Ace at Queen's, now can Dimitrov be king of Wimbledon?
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - When Grigor Dimitrov grasped the Queen's Club trophy after winning the Aegon Championships on Sunday a quick glance at the names engraved on its plinth might have given him goose bumps.
In edging past Spain's Feliciano Lopez in a gripping contest the 23-year-old Bulgarian, long-regarded as a future grand slam champion, etched his name alongside some of the greatest exponents of the grasscourt arts.
John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras all won the traditional Wimbledon warm-up tournament just a few miles away from the All England Club while of the current generation Lleyton Hewitt, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray have all found the slick lawns to their liking.
While winning at Queen's Club is no guarantee of success at Wimbledon, form at the homely Victorian club next to Baron's Court Underground station has traditionally been a useful barometer for the year's third grand slam tournament.
It proved the perfect Wimbledon tune-up for McEnroe in 1981 and 1984, the blue touch paper for flame-haired teenager Becker to rampage to Wimbledon glory in 1985.
Sampras won at Queen's in 1995 and 1999 before serving and volleying his way to the Wimbledon title while Australian Hewitt did the double in 2002.
Nadal's famous de-throning of Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008 was preceded by the title at Queen's while last year Murray triumphed there before ending his country's 77 year-wait for a men's singles champion at the All England Club.
World No.13 Dimitrov, who already has a Wimbledon title to his name, albeit in the boy's singles, seemed well aware of the significance of his 6-7(8) 7-6(1) 7-6(6) win over Lopez - his third title this year, all on different surfaces. Continued...