By E.J. Crawford
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will feature a series of players who could make an impact during this year's Series. Here’s a look at 22-year-old Bulgarian rising star Grigor Dimitrov.
The Baseline: Dimitrov has been tabbed as a future star since early in his junior days, earning the moniker “Baby Fed” for the resemblance between his game and that of five-time US Open champion Roger Federer.
Dimitrov struggled under the weight of those expectations early on but broke out in 2013, finishing the year at No. 23 in the world. He took another step up at the 2014 Australian Open, defeating fellow up-and-comer Milos Raonic in the third round and advancing to the quarterfinals, where he pushed top seed Rafael Nadal before losing a tough four-setter, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2. That run Down Under propelled Dimitrov into the Top 20 for the first time.
The Breakdown: Dimitrov’s game is tailor-made for the US Open Series' cement floors. He has long had an excellent feel for the game and possesses power and variety off both wings, including a rare one-handed backhand he can either slice or come over. But he’s now married those assets with improved fitness and a beefed-up serve that regularly registers in the 130 mph range.
Moreover, he has hard-court bona fides – last year he won the ATP event in Stockholm on an indoor hard court, beating David Ferrer in the final – and both his loss to Nadal in Melbourne and his 2013 victory over Novak Djokovic in Madrid show that he has the game to hang with the best in the sport. Don’t be surprised if he’s Top 10 by time the summer season rolls around.