Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov ended Andy Murray’s Wimbledon title defence in straight sets 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 to advance to his first Grand Slam semi-final.
The Bulgarian, seeded 11th to Murray’s third seed, settled quickly after a nervous first service game and saving a break-point, romping through the first set to win it in just 25 minutes.
Murray – who has looked dominant in his first four matches in this year’s tournament, during which he did not drop a single set – looked very off-colour and never really got going in the first frame, scoring only two winners and committing nine unforced errors (almost a mirror image of Dimitrov’s numbers, who had nine winners and three errors).
Where Murray’s service often deserted him (he was abysmal on second serve, winning just 31 per cent of points), Dimitrov repeatedly bailed himself out with his strong serves while showing his great range, winning an increasing amount of long rallies.
In the second set, the two settled into a pattern of holding service, but at 3-3, Murray showed signs of frustration when he netted an easy overhead shot. Sensing weakness, Dimitrov continued to play aggressively, getting the break of service, but Murray rallied to break right back.
Dimitrov, who had made only six errors at that point, showed some signs of nerves, but managed to snuff Murray’s opening to turn the match around, holding service to push the match into a tie-break, which he won 7-4.
The Bulgarian did not need any help from Murray, but he got it anyway when the Briton gifted him a break of service with a double fault. After holding his own service, Dimitrov had two match-points, converting the second to end the match in just two hours.
“I’m excited. I’m just happy I went through that match in straight sets. It’s never easy playing Andy – especially in front of that home crowd. As soon as we started warming up, I sensed his game wasn’t at the highest level. The first set helped me get in a good rhythm,” Dimitrov told BBC after the match.
Even before his win over Murray, Dimitrov was assured of becoming the first Bulgarian to break into the ATP Tour top 10, having advanced further in the tournament than both Kei Nishikori of Japan and Ernests Gulbis of Latvia – two other members of a new pack of younger players looking to push the ATP Tour’s “big four” of Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
After the win, Dimitrov will jump ahead of Murray when the next rankings are out on July 7.
It was the second win this year over Murray for Dimitrov, who also won their three-set semi-final in Acapulco in spring (then going on to lift his first title of the year). Murray won the previous three meetings, including in Brisbane in January 2013, in Dimitrov’s first career final on the ATP Tour.
The Bulgarian, who was seen by bookmakers as the most likely to break the monopoly the “big four” in Grand Slams, is now on a 10-match winning streak on grass, having won the title at the Queen’s Club before Wimbledon.
To do so, he will need to beat another member of that club, world number two Novak Djokovic (whom he has beaten once in four attempts, on clay in Madrid last year), who won a hard-fought five-setter against Croatian 26th-seed Marin Cilic to progress to the semi-final stage.
(Photo: David Pinkney/flickr.com)