Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dimitrov and Tomic at the Crossroads

When people talk of the threat posed in men’s tennis by the next generation, they principally have Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov in mind. Child prodigies and double junior slam winners, their talent has been apparent for some time. Both have been earmarked as future major winners.

However, at the ages of 21 (Dimitrov) and 20 (Tomic), they are rapidly becoming the current generation. Steady progress on the senior tour needs to give way to a proper breakthrough this season, a task that will not be easy.

Winning slams in the current environment is more difficult than it ever has been, and whilst it is too much to expect this from them in 2013, it is worth noting that the current ‘big four’ were all firmly established in the top 10 of the rankings by the age of 21.

Comparisons with the game’s elite might be unfair, but Dimitrov – unluckily labelled ‘Baby Fed’ in some quarters - and Tomic should be aiming to become the best of the rest. Soon they will be of a similar age to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, looking over their shoulders at the new breed that they themselves are currently seen as.

Dimitrov reached a career high ranking of 40th in January, thanks largely to his first tour final at Brisbane. A straight sets defeat by Murray provided useful experience and the Bulgarian is probably in better spirits of the two.

Tomic has struggled since reaching his highest ranking of 27th in June last year, slipping back to 45th currently. He went one better than Dimitrov, winning in his first tour final, at January’s Apia International in Sydney.

Both men are therefore taking steps in the right direction, but it is doubtful if they can take the leap needed to become regular challengers at events. Dimitrov’s current weaknesses are physical; Tomic’s mental. If they have not overcome them this year, they might never do.

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