Boyfriend and girlfriend, Grigor Dimitrov and Maria Sharapova posted back-to-back wins on the same court on yet another sizzling day at Wimbledon.
Dimitrov faces a significant drop in the rankings if he loses early at the All England Club in London this season given last year’s semifinal showing but for now — with Sharapova watching on television — he landed safely in the third round after defeating Steve Johnson 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 7-6 (7-2) Wednesday as temperatures once again exceeded 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
The heatwave is unusual for these parts, and a ball boy collapsed during a match featuring tennis’ marathon man John Isner. The tournament, however, said he’d been treated and is feeling “much better.”
Dimitrov saved two set points in the first-set tiebreak against the big-serving American and another at 4-5 in the third set.
“With every match, I feel that my game is getting better,” the 11th-ranked Bulgarian, compared to his friend Roger Federer in the past because of their similar looking strokes, told reporters. “But I still feel that there are a couple of things I need to sort of tune up, especially for the next round.”
Ahead of his clash with Frenchman Richard Gasquet — who he has never beaten in four attempts — Dimitrov said he was confident, buoyed by the success he had 12 months ago here instead of weighed down by a trying campaign.
He hasn’t been entirely happy with his racket this season and admitted to going through tough times with his no-nonsense coach, Roger Rasheed.
Dimitrov entered Wimbledon on the back of a first-round loss at the French Open and was beaten in the second round at the Aegon Championships, a grass-court tune-up in London, as the defending champion.
“Okay, the season hasn’t been the way I really imagined it, but God, I’m not losing first round every week, you know what I mean?” he said.
“Wimbledon is a very special tournament, and for me it’s one of the best events. I have been here quite a few days now, so it feels that I’m getting used to the grass pretty good,” he added.
Dimitrov has openly admitted that Sharapova, the five-time grand slam winner, often gives him advice, although he has stopped short of going into specifics.
Sharapova briefly took in Dimitrov’s match, keen to see how her boyfriend was faring but also for a more practical reason since she followed him on Court 2.
Sharapova, like the other serious contenders that played Wednesday, didn’t drop a set against Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp, prevailing 6-3 6-1.
“Since he was playing on my court, I like to see what the conditions are, how the court is playing,” said Sharapova, who set up a third-round meeting with 29th-seed Irina-Camelia Begu.
“I think we’re quite professional in what we do,” Sharapova continued. “We try to separate our match times and go about our business as we would in any other careers, respect each other very much.
“When we’re out here, we’re doing our job and trying to do the best we can.”
As for the weather, echoing what the majority of her fellow players have said, Sharapova wasn’t bothered by the heat.
“It’s much warmer in my hometown of Longboat Key, Florida,” she uttered.
Novak Djokovic ousted soon-to-be retired Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-4 6-2 6-3 and the defending champion will next battle the tricky 27th seed from Australia, Bernard Tomic.
When the draw was made last week, world No. 1 Djokovic versus fifth-seed Kei Nishikori was the expected quarterfinal matchup on paper.
But last year’s U.S. Open finalist withdrew from his match with Colombian Santiago Giraldo due to the same calf injury that forced the exciting Japanese baseliner to retire from his semifinal at the Gerry Weber Open in Germany this month.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Nishikori. “I thought I was playing well on grass. So, unfortunate to lose this chance.”
The man Nishikori lost to in New York, Marin Cilic, was moved to Center Court and edged Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in five sets, 6-3 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 7-5. A shoulder injury has limited the ninth-seeded Croatian — coached by 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic — to only 10 tournaments in 2015.
French Open champions Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams, meanwhile, downed Victor Estrella Burgos and Timea Babos, respectively, 6-3 6-4 7-5 and 6-4 6-1 in Wednesday’s late matches.
In a change to her first-round win over Margarita Gasparyan and several of her victories at Roland Garros this year, Williams advanced in routine fashion.
Williams is bidding to win a fourth straight major to complete the “Serena Slam” for the second time.