What Grigor Dimitrov Must Do to Be Taken Seriously in Men's Tennis

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Grigor Dimitrov in Mexico
Grigor Dimitrov in MexicoJam Media-Hugo Avila/Associated Press

Grigor Dimitrov scored the biggest title win of his career when he defeated Kevin Anderson to take the Mexican Open. Still, can we take Dimitrov seriously?

Heralded as the second coming of Roger Federer, Dimitrov has been the "next big thing" for the last three years. However, even after winning his second ATP title and leaping to his career-high ranking of No. 16, questions remain about the guy nicknamed "Baby Fed."

How long before Dimitrov regularly challenges The Big Four? Is he ready to become a fixture in later rounds of Grand Slams? Can he reach No. 1?

To answer those questions, Dimitrov must shake off the faux Federer tag and distinguish himself as noteworthy for something other than being Maria Sharapova's boyfriend.

Dimitrov can gain instant credibility by putting together a string of victories against top-10 players. He defeated then No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Madrid in May 2013. But a month later, Djokovic beat Dimitrov in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 at the French Open. 

He is 5-25 (1.67 percent) against top-10 players. That's worse than other young guns; Jerzy Janowicz (23.5 percent), Kei Nishikori (27.3 percent) and Milos Raonic (34.3 percent). 

A dose of maturity might help, too. Dimitrov has to squash the silly stuff like the near match-costing antic he pulled during his semifinals match against Andy Murray.  

After edging Murray in the second-set tiebreaker, Dimitrov found himself at deuce, 5-5 in the decisive third set. Murray hit a ball hard right at Dimitrov. Instead of preparing for a forehand, Dimitrov tried a between the legs shot while facing forward.

He lost the point. It was stupid, and he was lucky Murray had little left in the tank to finish him off. 

What Dimitrov needs to do is feed fans more of the jaw-dropping shot selection he displayed against Murray earlier in that match. 

He could also do more to distance himself from the Baby Fed talk. Besides annoying Federer, the nickname puts unnecessary added pressure on Dimitrov. Being linked to Federer and Sharapova, two of the biggest names in tennis, garners publicity. But winning titles earns respect. 

Dimitrov has plenty of publicity. What he lacks is his own identity. He has talent, skill and an engaging personality. It's time for him to end the comparisons to Federer and establish a game of his own. 

Tennis analyst and coach Darren Cahill told the New York Times while the comparisons to Federer are obvious, it's up to Dimitrov to shed the "Baby Fed" nickname. "In the end, it’s going to be up to Grigor to step out of those shoes and step into his own shoes, and I think he’s on the way to doing that."