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This time it's different, says Dimitrov

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 25/1/17 Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov celebrates after winning his Men's singles quarter-final match against Belgium's David Goffin. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 25/1/17 Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov celebrates after winning his Men's singles quarter-final match against Belgium's David Goffin. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - There have been a few false dawns in Grigor Dimitrov's career so it was no surprise that he spent so much time talking about how this year was going to be different after reaching his first grand slam semi-final in three years on Wednesday.

Being anointed "Baby Fed" because of the similarity of his game to that of 17-times grand slam winner Roger Federer means the Bulgarian had expectations heaped on his shoulders from early in his career.

High profile relationships with former women's number one Maria Sharapova and pop star Nicole Scherzinger have helped make him one of the world's best known tennis players, but the grand slam titles many forecast have not materialised.

Now 25 and with another new coach in Daniel Vallverdu in tow, Dimitrov has started 2017 on fire with a winning run of 10 matches that earned him the Brisbane International title and has taken him to the last four at the Australian Open.

"I feel like I have all the tools to go further, and my job isn't over yet," he said after beating David Goffin to set up semi-final against Rafa Nadal or third seed Milos Raonic.

"I'm looking forward to my match on Friday. I think I'm prepared. I think I'm ready to go the distance. I don't shy away from that.

"I'm confident enough to say that I feel good physically, and overall like on the court. Just going forward with the confidence that I have built up also from the previous tournament.

"Now with each match I've been feeling better and better. It just all comes pretty natural right now."

Dimitrov's only previous grand slam semi-final was at Wimbledon in 2014, when he lost to Novak Djokovic, but he feels he is a better player now.

BETTER DECISIONS

"I think I'm taking better decisions when I come out on the court, better decisions in terms of points or how I'm going to play certain players or how I'm going to prepare before my matches," he said.

"Little things that are important for me in order to come to the court. I think my focus has been good. The mentality has been there. I've been present when I'm playing my matches.

"Just fighting. I keep on fighting. I have a good spirit on the court, being positive.

"There are obviously a lot of small things that when you put them up together it makes a big difference."

"Distractions" has become a euphemism for Dimitrov's fondness for the nightlife and he chuckled when asked whether there was anything, or anybody, diverting him from his focus on tennis.

"Nothing is distracting me so far. I mean, I know what you're referring to, again," he said.

"But, no, no, everything is good. I'm enjoying a lot my downtime in Melbourne. I've been going out to the parks recently, so I'm staying away, out of trouble.

"As I said, I'm enjoying my time here. I'm enjoying coming out on the court. I'm going to enjoy other things maybe next week..."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris)

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