Bulgarian fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov booked a Queen’s Club final clash against Feliciano Lopez with an impressive 6-2 6-4 win over world number three Stan Wawrinka on Saturday.
Dimitrov is one of the emerging talents in men’s tennis and he underlined his growing reputation by overpowering top seed Wawrinka in just 61 minutes at the Wimbledon warm-up in west London.
The world number 13 can now look forward to his third ATP Tour final this season on Sunday against Spanish 10th seed Lopez, who defeated Czech veteran Radek Stepanek 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 in the other semi-final.
And if the 23-year-old lifts the trophy, it will go some way to silencing the critics who claim he should have fulfilled his potential by now.
“It’s tough to define the word ‘breakthrough’,” Dimitrov said. “Of course, you would want to be more consistent. I think that’s more my word for it.
“Sometimes people make a big deal out of the breakthrough. To me, it’s just a stage that you’ve got to go through. Everyone is different.”
Dimitrov is already the youngest player in the world’s top 20, having broken into the upper echelons with a run to the Australian Open quarter-finals before winning titles in Acapulco and Bucharest.
One of his few low moments this year came last month when he was dumped out of the French Open first round by Ivo Karlovic.
He had expected to do well in Paris and admitted the loss sparked several days of soul-searching, ultimately giving him the renewed focus and hunger to succeed at Queen’s.
“I didn’t touch a racquet for around five, six days after that,” Dimitrov said.
“It was painful. I kept dwelling on it. You go for those long walks and keep thinking about what happened.
“But at the same time that pushed me to practise hard and put me in a really good position.”
Playing with more freedom, Dimitrov has raced through the draw, adding an admiring Wawrinka to a list of scalps that includes Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych.
“His game is similar to Roger (Federer). He has a one-handed backhand, a big forehand and can serve well,” Wawrinka said of a player once dubbed ‘Baby Fed’.
In the second last-four clash, world number 29 Lopez followed up his surprise last eight win over world number six Tomas Berdych with a victory over the week’s other giant-killer.
Stepanek, 35, had defeated reigning Wimbledon and Queen’s champion Andy Murray in the third round and seventh seed Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals.
But he ran out of steam against the 32-year-old Lopez, whose last Tour final came 12 months ago when he won the grass-court title at Eastbourne.