Grigor Dimitrov earned a big upset on Wednesday when he rallied from a set and two breaks down to defeat top seed Daniil Medvedev for a spot in the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals.
After the match, ATP Tennis Radio and ATPTour.com sat down with Dimitrov’s coach, Dante Bottini, to discuss the first year of their partnership, how they spend time off the court and more.
Of course today he earned a big win and it’s been a great tournament. How are you able to keep him focused on the next match knowing it’s the quarter-finals and there’s a big opportunity the rest of the way?
Just keep things simple, keep being humble. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to go out there. He’s healthy, he should be happy with that with so many different injuries this year. I think he should be grateful for the state that he is in and take it one day at a time.
You just started working with Grigor last year and into this year and he has been playing exceptionally well. When you first saw him and started working with him, what were your goals?
Just to be a little bit more consistent in his game and in the tournaments. We started in the preseason this year and the first tournament was in Australia, so I think he started really well. Then he had a little bit of bad luck with injuries and now he’s getting it back together. I’m happy to see that.
He’s someone who is a very complete player, very talented. As far as working on specific details, what details were you working on in particular?
We work on a lot of aspects, but I like to say that I’m trying to keep him coming a little more to the net, keeping his aggression on the court. We work a lot on his backhand, too. He’s doing great on serve, too, which is a big weapon for him. So far, so good.
As far as belief, it’s so important to get a player to belief, but that’s easier said than done. Just mentally, being able to get that deep belief as a player, how do you do that as a coach?
Just keep doing it and keep telling them and show them the facts, how it is done. Obviously it’s not going to work every day, but for example today it worked. He was 6-4, 4-1 down, two breaks down, with a guy who wasn’t giving him anything and he stayed in the match.
It would have been easy for Grigor to just check out and say, ‘Okay, I did everything that I could’. But he stayed there, he kept believing and that’s how he got it. So you have to reinforce that and keep telling him that.
You’ve said you speak with Grigor a lot off the court as far as life experiences. Do you think those talks that you have translate to matchplay and the practice courts?
I think so. Obviously we started working in December last year and for me it’s a process. We’re still getting to know each other even though we spend a lot of time together. Still, it’s not that easy. You need time to process and believe in your coach, in your player and to understand each other.
I believe he’s been taking my advice and listening and I see that on the court and I see that when it’s happening. I’ve seen things that I don’t like sometimes and I really mark those things to him and we have our discussions and I feel like he’s been doing very, very good these past couple months.
What are some things you like to do off the court together?
We go for dinners, some walks sometimes. We’ve been playing cards lately a lot. I always win, I want to say that. He’s not going to be happy about that! It’s true. We’ve been doing that.
What card game do you play?
We play Sequence and then Loba [a variant of Rummy], where you get 11 cards and you have to do straights and pairs. [I win] most of them. I’m good at cards!
How important is that to build your relationship with Grigor, especially since you’ve been working together for less than a year?
I think it’s important. I think it’s very important for him. That’s why before we started working together I flew to Monaco and we spent three, four days together, not only for my view on him playing tennis, but also just to know me as a person, how I was and he was. It’s important.
You’ve got to have good chemistry and have fun on a daily basis. But at least, [it is important to] spend good time together, otherwise it would be a nightmare for both of us. We’re travelling all year round.
What is your favourite part about working with Grigor?
The energy that he brings on the court when we practise. He always gives 100 per cent of his ability, of his effort, when he’s there. I really like that and I like that he listens. That’s very important.
Now that you’ve been working with Grigor, is there anything you’ve learned from him that you didn’t know before?
Sometimes he does things in practice that are ridiculous. It’s amazing. Some of the shots that he comes up with are incredible. He’s very talented. I’m not finding any new things in that. It’s fun to watch, actually. It’s the shots that he’s able to hit on the run or in particular moments. He has so many variations in his game that even sometimes hurts him, because you have so many things to do that you end up doing nothing. You have to keep it simple.
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