Bulgaria rejoices in 'rock star' Grigor Dimitrov's ATP Finals victory

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His three-set triumph over Belgium’s David Goffin was broadcast live on three Bulgarian TV stations, he received a personal message of congratulations from the country’s President and the Mayor of his hometown wants to name their tennis courts after him.

“This win means a lot to me, to my family, for the team but also for the country,” Dimitrov told Christina Macfarlane in the CNN studio the day after his win at the O2.

“I’m proud to be Bulgarian, I’ve played for my country all my life and I’m sure people are going to appreciate that.

“After every match, just to see the Bulgarian flags, the atmosphere felt absolutely marvelous — I felt like I was playing at home.”

Dimitrov turned professional nine years ago and, after some impressive performances early in his career, he was constantly being talked up as the next Roger Federer.

Although he’s yet to live up to the ‘Baby Fed’ billing, Sunday’s victory is certainly a step in the right direction and by far the biggest title of his career.

An emotional Dimitrov thanked girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger after his O2 win

It earned him a winner’s check of $2.5 million — which is more than the winner of the French Open gets — and 1500 ranking points, which means he’ll finish the year as the world No.3, behind only 19-time grand slam champion Federer and world No.1 Rafael Nadal.

Bulgaria has experienced tennis success before with the Maleeva sisters, Manuela, Katerina and Magdalena, who played in the 1980’s and 1990’s. They remain the only three sisters to make it into the top 10 at the same time.

But Dimitrov, 26, is the country’s most successful male player by some distance — Orlin Stanoytchev reached world No.96 in 2000 — and the first to earn more than $1 million in prize money.

Thanks to Sunday night, his career earnings have now been boosted to more than $13 million.

Dimitrov turned pro in 2008 and works with Andy Murray's former coach Daniel Vallverdu

“It’s so nice when you achieve something like this when you’re from a country like mine,” said Dimitrov, who is the first player since Spain’s Alex Corretja in 1998 to win the season-ending finals on his debut.

“We have a tennis tradition with the Maleeva sisters but also I just want this to be an example, not only of sport, but the hard work and everything.

“Because it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you dream big, if you put in the right amount of work, the dedication, the passion — it all comes together and this is the result.”

That sentiment was echoed by Bulgaria’s President Radev who took to Facebook after Dimitrov’s win and wrote: “One Bulgarian showed how victory is achieved with a lot of hard work, perseverance, spirit and faith.”

Last year, Dimitrov was given honorary citizenship of his hometown, Haskovo, where he plans to build a tennis academy some time in the future.

Dobri Belivanov, the town’s Mayor, now wants to name the local tennis courts after the country’s highest profile sports star.

It’s not hard to understand why Bulgaria has latched on to Dimitrov’s achievements. They’ve not experienced sporting success on the global stage since their national football team reached the semi finals of the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

But if this sort of outpouring of joy is what happens after victory in the ATP Finals, imagine what will happen if he goes on to achieve his next goal of picking up a grand slam in 2018.



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