And then Friday afternoon, after battling back to make it 30-all in his service game, Dimitrov lost his footing -- and suddenly he was facing match point.
Naturally, this came just as the rain began to intensify.
"When I slipped, I fell down, I hit my hip," Dimitrov explained later. "I told [the chair umpire], 'I'm not serving.' Basically we had to stop and wait for another chance."
Eventually, after a protracted injury timeout that featured an ATP World Tour trainer and a freshly taped ankle, Dimitrov came back to save five (count them, five) match points and level the match with an exquisite forehand cross-court winner.
Two games later, the man more famous for being Maria Sharapova's boyfriend succumbed on the sixth match point when Zemlja hooked a big forehand past him, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, 11-9.
Dimitrov, the junior champion here five years ago, managed to convert only two of 18 break point opportunities in the 4-hour, 4-minute match -- the longest of the tournament so far. That was one of five men's second-round matches and three on the women's side that were completed a day late. Play on the outside courts continued for about four hours before the rain returned and washed out play.
At 7 p.m., only five of 16 third-round matches had been completed.
(Not so) risky business
The American men failed to land even a single straggler in the third round, but their female counterparts have proved more difficult to deter.
The Hilton Head, S.C., resident, who will turn 23 Wednesday, will have something to celebrate after defeating Urszula Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Coming into this tournament, Riske was 0-5 in Grand Slam events, but she is riding a serious streak of momentum after winning six matches two weeks ago in Birmingham. There, she beat the world No. 26 (Sabine Lisicki) and No. 29 (Tamira Paszek) on the way to the semifinals, where she fell to Daniela Hantuchova.
Against Radwanska, the younger sister of 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka, Riske lived up to her name by winning 33 of 48 points at net. She hit 27 more winners than Radwanska and closed out the victory on her third match point.
"I was really nervous," she said later, "but I tried to keep telling myself that I wasn't really at Wimbledon. I was trying to make a scene in my head. It took a few match points. I told myself if I was going to lose that last game her serving, I was going to do it aggressively.
"So I went for a few returns; no luck on them. Ultimately, it worked out in the end."
Next she'll face four-time major quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi.
"If I can play like that here," Riske said, "I feel like I should be able to play like that anywhere. Yeah, I just feel like the grass suits my game. I feel comfortable on it. I love moving forward, being aggressive."
Top Brits advance
Advantage, All England Club.
Robson handled Mariana Duque-Marino, 6-4, 6-1, and Murray handled Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.
It was their 23rd consecutive match victory. At the age of 35, they are playing the best tennis of their lives.
After losing in the semifinals here a year ago, the duo went on to win the Olympics at Wimbledon, then the US Open. This year, they have already won titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, giving them two arresting possibilities: a Golden Slam (Serena Slam style), and a single-season Grand Slam.