By Ian Ransom
YOUNG upstarts Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov have caused quite a stir at Wimbledon over the last two weeks with a string of fine performances but the pair know they must rise to the challenges that await them in the men’s semi-finals on Friday.
With defending champion Andy Murray booted out of the tournament by Dimitrov and Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios dismantling two-time winner Rafael Nadal, only Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic remain from the so-called Big Four in men’s tennis.
The emergence of the young guns has been the topic of conversation at the All England Club and an expectant Centre Court crowd will wait with baited breath to see how Raonic and Dimitrov compete against two of the game’s most accomplished performers in Federer and Djokovic.
Eighth seed Raonic, who became the first Canadian to reach Wimbledon’s last four since 1908, comes up against seven-time champion Federer, while Bulgarian Dimitrov meets 2011 winner Djokovic for a place in the final.
Raonic has not beaten Federer in four attempts but the 23-year-old, who regularly thunders 135mph serves past his opponents, is confident he can unsettle the silky Swiss with his brutal shot making.
“I’ve got in close with him in the past and I’ve found a lot of things that give me belief that I can do this,” said Raonic who beat teenage sensation Kyrgios in Wednesday’s quarter-final.
“I’m playing a guy that is standing in my 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.
“But there’s no point to talk about it. I’ve got to step up and do it.”
After winning his fourth career title and his first on grass at the prestigious Queen’s Club event in London earlier this month, 11th-seed Dimitrov has continued his fine form on the Wimbledon grass courts.
Dimitrov, who is the first Bulgarian man to reach the last four of a grand slam, took No.3 seed Murray apart with consummate ease during Wednesday’s straight sets victory.
Murray had no response to Dimitrov’s exquisite winners and the 23-year-old is hoping to take that cold, calculated approach into his match against top-seed Djokovic on Friday.
“We all know how well Novak is competing and how he’s playing when he’s at his top level,” Dimitrov said. “I’m not expecting an easy match.
“But I’m out there to go through a match, to win it. I’m always going to focus on my game, whoever I’m going to play.
“Now it’s a semi-final match. I think we both going to really want that match.
“He has the experience and all that behind him. But in the same time, I’ve been playing great tennis. I believe in my skills at the moment.”