By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – Nine years to the day after lifting the boys title at Wimbledon, Grigor Dimitrov moved effortlessly into the third round of the main draw amid signs that he could be ready to realise his enormous potential.
The Bulgarian, who swatted away Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 6-2 6-1 on Thursday, has long been thought of as a potential grand slam winner.
Yet after beating Wimbledon champion Andy Murray en route to the semi-finals in 2014, his career has stalled.
That year he won three tour titles and also reached the last eight at the Australian Open, flourishing an exquisite backhand that had earned him the nickname ‘Baby Federer’, after the Swiss maestro.
Following that, however, he went almost three years without adding a trophy or staying in a grand slam past the fourth round.
There were also questions about his private life as he got dragged into a public spat between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, whom he dated until 2015.
His fortunes seem to have improved this year, however, and a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open, where he fell in a titanic five-set battle with Rafa Nadal, and tour titles in Sofia and Brisbane are testament to his improved form.
On a sun-baked Court Two on Thursday he looked less like “Baby Federer” and more like the real thing as he made light work of Baghdatis, another former semi-finalist at the All England Club.
The Bulgarian looked intensely focussed as he raced through his opening four service games, conceding just two points, before breaking for a 5-3 lead and then wrapping up the first set in the next game with his third ace.
It was then a case of simply tightening his stranglehold, which he did by breaking Baghdatis in the first game of the second and again in the seventh, eventually taking the set after a behind-the-back trickshot.
Dimitrov did not have everything his own way in the third, and was forced to save seven break points, but still broke three times himself to claim an emphatic win, which he sealed with a superb diving volley.
That provided a picture-perfect end to the anniversary of his junior Wimbledon title.
“I won Wimbledon nine years ago as a junior. Well, my goal is to win Wimbledon now,” he told reporters.
“Every time I go to (Wimbledon’s practice courts)… I always see the board out there and see my name. Every year I take a picture…
“Hopefully I can come back one day here and take a picture on that (main draw) side.
(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Louise Ireland and Neil Robinson)