Dimitrov makes slam breakthrough
8:16am Saturday 18th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Grigor Dimitrov served notice that his time may finally be coming as victory over Milos Raonic at the Australian Open took him through to the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time.
The Bulgarian has been tipped for stardom since his junior days but has struggled to develop the physical attributes needed at the top level of tennis these days.
Since linking up with Australian coach Roger Rasheed last season, however, he appears to have stepped up a level.
Dimitrov, 22, won his first ATP Tour title in Stockholm in October and headed to Melbourne at a career-high ranking of 22nd.
It was very much a meeting of the next generation against 23-year-old Raonic, ranked 11th, but it was Dimitrov who proved the more consistent in a 6-3 3-6 6-4 7-6 (12/10) victory.
Dimitrov said: "I'm definitely satisfied that I have gone through that match. I think that's not going to be the last time that I play against Milos.
"I think it's a great stepping stone for me to get into that second week that I keep talking about. But I have practised a lot. I have done a lot of homework. So, to me, in a way it's a bit expected.
"I feel really good coming into the second week and I'll just take one match at a time."
Dimitrov admitted the expectations of him have been difficult to live with, saying: "They play in my head sometimes.
"It's not easy, obviously. Of course everyone would talk and everyone would say whatever. Not that I care, but the one thing is that I know what I believe in and I know what I'm doing. I think the biggest expectation always comes from me."
Another incentive for Dimitrov is that success in Melbourne may finally see him shake off his 'Baby Fed' nickname - a reference to the similarity between his game and Roger Federer's.
"We have debated that for quite some time and we have said it loud and clear that my name is Grigor," he said.
"I think I'm proving that every day and every match that I'm winning out here in the slams, so I think that page is definitely in the past now."
Federer continued his stroll through the tournament with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 victory over Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Much greater tests await, with the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in his path, but Federer is content to have come through easily so far.
He said: "I'm happy that from my side I'm winning my matches in straight sets. It's been different conditions every match - the heat first and the indoor match and now normal conditions with a bit of wind.
"So it's just good to get through and get a good feel out there."
Federer revealed players in the locker room were glued to the fourth-set tie-break between Dimitrov and Raonic, and he is happy to see the young Bulgarian doing well.
He said: "I like his game. Clearly I can relate to him and how he plays.
"I think this year is going to be very important for him to make a big step in the rankings, start knocking on the door of the top 10. I think he has what it takes to move up."
Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut followed up his upset win over fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro with a hugely impressive 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory against 27th seed Benoit Paire and plays Dimitrov next.
France's Stephane Robert, meanwhile, won the battle of the lucky losers against Martin Klizan 6-0 7-6 (7/2) 6-4.
The world number 119 is the lowest-ranked player left in the draw and the first lucky loser ever to reach the fourth round in Melbourne.