Tag Archive: Dimitar Kutrovsky

Spotlight on: Dimitar Kutrovsky

Since this site is, theoretically, all about trying to introduce you to the pros you may not know (yet), I’m really pleased to be able to bring you a profile and interview with the player who, for me, stood out the most on the Florida Futures swing throughout all of January:

Dimitar Kutrovsky is 23 years old and currently ranked #565. Though he hasn’t played a full year of pro ball to get his ranking up to where it belongs, he’s the Bulgarian #3 player; and when the new rankings are released on Monday, he’ll be within 10 spots of the #2 position in his home country, behind only Grigor Dimitrov. A three-time ITA singles All-American, and one-time doubles All-American with Josh Zavala, “The Bulgarian Nightmare” – as he is now monikered – finished his college career as the winningest player in University of Texas history.

“Tar” (as doubles partner Jack Sock refers to him, among other names), plays a game that is veritably one-of-a-kind on the pro tour: primarily two-handed off both sides (though he can hit one-handed off either), his compact, versatile and all-court style of play packs a surprising punch for someone listed at 5′ 9” and 152 pounds.

(photo courtesy of The Austin Tennis Blog)

I first saw him play at the USA F3 in Weston, and his game caught my eye even though he was losing convincingly to Dennis Zivkovic at the time. Of course, that was the first of about three consecutive amazing comeback victories for the man from Sofia, Bulgaria, which also showed me that you can never count him out. As I said to coach Mike Wolf on the final weekend of the USA F4, every time I watch Dimi play, he shows me something more: ability, variety, intensity, strategy, heart – it’s all there. Mike further confirmed my suspicions by telling me that Kutrovsky goes about things the right way, with the right attitude, and thus sets himself up for success.

On a cloudy day last Friday, I was able to drag Kutrovsky away from supporting his friend and dubs teammate (in the third set, no less), telling him (only half-jokingly) that Jack’s already gotten enough press from my site, and it’s about time he got his own turn in the spotlight. I wanted to be able to know more about the personality of the player whose game I’d come to so admire. Happily, he not only agreed to abandon his friend in his time of need (haha), but he turned out to be a friendly, funny guy as well. Bonus. Here’s what he had to say:

Challenger Tennis: All right. First and foremost: “The Bulgarian Nightmare” – are you happy with this nickname?

Kutrovsky: Yeah. Yeah. Seems fitting. I like it.

Challenger Tennis: What makes you a “nightmare”, would you say?

Kutrovsky: The whole idea behind it was that I want to play in a way that when people see my name in the draw, they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to play this guy.” So I’m kind of trying to work my way to actually make that happen.

Challenger Tennis: Aha. So, now you’re the Bulgarian #3 – have you heard from Davis Cup at all?

Kutrovsky: I’m actually going in two weeks. (Delinquent interviewer’s note: now it’s more like one week, as this conversation happened about a week ago. You might wanna check my math on that, though.) I’m going to go do the camp and then we’re going to go play against Belarus, so hopefully I can play. I know the guys that are in front of me. I think it’s going to be me and this other guy, if things go well. That’s the plan, hopefully. Hopefully I do well in the camp and show them I’m worthy of playing.

Challenger Tennis: Grigor is definitely playing?

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Palms Away – The Final USA F4 Installment (Part II)

Sunday dawns almost as bleakly as I feel Nicola Ghedin’s prospects for victory are in his USA F4 singles final against Wayne Odesnik. It’s foggy, cloudy, and there’s a big, green blob of rain moving in on the doppler radar. But before the singles final, we have the doubles championship to attend to (hopefully). I arrive and make my way into the cozy Palm Coast clubhouse with two of the finalists, Jack Sock and Dimitar Kutrovsky, right behind me. “Fancy meeting you here,” I tell them, as I hold the door. They must be convinced I shadow them everywhere by now.

In a rare display of Futures seeding actually going to form, it’ll be top seeds Kutrovsky and Sock facing off today against the second seeded team of Greg Ouellette and Blake Strode.

From left: Sock, Kutrovsky, Ouellette and Strode

It’s also a final that features three four-year college grads/standouts (and one high school senior). This will be Kutrovsky/Sock’s fifth pro final together in the past six months…

while Ouellette and Strode are making their first finals appearance together (although both have made pro finals with other partners).

The weather holds, but Strode does not, broken in the first game on a nice low return from “The Tar” (Kutrovsky) that eventually sets up a well-Socked putaway. The top seeds get a second break in the seventh game, with Kutrovsky hitting a perfectly measured crosscourt lob to start the game and Jack nailing a forehand second serve return at Ouellette’s feet to end it. Sock is broken while trying to serve out the set, but then Sock/Kutrovsky break Strode to take the first set 6-3.

