GRIGOR Dimitrov’s renaissance continued in the early hours of Sunday morning as he stampeded past Richard Gasquet into the Australian Open’s last 16 for the third time.
The Bulgarian world No. 15 defied the 11.58pm start — the latest in Open history — to produce a world-class display good enough to blitz 18th seed Gasquet 6-3 6-2 6-4 in 2hr 2min on Rod Laver Arena.
Dimitrov, 25, hit almost double as many winners (48) as unforced errors (26) to overwhelm his French opponent, who entered the clash with a 5-1 head-to-head advantage.
His best grand slam result was reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2014, but defending champion Novak Djokovic’s shock second-round exit to Denis Istomin offers hope to the new breed.
Istomin backed up that titanic upset with another five-set success over Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, and stands between Dimitrov and a second Melbourne Park quarter-final.
“Lately I’ve been struggling with my sleeping and I’ve been going to bed so late, but today it’s 2am and I’m feeling great,” Dimitrov said with a grin.
“Big thanks to the crowd, for sure. You guys are amazing; it’s never easy to stay up so late for us.
“I’ve been feeling good this past week, so I’m just happy to be on court. That was my first win on that court, so I’m embracing it as much as possible.
“I think I’m going to hit the ice bath first before I do whatever else. It will take a while to fall asleep, so I might go practice again.”
Gasquet jumped out of the blocks well to snare a break in just the third game, but Dimitrov grabbed it straight back then recovered from triple break point down to clinch the opening set in 51 minutes.
That game was just about Gasquet’s last chance to gain a foothold in the contest, with Dimitrov offering just one more break point opportunity in the ensuing two sets.
Dimitrov broke into the top 10 in the 2014 season and achieved his career-high ranking of No. 8, appearing ready to fulfil his vast potential.
But his ranking steadily declined in the following two years and tumbled as low as 40 in July last year.
Dimitrov rebounded to make the fourth round at the US Open and the Beijing final, losing each time to world No. 1 Andy Murray and finishing the year at No. 17.
He is yet to lose in 2017, having upset top-10 stars Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori in consecutive matches to win the Brisbane title a fortnight ago.