Grigor Dimitrov a few years ago saw the “Baby Fed” nickname drop away because:
a) He didn’t like it.
b) Roger Federer didn’t like it.
c) Maria Sharapova didn’t like dating babies.
d) He didn’t deserve it because he stopped winning titles.
e) All of the above.
A new nickname may be in order after the first week of the 2017 season as the Bulgarian looked dominant over seven days in winning his first title in 2-1/2 years, on Sunday defeating No. 3 seed Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the final of the Brisbane International in Australia.
Nishikori was the third Top 10 win of the week for the world No. 17 Dimitrov, who also downed Dominic Thiem, and in the semifinals top-seeded Milos Raonic.
“It is one of the big moments for me,” said Dimitrov, who turned around an 0-3 record against Nishikori. “It’s been quite a few months for me on and off the court. I think that was an emotional win for me, but at the same time, it wasn’t unexpected. I have put in the work.”
He was 0-4 in his previous tour finals entering Brisbane since last winning a title. He took control by breaking in the eighth game of the third set and winning the last seven points of the match.
“I think at some point, things need to start giving back to you a little bit,” the 25-year-old said. “I just feel fortunate enough to be in the final, to be so healthy and to being obviously in such a shape. But at the same time, I’m pretty humbled, because I have set myself quite high goals for the first six months and one of them was actually to win a tournament. And it happened during the first week of the year, which makes things definitely look a lot more positive for me.”
Dimitrov improved to 5-5 in career finals. Nishikori fell to 11-10, starting a losing streak of his own now in finals, falling in his last five since winning in Memphis last year.
“I think it was [a] great week to [the] start of the year,” Nishikori said. “I had four good matches here. I will try to stay healthy next week and hope I can be ready [for the Australian Open].”
Japan’s No. 1 player will also be looking to heal a niggling hip injury he sustained during the week, and that he said hampered him in the final.
“I don’t know how I got the second set, because it was hurting at two-all and 3-2,” Nishikori said. “I think he had a couple easy mistakes and that helped me to get the two breaks. In the third set I think he was playing better.”
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