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Nitto ATP Finals The O2, London | NOV 12-19
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Dimitrov Wins Biggest Title Of His Career
Dimitrov

After a two-hour, 30-minute battle against David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov emerged with the Nitto ATP Finals trophy in his debut at The O2. © Thomas Lovelock/ATP World Tour

Grigor Dimitrov finished the best season of his career with the biggest title of his life.

The Bulgarian won his fifth consecutive match at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday, beating David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to win the season-ending championships during his debut.

It's the fourth title of Dimitrov's 2017 – a career-high – and the eighth of his career. The right-hander was already going to climb to a career-high No. 3 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings. But now he'll do so emphatically and with a heap of momentum heading into his 2018 season.

“This makes me even more locked in, more excited about my work, and for what's to come,” Dimitrov said. “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.”

Read More: Dimitrov: Leaving No Stone Unturned

He became the first debutant to win the Nitto ATP Finals title since Spaniard Alex Corretja in 1998 (d. Moya). The Bulgarian, who finished 5-0 this week in London, will earn $2,549,000 in prize money and 1,500 Emirates ATP Rankings points.

This was the year so many pundits and fans had wanted for Dimitrov – a quartet of titles, a Top 5 finish. It all seems to have changed midway through last season, when he paired with coach Daniel Vallverdu. The Bulgarian was No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his lowest position in more than three years, and he had lost both of his ATP World Tour finals.

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But Vallverdu, who had worked with Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych, brought a simplified game plan for Dimitrov, and as the two grew closer, the weekend finishes – and the titles – followed.

“With the right set of mind, with the right people, with the right support, things happen. For me, that period really helped me a lot. I think I needed that,” Dimitrov said. “In that particular moment, I really realised what I really need to work on, who are the real people around me, who really counts on me, who matters to me. There's so many lessons that I took out of that period.”

The 26-year-old Dimitrov was emotional in his celebration. He lied face first on the court, sobbing. He rose to hug Goffin before hopping to his box and sharing long embraces with his parents, Vallerdu and others.

First-Year Qualifiers Become Nitto ATP Finals Champions

Year

Player

2017

Grigor Dimitrov (d. Goffin)

1998

Alex Corretja (d. Moya)

1978

John McEnroe (d. Ashe)

1974

Guillermo Vilas (d. Nastase)

1971

Illie Nastase (Smith finished second in round robin)

1970

Stan Smith (Laver finished second in round robin)

The sixth seed had already beaten Goffin at The O2 — a 6-0, 6-2 rout on Wednesday during Group Pete Sampras play — and now leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-1 against the Belgian. Sunday's final marked the 17th time singles finalists have met twice in the same year-end championship, and the first time two first-time qualifiers had played for the title.

But, after that round-robin match, Goffin had experienced what he called the best win of his career, upsetting the No. 2 seed and six-time former champion Roger Federer to reach Sunday's final.

Goffin started quicker as well, leading by a break at 4-3. But when he slapped a forehand long, they were back on serve, and the crowd, including those waving Bulgarian flags, made their favourite known, chanting “Di-mi-trov! Di-mi-trov! Di-mi-trov!”

Let's Meet Again At The Nitto ATP Finals

Year

Champion

Round Robin Result

Championship Result

2017

Grigor Dimitrov

d. Goffin 60 62

d. Goffin 75 46 63

2015

Novak Djokovic

l. to Federer 75 62

d. Federer 63 64

2011

Roger Federer

d. Tsonga 62 26 64

d. Tsonga 63 67 63

2008

Novak Djokovic

d. Davydenko 76 06 75

d. Davydenko 61 75

2005

David Nalbandian

l. to Federer 63 26 64

d. Federer 67 67 62 61 76

2004

Roger Federer

d. Hewitt 63 64

d. Hewitt 63 62

The Bulgarian then upped his level even more, not facing a break point in his final two services games and later taking the set.

“I really had to dig deep, especially in that first set, which I thought was the key,” Dimitrov said.

But Goffin returned to his aggressive style at 3-3 in the second set, hitting back-to-back forehand winners to break for the third time in the match. He was dominant on serve in the second as well, dropping only five points, and forcing the final match of the 2017 ATP World Tour season to a final set.

“When the serve is going well, it's easier to be more aggressive,” Goffin said.

The Belgian had made his week – and his year – by finding a way through third sets. Goffin had beaten Nadal and Federer in London in three sets. For the season, Goffin was 22-5 in decisive sets. But Dimitrov, who had been about .500 in decisive sets this year, pulled through, breaking in an 11-point game when Goffin spilled a backhand wide. He converted his fifth championship point when Goffin netted a backhand volley.

Goffin will take home $1,158,000 in prize money and 800 Emirates ATP Rankings points. The Belgian will finish at a career-high No. 7 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings.

“I proved to myself that I'm in the right place, and I deserve to be here in this tournament. Then match after match, I took more confidence until the final,” Goffin said. “So I'm proud of what I've achieved, even if I'm disappointed about the final.”

Tags: 

  • Grigor Dimitrov
  • 2017
  • Nitto ATP Finals 605
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