Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals.

So much for this next generation, right?

Well okay we hadn’t actually predicted this, we were on the record as throwing our Fedal hat in the ring for these 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, but we like to think that if not for them we would have put everything we had on the sport’s next generation. That were it not for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, we would have foreseen a final between Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem.

Yeah, euh, about that. Nadal pulled out after his first match, Zverev and Thiem, it turns out, both only won their final match in round-robin play and were eliminated, while Federer skated by with a 3-0 record to the semifinal only to then lose somewhat surprisingly.

So then here we were in the O2 final with the other next generation taking over, pitting Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin against one another. Look, no one really had predicted this final, even the experts agreed as you can see from the tweet above.

The final was a rematch from the round-robin for the pair from the Pete Sampras Group, where Dimitrov had dominated the Belgian Goffin by the final score of 6-0 and 6-2. And really, the final was more of the same although there was a little twist: at least Goffin made Dimitrov work for it.

Maybe the 2017 season has been the Rafael Nadal comeback tour but the Grigor Dimitrov show was probably a close second. Consider that he finishes the season at a career-high No. 3, just behind actual Roger Federer, with many millions won in prize money and four titles to bring his total to a round eight for his career.

You can scratch that, Grigor. This week was really pretty much the one best week in his career, as the 26-year-old went a perfect 5-0 against the cream of the crop of his sport (despite all the injured players missing) and left little doubt as to who would emerge victorious. “With the right set of mind, with the right people, with the right support, things happen,” Dimitrov said. “For me, that period really helped me a lot. I think I needed that.”

The period in question refers to the middle of last season, to July 25th more precisely, when the player had fallen to his lowest ranking in three years at No. 40. By then, Dimitrov, who had instantly garnered hype if not quite the results to match the hype, was thought of as something like a semi-shining star: he never really shined that bright but sure, he came and showed promise and he was about ready to just go back to where he came from just as quickly as he had arrived. You know, a pretty great player, the likes of which we’ve seen many, many times before him.

Only, that’s not what happened. Dimitrov teamed up with coach Daniel Vallverdu, last seen being a guy on the Andy Murray team, and started winning matches again. And today he wakes up as the defending champion of the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, think about that. Never believe anyone who tells you not to chase your dreams, kid.

“This makes me even more locked in, more excited about my work, and for what’s to come,” Dimitrov said after the win. “It’s a great platform for me to build on for next year. It’s going to be amazing in the off-season. I know what I have to do in order to do good.”

Sure but before moving on to 2018 you can stay here for a day or two. You’ve earned it. You’ve earned a new nickname too, let’s get rid of the ridiculous Baby Fed.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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