Monday, August 12, 2013

What is the Mojo of Grigor Dimitrov?

If you are like most readers of "The Outer Courts," you see the picture above and say to yourself, "who is that guy and why is he wearing a v-neck t-shirt?" If I told you that the man with the golden smile was named Grigor Dimitrov, the tennis fans among you might recognize the name, but for the average sports fan, the puzzled look of bemusement that usually accompanies my face when I see Jay Leno's high television ratings would likely be repeated on yours. For while Dimitrov is a rising player on the ATP Tour (ranked #31 at this point), he is on the same fame level in America as the non-Tim Tebow doppelganger members of Mumford and Sons. Yet even without this notoriety, his tennis is improving, including a strong win today in the first round of the Western and Southern Open over #13 seed Nicolas Almagro (7-6, 6-4). However while the inverse relationship between young Grigor's play and celebrity maintains, one thing is becoming increasingly clear...when it comes to the professional tennis circuit, Grigor Dimitrov is not an unknown, he is a heartbreaker.

Normally those at the top of one's craft do not find themselves in the middle of love triangles. You rarely hear Kobe or Lebron beefing over their last conquest, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson going to war over a Perkins' waitress or cricket legends Hashim Amla and Shivnarine Chanderpaul fighting over the wickets of a young lass. Yet in women's tennis, the tabloids have been full of stories of beef between arguably the two most famous players in the world, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. In a Rolling Stone interview in June, Williams was talking about Sharapova and dropped this bomb, "if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it." When I read it initially, it seemed like a shot out of left field and bizarrely personal. But then it all became clearer as we found out that the person Sharapova was courting was young Grigor, a fellow tennis player known to have a bit of a temper and apparently in Serena's eyes, a heart of stone. Fair enough...but why does Serena care which player with whom Maria is currently volleying?  The reason should have been obvious, as it was right before our eyes...Serena used to date him as well.

Now nothing against Mr. Dimitrov. He seems like a fine young man and if one was comparing him to the population of males in general, he is a suitor with many accolades. He is the first Bulgarian in the history of his nation to be ranked in the Top 30 in the world in tennis (he reached that milestone earlier this year), is a former Junior champion of both Wimbledon and the US Open (in 2008) and my female colleagues say to me that he his strikingly handsome and has a smile that can make women swoon. But nevertheless, we are talking Serena and Sharapova, two beautiful women at the top of their given profession and in the discussion among the greats to ever play their sport. What could Grigor do to make these two talented women fall into high school pettiness over this love and affection?   Not only did Sharapova's relationship with him lead to Serena's comments, they were followed closely by Sharapova pulling out the big gun and saying, "maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and his getting a divorce and has kids."  WOAH! That is a right uppercut that not only causes the knees to wobble, it has the referee checking for a concussion. Grigor has women taking the gloves off, but I simply can't understand why.

Take Serena for instance. When I see Serena Williams, I see a woman so confident and successful that she takes zero gruff from anyone at any time. She is woman, hear her roar. Serena has taken down commentators, former players and even entire tournaments based on slights (both real and perceived) and has always struck me as the most strong-willed of players. Yet after dating Grigor, she gave this quote: "I've given up on dating. The last realtionship was just too much of a heartbreak for me. I had to remove myself from that atmosphere for the next decade or so."

THE NEXT DECADE OR SO????  Ladies, I have a question. What man have you ever dated that had you considering not talking to another man FOR A DECADE?  I don't care if you were canoodling with George Clooney, Brad Pitt or even Prince William, there is always another man for you to find. Men are like kudzu on the mountains in the South...they sprout everywhere and are never in short supply. But here is Serena Williams, the embodiment (both physically and metaphorically) of a strong, together woman, and she can't get over Grigor?  What is happening here?

And then there is Maria. After her early round upset at Wimbledon, one would have assumed that she would have reacted the way any player in her position would have been expected to getting the heck out of Dodge. No one wants to sit and watch your competitors play while you are eliminated, so the first cab out of the All England Club would have included virtually any top player. But no, because of her love and affection for Grigor, she not only stayed in London, she put herself in the crowd, sitting amongst the fans, and rooted him on in person.

There she was on the second row, watching her man have a slight meltdown in his loss to Greg Zemjla, but supporting him with all the strength of a long-time life partner. It was fascinating to watch. So the question becomes how does Grigor do it?  Again, no offense to him, but it is not like we are talking about Rafael Nadal here.  Dimitrov may be handsome, but women don't have posters of him hanging in their room. And while Grigor may have the game to be a major talent, at this point he is still multiple large steps away from scaring anyone in the top ten. Plus there is the significant age gap. Serena is 31, Maria is 26 and Grigor is only 22. Yet he has somehow been able to seduce these two women in such a strong manner that they find it within their inner-cougar selves to attach themselves to him in such strong ways. It is hard to comprehend.

Little is know about Dimitrov the person. He has a number of nicknames, most of which are stunningly lame. Referring to yourself as "G-Force", "Dimi" or "Show Time" is not exactly the stuff of becoming an internationally known ladies man. In a recent interview, he was given the chance to showcase his winning personality by answering the fairly standard, "who would attend your dream dinner?" and his answers were fairly pedestrian (Johnny Depp, Monica Bellucci and "some musician" would be a great answer for a 16 year old girl walking into a Taylor Swift concert). His most famous nickname in fact is actually a derivative of a player that would seem a much more worthy candidate for the affection of two WTA Hall of Famers. Grigor is best known to the tennis world as "Baby Fed," but on the court he has yet to show that he will ever turn even into an adolescent version of our vaunted hero. Yet there must be something to his magic. What does he have that can cause women to refer to him as a "black heart" and fight with their most vicious rivals for his attention?  As of yet we don't know, but thanks to his victory today, we will get a chance to see him live and in person yet again here in Cincinnati. I will be there to try and figure out Grigor's appeal and hopefully get some read on why the man below has the top of the WTA Tour completely in chaos. The mystery of Grigor remains...