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Grigor Dimitrov carries on where he left off at Queen's

by Matt Trollope
Monday 23 June 2014

With a sparkling straight-sets win over Ryan Harrison in the first round on Monday, Grigor Dimitrov confirmed why he’s a dark-horse pick for many at this year’s Championships and tipped by many more as a future Wimbledon champion.

The Bulgarian’s 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-2 victory, achieved in just one hour and 41 minutes, sends him into the second round at the All England Club where he’ll face 20-year-old qualifier Luke Saville of Australia.

“I just won my first match, so I think we're really early on of talking that way,” Dimitrov replied when asked for his thoughts on being among the tournament favourites.

“But I think everything's possible. I always like to just take one match at a time and one opponent at a time. The rest just, you know, it comes. I don't need to put the extra pressure on myself. I just need to focus on how I'm playing and the way I'm on the court.”

You have to feel somewhat for Harrison, whose rotten luck with first-round draws at Grand Slam events continued at the All England Club this year. In recent times he’s faced fifth-ranked Robin Soderling (Roland Garros 2011), No.4 Andy Murray (Australian Open 2012) and 12th-ranked Gilles Simon (Roland Garros 2012). At the US Open last year, it was world No.2 Rafael Nadal.

He did an admirable job to stay with the No.11 seed who arrived at SW19 as the reigning champion at Queen’s Club.

The first set was a rather strange affair, played at warp speed and devoid of any real rallies. Both men held serve convincingly and never came close to facing a break point, and both frequently took massive cuts at their returns, mostly missing. This, combined with the fact that they play rapidly with little time between points, meant that scores had progressed to 5-5 in just 26 minutes.

If Harrison could have his time again, he would replay the ensuing first set tie-break. The American sprayed an error on almost every point to help Dimitrov to a comfortable 7-1 scoreline.

The second set followed much the same pattern of comfortable service holds, until, completely out of sync with all that had preceded it, Dimitrov broke to love in the fifth game. Harrison came close to breaking right back in the very next game, but the Bulgarian staved off multiple break points, holding serve after winning the best – if not, the longest – rally of the match with a scorching crosscourt forehand winner.

Pumping his fist, Dimitrov could sense he now had control over proceedings; he ensured it with a service break in the ninth game to move to a two-set lead.

From this position, he relaxed. And that paved the way for his most beautiful tennis of the match. Although a half-volley between his legs didn’t help him to win a point early in the third set, an improvised wrist-flick around the body after chasing down a lob did; it also helped him to break serve to lead 2-0.

He stretched, slid, retrieved, charged the net, even slipped over and recovered mid-point; his versatility and all-court game impressed the crowd on No.1 Court as he romped to a 5-2 lead.

A brutal return extracted an error from Harrison in the eighth game, handing Dimitrov a 0-40 lead and three match points. Although he missed a gimme of a backhand volley on the first, he advanced to net again on the next point, putting away a lunging, angled volley to complete the dominant performance with a flourish.

“I'm feeling good at the moment. It's just early in the tournament, so of course there’s a lot of other things to look forward to,” he said.

“It's just nice to start that way. I think it's obviously important to get those first matches in a pretty good form. I like the way I'm playing right now and feeling comfortable on court.” 

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