Dimitrov ready to step up against Rafa Nadal

JOHN SALVADO
Last updated 13:53 21/01/2014
Grigor Dimitrov
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UP FOR RAFA: Grigor Dimitrov has never had a better opportunity to add substance to his Baby Fed moniker.

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Grigor Dimitrov has never had a better opportunity to add substance to his Baby Fed moniker.

Through to the last eight at a major for the first time, the much-hyped Bulgarian with the classical one-handed backhand squares off against world No.1 Rafael Nadal on Wednesday at Melbourne Park.

The Spanish powerhouse has won all of their previous three encounters, although significantly he was taken to three sets on each occasion.

This will be their first best-of-five clash - and the ideal situation for Dimitrov to shed his various tags as Maria Sharapova's boyfriend, Roger Rasheed's charge and the prospective second coming of the great Roger Federer and to forge a legitimate reputation in his own right.

"First of all, I'm really happy to be out there in the quarter-final," said the 22-year-old Dimitrov.

"But I'm not even close to satisfaction.

"I would say I've been working really hard in the past year, especially in the off-season so it's nice to good results for me.

"I'm really looking forward to that match (against Nadal).

"I just want to put myself into a good position to play matches like that more often."

Nadal arrived at Melbourne Park on the back of a remarkable comeback season following knee surgery that saw him reclaim the world No.1 ranking and win his 12th and 13th major titles at the French and US Opens.

"We all know that he has won tons of slams," said Dimitrov, the No.22 seed.

"He's been a tremendous competitor.

"He's Rafa. We all know him.

"But that's what I'm playing for, to put myself in position to play those guys.

"I've had tough battles with him in the past, but there were always little things missing.

"I'm quite happy with the way I'm performing so far. So I like my chances."

Nadal has yet to drop a set in his first four matches at the Australian Open, although he was pushed to two tiebreakers in the fourth round by Kei Nishikori.

He was troubled by blisters on his hand but still found a way past the talented Japanese player, without performing at his best.

"That victory has much more value than the victory of two days ago (where he dropped only six games against French showman Gael Monfils)," said Nadal.

"When you are playing that good, the normal thing is to win.

"When you are playing normal and the opponent is a good one and you are able to keep winning, that has much more value."

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- AAP

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