The second seeds fight back, however, going up a break in the second. Sock double faults himself into a 0-30 hole serving at 2-4, but does well to extract himself and keep things close. Strode, the Arkansas grad who’s deferred Harvard Law for a year to try his luck on the pro tennis tour, then takes command, holding to love then slicing an error-forcing return while his partner steps up with some super forehands and an absolutely perfect lob to break and take the second set 6-3.

During the changes of ends, the woman who tends to the tunes (and the “PA system”) also manages to thoroughly entertain us with some spirited dance maneuvers. She’s hilarious, and her enthusiasm only adds to the great spirit in which this match is being played.

As befits a terrific final such as this – with all four players hitting at a high level, playing in front of a large and appreciative crowd – the match will be settled in a match tiebreak. (Actually, it would be better if they played out a third set or even played an abridged pro set, but that’s another argument for a different day.)

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As happens with every tennis event, the population of players dwindles as the week progresses. Thankfully, with a vibrant scene at the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, the USA F3 Futures final weekend is conducted amidst hordes of regular racquet club attendees, who healthily pad the population of appreciative locals that come out to see the event. In fact, there is some kind of convention in the gym on this Friday that forces players to slalom their way through the throngs to the locker room.

The first match of the day is a compelling quarterfinal contest that pits touted 18-year-old talent Jack Sock against his doubles partner, 23-year-old Bulgarian All-American (a rare combo) Dimitar Kutrovsky. What may be surprising to some readers is that Kutrovsky had won all three of their previous matches – which may or may not have been what led Jack to start referring to Dimi as “The Bulgarian Nightmare” in the first place. I’d research the timing of that particular nickname, but I’m short of time myself. Heading into this 4th head-to-head of theirs, Jack had forged an impressive 6-4 6-2 win over Denis Kudla, while Kutrovsky had come back from way down in both of his previous matches.

It’s a remarkably un-Floridian-seeming day in the alleged Sunshine State. “Cool, overcast, breezy,” I write on Twitter. A friend tweets back: “Covergirl.” Heh. Sock holds serve from deuce to start, and then Kutrovsky backhands wide and short (aka in the net) but also hits a service winner to stand at 15-30. He comes in behind an ill-advised drop shot and Sock passes him with a backhand down-the-line slice for two break points. Paging Ken Rosewall. Kutrovsky throws all the weight in his 5’9” frame into a patented Bulgarian Nightmare-ish two-handed forehand to save one, and Sock then shanks a forehand, deucing it up. Dimi lets Jack off the hook, though, netting forehands on consecutive points to give up the break.

The Bulgarian has a bit of a ‘mare himself in the next three games, as Sock holds to 15, then breaks at 15 with a perfect drop shot, and holds again in a game that features a superb drop shot/passing shot retrieval. 5-0 to Jack Sock. On the Twitter, I pose the following question: “Will Dimi stage his 3rd straight amazing comeback or will Jack beat his 2nd straight DK-initialed opponent?” It’s a fascinating proposal, no? As I tweet it, I think, “I bet Kutrovsky has Sock right where he wants him, if his first two rounds are anything to go by.” I almost tweet that too, but I have notes to take.

Kutrovsky is struggling to get his tennis ball on the scoring toteboard, but two Kutrovsky aces from deuce get the job done. “Good serves,” says Jack magnanimously, still up a double break.

Kutrovsky Gets On The Board

In the seventh game, my mischievous suspicions are beginning to actually pan out, as “The Tar” (another J-Sizzle nickname) fires off forehand winners and deep returns, breaking Sock to *2-5. Alex Ward, who’s stretching for his upcoming match and watching parts of this contest with me, tips me to the fact that Dimi drinks from a tennis ball can during changeovers, which – if true – is one of the more awesome rituals I’ve yet heard of. I try to get a picture of it, but I think Kutrovsky’s on to me, as he never does it when I’ve got him in my Canon’s crosshairs.

Serving at 3-5 0-30, Jack’s starting to get agitated. “So while I’m serving he can run back and forth? That’s legal?” he asks the chair of Kutrovsky, seeking every edge as ever. He nets a forehand for 0-40. “Oh my God,” he says, and whacks a ball into the backstop. Dimi is once again becoming Jack’s Bulgarian Nightmare, as he breaks again to put the first set back on serve. “Just as I suspected,” I tweet, “the Kutrovsky comeback is on. He wins next 4 games and serves at 4-5. Typical.”

At 4-5 30-all, Sock slices a forehand into the net. “Are you serious?” he asks. Me? Not usually, no. Thanks for asking. Kutrovsky has a point for 5-all but Sock hits a serious smash for deuce. “C’mon!” Dimi crosscourts a forehand winner for another game point, and now we have dueling “C’mon!”s, only Kutrovsky doesn’t do it with quite as much gusto. The Tar smothers a backhand into the net, deucing things up again. The next point is a good one, both guys trying to find and work over the other’s backhand until Kutrovsky down-the-lines to the open court, with Jack favoring his ad side and scrambling to get to the forehand that he hits just long. The traditional clay-court mark-circling ritual ensues.

