Wimbledon Fourth Round Preview Roger Federer Vs Grigor Dimitrov
If Roger Federer is to win a historic eighth Wimbledon trophy this season, it would be only poetic for him to defeat Grigor Dimitrov along the way.
The 13th seeded Bulgarian was touted by the tennis bards as the heir to the Federer throne all the way back in 2008 when he won the Wimbledon Boys’ singles title, the same year Federer lost a final for the first time in SW19 and talk of the Swiss’ demise started doing the rounds.
Neither the Dimitrov rise or the Federer demise came to pass, however. Nine years on and Federer, tennis’ Odysseus, the reigning Australian Open champion, is still winning rounds in slams, and is the favorite to win a record 19th this week. Meanwhile, Dimitrov, aged 26, the age Federer was when he lost that 2008 Wimbledon final, has managed to reach just two slam semis (Wimbledon 2014, Australian Open 2017), his tale more often than not seeming to belong in the tragic rather than epic section of the tennis poetry anthology.
Dimitrov’s tale did begin to sound more upbeat earlier this season when he showed glimpses of promise fulfilled, winning Brisbane and taking Nadal to five in the Australian Open semis, but he did not carry that consistency or spark into the rest of the season, only looking lively again once he hit the Grass, reaching the AEGON championship semis and not dropping a set on the way to this Wimbledon last sixteen match with Federer.
Hyping Dimitrov as the next Federer was always going to be just that, though. Hype which has been both unjustified amid the current tennis conditions favoring maturer players and unfair in the pressure it put on a young man already dealing with being a millionaire, a celebrity and a pin-up before his teen years were over as well as having to live up to the prophecy of being the second coming.
No player is likely to match Federer’s achievements or popularity in the near future, especially in the tennis world Dimitrov currently competes in, a world far different to the one the Bulgarian youngster would have dreamed of competing in, a tennis sphere in which teens and men in their early 20s such as Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick were slam champs and world No.1s. That world is light-years away now in the ever changing universe of modern sport, a different planet to the one we live in now, a golden orb spinning too slow, conditions wise, for youthful reflexes and ambition to fully thrive, too dense, schedule wise, for young bodies to fully grow into unharmed, and too heavy at the top for young contender’s minds to bloom out from under and grow into those of champions.
The current trend of elite tennis players in their late 20s and 30s playing championship matches for slam titles while those in their mid 20s hobble along in limbo does not look like it will end anytime soon if Federer’s current form is anything to go by– Federer, aged 35, even with a head cold, playing at 50%, won his third round match versus Mischa Zverev, a 29 year old classic Grass court serve and volleyer at the height of his career, in straight sets, hitting 61 winners.
If Federer’s form in the lead in to this last sixteen match versus Dimitrov is ominous for the 13th seed, wait until we get to the head to head. The Swiss, who said he hoped to be 100% by his last sixteen match, leads Dimitrov 5-0, all five matches played on some of his favorite surfaces – indoor hard in Basel (2013, 2014), outdoor hard in Brisbane (2015, 2016), and in Melbourne (2016) – and the third seed has dropped just two sets, both of them in their last two encounters.
If Federer is 100% in today’s last match on Center Court, expect that dominance to continue, a dominance full of rhyme and reason, easy to understand, easy on the eye or ear. Dimitrov’s classic all-court, aggressive, shot-making style of play, one which earned him the nickname ‘Baby Fed’, is one Federer recites by heart because the heart is where the Swiss himself plays it from, a style which the seven times Wimbledon champ was born singing, and nowhere is he more comfortable executing that song at its poetic best than Wimbledon.
Dimitrov has his poem to write, too, though, and if he is serious about getting scribbling, he is going to have to put in a performance to remember, a piece of tennis folklore well worth tuning in to, much like Federer’s defeat of Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon 2001 last sixteen, a piece of pure poetry which brought to life the opening verse of Federer’s Wimbledon career, and, sixteen years on, versus Dimitrov this Wimbledon last sixteen, Federer looks ready to compose a perfectly timed line to be sung in the closing stanzas.
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