Grigor Dimitrov and Maria SharapovaGrigor Dimitrov and Maria Sharapova

Melbourne: Maria Sharapova’s ex-boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov admitted his relationships may have delayed his emergence as a top player as he extended his hot streak at the Australian Open yesterday.

The Bulgarian heartthrob has long been touted as one of tennis’s next big things, but he reached only his third major quarter-final with his win over giant-killer Denis Istomin. Dimitrov (25) beat the injury-hit Uzbek 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the last eight.

Afterwards, the man known as “Baby Fed” for his Roger Federer-style play was asked whether romantic entanglements may have sometimes been a distraction from tennis. “I obviously have a soft spot for that,” joked the World No. 15.

“On a serious note, I always try to keep whatever else outside the court. I think when I was younger, I was struggling to kind of differentiating love from a personal love or a tennis love or whatever else. There was time that I wasn’t sure how to deal with both things in the same time. But you learn. I guess we grow. I mean, I don’t want to say I’ve learned from my mistakes, but I’ve learned myself a little bit better. I think that helps me. Hopefully it’s going to help me for the future through any kind of falling-in-love stuff.”