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Dimitrov hard hit by COVID-19 bout: ‘It’s a tough road back’

hannahwilks in News 27 Jul 2020
Grigor Dimitrov (JBAutissier/Panoramic.)

Grigor Dimitrov admitted it’s unlikely he’ll play the US Open after opening up on his struggles with coronavirus: ‘It’s not a question of what shape you’re in when you get infected.’

The first player to test positive for COVID-19 on the ill-fated Adria Tour, world no. 19 Dimitrov has talked for the first time about the severe impact of the virus on his health and fitness, and revealed it’s unlikely that he’ll be match-fit in time for the US Open.

Dimitrov played his first matches since testing positive for the virus last weekend at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown 2 in the south of France, losing to Richard Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez in the abbreviated format.

In an exclusive interview with Tennis Majors, Dimitrov revealed that he had been unable to practice and had essentially been housebound for over a month.

I’m far [from my best level] for sure. I haven’t played tennis in over a month. The virus was hard on me. I stayed home for about a month. It’s a tough road back.

Dimitrov was not the only player who tested positive for COVID-19 after the Adria Tour, with world no. 1 Novak Djokovic (who organized the exhibition series to raise funds for charity), Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all reporting positive tests. Frances Tiafoe of the USA and Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild are among other players to have contracted the infection.

But not many have experienced severe symptoms, or opened up about them as Dimitrov has – and his experience should give pause to those who do not believe that COVID-19 can severely affect those who are young and healthy.

I think it’s, I guess, different for everyone. I was not breathing well. I was tired. I had no taste; no smell. Everything you could possibly think of. So it was no fun. To be honest I’m lucky to be on the court right now.

Over five weeks since first revealing he had tested positive, Dimitrov is still struggling to regain his former energy levels.

One day I feel really well and I have about four hours to be out [training]. But then all of a sudden I need to completely shut down take a take a nap or just rest. So I have to go through that process as much as possible. Hopefully I’m going to recover fully.

Dimitrov also told L’Equipe that it is unlikely he will be fit enough to play the US Open, scheduled to begin on 31 August, or the warm-up tournament, the Western & Southern Open, which begins on 22 August.

For everyone, there are a lot of questions, and few answers. For myself, there’s also the physical aspect. Mentally, I could. But to put back three kilos of weight in three weeks, play Cincinnati and the US Open, five sets… it seems to me that’s a little ambitious.

There are days when I am good and where I can practice for a long time, and others where I’m tired a lot.

Dimitrov defeated Roger Federer at last year’s US Open on his way to the semifinals, a five-set match in which his fitness played a key role. But the virus is clearly no respecter of professional athletes.

‘It’s not a question of what shape you’re in when you get infected,’ Dimitrov said.