Maybe it’s the tournament’s proximity to the rugged Santa Rosa and San Jacinto ranges; an everyday reminder that, even at 30, there are still mountains to be scaled.
Grigor Dimitrov has never shied away from a good climb, especially here at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Last year, the Bulgarian broke through to his first BNP Paribas Open semifinal, an accomplishment more than a decade in the making, upending then-world-No. 2 Daniil Medvedev along the way.
On Thursday night, the athletic all-courter booked a return trip to the quarterfinals, outhitting 6-foot-10 American John Isner, 6-3, 7-6(6). He’s nearly 15 years into his pro career (and a five removed from his peak ranking of No. 3), but the holder of eight career titles is still finding new ways to remain competitive on the court. It has a lot to do with the way he views the sport when he’s away from it.
“I’m grateful that I get the chance to get out there and do what I love to do, and I don’t take it for granted,” said Dimitrov earlier this year in Australia. “I never have.”
“I always try to find something new to do, something that I really enjoy in the off-season. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with tennis. I love going to the gym, I love climbing mountains, I love doing biking, all those kinds of things. That’s a lifestyle to me.”
Dimtrov will next face streaking baseliner Andrey Rublev, who has won his last 12 matches and this year already owns titles in Marseille and Dubai. But the world No. 35 is looking forward to the challenge.
“I think the toughest part is when the nerves start kicking in and the excitement, all those things,” said Dimitrov, an even 2-2 against his quarterfinal opponent. “When they start kicking in, it becomes a little bit tougher. I try to remind myself why I started in the first place. I think that’s one of the most basic questions. I feel like there’s quite a bit more left in me, and I don’t feel like I’m in the end or anything like that. I just try to take one day at a time. I think with each year I get a very different appreciation for the game.”
That supposed Federer clone, the one who burst on the scene back in 2008, winning the junior titles at Wimbledon and the US Open; the one now more than 350 match wins into his career, fights on, still very much up for the climb.