MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tired of being called “Baby Fed” and better known for being Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend, Grigor Dimitrov took a step towards making a name for himself as he reached the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time on Saturday.
The 22nd seeded Bulgarian upset Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3 3-6 6-4 7-6 (12-10) to advance to a showdown against unseeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista for a place in the last eight of the Australian Open.
“I‘m definitely satisfied that I have gone through (but) for me it’s just another win,” Dimitrov told reporters after defeating the 11th seeded Raonic.
”I think it’s a great stepping stone for me to get into that second week I keep talking about.
“I have practiced a lot. I have done a lot of homework. So, to me, in a way, it’s a bit expected. So I feel really good coming into the second week.”
From the moment he won junior Wimbledon in 2008 with a flowing style reminiscent of Federer, Dimitrov has been likened to the 17-times grand slam champion.
Initially taken as a compliment, the Baby Fed tag soon became a burden and although Dimitrov has asked people not to use the moniker any more, it has stuck.
“What can I say? 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.”
The Bulgarian recently signed up as part of Federer’s new agency, Team8, which includes Juan Martin Del Potro.
Federer said on Saturday he had been watching Dimitrov’s match in the locker-room and believed his new client was capable of big things.
“For him, it’s just a question of staying injury-free right now, training hard at the same time and playing in a lot of tournaments, just getting out there and facing the music every other week,” Federer said.
“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.”
Having Federer on side will surely help but Dimitrov admits it has been difficult to shake off the expectations of others.
”They play in my head sometimes,“ he said. ”It’s not easy, obviously. Of course everyone would talk and everyone would say, whatever.
”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. There is no one else that can put the expectation that I can put on me.
“So that’s why sometimes it’s tough to have, you know, that pressure on your shoulders.”
Editing by John O'Brien