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Bulgarian Dimitrov gets his hands on prestigious trophy by repaying tournament's faith

Grigor Dimitrov celebrates with the Aegon silverware after beating Feliciano Lopez
Grigor Dimitrov celebrates with the Aegon silverware after beating Feliciano Lopez

Five years ago, an unknown Bulgarian was given a wildcard for Queen's; yesterday, he repaid the tournament's faith in spades as he won the title.

At the age of 23, Grigor Dimitrov followed in the footsteps of a long line of great champions at the Aegon Championships, including Andy Murray, when he beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-7, 7-6, 7-6.

Watched by his girlfriend, French Open champion Maria Sharapova, Dimitrov saved a match point in the second set and came from a break down in the third to win his fourth title and probably the biggest of his career to date.

It was the former tournament director at Queen's and now the man who is in charge of the ATP, Chris Kermode, who was among the first to spot the talent in Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian had won junior Wimbledon in 2008 but did not expect to receive a wildcard into Queen's in 2009, something Kermode repeated the following year, even though his ranking had actually fallen.

Yesterday, moments after he had claimed the title, Dimitrov sought out Kermode, sitting in the far corner of the court, and presented him with his racket.

"You take a punt on certain players and he's just got something special," Kermode said. "He demonstrated it today."

Dimitrov is now knocking on the door of the top 10 and is the only man this year to have won titles on hard courts, clay courts and grass.

It is an achievement that only a handful of players have done in the past few years, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but Dimitrov knows he has to improve his grand slam performances if he is to climb further.

A quarter-final appearance in Australia at the start of the year is his best grand slam run to date, but under the guidance of Roger Rasheed, and spurred on by Sharapova's champion mentality, Dimitrov is coming of age.

"Everything happened pretty naturally with Roger," he said. "I just really needed a strong person on the court, on and off the court for me. It just feels comfortable.

"Of course having Maria on my side definitely adds up, and (with) a tremendous champion like her, there is a lot to learn. There is certainly a good amount that I have learned throughout so far."

Kermode said he believed Dimitrov has the ability to perhaps take the strain when Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray put away their rackets.

"Ultimately you've got to win," Kermode added. "The potential's there, the talent's there but he's just got to keep winning. I think he will but you can never tell, if he can translate that into grand slams."

The match itself was a nail-biter, with Lopez - that rarest of beasts, a Spanish serve-volleyer - serving bullets and Dimitrov trying to find holes.

The Bulgarian has so many options it has taken him longer than expected to get to this point, but having lost the first set, he saved a match point on serve at 5-6 in the second, and then dominated the tiebreak to level. Having dropped his serve in the first game of the decider, he broke back superbly to level at 4-4 and then won the deciding tiebreak 8-6 when Lopez netted a forehand.

His celebration - jumping, fist-pumping and roaring with delight - showed his joy and even Sharapova looked genuinely excited.

"The only thing I can say is I'm going to be with a lot of positive vibes coming out to Wimbledon," he said. "I'm going to look for my game the same way I was looking here, match by match."

Jamie Murray narrowly missed out on the doubles title as he and John Peers lost 4-6, 7-6, 10-4 to Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya.

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