Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov won his opening match at Wimbledon in straight sets on June 23, overpowering American qualifier Ryan Harrison in straight sets 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 6-2.
Eight days after winning his first grass-court title at the Queen’s Club, in a final against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez that required three tie-breaks, Dimitrov faced another big server in Harrison and the two players quickly traded service games in the first set to reach the tie-break just past the half-hour mark.
In the deciding game, Dimitrov went up a gear to win in decisive fashion, 7-1.
The second frame became in similar fashion, with both players trading service holds, but at 2-2, Harrison’s strong first serve appeared to desert him and Dimitrov broke his serve without losing a point.
Harrison bounced back and had three break-points himself on Dimitrov’s next service game, but the Bulgarian dug himself out of a 0-40 hole with an ace and a drop-shot volley. A double error gave Harrison another break-point, only for Dimitrov to once again use his strong serve to hold for 4-2 – Harrison would not have another break-point for the rest of the match.
As the match progressed, it opened up and a few rallies developed as Dimitrov appeared to have figured out his opponent’s serve. At 5-3, serving to stay in the set, Harrison quickly went 15-40 down and gifted the set to Dimitrov with a double fault.
In the third set, Dimitrov again held his serve before going 0-40 up on Harrison’s serve, winning the game to take a 2-0 lead on yet another forehand error by the American. At 5-2, serving to stay in the match, Harrison again found himself in a deep hole at 0-40, saving the first match-point after Dimitrov netted a sliced backhand at the net.
Dimitrov, who looked ready to shake hands with his opponent already, quickly got over his disappointment, winning the match on his second opportunity by playing a cross-court drop-shot.
It was one of several great touches shown by Dimitrov during the match and the type of game that makes the Bulgarian, seeded 11th, the highest-rated dark-horse contender for the Wimbledon title among bookmakers – he has the shortest odds outside the “big four” of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer (each of whom has won The Championships at least once).
A junior champion at Wimbledon in 2008, Dimitrov has never progressed past the second round at Wimbledon, however. This year, he will face Australian qualifier Luke Saville, ranked 236th in the world (and a Wimbledon junior champion himself in 2011), who surprisingly won against Austrian Dominic Thiem, the world number 57, in four sets.
(Wimbledon’s No.1 Court, where Dimitrov defeated Ryan Harrison in straight sets. Photo: David Pinkney/flickr.com)