LONDON (Reuters) - Grigor Dimitrov stopped listening to the Roger Federer comparisons years ago but produced tennis the Swiss maestro would have been proud of to destroy David Goffin and reach the semi-finals of the ATP Finals on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old has not always handled the expectations placed on his shoulders after he won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 with a game style uncannily like Federer‘s.
But after qualifying for the ATP Finals for the first time having climbed to a career-high sixth in the world, Dimitrov is starting to revel on the sport’s biggest stages.
His 6-0 6-2 thrashing of Belgium’s Goffin in the O2 Arena followed Monday’s tense three-set win over Dominic Thiem when he became the first Bulgarian to take part in the elite tournament for the top eight players in its 48-year history.
Goffin, another first-time qualifier, battled to victory against hobbling world number one Rafael Nadal on Monday, but was powerless to stop Dimitrov in full flow.
Despite Wednesday’s defeat, Goffin will face Thiem on Friday for a place in the semi-finals after the Austrian beat Pablo Carreno Busta, who was drafted into the draw following Nadal’s withdrawal, 6-3 3-6 6-4.
When Dimitrov led 6-0 3-0 and 30-0 on the Goffin serve it seemed he would match one of the myriad records Federer holds - the only “double-bagel” victory achieved in the tournament.
Six-times ATP Finals champion Federer, who reached the last four on Tuesday, beat then French Open champion Gaston Gaudio 6-0 6-0 in 2005 when the event was held in Shanghai.
Goffin avoided that humiliation, holding serve in the 10th game, but the cheers that accompanied that feat were out of sympathy not expectation that a contest might be about to start.
He managed another game but Dimitrov, who claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati this year and reached the Australian Open semi-finals, was on another level.
He won 12 of the first 15 points, struck 18 winners, won 72 percent of his service points and only faced one break point.
“I was just thinking, there are only a few days in the year when everything you touch turns to gold and that was the first set,” Dimitrov said.
“But I work for those days. And when it comes on such an occasion, it’s special. ”My movement was great, I was reading the game really well and believing in my shots.
“The next thing you know the match is over.”
Goffin wore tape on his left knee but declared himself 100 percent fit.
“It was just a tough, tough match against Grigor who played really well. It’s life,” the world number eight said.
Thiem was dragged into a final set for a second successive match but made sure this time he would be the one holding aloft his arms in victory after firing down his 12th ace to end Carreno Busta’s hopes of advancing any further in the event.
Additonal reporting by Pritha Sarkar,; Editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis