Dimitrov channels Agassi in wisdom and style

The former world No.3 is eager to advance to his maiden second week at Roland-Garros.

Grigor Dimitrov, Roland Garros 2020, second round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The sporting world is quick to dispel teams or players who fall slightly off their perch. 

Take Grigor Dimitrov, the former world No.3 is now outside the conversation of favourites and contenders.

It is easy to forget the Bulgarian, the 2017 ATP Finals champion, has made semi-finals across the Grand Slams, apart from Roland-Garros.

The philosophical 29-year-old has advanced to the third round for the fourth successive season. Now he’s ready to grind it out to extend his stay into the second week for the first time.

“Honestly I always like playing out here. For some reason I have always had - not to sound like an excuse - tough rounds to get over to that second week. In the second week, anything can happen. For me personally I would love to get further in this tournament,” stated the world No.20, who warmed up for Roland-Garros with a quarter-final showing in Rome.

Undeterred from previous campaigns, which fell short, Dimitrov was ready to embrace the unusual conditions at Roland-Garros, despite the lack of clay-court preparation.

“Every year I come back with a positive mindset. This year is very different than any other, no doubt about it, but it’s the same for everyone," Dimitrov said.

"I'm just taking sort of one day at a time. I like that part of the situation, so to speak, that we kind of gotta grind it. That's really what it is, like improvise a lot. I mean, the first week I have played only indoors, for example. This is the most I have spent playing outdoors.

“It's kind of funny, but being on tour for so long, I still have so much to learn and I feel like I'm learning so much about myself in situations like that and conditions like this. I'm very thankful for the situation right now." 

On Thursday, the No.18 seed conjured up a straight-sets passage past world No.102 Andrej Martin.

The Slovakian has jigsaw piece shapes on his socks, but couldn’t quite solve the puzzle to defeat Dimitrov’s all-court game in the 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1 contest.

Dimitrov still has a champion in his corner, from afar at least. Back in Las Vegas, Roland-Garros 1999 champion Andre Agassi is having a significant impact on the Bulgarian’s on-court approach.

“We're just trying to keep it simple right now, I think on all ends. Me and Andre have a very special friendship, I will say, that goes way beyond tennis. I think the experience that he has had out here, especially at the French Open, it's been pretty amazing,” said the inspired 29-year-old, feeding off the anecdotes of Agassi.

“I think to a certain extent it helps me like a lot to sort of hear it and to hear how he overcame some of his obstacles on such an event. So, we are just focusing on this right now.

“I feel good for now. I'm going to definitely get on the phone with him and speak a little bit and see how things are.” 

Dimitrov, having booked a third-round clash with Roberto Carballes Baena, is not only drawing on Agassi's influence tactically in Paris, but through his outfit, too.

The reimagined Nike 1990 Agassi collection has been causing waves across the tennis world and Dimitrov is hoping he can channel his coach in this collaboration.

“We had a couple of interesting conversations on that. I think I'm the only one that is playing with the colours that I'm playing in right now. It's very special to me,” said the world No.20.

“I just didn't want it to be exactly, exactly the same, because clearly like I have always liked to sort of stand on my own. But what Andre did in '90 with that outfit [runner-up at Roland-Garros and the US Open] is absolutely tremendous.

“I really, really love it. We wanted to like sort of do that sort of collab. Who knows what's going to happen in the future? But it's pretty special. Next thing you know, 2020, here it is. I was, like, ‘Wow’. I'm very humbled and honoured to absolutely wear that outfit. It's special to me.”