Wimbledon 2014: Young pretenders Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic ready to change the guard

The two 23-year-olds will be looking to topple Djokovic and Federer in this year's semi-finals

wimbledon

At 29, Stan Wawrinka should be regarded as one of the old guard rather than a standard-bearer for the new generation, but that is not how some of the younger players look at him.

When Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov attempt to strike blows for the new wave as they take on Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic respectively in this afternoon’s semi-finals, the two 23-year-olds will be aiming to follow the example Wawrinka set when he won the Australian Open in January. Until Wawrinka triumphed in Melbourne, the Fab Four of Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray had won 33 of the previous 34 Grand Slam tournaments.

As Raonic looked ahead to his meeting with Federer – who beat Wawrinka in the quarter-finals here on Wednesday – the Canadian was in no doubt about his major source of inspiration in terms of the achievements of other players. “The one result that stands out the most this year in my eyes – and maybe other guys’ as well – has to be what Stan did at the beginning of the year,” Raonic said.

“It doesn’t have to be from a young guy. I think it has to be from this group who are considered contenders but haven’t been able to break through. I think that result, with Stan beating Novak and Rafa at the same tournament, was the biggest sign of belief and relief for a lot of guys. You sort of felt like: OK, he did it. I feel like I compete well with this guy. Why can’t I do it’?”

Roger Federer has won 17 Grand Slam titles, including seven Wimbledon championships Roger Federer has won 17 Grand Slam titles, including seven Wimbledon championships (Getty Images)
Raonic and Dimitrov, who will be attempting to become the first Canadian and Bulgarian respectively to reach a men’s Grand Slam final, have long been regarded as two of the brightest prospects among their generation, but both have taken time to make their mark. Raonic, whose compatriot Eugenie Bouchard is already through to tomorrow’s women’s final, had never gone beyond the fourth round of a Slam tournament until the recent French Open, while Dimitrov won his first title less than 12 months ago.

Dimitrov has believed for a while that a changing of the guard is “just around the corner” but acknowledges that the new generation need to perform consistently at the biggest events. Raonic agrees. “The new guys have got to come up and they’ve got to step up,” he said. “We’ve been doing better and better, especially throughout this year.”

Both of the younger men have inferior head-to-head records against their opponents this afternoon. Raonic has lost all four of his matches against Federer, while Dimitrov has won only one of his four meetings with Djokovic. Federer has 17 Grand Slam titles to his name and Djokovic has six.

Raonic, however, is determined not to be over-awed by his opponent’s reputation. He will regard Federer simply as the next man standing in his path as he attempts to become the best player in the world.

“I’m going to step out there and I’m not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion,” the Canadian said. “I’m not playing a 32-year-old man. I’m not playing a father of two sets of twins. I’m not playing the guy that’s won whatever he’s won, which I could probably list quite vividly. I’m playing a guy that is standing in the way of what I want to achieve, and I’ve got to focus on everything that’s there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want.”

Raonic’s huge serve is a major weapon, particularly on grass, but the Canadian has proved over the last fortnight that there is much more to his game than that. He has sometimes failed to deliver on the most important stages in the past, but there have been signs here that he is developing the mental strength to handle the biggest occasions. Dimitrov, meanwhile, has quickly put the shock of his French Open first-round exit behind him and proved during his subsequent 10-match unbeaten run what a formidable performer he is on grass.

Federer believes the reign of the old guard is far from over but welcomes the arrival of fresh blood at the top. “It’s exciting for the game to see new faces like [Nick] Kyrgios, Raonic or [Kei] Nishikori,” he said. “There have been a few guys knocking on the door, though we still don’t have as many teenagers as I would have hoped.

“It’s just hard breaking through. You get the [ranking] points from the semis onwards, not really from the quarters any more like it used to be, so it’s hard I think for a youngster to win or be consistent over three, four, five matches in a row, where the big points are. But other than that, I think it’s good times in tennis right now. There’s a lot of excitement.”

Semi-final: Tales of the tape

N Djokovic/G Dimitrov

66 Career finals 5

44 Career wins 4

13 Slam finals 0

6 Slam wins 0

101 Weeks at No 1 0

£32.3m Career earnings £1.8m

Winner SW19 best SF

R Federer/M Raonic

118 Career finals 10

79 Career wins 5

24 Slam finals 0

17 Slam wins 0

302 Weeks at No 1 0

£43.7m Career earnings £2.7m

Winner x7 SW19 best SF

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future