Grigor Dimitrov rips defending champ Andy Murray in Wimbledon quarters
LONDON -- No. 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov upset defending champion Andy Murray 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 at Wimbledon on Wednesday to make a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.
Dimitrov, 23, became the first Bulgarian man to reach the Wimbledon semifinals and recorded his first victory over a top-10 player at a major. He also snapped Murray's 17-match winning streak at the All England Club, which included the Brit's Olympic gold medal in 2012, the Wimbledon title in '13 and four straight-set victories this year. Dimitrov improved to 10-0 on grass in 2014, having won the Aegon Championships last month.
"I'm proud of what I did," Dimitrov said. "But it's something that I've worked for, to get onto that stage, come out, and switch to another gear. It's a quarterfinal match, playing against the defending champion, against a gentleman like Andy. That adds a lot."
There's no way around it: This was a Bulgarian beat down. Murray's nine games are the fewest he's won at Wimbledon since managing the same number against Rafael Nadal in a straight-set loss in the 2008 semifinals. This marked the first time in six years that Murray, whose grass-court prowess had lifted him to No. 3 in the seeding formula despite being ranked No. 5, failed to advance to the semifinals here.
Murray chalked it up to a bad day and rued his inability to earn an early break in the first set to put the pressure on Dimitrov, who was playing in his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.
"I started the match badly," Murray said. "And I think that gave him confidence."
Dimitrov, ranked No. 13, dominated the first set by hitting nine winners against three errors and converting both break-point chances against Murray, who had two winners and nine errors. Murray fell behind a break in the second set but rallied to force a tiebreaker, which Dimitrov won with three consecutive points from 4-4. The third set stayed on serve until Murray double-faulted to give Dimitrov a 4-2 lead, and Dimitrov broke again in the final game of the match.
While Dimitrov's shot-making flair attracts attention, his defense remains underrated. Murray forced a physical second set, full of grinding rallies hoping to test Dimitrov's resilience, but the youngster stood tall. Murray finished with 37 unforced errors, compared 18 for Dimitrov, who told the BBC that he felt something was off with Murray's game during the warm-up. The Brit dismissed that idea; he was striking the ball well in practice, but was out of position on too many shots and surprised by Dimitrov's tactics and execution.
"He played better tennis than me for the entire match," Murray said.
This was the first time that Murray did not at least match the previous year's result at Wimbledon. It was also his first loss to a player ranked outside the top 10 at the grass major since 2006.
"I started the tournament well," Murray said. "Today was a bad day. I made many mistakes, and then started going for too much and taking chances that weren't really there."
Earlier in the tournament, Dimitrov said he thought the breakthrough for the younger generation of players was just around the corner.
"I didn't know it was that around the corner," he said after the match. "I mean, what can I say? We want to win. The younger guys, we want to come on that stage. We strive for this. We're thirsty for that. We want to prove ourselves."
"If you play against a player like a Nick Kyrgios or Dimitrov or Milos Raonic, and you don't play very well, it's tough to win those matches now," said Murray, who has lost to Dimitrov twice and the 23-year-old Raonic once this year. "Whereas before, maybe when they're younger and a bit inexperienced, you can still find ways to come through."
Murray will be ranked no higher than No. 10 after the tournament. Since winning Wimbledon last year he has lost in straight sets in three of four majors, and his performance in those matches has been disappointing. He has an extended break until the next string of big hard-court tournaments in North America, and he'll use it to hit the practice court. He has just 630 points to defend for the remainder of the season after undergoing back surgery last fall.
"I need to have a think about things, what are the things I need to improve, and get myself in better shape and work even harder," Murray said. "Because everyone's starting to get better. The younger guys are now obviously becoming more mature and improving all the time. I need to make some improvements to my game."
As for his partnership with coach Amelie Mauresmo, which was on a trial basis through the grass season, Murray said the two will talk over the next few days to determine whether they will continue.
"It has to come from both sides," Murray said. "I've really enjoyed the last couple of weeks. I've found it good fun. I found it calming. Tactically, I feel like the chats have been good. Also the direction that I would like my tennis to go in. So I hope so, but we'll need to sit down and chat."
Dimitrov will play No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. The Serb rallied to beat Marin Cilic 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Djokovic is 3-1 against Djokovic, but the Bulgarian, who will make his top-10 debut on Monday, is full of confidence.
"Of course, he has the experience and all that behind him," Dimitrov said. "But at the same time, I've been playing great tennis. I believe in my skills at the moment."
Here is Dimitrov's postmatch interview with the BBC: