Away from the tension of the classic five-setter between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, a beardless curly-haired chap made a tiny step to becoming part of the Wimbledon folklore. The 17-year-old Grigor Dimitrov was grinning at his parents in the stands as the boys’ title went his way. I struggled to believe. The disappointment of Federer's loss (yes, I was rooting for the Swiss legend) swung into a sense of triumph so quickly it left me transfixed on the living room sofa. A Bulgarian guy had just won Wimbledon.
Coming from a country with hardly any traditions in tennis, it could’ve been within my rights ro assume he was a one-hit wonder. In fact, just one Wimbledon boys’ champ managed to break into the world’s top 10 and this happened seven years after he clinched the trophy. The player was Gael Monfils. Today, Dimitrov has a genuine chance not only to better this result, but also to become the first of his generation to win a Slam. “I’m here for the long haul,” he said recenrtly in his distinctive Californian accent.
Much of Dimitrov’s rise to prominence is due to Roger Rasheed's brilliant work. The Australian coach seems to be the perfect fit for the player, who struggled for years under the guidance of other specialists including Peter Lundgren.
Roger Federer’s ex-coach hurried to conclude Dimitrov was better than the Swiss at his age, but split with the youngster, whose ranking plummeted to 360 in 2010. Since then, Dimitrov developed an excellent all-round game, physical strength of a five-set winner and his confidence is growing by the minute. Question is: is he too good for Andy Murray?
Dimitrov already defeated Murray this year
Having lost three Grand Slam finals, Murray’s ability to recover from the worst is undoubted.
Yet again, the thought he lost to Dimitrov in March at the Mexican Open - subsequently won by the Bulgarian - may creep into his mind as he prepares to face his practice buddy.
Momentum is with the Bulgarian
After the triumph at Acapulco, Dimitrov won a 250 tournament in Bucharest before landing the massive Queen’s Club trophy in an epic three-setter with Feliciano Lopez. For Roger Rasheed, Dimitrov had “climbed a wall” and he is now confident enough to challenge the best. Murray’s got bags of experience at Grand Slams, but his form, while improving, is far below the standards of 2013. Dimitrov, on the other hand, is playing as well as he’d ever had on grass.
Dimitrov’s got the moves
The Bulgarian will be Andy Murray’s first proper challenge after the Scot dispatched his previous opponents in straight sets. While Murray’s grass-court movement is top-notch, so is Dimitrov’s. In fact, grass is the Bulgarian’s favourite surface ever since he lifted the boys’ trophy in 2008.
His extraordinary shots and the speedy recoveries from the back of the court and onto the net fascinated the viewers and earned him a Centre Court spot in round two and comparisons with Novak Djokovic.
Grigor is a fearsome server
When Peter Lundgren split with Dimitrov, he said his serve needs improving if the Bulgarian is to make the leap from youth tennis to the men’s game. And boy, did he do that leap! Andy Murray already suffered from Dimitrov’s intimidating serving in Mexico, when the Bulgarian refused to let up and took the second and third sets in tie-breaks.
If the scenario repeats tomorrow, Dimitrov’s versatility in the rallies could be decisive.
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