will actually do for him.
If Dimitrov had decided to attend, he would have received a $75,000 check, gotten to hit a few balls with guys he’s hit thousands of balls with over the last several years and a spectator’s seat at a tournament he wished he could have played, but ultimately one at which he failed to qualify.
It would be a complete waste of time for him to attend just for the off-chance that not one, but two players are unable to compete. Remember, Dimitrov would have been the second alternate behind David Ferrer. In the last ten years, only four alternates have seen the court at the World Tour Finals/Tennis Masters Cup. In addition, there has only been one year (2004) when two players have withdrawn from the same tournament.
The chances of this happening this year seem astronomically low, thus proving (once again) how unnecessary of a trip it would have been for Grigor Dimitrov.