Peter Lundgren had tears in his eyes; Grigor Dimitrov had stars. Together they watched Roger Federer win his historic French Open title on television in the players' lounge at Queen's – Lundgren, Federer's coach in his formative years, Dimitrov the Bulgarian teenager being talked of as the next great talent to hit tennis. He was the Wimbledon and US Open junior champion last year and next week he will play in the Wimbledon main draw for the first time.
Dimitrov's talent is abundant and obvious. The serve is loose and free flowing; the backhand a glorious shot that is reminiscent of Federer, though Lundgren believes that the 18-year-old is better than the Swiss was at the same age. It might seem a huge burden of expectation to carry but for the moment Dimitrov appears like any other teenager, at least off court. He plays pool and table tennis with Lundgren and gets his knuckles rapped when he leaves his wallet in the locker room. The Swede, who worked for a short time with Britain's Davis Cup squad, is part mentor, part friend, part surrogate father.
"Grigor has got all the strokes," he said. "He has the serve, the slice, topspin, everything. He just needs to get stronger, that's all. Above all he has the fire, the will to win."
At Queen's Dimitrov lost to France's Gilles Simon, the world No7, whose shot selection on vital points emphasised how much Dimitrov has, for all his talent, yet to learn. The two clasped hands at the net, with the young Bulgarian being politeness personified as he left the court. But once inside the clubhouse he let out a huge yell and then sat unmoving in the locker room, his head in his hands, for 20 minutes. The loss hurt.
Lundgren, who received a message from Federer after Roland Garros, thanking him for always believing in him, remembered how difficult the early days had been with the often volatile young Swiss. "Roger was tough at the beginning. He did not have the motivation sometimes. He was lazy." Then came a dramatic turnaround.
"It's fantastic to see how much he has learned though all the years," said Lundgren. "It makes me very proud but at times it was very frustrating. Roger had to go through that and Grigor is the same. They have to make the mistakes to understand. Eventually they get there but for talented people it takes longer. Grigor is a bit further on than Roger was but, when Roger decided to go, he went so fast that nobody could really understand it."
Lundgren and Dimitrov, who is currently ranked just inside the world's top 350, teamed up early this year, at the Mouratoglou academy in Paris. Their first tournament together was in Rotterdam, when Dimitrov beat Thomas Berdych, a top-10 player two years ago, and then took a set off the world No1, Rafael Nadal. Lundgren, however, was not there to see it.
"It was a weird start," he said. "I had to fly home because my father had a stroke. But Grigor is such a good kid to work with, very smart. A quick learner, listens well and understands the game."
Dimitrov's father, Dimitar, coached his son. "He has done a fantastic job, and its nice he is still involved," said Lundgren. "I want him to be part of it and he's a good guy. It's not distracting me at all. He helps me actually. It's all working really well.".
Dimitrov's confident start on the ATP Tour in Rotterdam has not been reflected at Challenger level this year but Lundgren is unperturbed.
"I think he thought that he had the level to play consistently with the top players. But the Challengers are at a really high level these days. Maybe many of them don't perform well on the big courts but they are ready for Grigor because they know he is upcoming and young. He underestimated them a little bit.
"He has a very good temperament and now I think he understands he still has a long way to go. Everything takes time. He needs to get stronger and to get a routine, to know what to do. In the last four months he has come a long way. He could easily be top 100 soon, no problem. Maybe win one or two rounds on the ATP Tour here and there. He has the fire. He wants it."