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Djokovic must turn on style to halt the Dimitrov charge

By John Skilbeck

Top seed Novak Djokovic meets Andy Murray's conqueror Grigor Dimitrov in a last-four clash today aiming for his third appearance in the final at SW19.

The Bulgarian has been urged by girlfriend Maria Sharapova to go on and lift the trophy, while Djokovic has opened the mind games by declaring 11th seed Dimitrov is "the man to beat".

Serbian Djokovic is determined that at the age of 27 he should have many years left at the top, but he is not blind to the creeping threat of the new generation.

"We have these youngsters coming up, fearless on the court, hitting the ball, not caring who is across the net," Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, said.

"It's good. It gets more attention to new faces and to a new wave that is able to challenge the best and be contending for Grand Slam titles.

"Dimitrov won in straight sets and he deserves respect for that.

"Of course, he must have played an incredible match. To beat Andy on grass is a very difficult challenge."

When asked what effect Rafael Nadal and Murray's defeats had on his chances, he added: "It doesn't affect me at all because I just try to focus on my own matches – that's something I can influence.

"Media and fans are always expecting the top guys to reach the final stages.

"If it doesn't happen, it's obviously a surprise. It proves in a Grand Slam you cannot underestimate any opponents.

"There are new young players that are challenging the best and are winning against the best players in the world.

"That's why they deserve to be where they are now."

Meanwhile, Tim Henman laughed off Djokovic's claim that Dimitrov is now the tournament favourite after lifting the Queen's Club title and remaining unbeaten on grass this year.

"I'll believe that when I see it: Novak's the favourite, he's the number one seed, he's won six Grand Slams," he said.

"This is Dimitrov's first grand slam semi-final, so I'm not quite sure how Novak comes to that conclusion.

"It would be enormous for Dimitrov to win Wimbledon: he's going to have a huge future whatever happens, we've known that for a long time.

"He moved fantastically well yesterday, he's got a good head on his shoulders and a good team around him.

"So whether it happens here, at the US Open or next year, Dimitrov I'm sure will win one eventually."

Dimitrov has added steel to his talent and really believes he is ready.

"It's something that I've worked for, to get on to that stage, come out and switch to another gear," he said.

"I know it's going to be a battle. I've just got to be really composed and do the things I've been doing.

"We all know how Novak is competing and how he's playing when he's at his top level.

"I'm not expecting an easy match of course.

"But I'm out there to go through the round, to win the match.

"Now it's a semi-final match. He has the experience and all that behind him, but at the same time, I've been playing great tennis. I believe in my skills at the moment."

Djokovic, who was taken to five sets by Marin Cilic in the last eight, has spent the most time on court of any of the four semi-finalists at 12 hours and seven minutes – almost two hours longer than Dimitrov.

The Serb has won three of the pair's four previous meetings however, dispatching Dimitrov in straight sets in their most recent meeting at Roland Garros.

While Djokovic will return to the top of the world rankings with victory in Sunday's final, Dimitrov would achieve a piece of national history if he wins. The 23-year-old would be the first Bulgarian player to reach a Grand Slam final.

Belfast Telegraph

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