Grigor Dimitrov's Strokes in Photos

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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #1: Forehand Start of Swing

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Forehand Start of Swing
Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

In this photo, Grigor Dimitrov has just begun the forward swing of as classic a forehand as you'll see on today's pro tours. Eastern forehand grips are fairly rare among the current pros, but Dimitrov's grip is extremely close to Eastern, perhaps shifted very slightly toward the Semi-Western. You don't see stances as square as this all that often either. A square stance is especially useful when you need or want to step forward. Grigor's forward step contributes some power to his shot; the layback of his racquet at roughly a 90-degree angle to his forearm contributes even more, as it uses the elasticity in the front of his forearm to help accelerate the racquet.

02
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #2: Forehand Point of Contact

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Forehand Point of Contact
Julian Finney / Getty Images

At the forehand point of contact captured in this photo, Dimitrov's racquet face has resolved to vertical from its partly closed position on his backswing, and his wrist and racquet have whipped forward so that the racquet is aligned with his forearm. Ideally, Grigor would keep both his head and his eyes locked onto the point of contact. Here, his eyes are turned forward, but his success at keeping his head still is far more important, as moving your body's head usually moves your racquet's head too, causing misaligned contact.

03
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #3: Forehand Follow-Through

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Forehand Follow-Through
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

No one in the modern pro game hits all forehands in a square stance, nor should anyone. In this photo, Dimitrov is following through on a forehand he hit in an open stance. Square, open, and semi-open stances each have advantages in particular situations.

04
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #4: Loading Up for Serve

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Loading Up for Serve
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Here, Dimitrov's deep knee bend loads his leg muscles to drive upward as the first link in a kinetic chain that will transfer energy from his legs through and from his core, shoulder, upper arm, elbow, and finally wrist to make the racquet whip upward and forward into the ball with enough velocity to deliver a first serve averaging more than 120 mph. Reaching up after the ball with the tossing hand helps Grigor control his toss and drop his hitting shoulder lower so it will have a longer upward travel and thereby greater upward momentum.

05
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #5: Elbow Up, Racquet Down on Serve

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Elbow Up, Racquet Down on Serve
Steve Bardens / Getty Images

The world's best servers all reach the elbow-up, racquet-down position Grigor Dimitrov demonstrates in this photo. Note the 90-degree angles at Dimitrov's elbow and between his racquet and his forearm. The energy from Grigor's legs, core, shoulder, and upper arm have all been transferred upward toward his elbow, which is about to straighten.

06
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #6: Wrist About to Whip on Serve

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Wrist About to Whip on Serve
Steve Bardens / Getty Images

In this photo, all of the energy from the larger muscles of Dimitrov's body has now been concentrated into straightening his elbow at great speed, but one more link in the chain is yet to be reached, as his racquet remains at a 90-degree angle to his forearm.

07
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #7: Point of Contact on Serve

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Point of Contact on Serve
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

The kinetic chain that began with Dimitrov's leg drive has now reached its final link, his wrist, which whips the racquet forward and upward into the ball at by far the greatest speed of any of the previous links. The racquet's upward motion produces enough topspin to make the ball drop into the service box, and on a first serve like this one, the racquet also brushes across the ball from left to right to impart some sidespin, which on serves is called slice. Grigor's strong upward leg drive has the added benefit of lifting him well off the ground, raising his height of contact. All great servers meet their power serves with the hitting arm fully extended; an extra foot or so added to the height of contact produces a significantly better angle over the net.

08
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #8: Backhand Backswing

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Backhand Backswing
Jan Kruger / Getty Images

Much of Grigor Dimitrov's preparation for this one-handed backhand is exemplary: his left hand on the racquet throat helps ensure a consistent backswing and a good shoulder turn, and having only the toe of his back foot on the ground puts his weight firmly on his front foot, where it belongs. Dimitrov's very closed stance, with his back foot quite a lot farther from the sideline he's facing than his front foot, is less than ideal, as he won't be able to transfer energy forward as easily as in a square stance. In this photo, it looks as if Grigor's racquet is too high to impart topspin by brushing up the back of the ball, but he will drop it below the ball's height before he begins his forward swing.

09
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #9: Backhand Point of Contact

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Backhand Point of Contact
Jan Kruger / Getty Images

This photo captures some unusual aspects of Grigor Dimitrov's topspin backhand. The deep bend at his knees is, of course, mostly a consequence of the height of the ball, but he hits with this very closed stance quite often, and with this Continental grip all the time. Many top players slice with a Continental grip, but it's somewhat rare for topspin backhands, because in its most natural wrist and forearm position, it would open the racquet face far too much. For most players, the Eastern and Modified Eastern backhand grips are much more comfortable for topspin.

10
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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #10: Backhand Follow-Through

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Backhand Follow-Through
Julian Finney / Getty Images

Despite some unusual characteristics, Dimitrov's one-handed backhand is one of the best on the tour. The power of Grigor's backhand swing results in such a long follow-through, it looks as if it might hurt, but as we'll see in the next photo, Grigor is exceptionally flexible.

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Grigor Dimitrov Photo #11: Slice Backhand

Photo of Grigor Dimitrov - Slice Backhand
Jan Kruger / Getty Images

Grigor Dimitrov hits in positions like this surprisingly often; male players usually aren't this flexible. In part, this reflects his determination to get to every ball he can, a great attribute. When stretched low and wide for a backhand, the slice Grigor is using here makes by far the most sense, as it allows maximum reach, a later point of contact, a way to get under the ball and lift it over the net, and backspin to carry the shot deep even when it lacks power.