Staged at the Arena Armeec Sofia, the ATP 250 event in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia has been in the calendar since 2016, with Roberto Bautista Agut, Grigor Dimitrov and Mirza Basic lifting the trophy in the first three editions. As was expected, Grigor Dimitrov was in the spotlight every year there, playing or not, as by far the most accomplished Bulgarian male player ever and the only who is currently ranked in the Top 250! Dimitrov decided not to play in Sofia in that inaugural season, taking a break after an early loss to Roger Federer at the Australian Open and skipping the first two weeks of action in February.
The home fans were very excited when he announced his participation in the last year's edition, defeating David Goffin in the final to win the title before skipping Sofia again this season due to a shoulder injury. Recently, Novak Djokovic's uncle Goran has been appointed as the tournament director of the Sofia Open and he announced some big names for the 2019 edition that will take place between February 4-10 next year.
The organizers have already signed Karen Khachanov, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Fernando Verdasco, Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Stan Wawrinka but Grigor has decided to skip Sofia once again, calling it a 'private event' that has not improved the state of tennis in Bulgaria in the last couple of years. On Saturday, Dimitrov clarified his interview, saying he has nothing against the Sofia Open and that he is happy for the fact Bulgaria has a chance to host an ATP event.
Instead of that, Dimitrov calls the Bulgarian Tennis Federation to organize more lower-ranked events throughout the year (there was only one Futures held in Bulgaria in 2018 and no Challengers), addressing that as the right way to get more players involved and improve the level of tennis:
Following an interview I made over the past week in Bulgaria, I would like to clarify my comments with regards to the Sofia Open as they have been misrepresented. I am happy that there is an ATP 250 event in my home country.
Having played the event in 2017 and been fortunate enough to win the title was very special in my heart and a great moment in my career. My comments were very much linked to the levels below ATP Tour and in my mind, the need for the Bulgarian Tennis Federation to try and host more Challenger and ITF Tournaments supporting the lower levels of tennis in Bulgaria.
I respect the efforts of Dubai Duty Free to stage the event in Sofia and wish them all the best in 2019 and onwards and at the same time hope that we can develop participation of tennis in Bulgaria in the near future."