Baby Fed standing on his own feet
Grigor Dimitrov admitted his career-dream Queen's Club title edges him closer than ever to a long-anticipated grand slam breakthrough.
The 23-year-old Bulgarian has been dubbed as 'Baby Fed' - relating to similarities with Roger Federer - for years, and conceded claiming the Aegon Championships on Sunday cements his sharp upward curve.
Dimitrov saved a second-set match point to claim his third title of the season with a gritty 6-7 (8-10) 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (8-6) victory over Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in Kensington.
And the world number 13 hailed girlfriend and five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova for helping him hone his winning mentality.
"We're about to find out, in a week," said Dimitrov when asked if his grand slam moment might finally arrive at Wimbledon.
"It's always special to win in that week. This tournament in particular has been one I wanted to win.
"Ever since I've played as a teenager here I've dreamt of that moment, and you can even feel it in the spirit of the trophy itself when you lift it, it means something.
"So I'm just heading into Wimbledon with a lot of positive vibes.
"Of course it's great when you have all the pieces around you, it's touching for me because it's how I feel most comfortable.
"I have my team on a good level, and that adds up, because you know you'll be embraced either way.
"Maria's been unbelievable with me throughout all the years so far, just supporting me, and I think the feeling's mutual, and I hope this won't be the last tournament she's at.
"I think this is a step forward for me. I'm excited with progress so far, but my goals are way too high, so I wouldn't call it a breakthrough or a coming of age - not yet.
"I've had such a good time but there's still a lot to be achieved."
Dimitrov broke new ground by reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, and believes his Queen's success pushes him even further in the right direction.
Girlfriend Sharapova was a keen spectator throughout the week in Kensington, on hand again for the final.
Dimitrov admitted feeling lucky to have the Russian and coach Roger Rasheed in his corner.
"I think having Maria on my side definitely adds up, from a tremendous champion like her, there's a lot to learn," he said.
"Men's and women's tennis are completely different areas in a way, but there's certainly a good amount I've learned from her so far. So that's a good sign.
"Throughout the years I've changed six or seven coaches, and have definitely learned a lot from all of them.
"I think approaching my early 20s I felt really determined with what I want to achieve, and have been starting to understand what my game is all about.
"Everything happened pretty naturally with Roger, it just feels comfortable.
"I was fired up all week, it's been a very successful week for me.
"Down match point in the second set, I just worked hard.
"I left everything out on the court today and that was my main goal."
Beaten finalist Lopez backed Dimitrov as the most likely young gun to break the grand slam stranglehold of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
"He's the young guy on the tour who is best equipped," said the 32-year-old from Toledo.
"He's the most complete player of all that young generation, and he's already doing well.
"Sooner or later it will come for him, but right now it's tough.
"We've had 10 years of these animals at the top.
"It's very tough to win slams because Roger, Rafa, Nole (Djokovic), they win everything.
"Maybe it's a little bit early still for Grigor with these guys, but as he showed in Australia he almost beat Rafa in the quarters, so he's getting close.
"I think he'll be a grand slam champion in the future."
Targeting a strong defence of his Eastbourne title, Lopez admitted there is little time to dwell on failing to convert that second-set match point.
"It's tough when you come so close at a place like Queen's that's such a prestigious tournament," he said.
"I really was hoping to win here, but it didn't happen and now I have to move on quickly for Eastbourne."