Melbourne: Bulgaria's world No 3 Grigor Dimitrov says he is determined to remain focused and composed as he chases his dream of winning a maiden Grand Slam.
He got his Australian Open campaign off to an impressive start, proving too clinical for Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in 98 minutes on Rod Laver Arena Monday.
Questions about Dimitrov invariably revolve around him taking the next big step after being ranked behind only the two modern day greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer following a strong 2017 season.
The stylish Bulgarian claimed the biggest title of his career when he beat Belgium's David Goffin in the ATP Finals in London among his four titles for the year.
But he has never been beyond the semi-finals of a Grand Slam, reaching the last four at Wimbledon in 2014 and in Melbourne last year.
"For me, it's going to be all about my game and how I'm going to deal with it. That's all I'm really focusing on," Dimitrov told reporters.
"The rest, it's not in my control. I just really need to stay focused, need to stay composed. Again, really looking forward after my game."
Dimitrov, in Nadal's top half of the draw, broke Novak's service six times and only had two break points on his own serve.
"I love playing on this court, it was tricky weather with a lot of wind in the warm-up and I tried to be compact and focused," Dimitrov said.
"It's always a dream of mine to win a Slam, this is the next step, and the only thing I can do is to give 100 percent in each match," he added.
Dimitrov faces another qualifier in the next round -- either American Mackenzie McDonald or Swede Elias Ymer.
'NextGen' duo Shapovalov, Rublev make winning starts
Rising stars Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev tracked different routes in making winning starts to their Australian Open campaigns.
Young Canadian Shapovalov showcased his exciting skills in an impressive straight sets first-up victory, while Rublev needed five sets to wear down Spanish slugger David Ferrer.
Shapovalov, the 50th-ranked left-hander, reeled off a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in just under two hours in his first appearance in Melbourne.
Widely seen as one of the up-and-coming stars in men's tennis, the 18-year-old hammered 33 winners, backing up a strong service game.
The Canadian made his entrance on the big stage in August with a win over Nadal at home in Montreal, before a run to the US Open last 16.
Another of the so-called "NextGen" brigade, Russian Rublev overcame Spanish veteran Ferrer in five sets to advance to the next round.
Rublev, the 30th seed, won an attritional battle with the doughty back-courter before prevailing 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 in 3hr 50min on an outside court to reach the second round for the second straight year.
Rublev, the top-ranked Russian, reached the US Open quarter-finals last year where he lost to eventual champion Nadal after upsetting Dimitrov en route.
The 20-year-old claimed 13 service breaks and hit 77 winners, 40 of them coming off his strong forehand, but offset by 91 unforced errors.
It was a merited win for Rublev over the tigerish Ferrer, who was an Australian semi-finalist in 2013, the same year he lost to Nadal in the French Open final.
Published Date: Jan 15, 2018 13:46 PM | Updated Date: Jan 15, 2018 13:46 PM