I want you to ask me a question. Hey, Nick, you gotta choose, right now and no taking the fifth here. If you were offered one of Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov to coach which one would you want? Would it be Wawrinka, the world No 3, a Slam winner this year, or Dimitrov, No 13 in the world and a guy who has reached a Slam quarter-final and never gone beyond the second round on the grass here?
It is not an easy decision but I tell you, on what I have seen from Dimitrov here, it would have to be this young Bulgar. Oh baby, he is exciting – I see a top player in the making. This guy can make it to the top and this guy can stay there. Watch out everybody, he is for real.
But I hope he isn’t reading this – because what he needs to do most of all right now is shut out the world and just worry about the guy who is standing across the net from him. Don’t read the headlines, Grigor, don’t let anything but your game get inside your head. In Maria Sharapova he has the perfect person to advise him how to do that – ignore the hoopla and get on with the game.
He has a game that it’s darn impossible not to like. He ticks those champion boxes. He has a big serve, a big forehand and an excellent one-handed backhand. He can volley too and his movement is good, this is not one of those players who has an anchor keeping him to the baseline. No sir, this boy is a mover.
Take a look at his serve because the way in which he puts it together stands out. It is right out of the Pete Sampras school of serving. Have a look at the way in which Dimitrov coils himself ready to serve and look at the direction his stomach is facing. As he comes into his serve he rotates his body, spins his stomach and gets his ass into it. It’s what Boris Becker used to do and Sampras. Pistol Pete used to open fire with his stomach almost facing the back of the court. Most players don’t turn as much as that but if you have got the body shape and athleticism to do it then it can add weight to your serve.
His third-round match will be tough, though. Alexandr Dolgopolov has the weapons to win tennis matches, as you would expect of a guy with a top 20 ranking. His problem is getting them to fire in the right direction. In the last round against Benjamin Becker he lost the first set but sent down 42 aces over the course of the four sets to earn his place against Dimitrov.
What Dolgopolov needs to do is get back to the form that lit up the early part of his year. He reached the final in Brazil, the semis in Indian Wells and the quarters in Miami. In that run he beat Rafa Nadal, Wawrinka, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Fabio Fognini – so you gotta watch him. He can beat anybody when it all goes right, when he mixes the game up, changes the pace. But then look what he did in the French – two sets up against Marcel Granollers of Spain and it all goes to hell. He’s out in five.
I can’t see past Dimitrov this afternoon. He is on form – he won Queen’s on the way here (beating Wawrinka in the semis – hey, Stan it’s nothing personal, just making the case of how good this boy can be). Man, he was good against Luke Saville in the last round, so good he had me purring as he beat that Aussie in straight sets. So he’s got it all when it comes to playing the game but what will make the difference now is what he’s got up top and down below. Has he the brains to win and has he the balls to never give up? These next few days will give us a few of those answers. I don’t think this boy is far away, not far away at all.
* And by the way, asking that question at the top – that doesn’t mean I’m looking for a job! I’m staying at the IMG academy to the very end. They will have to carry me off the court!
Friday’s big game: Dolgopolov v Dimitrov
Alexandr Dolgopolov/Grigor Dimitrov
Ukrainian Nationality Bulgarian
25 Age 23
Monte Carlo Residence Haskovo, Bulgaria
5ft 11in Height 6ft 3in
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
19 World ranking 13
2 Career titles 4
$4.41m Prize-money $3.27m
6-4 Wimbledon record 5-3
Third round (2013) Wimbledon best Second round (four times)
Won 1 Lost 1 Head-to-head Won 1 Lost 1
Bolly’s prediction Dimitrov in four
Coaching report: Rafa reaps the rewards of getting all pumped up
There was some tension around Team Nadal out on Centre Court this afternoon. Look at Uncle Toni up in the players’ box – man, he was pumped, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Rafa needs to play with a bit of emotion and it does him no harm to see the guys around him juiced up. There is a time and place for stoicism – this wasn’t it.
That’s two good tests Nadal has had now and he has come through them pretty well. There was nothing comfortable about the match with Lukas Rosol, but Nadal is up and running and his game is working well.
It could not have been a greater contrast with Serena Williams’ match next door on Court One. She brushed aside Chanelle Scheepers and, while she will face much tougher challenges, that is exactly the way Serena should play – blast her opponents off court and don’t give them a breath of air. You can hug and be friends afterwards.
Probably the match of the day, certainly the performance of the day, came in young Nick Kyrgios hanging on and beating Richard Gasquet. It’s a great win for the Australian, the youngest guy in the draw, who traded blow after blow through a 71-minute fifth set. Well played. Gasquet’s one major weakness is self-confidence. He should have won that match – he was two sets up and had nine match points.
It was a bad day for the French, with Gaël Monfils gone as well. I love watching him play, the boy can be like an acrobat on the court – kids look at him and go “wow” – but there are times when he has to get the basics right first and foremost, and leave the tricks in the locker room.