Murray dethroned as Dimitrov comes of age
Grigor Dimitrov may have just well and truly cast off the 'Baby Federer' tag after serving notice he is ready to win his first grand slam by ensuring Andy Murray's Wimbledon defence went out with a whimper in the quarter-finals.
Queen's champion Dimitrov came of age as he dismantled Murray 6-1 7-6(4) 6-2 in just a minute over two hours, handing him his first straight-sets defeat at Wimbledon since 2010's loss to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
Murray had yet to be truly tested before Wednesday's meeting and hadn't dropped a set at the tournament, though Dimitrov needed just 25 minutes to end that streak on Centre Court. It was the first time Murray had lost a set 6-1 at Wimbledon since his third-round defeat to David Nalbandian in 2005 - his debut year at the tournament.
Dimitrov then pounced to edge a second-set tie-breaker before a double fault from Murray saw him break in the sixth game of the third. As if to emphasise his superiority on the day, Dimitrov broke one last time for the biggest win of his career.
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The 23-year-old now meets top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Should he progress, he may well have the chance to break his grand slam duck against none other than the seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer himself, the man whom for so long he has been likened to because of his similar style of play - primarily the one-handed backhand.
For now, though, Dimitrov - unbeaten in 10 matches on grass - has reached his first ever grand slam semi-final, doing so with a destructive display that Murray simply had no answer to throughout.
Murray and Dimitrov are good friends off the court, frequently practicing together - and the world No.13 admitted he sensed blood immediately during the warm-up and felt that Murray was there for the taking.
"As soon as we started warming up, I said his game was not at his highest level," said Dimitrov. "I was confident and playing good tennis. The first set really helped me get into a good rhythm. The second set tie-break was a key moment for me, then coming into the third set I had a lot of things under control.
"It helps [practicing together], but a match is a different thing. The whole mentality changes. It doesn't really matter. Today was one of those days that I was just pretty steady throughout the whole match.
"It's a tough feeling when you know the person well off the court and have to face them. I have two more matches to play, hopefully. I'm just trying to stay on course and prepare for the next one.
"I'm excited, it's never easy paying against Andy, especially with the home crowd. I've been pretty fortunate today and I'm just happy."
Murray denied that he had been off his game in the warm-up, however. "I felt fine in the warm-up, to be honest, but I obviously got off to a bad start," Murray said. "That was the disappointing thing. It wasn't good enough.
"I played a poor first set. I felt like that gave him confidence. I needed to do better. I had my opportunity to come back into it in the second set but didn't get it.
"It got tighter in the end and could've gone either way. It's a lot easier to settle down when you're two sets up. I might have been able to find a way back in had I got it.
"He played a very solid match and made very few mistakes. He served well and made a lot of returns. All the percentages were in his favour. I wish I'd made it a bit tougher at times. I wish I could've pushed him a bit more. "
Dimitrov broke Murray five times in all to become the first Bulgarian man to advance to the final four of a grand slam. It was also his first victory over a top 10 player at one of the four major tournaments.
"He was the better player from start to finish," Murray said of Dimitrov.
In March, Dimitrov came back from a set down to secure his first victory over Murray at the fourth attempt when he beat him at the semi-final stage on his way to triumphing in Acapulco.
This time Dimitrov, who became the first man to win titles on all three surfaces this season when he won at Queen's, was in front from the off. There was only one man in it during the opening set on Centre Court, with Dimitrov ruthlessly taking both of his break-point opportunities as Murray's first serve floundered.
The Bulgarian saved a break point in his opening game before Murray found the tramlines with a cross-court backhand to hand him a 3-1 lead. Dimitrov then broke again to love to move a game from the opening set, before taking his second set point with a simple overhead.
Murray then went wide to give Dimitrov his first break-point opportunity in the second set, but this time he couldn't take it as Murray forced deuce. However, two loose sliced backhands gave Dimitrov a 4-3 lead in the second set, with Murray slamming his racquet down in anger when he got back to his chair.
The defending champion looked to be down and out in the second set, but Dimitrov, who had hardly put a foot wrong all match, gave him a vital break back with two unforced errors at deuce.
With the Centre Court crowd perking up, Murray slammed down an ace for a crucial hold to force Dimitrov to serve to stay in the second set.
The nerves had most certainly crept in and Dimitrov launched a forehand wide before making his first double fault of the match, but Murray bailed him out by smashing a cross-shot wide and going long with the Bulgarian holding for 5-5.
Murray then got himself out of trouble by saving two break points and firing down a 130mph ace - his best serve of the match - on his way to another crucial hold.
Dimitrov didn't wilt, however, forcing the tie-breaker. The pair started by trading mini-breaks but Dimitrov picked Murray off to go 5-4 ahead as the Scot charged to the net, before serving out for a two-set lead.
A double fault handed Dimitrov the first break of the third set for a 4-3 lead and Murray gave the Bulgarian two match points on his next service game. Murray saved one with a forehand down the line but buried another in the net as Dimitrov wrapped up the win.