It’s been a year of trials and tribulations for Grigor Dimitrov both on and off the court. On Tuesday, René Denfeld caught up with the 25-year-old in Basel and asked the Bulgarian not just about his year but also about warm-up rituals, Spotify and posed the ultimate challenge: form a five-piece boyband consisting of ATP players.
After two cracking passing shots, the first round encounter between Grigor Dimitrov and Sergiy Stakhovsky in Basel was all but decided. The Bulgarian set up break point with the first forehand down the line while almost in the splits — passing the Ukrainian — and then followed it up with another hot shot to break his opponent’s serve at 4-4 in the second set, allowing him to serve for the match.
“Yeah, indeed, it was a good time to hit those shots,” Dimitrov said post-match with a grin. “I’ve been working a lot these past weeks, so obviously it pays off a little bit, I think…I’ve been striking the ball well but I was a little bit unfortunate with some matches.”
The clutch tennis Dimitrov displayed during his first round performance at the Swiss Indoors was lacking for much of 2015, however. It’s a storyline of the season that didn’t necessarily dominate headlines due to some even bigger names (How’s it goin’, Rafa?) having equally testing seasons, but it’s certainly been a notable subplot.
Many have been asking questions here in Basel, too, where he is unseeded at a tournament for the first time in almost two years.
“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster season for me, I’m not gonna hide that,” Dimitrov said. “Quite a few missed opportunities, a lot of disorder, I think, on and off the court, so I just had to deal with quite a few things. Changing team is never easy, you know — I’m trying to find the right people to surround myself with and hopefully have a better start next year and have a good off-season. That’s the one thing that I’m looking forward to.
“..If everything goes well, I think the results will be coming back. I think I’ve seen it from both worlds now — what it’s like to be Top 10 and what it’s like to take a step back. So I think that can be a plus.”
Despite a year of highs and lows, to say the least, some things haven’t changed for Dimitrov. His pre-match routines are still very similar to the way they’ve always been and they usually feature one key element: music.
“Obviously, I’m trying to get ready for matches — that’s the one thing and music is a part for me. I mean, I love music, so I’m listening throughout the whole day, even before matches and I’ve kept pretty much my whole routine.”
Now that we’re on the topic of Dimitrov and music, one of the interesting little aspects about the Bulgarian is how diversified his taste in music is. From Destiny’s Child to Limp Bizkit, Madonna to Michael Jackson and back — you’ll find any genre on his Spotify account playlists.
“Yeah, I know, I’ve had that [people being surprised by his wide-ranging playlists] in the past. It just depends on the mood and whatever you feel like. I think when I travel I have a certain music, when I’m on the road somewhere, when I’m in the park somewhere — I like to have a variety and I think it’s cool for the fans to see different aspects of you!”
Somewhat appropriately, the fans also got to see that different side of Dimitrov when the website Outside The Ball — which has mixed tennis players and pop music in the past — asked him to pick his favorite boy band and sing his favorite song. #hewantsitthatway
Just who among his fellow players, then, would the ATP’s resident treble-master want alongside him in a world-touring, ear worm-producing boy band?
(We’ll just let you listen to this one because it was quite the process.)
As for Federer being too sophisticated? The Swiss had a good laugh when he he heard his name was brought up.
“What was my role going to be? A background dancer?” the top seed joked following his 6-1, 6-2 win over Mikhail Kukushkin. “Maybe I am [too sophisticated]. No idea, but Grigor is a fun guy; it’s probably better if he’s at the front, I’m happy to remain in the background!”
And the front — of the tennis world, that is — is pretty much where Dimitrov is hoping and aiming to get back to in 2016.