Halfway through February, Grigor Dimitrov—not long ago ranked No. 40, written off as a burnt-out prodigy who’d never rise to meet the hype—has already racked up two ATP titles and a Grand Slam semifinal. This past weekend the 25-year-old beat David Goffin to win the Sofia Open in his homeland of Bulgaria, improving to 14-1 on the year. That unheralded hot streak includes wins over higher-ranked Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem, Goffin (twice), and a tight five sets with Nadal at the Australian Open, which laid the tactical blueprint for how Roger Federer would win a day later.
In a rematch of their Melbourne quarterfinal, the No. 12 Bulgarian beat the No. 11 Belgian with his usual blend of attacking groundstrokes and nimble footwork. Lately what I’ve come to appreciate about Dimitrov is the way his fluid movement enables all his aggressive shot-making. To take a crack at his favorite kill shot, the inside-out forehand, he tends to drag him himself quite wide off the court; he can get away with that because he has the foot speed to recover back to the center of the court, and, where necessary, hit a controlled shot on the run. All that beautiful movement’s on display in this point at 7:53:
And again at 10:21, in this crosscourt passing shot hit mid-sprint, his shot of the match:
After losing a well-fought first set, Goffin appeared to implode during the changeover:
Dimitrov took advantage of his opponent’s erratic play to sprint ahead 5-0 in the second. But slowly Goffin worked his way back into the set, saving a few match points, making some clever approaches to net. His pace leaves something to be desired, and he lacks any one defining weapon that can instantly put his opponent on defense, but Goffin can really string together a smooth, patient point from the baseline:
Goffin’s comeback was cut short, 7-5, 6-4, and his days as the higher-ranked player here are numbered. Even a casual observer would be wise to internalize the late-blooming Dimitrov’s name. You may see it in the finals of a major before 2017 is through.