Dimitrov spoils party for Murray, fans


LONDON -- These are the days everyone here lives for, the sky dotted with small white clouds and impossibly blue as glorious sunshine warmed the stately grounds at the All England Club.

The local hero, Andy Murray, was playing on a jam-packed Centre Court in front of adoring fans; Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate -- sans Prince George -- watched attentively from the royal box. On Henman Hill, thousands followed the action on the big screen attached to Court No. 1.

Everything was in its proper place Wednesday -- with the single exception of Murray's opponent, Grigor Dimitrov.

The 23-year-old Bulgarian showed no deference to the defending champion, cleaning Murray's clock 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

On a day featuring four delicious men's quarterfinal matchups, this one was a complete stunner. Dimitrov's response was restrained and almost subdued, perhaps because he considers Murray a good friend. While Murray waited for Dimitrov to pack his bags, the crowd fell awfully, eerily silent.

Dimitrov is through to the first major semifinal of his career.

"I'm just happy I went through that match in straight sets," Dimitrov said minutes afterward. "It's never easy to play Andy, especially with the home crowd. As soon as he stared warming up, I noticed his game wasn't at the highest level."

It is said that in a few years' time the club will install a new amphitheater-style court to be named after Murray. This two-hour match won't be one of the highlights played at the opening ceremony.

Murray, who had been looking for his sixth consecutive appearance in the Wimbledon semifinals, saw his 17-match winning streak at the All England Club come to an end. Dimitrov, following the example 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios set against Rafael Nadal the day before, beat a top-10 player in a Grand Slam for the first time.

Was there something wrong with Murray?

"No," he said, pointedly. "I started the match badly, and I think that gave him confidence. He was the better player from start to finish. Whatever the tactics were, I didn't execute them as well as I would have liked."

Murray came into his own two years ago, reaching the final at Wimbledon, then winning the Olympic gold medal and the US Open. This year, the stylish Dimitrov has entered his prime. It may not be a coincidence that this victory will vault Dimitrov ahead of Murray in the ATP World Tour rankings and into the top 10 for the first time.

Dimitrov reached the first major quarterfinal of his career earlier this year in Melbourne. At Wimbledon, he was one of five newcomers to the quarterfinals. Along with Kyrgios and Milos Raonic, he is part of what looks to be an inevitable changing of the guard. Dimitrov entered the match as a 16-to-1 shot in the eyes of the British bookmakers.

How do they like him now that he has won all nine of his matches this year on grass and 10 in a row overall?

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