Melbourne: Tearful Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov said he was "shattered" Wednesday after narrowly losing to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, but vowed to bounce back stronger.
Dubbed "Baby Fed" for a playing style uncannily similar to Swiss great Roger Federer, the lanky 22-year-old had a high-profile chance to show he is more than just Maria Sharapova`s boyfriend.
And he did just that, pushing the world number one to four tough sets in the quarter-finals to highlight what an exciting prospect he is.
But despite his best efforts, the 13-time Grand Slam champion came out on top, saving set points in the third to win 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 -- a result which left Dimitrov gutted.
"There`s a lot of mixed feelings right now. I`m a bit shattered," he said. "It`s tough losing that match, my first (Grand Slam) quarter-final. I came out expecting nothing less than to win.
"All the credit to Rafa," he added. "He`s been a tremendous competitor, great guy off the court."
Dimitrov was bidding to become only the second Bulgarian to reach a Grand Slam semi-final after Tsvetana Pironkova. He said despite the defeat, it had been a good experience that he would learn from.
"Of course I shed a few tears, but it should hurt. It should hurt. And it does hurt," he said.
"The one thing I`m really excited (about) is to actually get back on the court in the upcoming weeks and start working and come up to the same stage and try to do it again.
"Of course I`m deeply disappointed. I mean, I`m not going to lie. But, you know, in the end of the day I have to take the positives and the negatives out of the match and just kind of move on."
Dimitrov has been tipped by some as a future champion and by reaching the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park he is projected to rise to a career-high world ranking of 19.