At the Net: Dimitrov ready for his close-up

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Updated: 2/14 1:16 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The youngest player in the ATP World Tour's top 20 right now is Grigor Dimitrov ... and with very good reason.

"Baby Fed" is still only 22 years old, but his game has been picking up steam steadily over the last year.

The rising Bulgarian star reached his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at last month's Australian Open, and he'll certainly be reaching many more over the years to come.

The Haskovo native, ranked 19th in the world, is probably best known right now for being one half of a powerhouse tennis couple, with the other half being women's superstar Maria Sharapova.

But that's going to change.

Note: With Maria having a net worth of about $90 million, Dimitrov is going to have to pick up the pace if he's gonna hang with the iconic Russian.

Nicknamed Baby Fed because his game so closely resembles that of the great Roger Federer (particularly on the backhand side), Dimitrov is one of the most exciting players to watch because of that on-court prowess.

Prior to his round-of-eight Aussie run last month, Dimitrov had failed to even get past the second round in 12 of his previous 13 major events. And he suffered first-round setbacks in six of those baker's dozen Slams.

So why do I think he's ready to make a big move? Because that's the natural order of things in sports, and tennis is no exception. Bide your time, learn the ropes, get stronger, and, bam, you're on your way ... if you're exceptionally talented, that is. And Dimitrov is.

In Melbourne last month, "G-Force" won four matches in the main draw, including an upset of Canadian masher Milos Raonic in the third round before eventually running into one of the greatest players of all-time in the quarters -- Rafael Nadal.

Dimitrov is currently 10th in the "Race to London" rankings, which is based on points gained only during the current year and sends the top eight players to the ATP World Tour Finals in London at the end of the season.

As a junior, Dimitrov held the world No. 1 ranking and captured boys' singles titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2008, the same year he turned pro.

The 6-foot-3 Dimitrov reached the first two ATP finals of his career last year, titling in Stockholm (where he upset David Ferrer in the final) and finishing as a bridesmaid in Brisbane.

He's an all-court performer with a heavy emphasis on (surprise) baseline play and boasts a beautiful one-handed backhand. He considers the backhand down the line to be his favorite shot, not much unlike that of his idol growing up -- the great Pete Sampras.

To me, Dimitrov still needs to work on his stamina and return of serve, and with some fine-tuning in those departments, the sky's the limit.

And with esteemed coach Roger Rasheed by his side, you can probably count on those improvements.

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