Daniella Dimitrov Is a Tennis Powerhouse
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Daniella Dimitrov grew up surrounded by family members who were athletes. Her mother, who is from Russia, was a professional ice dancer. Her father, a native Bulgarian, played soccer. Her brother Georgio was also a phenomenal soccer player who went on to play professionally. Dimitrov seemed to have a natural athletic ability as well. That became evident one day when she was 7 years old and her father’s friend, whose daughter played tennis, suggested Dimitrov pick up a racquet and start a volley. She immediately took to the sport. As a 7-year-old kid, she didn’t overthink the sport or the conditioning behind it. Instead, she just played. The following summer, however, when she was 8, she began playing tennis every day, engaging in practices and drills to improve her game. That’s when the wheels started moving and her drive turned razor sharp.
“Day in and day out for three months I practiced hard, and I remember it being so difficult because of the heat, but something in me really loved that feeling,” Dimitrov recalls. “I loved the competition the most because it exhilarated me.”
Dimitrov, now 20, spent her first 10 years of life in Louisville before moving to Spain in 2012 with her father so that she could train one-on-one with a coach from Barcelona Tennis Academy. When they first arrived in Spain, she assumed they were just visiting for the summer, but her father later explained that the plan was to stay and train indefinitely. As time went on, she got homesick yet felt equally at home in Spain.
“It was exciting,” she says. “I really did love Spain and the tennis environment there. In my opinion, it was the best place in the world to grow up. Now it has become one of my favorite places in the world.”
Through the years she has continued to hone and perfect her talent, and like any elite athlete she has endured her peaks and her pits as it pertains to tennis, training and the turmoil of life. COVID-19 officially hit Europe in March of 2020. Dimitrov was in Spain at the time, and everything went on full lockdown for five weeks. Even though tennis is a sport that enables players to remain socially distanced, tight restrictions prevented Dimitrov from playing, and travel was highly difficult.
“It’s hard to stay persistent when it seems like there’s nothing to look forward to,” Dimitrov says. “When you’re not in top shape and when you don’t feel your strokes for a long period of time, that’s tough.”
Then in May of 2020, just as restrictions were easing up a bit, Dimitrov sustained her first major injury and was out for three months with a stress fracture in the top of her femur. She later suffered a pre-stress fracture in her lower back. Both injuries resulted in incorrect technical movements on the court.
To try to keep injuries at bay, she has found that recovery is key.
“When your body is already strong enough to be training four to five hours per day, you don’t worry too much about the load that’s being put on you but rather how you recoup from it,” says Dimitrov, noting that properly warming up, stretching after every training session, weekly massages and extra supplements are all crucial for recovery.
Dimitrov was in the top 60 in the world in the International Tennis Federation 18-and-under junior ranking. She also qualified for all of the junior grand slams – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She even landed a two-year sponsorship with Nike.
“The U.S. Open was my favorite to compete in,” she says. “It was my first one as well. I personally love New York so competing there and being able to go to the Nike headquarters to grab my new outfits for the season was very special to me.”
She was invited to represent the Bulgarian national team in the European Summer Cups in 2014 and 2015.
“I’ve been invited numerous times to compete for the country I was representing,” she says. “It was always a pure pleasure to go to Bulgaria and train with my teammates a week before the competition, to get to know my friends a little bit better since I didn’t live in Bulgaria. Traveling with the whole team to the country we were scheduled to play, staying in the hotel, and practicing on new tennis courts are all things that I will cherish forever.”
She has other treasured memories as well that have nothing to do with her sport. Her all-time favorite involves an ordinary yet extraordinary day with her brother. She was going through a rough patch, so she and Georgio spontaneously hopped on their bicycles and rode around the city for six hours, having a ball discovering new places that they had never seen before.
“We listened to music, chatted about random stuff and just enjoyed life to the fullest,” she says. “That day meant a lot to me and thinking back on it always makes me smile.”
She calls Georgio her best friend and rock since day one.
“Moving out of the country together at such a young age formed a strong bond between us,” Dimitrov says. “I’d do anything for him.”
She has equally warm fuzzy feelings about her grandmother, who has played an integral role in her life.
“I wish I could give her the world with how she has helped me all these years,” Dimitrov says. “She’s my biggest supporter and has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.”
Next on the horizon is a move back to the United States, as Dimitrov has signed to play at Baylor University until 2026.
Head Coach Joey Scrivano was quoted in a baylorbears.com press release as saying, “We are very excited to have Daniella join the Baylor family. She is a determined and mature young lady. Dani is an exceptional athlete. She is committed to the process, a strong-minded competitor and has a very high ceiling. She’s a great fit for our program and has a very bright future at Baylor.”
Dimitrov, who in her free time enjoys meditating, writing, reading and skateboarding, is eager to embrace this new opportunity.
“I’m very excited about the future to come,” she says. “It’s going to be a new chapter, and moving back to America will be interesting to say the least.”
Dimitrov hopes to rank in the Women’s Tennis Association top 500 by the end of 2022. Her primary long-term goal in tennis is to be in the top 10 in the world. As for her daily life goals, she’d like to work at making the best use of her time and focus on living in the present moment.
“I’d like to not be in my head, but to rather look around me and appreciate life since it moves so fast,” she says.