LONDON (Reuters) - It would be fair to say that 2015 has not worked out as planned for Grigor Dimitrov, but that has just made the Bulgarian more determined to prove his doubters wrong.
While he moved seamlessly into the third round at Wimbledon on Wednesday with a 7-6(8) 6-2 7-6(2) win over American Steve Johnson, his failure to build on the successes of 2014 mean few are tipping him to match his run to the semi-finals last year.
The man, whose fluent backhand and effortless movement have earned him the ‘Baby Federer’ moniker, ruffled feathers at the All England Club 12 months ago when he sent 2013 champion Andy Murray packing.
That was meant to be the first step on the road to even greater achievements.
Yet having won three titles on three different surfaces in 2014, the 11th-ranked Dimitrov has drawn a blank since the turn of the year.
Pundits have since questioned whether he can stay free from numerous off-court distractions and realize his potential.
“I would love when that day comes so I can prove everyone wrong, but in the same time prove to myself I can be the best I can be,” he told reporters.
There was little cause for concern against Johnson, not even the soaring mercury which rose to record levels as a heatwave swept across London and baked the lawns of the All England Club.
“Everyone was talking about it’s hot, it’s hot,” he said. “To me it was just such good weather today. I was smiling when I came out on the court.”
There were times, however, in the first and third sets against Johnson when he was not smiling, principally as the American’s serve stayed strong and resisted all efforts to be broken.
The first set was decided by a nip-and-tuck tiebreak in which Johnson spurned two set points, but the second set was a far more one-sided affair as Dimitrov broke twice.
After the third set passed by without either player laying a glove on the other’s serve, Dimitrov stormed into a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak before Johnson double-faulted on match point, leaving Dimitrov to ponder a testing third-round clash with Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
“Not an easy one,” Dimitrov said. “But I like my chances. I think with every match I‘m raising my game and, hopefully, next match I‘m playing even better.”
Editing by Ed Osmond