Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders whether maybe Grigor Dimitrov has made the leap.

For the longest time now, probably five or six years ago, we’ve wondered who from the next generation would step up.

The Big Four has and had dominated the sport for so long now, but still we wondered who would take their place when they inevitably stepped away.

Roger Federer has been pretty old since about 2012 and, with now an 18th Grand Slam title, he may finally have the excuse and reason to retire in peace. Novak Djokovic has been the sport’s supernova for about six years but it seems like a first Roland Garros triumph has finally tamed just a little bit his ever-consuming fire to conquer everything. Rafael Nadal is still more or less fine when he plays, but that second part has made that exceedingly rarer and rarer. Andy Murray, meanwhile, is a great talent but he seems impossible to become the foremost force on the ATP.

Plus, all four are in their thirties, more or less, so who will step up is a question that has been on the minds of many for some time—and maybe now we’ve begun to see the answer?

Because since the start of 2017, David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov have been perhaps the two best players in the world.

And while it’s the Belgian Goffin who emerged victorious this past week for the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, also known as the Rotterdam Masters 500, Grigor Dimitrov had the last laugh in their Australian Open quarterfinal tilt.

Born a mere five+ months away from one another, Goffin and Dimitrov, now 26 and 25 years old, have been two of the most promising players in the world—and  today they’re playing like it.

Goffin suffered his fourth loss of 2017 in the Rotterdam final, falling in three sets against veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but don’t let that take away from the excellent start to the 2017 season for the 26-year-old. He’s entering his prime, or thereabout, and has been knocking on the Top 10 for some time now.


And whereas seeing Goffin play like this is somewhat surprising, we’ve been waiting on Dimitrov for some time. And now, maybe it’s too easy to say so, but «Baby Fed» has started playing like him. As my colleague Nima Naderi put it on Twitter…

There may be hyperbole in there, but the point stands. The 25-year-old is more assertive than ever and plays with a renewed confidence, one that he lacked a mere few months away. It’s easy to forget but only six months ago last July, Dimitrov had skidded down to No. 40 in the world. He was a decidedly average pro and his 2016 season, with a 39-26 record, no title and a mere $1.6 million in prize money (yeah, it’s all relative, I guess) was decidedly average.

He’s different in 2017. Better, and with already two titles to his name. He’s ranked No. 13 now, and the sceptics might counter that this is still a ways away from his career-high of No. 8, achieved in 2014.

Although this feels different. Dimitrov, like his fellow one-handed backhanders, is having a moment. And if he keeps playing like this, then we all win.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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