With Roger Federer retired, Grigor Dimitrov finally gets to achieve one feat at 32

On Monday, Dimitrov will be a top-10 player but also the top-ranked one-handed backhand player.

by Dzevad Mesic
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With Roger Federer retired, Grigor Dimitrov finally gets to achieve one feat at 32
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Grigor Dimitrov's return to the top-10 is also set to mark a nice feat for the Bulgarian as the 32-year-old is set to be the highest-ranked player with a one-handed backhand for the first time in his career.

Following his run to the Miami Masters final, Dimitrov, who entered the tournament as the 12th-ranked player in the world - ensured he would return to the top-10 club for the first time since November 2018. 

Being in the top-10 for Dimitrov won't be anything new as he was 23 when he first made the top-10 in 2014 and he also spent the majority of the time during the 2017 and 2018 seasons ranked there. But whenever Dimitrov was ranked inside the top-10, Roger Federer was always ranked above him. 

In late 2016 and early 2017 - when Federer was just coming back from knee surgery - Dimitrov was briefly ranked above the Swiss. But still he wasn't the top-ranked one-handed backhand player as Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem were ranked ahead of him. 

Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor Dimitrov © Getty Images Sport - Dean Mouhtaropoulos
 

Even after winning the 2017 ATP Finals and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 3 on 20th November, Dimitrov wasn't ranked above Federer as the Swiss tennis icon was ranked at No. 2 in the world back then. 

Grigor Dimitrov overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas as the top-ranked one-handed backhand player

But now that Federer is retired - Wawrinka and Thiem being ranked at No. 83 and No. 90, respectively - Dimitrov just had to surpass Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

For years, Tsitsipas was holding the crown of the top-ranked one-handed backhand player. But after exiting the top-10 for the first time since 2019 March this past February, Tsitsipas entered Miami as the 11th-ranked player in the world. 

After Tsitsipas lost in the Miami second round and Dimitrov made the final, the Bulgarian is set to go ahead of the Greek in the rankings and own the title of being the top-ranked player with a one-handed backhand.

On Monday, Dimitrov will be ranked at No. 9 in the world. On the other side, Tsitsipas is set to drop one place in the rankings and be ranked at No. 12 in the world. 

Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor Dimitrov © Getty Images Sport - Daniel Pockett
 

When that happens, Dimitrov - who turns 33 in May - will officially achieve a little but a nice feat. 

Dimitrov comments on his top-10 return

After being ranked at No. 33 at one point in mid-2023, Dimitrov entered the 2024 season ranked at No. 14.

Three months later, Dimitrov is back into the top-10 after a couple of good runs which include winning Brisbane - finishing as runner-up in Marseille - reaching the Rotterdam semifinal - and now making the Miami Masters final. So far this year, Dimitrov is 21-4. 

After beating world No. 7 Holger Rune en route to winning Brisbane, Dimitrov also earned three more top-10 wins en route to making the Miami final, beating Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev and Hubert Hurkacz. In the Miami final, Dimitrov failed to clinch yet another top-10 win this year after Jannik Sinner handed him a 6-3 6-1 loss. 

When securing a top-10 return, the 32-year-old Bulgarian stressed the importance of his hard work and perseverance, as well as the importance of finding a way to more often end on the winning side against the top players.

"I have been able to put those matches back to back. I think the consistency of beating top players, that to me is a way bigger success than anything else," Dimitrov explained after beating Zverev and ensuring a top-10 return.

"I mean, if you do that, you get the ranking. If you do that, things are just getting better for you. But in order to do, it's where it all comes through. The discipline, the hard work, you know, all the dedication, the adjustment to very different players throughout that time, I mean, you need to be able to do that on a constant basis.

"That's been happening for the past 8, 9, 12 months. It's been difficult. I had a very, very difficult match that I have lost and that I'm in a way still pissed about. But I kept on believing, kept on doing the work.

"I think the discipline brought me I think to that moment. There is nothing else. I didn't kind of deviate from my target, not even my goal. I had small targets throughout -- every single week I had a target, and also to be able to put my body through all that on a daily basis was also very important for me. Every single day when I wake up and I don't have a big pain that would stop me to practice 100% was already a success for me.

"So when you start putting all that together, I think it's where I'm most, in a way, most proud with. Of course competing against top players and beating them sort of back to back, it's definitely what I'm the most happy with."

Grigor Dimitrov
Grigor Dimitrov © Getty Images Sport - Al Bello
 

Unfortunately for Dimitrov, he didn't manage to become the second player in 2024 to beat Jannik Sinner and lift his second Masters title. However, it was still a great Miami run for Dimitrov, who can now turn his focus on the clay season.

Roger Federer Grigor Dimitrov
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