• Wimbledon

Dimitrov's love match spells trouble for Murray

Mark Hodgkinson
July 1, 2014
Maria Sharapova watches boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov at Wimbledon © Getty Images

You can't blame Maria Sharapova - the sugar queen of Wimbledon Village, with her pop-up Candy Lounge on the High Street - for Britain's obesity crisis.

But it wouldn't be unreasonable to hold the Siberian responsible for Andy Murray being bumped out of Wimbledon, should that happen. Or, at least, partly responsible. If the Wimbledon champion were to lose Wednesday's quarter-final against Grigor Dimitrov - an occasion which promises to delight those who like some touch and variety on the lawns - the Bulgarian's girlfriend would have had something to do with it.

As if her Sugarpova venture, and being a contender for the women's Venus Rosewater Dish, weren't enough for Sharapova, she also has some influence over the men's singles tournament here. John McEnroe and Mats Wilander are among those who consider Dimitrov to have the talent to possibly win this summer's title and there's no doubt that Dimitrov's coach, Australian Roger Rasheed, has done a fine job at developing the Eastern European.

But you have to imagine that being in a relationship with Sharapova - who has the mental fortitude to shame a KGB operative - will have had an effect on the way that Dimitrov goes about his business, on and off the court.

If Dimitrov were single, or romancing anyone but Sharapova, Murray would be facing an easier route to the semi-finals.

In Sharapova's words, Dimitrov is more gifted at tennis than she is. Certainly, Dimitrov's game is quite different to Sharapova's. While the Russian's tennis is built around power and cuffing the ball through the grass, Dimitrov has a more cultured game. Indeed, such is the elegance of Dimitrov's tennis that he has attracted comparisons with Roger Federer's sophisticated play, though it's difficult to see how those conversations, and the 'Baby Fed' nickname, have helped him.

There's more to Dimitrov than pretty shots; you don't make the quarter finals of Wimbedon without having a Sharapova-like hardness

For several years now, Dimitrov, a 23-year-old currently ranked No.13 in the world, has been spoken of as a possible grand slam champion of the future, and perhaps that breakthrough major will come on grass. Over the past month - winning the title at Queen's Club, and then during his first four appearances here as he became a member of Wimbledon's Last Eight Club - he has demonstrated that his tennis is extremely effective on the sport's original surface. There's more to Dimitrov, whose first grand slam quarter final appearance was at January's Australian Open, than pretty shots; you don't make the quarter-finals of Wimbledon without having a Sharapova-like hardness.

So Dimitrov goes into this meeting with Murray on a nine-match undefeated run on London's grass, while Murray is unbeaten in his last 17 matches at the All England Club, made up of the six match victories during the Olympic tournament, plus the seven wins last summer, and then the four this year. And this is the seventh successive year that Murray has made the quarter finals. This summer, he has progressed into the last eight without dropping a set, although he came within a point of conceding one against South Africa's Kevin Anderson (he saved the set point by landing a big serve).

When that fourth-round match was played outdoors, Murray was totally in command. With the intervention of the rain, the roof was closed and they effectively went indoors, making it much more of a contest. Perhaps that was because Anderson was galvanised during the break (while the roof was being closed); or perhaps it's because playing indoors suits a player who is 6ft 8in with a gargantuan serve. But Murray made it through, and he can hardly complain about the weather.

He's in a far better place than Rafa Nadal and Federer, in the bottom half of the draw, who would ordinarily have played their respective fourth-round matches on Monday. But, because of the backlog caused by Saturday's rain, have been held back until Tuesday. That's all to Murray's advantage.

Still, we get ahead of ourselves. The bottom half of the draw only becomes Murray's concern if he makes the final. Now he has to deal with Dimitrov. And, in a way, with Sharapova, too.

Grigor Dimitrov won the boys singles at Wimbledon in 2008, the same year Laura Robson won the girls' equivalent © PA Photos

Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray. He is writing daily for ESPN during Wimbledon.

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