Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov wrapped up a career year with his biggest title yet, defeating David Goffin to win the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London on November 19.
Unlike their one-sided round robin match earlier in the week, where Goffin managed to win all of two games, this time their encounter went to a third set and Dimitrov needed five match points to wrap up the proceedings 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Goffin’s week included wins against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, as well as world number four Dominic Thiem, but once again had no answer to Dimitrov’s game, falling to a career 1-5 against the Bulgarian. Goffin’s aggressive approach appeared to pay off early on, as he broke Dimitrov’s serve, but in the long run it also produced a number of unforced errors, including the sliced backhand at the net to hand the title to his opponent.
Dimitrov becomes the first player to win the ATP Finals on his debut since Alex Corretja in 1998, rising to third in the ATP rankings, a career best, after adding the maximum 1500 points, as well as securing more than $2.5 million in prize money, for finishing the tournament undefeated.
It may have been the absence of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka (as well as the injury to Nadal’s knee that prompted him to withdraw after his first match) that opened the door for the younger players on the ATP Tour, with four first-time qualifiers in the tournament, but Dimitrov took the opportunity where he might have let the occasion get the better of him in the past.
Since teaming up with Dani Vallverdu late in 2016, Dimitrov has won four titles, including his first Masters trophy in Cincinnati, and recaptured the form that propelled him into the top 10 for the first time in 2014. Often compared to Federer early in his career, Dimitrov appears to be finally delivering on the promise of his talent that made him such an intriguing prospect since winning the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles aged just 17.
Touted as a potential Grand Slam winner for some time, he is yet to show it against tennis’ “Big Four” – when the next ATP Tour season starts in Australia in January, he’ll have the seeding to avoid some of those big names until the second week and take the next step towards the ATP summit.
(Photo: Thomas Lovelock/ATP World Tour)