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By Martyn Herman
LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - Slovenian Grega Zemlja had to deal with Grigor Dimitrov’s thunderous serve, drizzle and Maria Sharapova’s vocal support for his opponent as he caused another surprise at Wimbledon on Friday.
After the match was stopped by Thursday’s rain with unseeded Zemlja leading 9-8 in the fifth, having had two match points, he returned to complete the job in a nervy finale, winning 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-4 11-9 to reach the third round for the first time.
Russia’s former world No.1 Sharapova, Dimitrov’s high-profile girlfriend who was already consigned to the second-round scrapheap during a tumultuous Wednesday, urged her man on with loud “C‘mons!” from a her courtside seat.
Bulgarian Dimitrov saved three more match points in the opening game of the day, the first after another delay as he refused to play on at 30-40, saying the court was too greasy.
However, there was to be no escape as the solid Zemlja crunched a running forehand winner down the line.
“At a few points I heard her Maria screaming behind my back which wasn’t very pleasant!” the 26-year-old son of a former ski jumper, told reporters.
“It was after the points not during the points though.”
Dimitrov, whose stylish shots have led to comparisons with 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer, is yet to make a major breakthrough and many predicted a strong run here for the 22-year-old 29th seed.
Victory over Zemlja would have meant he survived longer this year than seven-times champion Federer, but he lacked the authority to seize his chance, despite some stunning winners.
At 8-9, 30-30 Dimitrov lost his footing while delivering a serve and tried to play his second shot from a sitting position.
Then he walked towards his chair and refused to play on saying the surface was too greasy, forcing a 15-minute delay.
“When I slipped, I fell down, I hit my hip,” Dimitrov told reporters. “I told him, I‘m not serving. Basically we had to stop and wait for another chance.”
Zemlja, who spent the previous night reflecting on the two match points that went begging on Thursday, was not impressed.
“I said to the umpire, ”What’s going on we were playing until now, the conditions are not changing so why are we not playing,“ but I can’t force him to play.”
When the match point was finally contested Dimitrov thumped down a pile-driving serve and Zemlja’s forehand return smacked into the net tape and stayed on his side.
Dimitrov saved two more match points in the same game, both greeted with a loud cheers from Sharapova who sported a pair of expensive-looking sunglasses and Converse sneakers.
“Baby-Federer” had a break point at 9-9 but, like many of his opportunities in the four-hour contest, he wasted it and he his resistance cracked in the following game.
“Not at all,” Dimitrov said when asked whether having Sharapova cheering him on increased the pressure. “I feel even more pumped and happy that she’s there for me.”
Zemlja will play eighth seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the third round on Saturday. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)