Andy Murray was disappointed, bitterly disappointed. Not with the fact that he had lost his Wimbledon title – anyone who thought that retaining that was a nailed-on certainty needed his head examined – but with the fact that he had played so poorly against Grigor Dimitrov to lose in the quarter-finals. That was not supposed to be in the script.
The end of his title defence took two hours: two hours of unrelenting excellence from Dimitrov and two hours of errors, missed opportunities and failed tactics from Murray. At the end of it, the Centre Court crowd were subdued and a little confused while Bulgaria was revelling in Dimitrov’s 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-2 win and having their first man ever through to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.
“He was the better player from start to finish,” Murray said simply. “He played better tennis than me for the entire match. Right at the beginning of the match I had break points in the first game. But my start to the match was poor. I started the match badly. And I think that gave him confidence.
“I should have done a better job at the beginning of the match of making it tougher for him, and I didn't manage to do that. Also, when I got back into the second set, the end of the set, you know, that was my opportunity there. He'd been up in the set a break and I'd come back. Momentum was starting to shift a little bit. Couldn't quite do it.”
Dimitrov had sensed right from the warm-up that this was not the Murray he was expecting to play. The Scot looked flat, he was not moving or thinking well and the bread-and-butter shots that he would expect to play with his eyes closed were flying all over the place. The serve that had seemed so effortless and so powerful just a couple of days ago simply refused to co-operate with the driver. The forehand, that thumper of a shot that he loves to wallop through the opposition, would not go where it was told and the backhand was being shown up by the other bloke’s backhand.
But all of these failing cannot detract from the performance of Dimitrov. He had told thetennisspsace.com just a couple of days ago: “I want to be great” but he had to start backing up that aim with results. He is 23-years-old and from the moment he appeared on the professional tour, he and his all-court talents had been compared to Roger Federer – he was that good right from the off. But when it came to the Grand Slams, the place where the greats really measure themselves, he had not got beyond the second round in four years. And then he teamed up with Roger Rasheed last autumn and his career changed forever.
Since they started working together, Dimitrov has reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and now the semi-finals here. In between, he has won three titles on three different surfaces, the most recent being at Queen’s Club just a couple of weeks ago. Rasheed is working him to a standstill to improve his fitness and that, in turn, has given him the platform upon which to show off his remarkable talents.
From repelling a break point in the opening game of the match, Dimitrov set off like a steam train. He had the first set wrapped up in just 25 minutes while Murray was struggling to focus on this blur in front of him. Unless he could find a way to put the brakes on the locomotive, the match would run away from him in a matter of minutes.
Dimitrov served with precision, he took on Murray’s backhand and shredded it and he moved like greased lightning. Most players find the transition from clay to grass a bit complicated – that whole footwork thing is completely different on the green stuff – but Dimitrov slides on the grass as he does on the clay. It may not be textbook stuff, but as he scampered around the baseline, he made it look easy. He also attacked the net whenever possible and when he came forward, he tended to come away with the point (only two of 22 net points dropped). There was not an area of his game that Murray could attack and there was not a moment in the match when Dimitrov looked as if he did not belong in the semi-finals. His tennis was impressive, his confidence was rock solid and he was the better player by far on Wednesday afternoon.
“He plays well on all of the surfaces,” Murray said of his conqueror. “He moves well; he's a very good athlete; he has variety in his game, which helps him play on all of the surfaces. He's a talented guy. He has a talented hand, so he can dig himself out of tough situations and points. When you think the point's won, he can come up with some great shots. I don't know his exact potential, it's impossible to say. But he's obviously made some big improvements over the last 12 to 18 months and he's getting better.”
As for Dimitrov, he was taking it all in his stride. This stage of a Grand Slam may be uncharted territory for him but he is calm, relaxed and ready for what is to come. “I have two more matches to play, hopefully,” he said, “I’ll just try to stay on course.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all