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Grigor Dimitrov is rising on Easter weekend

The relationship between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is also the relationship between athletes and success: No pain, no gain. Ask Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who show that through suffering, through an embrace of difficulty on the court, comes a genuine toughness which leads to rich achievement. The pain and darkness of Good Friday are intense in the present moment, but the day is called “Good” in Christianity because it sets the stage for resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This mirrors all of life: When a part of us, or a stage of our journey through life, dies, something else — something new — can be born. It doesn’t mean we should seek out pain and suffering, but it does mean that since pain is a natural part of life, something we can’t escape, we have to make peace with it and find what we are being invited to discover within ourselves when something unpleasant happens. What is the message, the meaning, the hope behind the suffering, when pain comes to us?

Do we try to ignore that pain, or do we have an honest conversation and a legitimate reckoning with that pain? Mature human beings walk through the pain instead of trying to ignore it with the bottle or hard drugs or an unhealthy and excessive escapism.

Pain is not what we want, but it is part of the human condition. When we learn to live with pain, we live better. We become less fearful and more trusting. Life improves.

This is the journey of Grigor Dimitrov, who — on Good Friday — showed that he has learned to live with the pain he has endured as an athlete.

Like the prodigal son in the Bible, Dimitrov has squandered ample resources. His talent has always been radiantly evident, but the results very rarely matched the skill and ability. This has led many athletes to fade away in their older years without learning and applying the lessons of the competitive arts, but Dimitrov has embraced the dark moments and is clearly showing he is a better player now than in his younger years.

Before turning 30, Dimitrov made six Masters semifinals or better. After turning 30 — Dimitrov turns 31 in May — he has made two 1,000-point tournament semifinals, coming in the past seven months at Indian Wells and now in Monte Carlo after his run past Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz.

Stop and absorb that fact: Dimitrov, in seven months, has made one-third of all the Masters semifinals he made before turning 30.

That’s growth.

It’s a reflection of how rarely Dimitrov overcame hurdles and obstacles for much of his career, that’s true, but Grigor has not allowed the past to cast a dark shadow over his career. He has looked into the pain instead of escaping it. He is much more at peace with himself, a little wiser and much less burdened.

As the traditional Easter Sunday hymn says:

“But the pains which He endured

our salvation hath procured.”

Finding meaning in the pain is saving Grigor Dimitrov’s career. At the very least, it is making this journey much less painful and much more enjoyable to watch.

This was a very Good Friday for Grigorian chants, which no longer carry the bitterness they used to.

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