The 21-year-old Bulgarian, a former Wimbledon and US Open junior champion, had been making more headlines for his reported romantic links with Serena Williams and then Maria Sharapova rather than his achievements on court.
Monaco: Grigor Dimitrov shed his playboy image on Friday in the millionaires playground of Monaco, giving Rafael Nadal a huge fright before the Spaniard reached the Monte Carlo semi-finals.
Story first published on: Saturday, 20 April 2013 08:31
The 21-year-old Bulgarian, a former Wimbledon and US Open junior champion, has had a lot to measure up to as well as live down.
Dubbed 'Baby Federer' for his undoubted potential, the colourful Dimitrov had been making more headlines for his reported romantic links with Serena Williams and then Maria Sharapova rather than his achievements on court.
After breaking into the top 100 in January 2011, it wasn't until almost two years later that he broke the top 50.
"The huge expectations that weighed on him didn't help," said Patrick Mouratoglou, who was Dimitrov's coach until last summer.
His performance on Friday, where he lost 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to eight-time Monte Carlo champion Nadal, should help him into the top 30 next week.
It's reward for a 2013 campaign which has seen him rewarded for his improved physical condition, once his major weakness.
With new Swedish coach Mikael Tillstrom at his side, Dimitrov reached his first final, losing to Andy Murray in Brisbane in January.
At the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, he suffered early defeats -- but they were at the hands of world number one Novak Djokovic and Murray, the second-ranked player.
"The objective this year was to remain in good health. If I can do that, then making the top 20 will be in my hands," said Dimitrov, whose challenge on Friday was eventually undermined by cramp as well as Nadal.
But what about that ongoing Federer comparison?
"What can I say to that?," said Dimitrov, the first man to take a set off Nadal in Monte Carlo since 2011.
"I don't think it's true. What do you think?"
Nadal, bidding for a ninth successive Monte Carlo title, has no doubts over Dimitrov's potential.
"He has everything needed to become a very good player. He's got all the shots," said the Spaniard.