If you need to learn a thing or two about patience, Grigor Dimitrov could give you a few handy pointers.
Long striving to shake the “Baby Fed” moniker he earned as a junior, the 22-year-old took a crucial step in the right direction by reaching the second week of a major for the first time on Saturday.
The Bulgarian required five match points and saved two set points in a marathon fourth set on his way to upsetting Canadian 11th seed Milos Raonic 6-3 3-6 6-4 7-6(10) in the third round.
The kid with some of the most fluid strokes and effortless movement seen since, well, you-know-who conjured the shot of the match to bring up match point deep in the fourth-set tiebreak, flicking a backhand pass on the run up the line past his huge-serving opponent. Dimitrov had worked the Margaret Court Arena crowd into a frenzy, and held strong to take the tie-break 12 points to 10, and with it, the match.
Last year, it appeared Dimitrov, who won his first tour title in October and finished with a top-25 ranking for the first time, was slowly but surely making a name in his own right, without comparisons to that great Swiss player.
“We have debated that for quite some time, and we have said it loud and clear that my name is Grigor. I think I'm proving that every day and every match that I'm winning out here in the slams, so I think that page is definitely in the past now,” he said afterwards.
“I think it's a great stepping-stone for me to get into that second week that I keep talking about. But I have practised a lot. I have done a lot of homework. So, to me, in a way it's a bit expected.”
The 23-year-old Raonic, with five titles to his name, is only six months older than his Bulgarian opponent but has had his first taste of life in the top 10, albeit briefly, last year.
With arguably the biggest serve in the men’s game, Raonic has made inroads into improving his movement and becoming more effective off the ground with Ivan Ljubicic as his coach, but was unable to match Dimitrov for consistency throughout the 2hr 36min battle.
Against such a big serve, Dimitrov needed to draw on every bit of that patience he had in reserve.
“It wasn't easy conditions. It was a bit windy, and a bit swirly and all that. But, I mean, definitely not easy. Milos is one of the biggest servers out there, and I just have to have a lot of patience and use every momentum I had in the match,” he said.
“You know, there was some tight rallies here and there, but I guess that's in the game. At the same time, I was really happy to play on that court. It was full house and that brought an extra good feeling in the end.”
As for those expectations, building since he burst onto the scene as a junior Wimbledon and US Open champion, Dimitrov admitted they had been a burden in the past.
“Yeah, they play in my head sometimes,” he grinned.
“I think the biggest expectation always comes from me. There is no one else that can put the expectation that I can put on me, so that's why sometimes it's tough to have, you know, that pressure on your shoulder.”
Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who dumped Juan Martin del Potro out of the tournament in the second round, is his next hurdle before a potential quarterfinal against Rafael Nadal.
There’s even a chance he could meet that great Swiss player in the semifinals.
Could he even go two steps further than that to win the tournament?
“That’s a great question,” he said.
“I will answer next week.”