In the match of his career, Grigor Dimitrov fell just short of reaching his first career Grand Slam final, losing a 4-hour, 56-minute semifinal to Rafael Nadal Friday night at the Australian Open.
Dimitrov had won three straight over Top 10 players, had beaten Nadal in Beijing and overall was riding a career-best 10 match win streak.
The Bulgarian No. 1 was trying to become the first from his country to ever make a Grand Slam final, and he nearly pulled it off holding two break points with Nadal serving 3-4, 15-40.
After the match, Dimitrov talked to the press.
Q. You’ve had a little bit of time to digest. What are your feelings after that epic match?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: It’s never easy to lose a match like that. I’m happy, though, with a lot of things. I’m going to stay positive and keep my head up high.
For sure Rafa deserves pretty much all the credit right now since he’s such a fighter, such a competitor. At the same time it was an honor for me to play a match like that against him. It also shows me that I’m in a good way, I’m on the right path.
Yeah, I’m just trying to take all the positives out of this month in Australia. I’m sure I’m going to look back at that match and see what I could have done better.
But at least one thing I can say is that I left it all out on the court. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my team. Proud of my coach. Everyone that has taken care of me that month, it’s been super intense. We can relax for a little bit now and get back to work.
Q. Even if you lost, has this been the most exciting match you have been involved in in your career?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I would rate it one of those ones. I think it’s the first time actually I’m playing a match over four and a half hours. I don’t know if I’ve played more than that. So it’s great. It’s so nice to be part of it. Unfortunately not the way I wanted things to be.
On the other side, I had a super experience with that player, in the face of Rafa. As I said, I mean, he really shows why he’s Rafa today.
Q. He said he felt tired, some wariness in the fifth set. You looked fresh in the fifth set. Talk about how you stood up to him physically.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, that’s a good question. I felt good overall. Yeah, even if the fifth hour was passing by, I still felt that I had a lot of energy to go, which was nice for me.
Plus I’ve been staying up late, like, a lot of nights. I didn’t feel sleepy or anything, which is a good sign. And physically it’s been great. I’m just happy there was no cramping or anything like that, since I had quite a few notorious big cramps against him.
Yeah, I’m just happy that physically I was good. I felt that he was going, like, a little bit slower at some point. I mean, again, he’s such an experienced player that he knew exactly what to do in those moments. I think that was the key. Especially the two breakpoints I had the fifth set. Even on the first one I felt I could have done maybe a little bit more with that shot, but I didn’t really do it. Then he stepped in. I mean, this is what a great player does, you know, takes the momentum out of you. He did do an exceptional shot.
Yeah, but overall I’m very pleased with my fitness right now.
Q. You had three breakpoints.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Early on.
Q. Don’t you think you were a bit unlucky when you lost your serve because there was a net cord that helped him.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, that’s in the game. I cannot control the weather, the wind, the lines, let calls. It’s just the way it is. I mean, I wish I could — there’s 10 other things I wish could have gone better for me in some of the sets, but it didn’t.
Yeah, on that note there’s not much else I can say, except I was just trying to focus on my game and what I was doing out on the court. It’s as simple as that.
Q. How does the disappointment you’re experiencing now compare to those in the past? Does the fact that you were so close tonight make it easier or harder?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I don’t want to say — for sure it’s a disappointment to me, but I don’t want to get too down on it because it’s just my second Grand Slam semifinal. I’m building on that.
I’m sure I’m going to look back on that match. As I said, I’m going to see what I could have done better. That’s also built up an experience. I really need to take the positives out of it.
I just don’t want to put my head down for a second right now, especially when I’m feeling good, I’m competing great. Physically I’m getting there. Despite the disappointment, that’s going to feed me, I think, for the upcoming events.
The one thing that’s going to be hard for me the first three or four days, to really absorb that, like, Wow, I was so close. I need to appreciate it. At the same time I’m appreciating my run so far. It’s been a great start of the year. It doesn’t happen often that you come off from 10 matches in a row.
Yeah, in the same time I want to give myself a little bit of credit, just get on with it.
Q. Whatever the rankings may say, how well do you think you’re playing at the moment? Top five, top eight?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I’ve never been a fan of those numbers. The game speaks for itself.
Q. Last year you beat him. He passed 30. He had tough games here. You played four and a half hours. 4-3, 40-15, five points from your first Grand Slam final, he comes up with big shots. Did you expect that?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Of course, it’s what the greatest player do.
Q. Were you surprised how much you were able to dictate over the course of the match?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: No, I was not surprised at all because I had a clean game plan. I knew what I had to do. I knew what he would do, in a way. He changed the way he played against me I think last year, late last year in Beijing. He changed his pattern a little bit on his serve. I felt that right away.
But other than that, again, I was very focused on what I had to do. Whoever’s on the other side, you know, they have their weapons, and you have your weapons. How the cards fall in the end, that’s entirely up to the game.
Q. The Nadal-Federer rivalry is one of the greatest. You were in a position today to change history. Did that cross your mind at all that you could change history or create your own?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I mean, who doesn’t want to create history, especially when we are in such a competitive sport. Of course, everyone is going to see that final now. Including me, I’m going to watch it for sure.
It’s super amazing. It’s great for the sport again. But, you know, during the match you don’t think about that kind of stuff. For me, again, just focused on what I had to do. This is what I’ve been doing the past month.
Q. Players don’t like to make predictions, but considering the surface and the situation of Federer and Nadal, do you see one of those two as a favorite?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: We’ve seen all kind of scenarios in the past when those two are playing. It’s not a place for me to comment on that, to be honest. I just know that two of the greatest players of tennis are going to square off on Sunday, and it’s going to be a freakin’ amazing match.
Q. Does it feel any different than Wimbledon 2014 when you were in the semis?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: It felt familiar. I wasn’t as nervous. I think Wimbledon, I was very nervous for a set and a half. I’m not going to lie. I was just nervous. Today I just woke up, Well, just another match, man. Like you’re building up, and this is what my coach Daniel was telling me about. We were just trying to get on with the day, simple as that.
I think if you really aim higher and you expect more from yourself, you cannot allow yourself to think that way.
Q. You’re not a big fan of stats, but did you ever lose a match with 79 winners?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I never looked at the stats, so I cannot answer that.
Q. You must have worked very hard to play the way you played tonight, so congratulations.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it. Have a good one.
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