KEEPING his temper and composure in check with nightly visits to a games arcade, Grigor Dimitrov ended a 30-month ATP title drought in the Brisbane International final.
Dimitrov, a former top-10 player who fell outside the top 30 in 2015, grabbed his second win over a top-five player in as many days with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Japanese favourite Kei Nishikori.
The 25-year-old Bulgarian disclosed he had kept himself calm during the week by several trips to an arcade in Brisbane city.
A three-time loser in ATP finals last year, Dimitrov last won a title in June 2014 at Queen’s Club in London.
Most embarrassing by far of his 2016 finals was the second, in Istanbul, Turkey, when he lost the plot against Argentine Diego Schwartzmann and was defaulted after a third warning for racquet smashing.
But since October, the athletic Bulgarian has beaten Novak Djokovic when he was No.1 in Beijing, and, in Brisbane, third-ranked Milos Raonic and Nishikori.
“Baby Fed is back,’’ Nick Kyrgios tweeted of the player compared to Roger Federer in game style four years ago when.
The 25-year-old Dimitrov finished the week with three top-10 scalps, as he also accounted for world No.8 Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals.
“It’s been a pretty emotional past year for me and this title means a lot - it wasn’t unexpected,’’ Dimitrov, who was playing his fifth straight Brisbane International.
“The time I’ve had here has been the most fun I’ve had - it’s the first trophy for me with this team.’’
Dimitrov said he and his trainers had gone every night during the tournament to an arcade in the CBD where they played games including basketball and motor bike riding.
Dimitrov beat Murray at Wimbledon in 2014, in which he reached a career-high eighth ranking and also touched upon a wider celebrity due to his now-ended relationship with Maria Sharapova.
In his final in Turkey, Dimitrov led by a set and 5-2, but cramping and becoming angry about his racquet stringing, Dimitrov stumbled into a third set of that final and lost it 6-0.
After a warning for racket abuse, he went behind 0-5 when socked a point penalty for a second offence and was defaulted when he did it for a third time, finishing with three broken frames and a day to live down.
“I’ve been working on myself on and off the court,’’ Dimitrov said.
Dimitrov, who had lost all three previous matches against Nishikori, went six Grand Slam events without making a fourth round until his exit in that round at last year’s US Open.
Dimitrov will rise in the rankings list to No.15, above Federer for the first in their careers, by two spots.