Wimbledon 2013: 'Baby Federer', Grigor Dimitrov, stumbles in march of new generation

Sharapova's boyfriend lags behind Nishikori and Tomic in race to fill void left by top seeds


With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer gone, the young bloods are queuing up to make a name for themselves here. Today the man dubbed "baby Federer", Grigor Dimitrov, was fighting to stay in the tournament as the Australian Bernard Tomic and Japan's Kei Nishikori led the march of the next generation.

The 22-year-old wishes to be regarded as his own man rather than a clone of the Swiss and would also rather that attention was drawn to his tennis instead of his role in the so-called "love triangle" with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who was watching throughout until the first rain of the week held up his close-fought match with Slovenia's Grega Zemlja at a critical stage.

Seeded 29, Dimitrov had failed to subdue an opponent outside the top 50, who led him 9-8 in the fifth set when to the crowd's frustration, the players exercised the option to come off. Since both men had required medical attention during the preceding three and a half hours of furious tennis, it was understandable.

Indeed, when the Bulgarian and Sharapova got together afterwards, the state of the courts may well have been a topic, Dimitrov having suffered a number of slips and slides against Zemlja similar to those his girlfriend endured in defeat on Wednesday. It will also have been at the back of his mind that, three years ago, his first seniors' match at Wimbledon was curtailed by a knee injury.

Sharapova may well have felt tempted to tell him that he should have killed the match instead of allowing a stubborn Zemlja to steal the second and fourth sets. If Dimitrov has a fault, it appears to be on the big points, which cost him and will do so even more against better players as he and the young generation push to take the next step up.

There is a belief that the average age of active players on the ATP tour may be creeping up. Britain's Kyle Edmund, given a wild card, was the only teenager in the main draw. Even 20- and 21- year-olds are thin on the ground. Tomic, born in October 1992, is as young as any of the survivors here; he made the third round by adding the scalp of James Blake, a veteran of more than 600 matches, to that of another American, the seeded Sam Querrey.

Winning in straight sets, Tomic showed no sign of the hamstring twinge that had caused him to retire from a doubles match against Dimitrov the previous evening; a problem he also suffered during the French Open.

He is growing up fast in having to do without his coach and father, John, who has been banned for allegedly assaulting his son's training partner. Tomic Jnr said he had raised the matter with the authorities without success, but now sounds much more relaxed about it, adding: "I don't think they'll be allowing him in, which is OK. I'm still seeing my dad. As soon as I get back to the house, he tells me what I've done and what I need to do. I think that's why I'm doing well, because I am listening to my dad a little more the past few weeks."

Tomic had a support team urging him on as he overcame the former world No 4 Blake 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. "It's not easy playing a guy like James and I felt really good," he said. The powerful Blake hit more aces and outright winners, but Tomic had the more reliable serve and all-round game.

The best of the new bunch, and one of the most watchable, could be the 23-year-old Japanese stylist Nishikori, already ranked 11th, of whom The Independent's Nick Bollettieri has said: "Shot makers like Kei come once in a generation." Today he found many, but not quite enough, of his best shots being returned by Argentina's Leo Mayer and was able to come through with increasing ease 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. Nishikori was once known, a little unflatteringly, as "Project 45" when the aim was to make him the highest-ranked Japanese player ever by beating Shuzo Matsuoka's 45th spot. He has comfortably done that and should go even higher than his current ranking.

Milos Raonic, who was born in Montenegro but moved to Canada aged three, has long been touted as the best of the new generation without achieving much at Grand Slam level, where he has yet to make a quarter-final. There will be none here for him either, for, unable to make the most of a serve reaching 139mph, he went down in straight sets to the Dutchman Igor Sijsling 7-5, 6-4, 7-6. The Canadian has been spoken about as a potential top-five player, but 22 aces were not matched by the rest of his game and a frustrating run of successive second round defeats was extended to a third Grand Slam.

Suggested Topics
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
REX/Eye Candy
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?