Grigor Dimitrov became the first Bulgarian man ever to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals when he saw off Leonardo Mayer in a rain-interrupted fourth round on Monday 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-2 in two hours and nine minutes.
The 23-year-old, seeded No. 11 here, extended the longest winning streak of his career to nine matches – he arrived at Wimbledon as the newly-crowned champion of Queen’s – but will have that streak tested when he faces the defending champion Andy Murray in the last eight.
“Sounds great,” enthused Dimitrov, at the prospect. “I don’t want to stop here. I’m happy I’m in the quarter-final. Going to give credit to myself for that. But my job isn’t over yet.
“Oh yeah, I can go five sets with him [Murray]. It’s a great feeling to get into that kind of match. Of course, best case scenario is straight sets. But I’m not playing a mediocre player so I need to be on my best behaviour and try to put every ball back.
“He’s a cool dude. We know it’s his home here. All the crowd is behind him. I think we get along pretty good. My team and his are on pretty good terms. We always have a lot of jokes between us. One thing is off the court, other thing is on the court. That’s the best part of playing that game because you can settle everything on the court. No hard feelings after the match.”
Facing the world No.65, Dimitrov never looked likely to be presented with the kind of examination he faced in getting past Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round on Saturday, when he was twice a set down. That is not to say that Mayer rolled over – under heavy skies on No.1 Court, he stayed with Dimitrov for all of the first set, with the fatal exception of the last few points when his level just dropped slightly. At 5-4 Dimitrov topped off a wonderful point by stretching to send an exceptional forehand down the line to grab two set points; and on the second the Argentinian sent the ball wide.
At 3-4 in the second Mayer fended off a break point, but only just – Dimitrov punched a wonderful backhand down the line which was only just wide. The set progressed with serve until, with potentially awkward timing, the heavens opened with Dimitrov leading 5-4 and Mayer at 30-15. It was almost two hours later before play resumed, and Mayer did well to take the set coolly into the tie-break. Again, they went toe-to-toe until Dimitrov brought up his first set point by forcing an error from Mayer at the net. He thought he had converted it with a half-volley which spooned apparently on to the line and was called in, but Mayer challenged and HawkEye showed it well out. Dimitrov produced an unreturned serve, and Mayer unfortunately settled the matter by double-faulting.
With a light drizzle falling in the gloom, in the third set the Bulgarian was in no mood to hang around. He broke for 3-2, did it again two games later and, with the court coverers poised to spring into action, closed out the match with an unanswered forehand.
It was a solid display from Dimitrov, whose long-heralded potential is really coming in to its own now. Nor will Mayer, 27, be crashingly disappointed, having taken the scalp of No.25 seed Andreas Seppi in the first round, strung together three consecutive wins on grass for the first time, and reached the last 16 of a Grand Slam also for the first time in his career. But this was not a match which required Dimitrov to be at his absolute best, although that may come next, when he faces the champion for a place in the last four.
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