“Wake up Andy” – rang out the booming cry of desperation from the crowd.
That plea, and those from 14,999 other Centre Court fans fell on deaf ears as Andy Murray’s 12-month reign as Wimbledon champion was ended by a player who until Wednesday had been better known as “Baby Fed” or “Mr Sharapova”.
Grigor Dimitrov stepped out from the shadows of his superstar girlfriend Maria Sharapova as he broke British hearts with a sublime 6-1 7-6(4) 6-2 quarter-final victory over a rival who had been unbeaten at the All England Club since 2012.
The third seed had confidently marched into the last eight without dropping a set but his meek abdication on Wednesday left the crowd, which included Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge, stunned into silence.
The Scot who had sparked wild celebrations around the country a year ago when he became the first home-grown men’s champion in 77 years, appeared to sleepwalk through a one-sided first set, raised false hopes of a fightback in the second and was simply outclassed in the third.
“He was the better player from start to finish,” Murray summed up after Dimitrov ended his 17-match winning steak at the All England Club which included an Olympic gold medal.
Such was the quality of the exquisite winners flying off Dimitrov’s racket, Murray might have thought he was on the receiving end of a Roger Federer masterclass.
But whereas Dimitrov once revelled in the comparisons with the seven-times Wimbledon champion, and the “Baby Fed” tag”, he became his own man on Wednesday by showcasing a breathtaking arsenal of weapons that left Murray down and out.
Asked if he was taken aback with the manner of his no-nonsense victory, Dimitrov fired back: “Why would I have to be surprised?
“There was nothing extraordinary, if I may say so.”
His excitement at becoming the first Bulgarian man to reach the last four of a grand slam was also rather muted. There were no roars, no falling to the knees, no exaggerated fist pumps in the direction of his coach Roger Rasheed.
He simply tilted his head back and blew a kiss to the heavens above and left a deflated Murray to reflect on a day when nothing went his way.
“Today was a bad day. I made many mistakes, unforced errors, and then started going for too much and taking chances that weren’t really there,” Murray said after failing to reach the last four here for the first time since 2008.
“I think I hit maybe one backhand winner the entire match, which isn’t normally what I do, especially on this surface.
“Couldn’t seem to get my legs in the right place to hit the right shots.”
The legs certainly appeared to be moving through a vat full of treacle for two agonising hours as a sense of disbelief descended over the All England Club.
From 1-1 in the first set, the twice grand slam champion lost five games on the trot and his frustrations were compounded as he allowed Dimitrov to string together 13 spell-binding points without even getting a look-in.
When the set was all over in a mere 25 minutes, with Dimitrov swatting away a smash following a 21-stroke rally, the Bulgarian even held up his racket apologetically.
Realising that their man was in trouble, the crowd abandoned usual Wimbledon etiquette and began to wildly applaud Dimitrov’s errors in the second set.
Unfortunately for them and Murray, those errors were few and far between, with Dimitrov’s only blip being in the eighth game when he allowed Murray to break back and level for 4-4.
When Murray surrendered the tiebreak with a lunging effort into the net from a Dimitrov volley, radio silence set in.
Hopes that he could launch a fightback from two sets down – as he did at the same stage 12 months ago against Fernando Verdasco – never looked likely as he dropped his serve with a double fault in the sixth game, after which he faded away.
A day after one excited British observer noted that Murray “has been playing a little bit like God”, Dimitrov proved that he was a mere mortal.
Asked if his girlfriend, the 2004 champion, had any tips for him going forward, Dimitrov grinned: “She says, ‘win it’. I think that’s a good tip.”
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