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Stakes are too high for any charity bets

ALL bets are off when it comes to Andy Murray's Centre Court meeting with Grigor Dimitrov.

Grigor Dimitrov and  Andy Murray enjoy organising fun bets for charity between their backroom teams.  Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Grigor Dimitrov and Andy Murray enjoy organising fun bets for charity between their backroom teams. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

That in itself must be considered something of a rarity in terms of the relationship between the two men. Not only are they friends and practice partners, their respective entourages are developing a serious habit of indulging in charity bets.

Dimitrov's Australian coach Roger Rasheed recently overcame Murray's fitness trainer Jez Green in a 200 metres race on a track adjacent to the All England Club. But that was just the start of it. The 23-year-old Bulgarian revealed last night that further, undisclosed, wagers are already in the pipeline.

"We have a few other bets that will come later on in the year," said Dimitrov. "I won't say what they are, you can ask him. But they involve both teams and this time we're both going to participate, so it's going to be interesting.

"It will be a chance for revenge for whoever loses this match, so to speak."

Both men have enough riding on today's match in any case. While Murray is staking his SW19 title, for Dimitrov it is only the second grand slam quarter-final of his young life, following a defeat to Rafa Nadal at this year's Australian Open.

At 23 years of age, this product of tennis coaching father Dimitar and volleyball playing mother Maria should have time on his side. But the tennis world has become rather impatient for Dimitrov. Lugging around the nickname of 'Baby Fed' from the age of 16, this most natural of tennis players has found the comparison with Roger Federer a burden.

For a while considered more of a playboy than a player - he was memorably called "the guy with the black heart" by one-time girlfriend Serena Williams - it has taken the brass tacks approach of Rasheed and the example of current squeeze Maria Sharapova to make him relevant at major championships. With a younger generation suddenly snapping at his heels, this match may be even bigger for Dimitrov than it is for Murray, even if the Bulgarian puts an alternative spin on things.

"No, I don't think so, at least I don't see it that way," said Dimitrov. "It might look different from a different angle but to me it is just another match. I don't want to put myself into a big bubble of hype going into this match."

Dimitrov may have been somewhat misunderstood. Rasheed speaks of encountering a humble young man prepared to work hard, the product of a fairly spartan upbringing in Haskovo. Like Murray, he never touches a drop of booze.

"I have never tried alcohol, I can create my own vibe around it," he said. "I have had my share of parties and going out, so I am fine with it. Maria is the best example of an athlete and player with her work ethic. But at the same time, without throwing flowers at myself, I give a lot of credit to myself for what I have become throughout all the years and the work I have put in. There was no-one next to me all of the time giving me examples."

Nonetheless Dimitrov has no shortage of ambition, indeed speaking to him you feel that in his head he may be a grand slam winner in all but name already. His head-to-head against Murray stands at 3-1 in the Scot's favour, but his sole victory came in the most recent meeting, in Acapulco, earlier this year. The defending champion hasn't lost any match at Wimbledon since the 2012 final but his upstart opponent has already graced Centre Court and hopes some neutrals might be persuaded to support him instead.

"Andy is a great guy on and off the court, I have a lot of respect for him. I don't think there will be any secrets out there on the court.

"He has home advantage but as much as it can help him it can also make him feel uncomfortable," he added. "At the end of the day, we are going out there to put on a good match."

While the Scot had Sir Alex Ferguson in his players' box on Friday afternoon, nominally at least Dimitrov is a Manchester United fan, by dint of his countryman Dimitar Berbatov, now of Monaco, who occasionally turns up in his players' box.

"I know Andy is really into it but I am so far away from that soccer thing," said Dimitrov. "I just try to follow what the guys are talking about in the locker room. It's best just to hang with the Spanish guys; they know it all.

"But I know Dimitar Berbatov, He has been to a few of my matches but he is a busy man."

Whether Sharapova, freshly ejected from SW19, turns up today remains to be seen. But you can bet your bottom dollar that this will be one of the matches of the tournament.

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