By Clare Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) – Grigor Dimitrov announced his return to form at Wimbledon on Thursday, putting out 16th seed Gilles Simon with an exhibition of power, speed and deft touch and declaring it was an “excellent, excellent excellent” feeling.
The 25-year-old Bulgarian has suffered a slump since he reached a career-high ranking of nine in 2014, the year he beat defending champion Andy Murray to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals.
“I was quite a bit unfortunate with some of my matches the past months I would say… but the only thing I can do is give myself the best shot possible,” he said after beating Simon 6-3 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 in the second round.
Now ranked 37th, his opponents knew that he was the dangerous floater in the draw and so it proved for Simon, who has a fine record on grass, having beaten Dimitrov in their last two matches on the surface.
He led the Bulgarian 5-1 head-to head going into the match.
Dimitrov was clearly in command from the start on Thursday. He won nearly 80 per cent of the points on his booming first serve which he sent down at 130 mph (209 kph).
But it was not all plain sailing for the inconsistent Dimitrov, who, after allowing Simon only one point in the second-set tiebreak, struggled again to keep his mind on the match.
A break point he failed to convert at the start of the third set unsettled him.
“I didn’t think about it, but I knew he’s gonna change his game a little bit and the problem is I fell into that trap,” Dimitrov said.
“I was just following his game for a set. I think that didn’t help me at all. I started taking the wrong decisions, and I was not following my game plan. I was not going after my shots enough,” he added.
Dimitrov was dubbed “Baby Fed” when he came on to the circuit because of his all-round skill and easy-on-the-eye athleticism.
It took him till the eighth game of the fourth set to regain the steely mindset enjoyed by seven-times champion Roger Federer.
He admonished himself. “Okay, you can’t do that again and I tried to correct myself.”
Ramping up the pressure and finding that extra measure of creativity, he broke Simon’s serve twice in a row to win the match that had started on Wednesday evening.
“I had quite a bit of fuel in the tank, which is a good sign. I was going after my shots…so it was a good match overall for me,” he said.
Dimitrov will meet Steve Johnson of the United States in the third round.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)