If he wasn’t quite at the top of the class, Grigor Dimitrov could certainly graduate from Wimbledon 2014 with impressive honours.
Having superbly outclassed defending champion Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, the Bulgarian showed his major-winning credentials as he pushed Novak Djokovic in a four-set semi-final that ultimately came down to a handful of missed opportunities against a more experienced opponent.
It’s all powerful learning for the still-young Bulgarian, who refused to be disappointed from his best Grand Slam performance so far. “It’s a good learning curve for me to put myself in such a position and play against those kinds of players and attack the top in a different way,” he said after his final 2014 Centre Court outing at the All England Club.
“Of course I’m going to have to play even better when it comes to matches like that, but it’s a good lesson for me. I can take a lot of positives out of all the matches I played out here in England. It’s been, you know, solid weeks for me. There’s no looking back.”
Indeed, it was only last year that the talented but inconsistent Dimitrov failed to get past the third round of any Grand Slam event. Forced to wait for the first of the career titles that had been predicted for him, the 23-year-old arrived at SW19 with four of them, having completed a collection from every surface with victory at Queen’s.
Many observers point to the positive influence of Australian coach Roger Rasheed, who has helped Dimitrov add tactics and intention to the grace and athleticism that had long made him one of the most talked about young men in tennis. “ I think the structure on and off the court is really important,” he explained of their successful partnership earlier this week.
“(He) brought a lot of discipline, shot selection, all those things. So for me I think it was just a matter of time to learn something about myself more than anything else. It just clicked. It just happens. You can't really describe things like that sometimes. We have our goals that are really higher than that. We're just at the beginning.”
And an impressive beginning it is too, for there are many personal milestones that accompany the 23-year-old’s first run to a Grand Slam semi-final.
For confidence, there’s a first win over a top 10 opponent at a Slam. In numbers, there’s his entry into the world’s top 10, a personal high that awaits when official rankings are released next week. And then there’s the pride, Dimitrov officially becoming the best male from him homeland as he secured a 17th win at a Grand Slam.
Having long been touted as tennis’ “next big thing” there’s now a new sense of belonging in the game’s upper echelons. “We are already in that space if you think about it,” he said. “Quarters, semis. It’s just a matter of jumping over the next hurdle.
“I think to me it’s just really clear how I look on those things. One more Slam to go. You know, I’m going to have high expectations.”
And it’s that hunger that will likely prove the most powerful for the 2008 Wimbledon boys’ champion, who was contesting the main draw here for only the fifth time. On a 10-match winning streak as he entered the semi-final, Dimitrov ended his best Wimbledon with a fierce desire to create those same opportunities again.
“We’re still working a bit on the schedule, see how we want to do the next step,” he said of the plans he’s making with Rasheed post-Wimbledon.
“We are all for attacking the top, so I don’t think I’m going to take a step back or any of that. I think it’s going to be on the opposite: hard work and try to get all those good moments that I had in England and just try to have them in my mind while I’m practising and become stronger.”
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...
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