My dad taught me how to play tennis
Grigor Dimitrov, 27, is a Bulgarian professional tennis player. His career-high ATP singles ranking is world No. 3, which he achieved in November 2017 after winning the 2017 ATP Finals. He speaks today about his work, the rules he keeps to, his problems, his family, and his free time.
You come from a sports family.
Dimitrov: Yes, it’s true. My dad’s a tennis player and my mum’s a former volleyball player. Mum gave me my first tennis racket when I was three. When I was five, I began playing daily. My dad taught me how to play tennis, and I owe that to him. In my early years, he was my coach.
You became a professional rather early.
Dimitrov: Yes, at 16.
How much time do you devote to trainings?
Dimitrov: Pre-tournament, I spend a minimum of six hours training physically, either warming up, playing, in the gym or warming down. I train almost robotically, but as a tournament such as Wimbledon approaches the intensity ramps up and I focus more on my technique. I’ve always been a perfectionist, but I’ve had to learn that there is no such thing as perfection. I don’t have a problem with pressure. I like it. Early in my career, I had the pressure of being called Baby Fed, but people have seen the real me now.
Do you keep to some diet?
Dimitrov: Yes, as most of sportsmen. For about four years, I’ve worked with a nutritionist and she has been amazingly relaxed. I presumed that she was going to be really strict and tell me to eat 20 grams of this and five nuts here, but she just sets a rough pattern and we alter it every few months based on a blood test. So, if I’m iron deficient, we’ll increase the broccoli, for instance, but it’s not regimented. As long as I don’t overindulge, it’s OK for me to eat burgers and ice-cream occasionally. As for alcohol? I’ve never tried it.
What about your sleep?
Dimitrov: Oh, I’m a very good sleeper, especially during a tournament; I usually get eight hours a night, even before a big match. I can fall sleep anywhere; all I need is the curtains closed and the pillow I’ve been travelling with for a couple of years and I’m asleep. The one ritual I never sidestep is writing down three things I’ve done that day that I should be thankful for.
You’ve got little time for yourself.
Dimitrov: Yes, rather. The fact is the better you get, the higher you climb and the more lonely you get. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of personal relationships, but that’s the choice I made. There have been times where I’ve had to say to people: “If you want to stick with me, you have to accept me for the way I am.”
How do you usually spend your holidays?
Dimitrov: Well, I’m terrible at relaxing and holidays. For me, a day off is going to the gym. I could never just lie on the beach and read a book. If I had more free time, I’d go to race tracks or a motorcycle camp. My time off is so limited that I always want to do things that I haven’t done, but maybe that will change when my tennis career ends. Perhaps I’ll go crazy for a year and then everything will go quiet at last.