Dimitrov's breakthrough in Brisbane
Dimitrov's prodigious talent was on display this week

It has taken longer than expected but Grigor Dimitrov may finally be realising his potential. This week he reached his first ever ATP tour final in Brisbane. He eventually lost to Andy Murray 7-6(0), 6-4 but his performances all week will fill him with confidence for 2013 and the upcoming season.

People in the tennis world have predicted great things for the Bulgarian ever since he won the junior Wimbledon Championships in 2008 aged seventeen, followed by  the junior US Open later that year which saw him rise to world number one in the junior rankings. Dimitrov has always caught the eye with his awesome shot making ability but it is his one handed backhand that helped earn him the nickname ‘Baby Fed’. It is a great honour to be compared with Roger Federer, a man who is still breaking records on the ATP tour aged thirty one. However in the last couple of years it appeared Dimitrov was living in the shadow of his nickname. It seemed to be weighing heavy on his shoulders as he looked to be copying Federer rather than playing his natural game.

2012 showed promise for Dimitrov as he reached three ATP semi-finals in Bastad, Gstaad and at the Queens tournament in London. Despite his success at these tournaments Dimitrov struggled to make an impact at the bigger events. A telling statistic is that he has never progressed past the second round at any of the Grand Slams in his career so far. Many cite this as an example of Dimitrov struggling with his fitness, as he seems to tire dramatically towards the end of some of his five set matches. Against the tenth seed Nicolas Almagro he lost the fifth set 6-0 at the Australian Open, in the French Open he was level at one set all with Richard Gasquet before fading to a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 loss. Dimitrov then retired injured from his Wimbledon second round match, throwing up yet more question marks over his physical state. In an attempt to turn things round, Dimitrov moved to the Good to Great Tennis Academy in Sweden at the end of 2012 in a bid to prepare him for 2013.

The new season began in Brisbane for Dimitrov and his first round opponent was 2012 comeback kid Brian Baker. In a testing opening game Dimitrov won 6-3, 7-6(8) to set up a second round match against fellow youngster Milos Raonic. Raonic is a few months older than Dimitrov but is much further ahead of him in terms of success achieved so far; having already claimed three ATP titles as well as making the fourth round of the Australian Open and U.S Open. However Dimitrov outclassed the Canadian and, in an incredible performance, won every single point on his first serve on his way to a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Next up was the experienced seventh seed Jurgen Melzer. Dimitrov trounced the Austrian 6-3, 6-2 and sent down a massive seventeen aces. The semi finals saw him play the dangerous Marcos Baghdatis, a former Australian Open finalist. Both men hit a flurry of winners and the match came down to a final set tie-break. In the end Dimitrov won 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5) to book a final showdown with top seed Andy Murray.

Dimitrov started the final well and had a set point at 6-5 in the first set. However Murray used all his experience to dig deep and take the first set 7-0 on the tie-break. The second set followed a similar pattern with Dimitrov up 4-3. Murray again stepped it up a gear to defend his title 7-6(0), 6-4. Even though he lost Dimitrov can take heart from his match against the world number three; indeed Murray was complimentary after the match saying "He plays a lot of different shots, which is tough to play against because you're kept off balance a lot of the time". One of the key points of the final was Murray’s returning against Dimitrov’s serve. Murray is recognised as one of the best returners on the ATP tour and it showed as he limited his opponent to just three aces, compared to his average for the week of over ten per match.

2013 has started very well for Dimitrov but he must kick on from this success in Brisbane. He knows that he can’t rest on his laurels, stating after the final that “I think I still need couple of years on the tour to get stronger and be able to hang with these guys all week, and especially playing best of five sets”. It is worth remembering that Dimitrov is still just twenty one years of age and has all of his best years ahead of him. If he carries on working hard on his game, then that coupled with his natural ability means he can definitely aim for the top twenty and beyond. His next target will be to make the second week of a Grand Slam tournament, starting with the Australian Open in just over a week.