Melbourne: Grigor Dimitrov has criticised interest in his relationship with Maria Sharapova as an invasion of privacy and said the topic should be off-limits.
The 21-year-old Bulgarian nicknamed 'Baby Federer' suffered a vastly different fate to the Russian starlet on the opening day of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
While the second-seeded Sharapova recorded a 6-0, 6-0 defeat of Olga Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena, Dimitrov was banished to Court 13 and flopped 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to veteran Frenchman Julien Benneteau.
Hype followed Dimitrov to his outside court, partly because word had spread that he was Sharapova's new flame, and partly because he has uncanny similarities in technique and flair to 17-time major-winner Roger Federer.
He raced to a 3-0 lead, as Sharapova held the same scoreline. But while the Russian went onwards and upwards, Dimitrov embarked on a steep downhill slide as the 32-seeded Frenchman sailed to victory in one hour and 46 minutes.
"I don't think it's a distraction," Dimitrov said of interest in his personal life. "I just believe I am here to be on the court. I am not here to speak about my private life.
"People love gossip. Who doesn't? But I believe it's a privacy invasion. I don't think that's right. It's not because we're different, but because it's not right to athletes in general. It should be forbidden to even be asked but it is what it is, right?"
Dimitrov was critical of the officiating in his match and claimed a succession of wrong calls were made.
He seemed set for a breakthrough year when he pushed US Open champion Andy Murray in the final of the Brisbane International earlier this month, but he has since slumped to first-round defeats in Sydney and Melbourne.
"Losses like this are pretty tough," he said. "The loss to Murray was tough for me, I have to say. I felt like I had everything there. Of course you must expect these ups and downs.
"You have to make sure you remind yourself you are going to have brighter days and also trust your instincts. You cannot underestimate that. Some days, you are just going to play bad.
"I didn't serve well, I didn't move well, I didn't play well."
The world number 41 said he was aware of the hype surrounding his career and the impatience among his followers for him to contend for a major championship.
"Next thing you know, you're losing first round in three sets," he said. "It's not the best thing. I just have to keep my head up and try to be good. It is still early in the year."