Leach Tips Dimitrov As Future World No. 1



By Ricky Dimon


In the BNP Paribas Open lunch area on Tuesday, where players, coaches and media can casually mingle amidst perfect weather and a mountainous backdrop while enjoying the pasta bar or whatever delicacy suits their fancies, Rick Leach talked about the popcorn match between Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis scheduled for later that afternoon. Leach did not offer a prediction, but he assured that Dimitrov will eventually become No. 1 in the world.


Leach obviously isn’t alone in predicting that Dimitrov will at some point ascend to the top of the rankings. But when it comes from Leach, it means something. After all, he knows a thing or two about No. 1 players.


In fact, Leach was a No. 1 player, himself. The American reached doubles’ highest ranking in the spring of 1990 and maintained it for five weeks. He also won five Grand Slam doubles titles and came within one win of what would have eventually earned him a career Grand Slam when he finished runner-up with Jim Pugh at the 1991 French Open.


Fourteen years after assuming his No. 1 spot and still faring quite well on the circuit, Leach was in the same doubles draw as a 17-year-old Rafael Nadal. All he had to see of Nadal was just one doubles match with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo (they won it but then withdrew) in 2004—the same year in which Nadal clobbered world No. 1 Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3 in the singles third round. From that alone, Leach knew Nadal would become the world’s best player.


“I think the same thing about Dimitrov,” Leach concluded. “He’s going to be No. 1.”


Dimitrov was not quite No. 1 on Tuesday, when he lost a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 thriller to Gulbis. But based on some of the shots he produced, including a behind-the-back passing shot during a point he eventually punctuated with a winner, few who witnessed it could disagree with Leach’s assessment.


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