I takes more

  

The air was ice could this morning in February 2007. I was warming up at one of the tent (!) courts at The Royal Lawn Tennis Club (KLTK), when a slim guy appeared – expected to be my practicing partner of the day.

It soon became obvious to me that his groundstrokes were very clean – but the match play that followed created certain question marks.

My expectations were sky high. From the sayings I had just ample praise about soon sixteen year old Grigor Dimitrov. Except from being number one in the world of his age, his technique as well as his game and mobility, was said to be a blueprint – of Federer´s. The absolute top of the world would be just a few years away.

Having followed and practiced with Federer during my early years, and having seen him grow to the player he is today, I was thrilled to have a match against this new “Federer”.

And for sure Grigor was a good tennis player, for his age. Technically he also looked a lot like Federer, but that wasn´t all. His movements, his ticks, his way of holding the racket between the balls – almost all the details were imitations from the Swiss superstar. That precisely, was also what generated the doubts that I felt. You could see that, the days along, he had got to hear how much he resembled Federer, and of course such talk affects a young person.

One thing is to study specific details, for example how stretched out Federer´s arm is when hitting the ball, or how fast he turns around in far out positions. But devoting oneself to sheer imitation, counteracts the evolution of a proper identity. Worst of all, it endangers to move the attention from the most important of all objects – building up a strong physic.

I didn´t for a second disbelieved Dimitrov to reach top hundred within 4 -5 years. My concerns were rather, should he be able to establish himself at the absolute top level within the same frame of time. I remembered saying to Lasse Eriksson who also was on court: “I´ll not be the grand route to the top for this guy, Lasse!”

Today, more than five years later, Grigor is indeed a good player. When writing this he is ranked 101, gradually climbing the ladder. Last week he scored his most meriting win so far, against Berdych in Miami. His game often looks awesome, but physically he has a lot more to do before being able to catch up with the best players in the world.

This job remains to be done.