On his third game point to level the first set, Dimi hits a ball onto the tape that just hovers and hangs tortuously over the net before falling back on Kutrovsky’s side. “Two words:” I say to A.Ward, “Bru tal.” “Isn’t that one word?” he asks. “Don’t get technical with me,” I fake-snipe, “I’m the writer here!” Ward smirks and goes back to stretching.

Sock forehands into the net for a 4th ‘tar game point. Kutrovsky forehands into the net to deuce. Damn – who wants this thing? Answer: both of them, probably a bit too much. Tight game. Dimitar double faults to give Jack set point, but Sock backhands into the net to deuce. Dimi presses the reset button and double faults again, amidst more mark-circling contentiousness. On set point number two, the net cord is once again cruel to The Nightmare, propelling the Bulgarian’s forehand wide for a 6-4 Sock set.

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After the Jack SockDennis Kudla match (as recounted here), I head on over to the incongruously-placed bleachers between Court 6 and Court 7, mostly because I developed an abiding appreciation for Dimitar Kutrovsky’s game while watching him play the day before against Dennis Zivkovic, and partially because it’s the only place I can park my lazy butt and lean back as I watch the tennis – the Court 7 fence providing spartan but adequate support, and since I’ve struggled with a herniated disc, any backing at all is a welcome one.

Kutrovsky, the 23-year-old University of Texas standout from Bulgaria, plays two-handed off both sides (though he can go one-handed off either) and has a nice-looking, compact game and an intuitive-seeming court sense. He had already come from way down against Zivkovic in the first round, saving match points before winning 0-6 7-6(3) 6-4, and I catch him extracting himself from a fairly deep hole against veteran 27-year-old Todd Widom, breaking Widom as he serves for the match up 6-4 5-4.

I had last seen Widom on a livestream two years before as he played David Ferrer on an outside court at Indian Wells, but against Kutrovsky he’s playing only his fifth match in the past year, and at times he seems a bit detached, a bit bemused by it all, although perhaps this is an intentional affect to keep from getting too wound up. And though there are way too many differences in their games for me to make an embarrassingly lazy comparison between Ferrer and Kutrovsky, allow me just this one contrivance: I think both of them get a lot of mileage out of their respective games for not being the tallest guys in the world.

Anyway, Kutrovsky holds at 5-all and then Widom serves to try and force a tiebreak. He quickly finds himself down two set points against the three-time ITA All-American, but staves off the first with an ace and the next with a measured-almost-guided backhand down the line into the corner. He double faults at deuce to give Dimi a third set point, but then aces that one away as well. He issues a deep, exaggerated sigh. “Gotta have a little fun,”  he says.  He finally holds after a six-deuce game. Fun!

At *1-2 in the tiebreak, Dimi double faults to give Widom the mini-break, and I’m beginning to suspect I’ve brought bad luck to all DK-initialed players on this day. Up 3-2, Todd inside-outs a run-around forehand winner. “Woo!” he says. But Kutrovsky gets the next four points to lead 6-4*, with two more opportunities to close the second set at hand. He foul tips a backhand return into the high hedge behind court six on the first, then nets an overhead for 6-all. I check the sun, and it’s certainly not in an optimal position for that particular shot. But Widom trades in any momentum he’d have from this turn of events for two forehands long – a very unwise trade, in my estimation. “How stupid is that?” he asks aloud, seeming to agree with me. Second set to The Bulgarian Nightmare (as Jack Sock refers to his dubs partner), 7-6(8).

Over the long break, Todd’s crew tries to gee him up for the long haul, likely knowing his fitness might be a bit suspect. When play resumes in the third set, Widom goes first strike, trying to end points early. A succession of errors put him in a 15-40 spot. “I can’t move that well anymore,” he explains to his sideline contingent. Then he double faults to give the gift of breakage. Certainly can’t end the point much quicker than that, so credit where credit is due.

Meanwhile, on Court 5, all hell breaks loose in the David Souto vs. Hyun-Joon Kim match. Souto’s pitching another fit again, much like he did at the ‘rac. “You’re telling me the ball this out is in,” he yells at the chair ump, holding his hands a foot apart to illustrate and emphasize the extent of the ball’s outness.

Widom, who had lost to Souto the week before, tries to give him some helpful direction from the court next door: “Shut up, already! Give me a break, dude – I’m playing right next to you.”

“You’re not playing the US Open,” the lanky Venezuelan snipes back, “It’s the Futures.” David Souto, I have officially disowned you as a Player to Watch selection, no matter how nice Alex Ward insists you are.  Somehow I’m quite sure Souto will find a way to carry on, despite this potentially crippling career development, haha.

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