At the Net: Beware of Dog

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Updated: 3/14 12:51 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There is at least a little bit of good news coming out of Ukraine in recent weeks, and it's coming in the form of a nifty tennis player.

Alexandr Dolgopolov (the artist formerly known as Oleksandr) is a former Top-15 player who is showing all the signs of making a return trip into that elite group.

The currently world No. 31 "Dog" has been one of the hotter players on tour in recent weeks. He's already climbed 26 spots this year and is projected to move up an additional eight places to at least No. 23 next week.

The 25-year-old Kiev native reached his first-ever Masters 1000 semifinal this week at Indian Wells, and through Thursday the scrappy Ukrainian had won 11 of his last 13 matches, spearheaded by a surprising run into a clay-court final in Rio last month. Dog upset the likes of French Open runner-up David Ferrer, gritty Italian Fabio Fognini and former Top-10 star Nico Almagro en route to the finale in Brazil, where he lost to the great Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the championship match.

And then Dog reached a semifinal, on clay, in Acapulco to complete a captivating run during the "Golden Swing" through Latin America.

In the California desert (Indian Wells), Dog has notched a trio of upsets, highlighted by a stunning victory over the reigning U.S., French Open and Indian Wells champion Nadal in the third round. He also topped Fognini, again, and 10th-seeded Canadian star Milos Raonic in the quarters, moving his record against Top-20 players to 6-2 this season.

Note: Dolgopolov is the first player from Ukraine to reach a Masters semi since the best-ever Ukrainian, Andrei Medvedev, titled in Hamburg back in 1997.

Another Note: Medvedev was once coached by Dolgopolov's dad, Oleksandr.

Prior to his run in Rio last month, Dolgopolov had been a disappointing 4-5 in 2014, including a second-round setback at the Aussie Open and a pair of opening-round smaller-tournament losses.

So how did the pony-tailed one catch fire over the last month?

It's hard to say.

The slick shot-maker has an unorthodox, all-court style. He can counter-punch, but also can be very aggressive/offensive.

Win or lose, Dog typically finishes his matches with a nice amount of winners, but also a nice amount of unforced errors. He's been compared to top players like Roger Federer and Andy Murray as well as the former French artiste Fabrice Santoro because of his world-class slice and drop shots, which, of course, drive opponents mad.

Note: Dolgopolov suffers from a hereditary disorder known as Gilbert's Syndrome, which affects his liver and blood and often causes fatigue. The condition worsens when he has to cross continents (extensive travel), forcing him to require intravenous drugs and monitored diets to get himself back on track.

Dolgopolov is a six-time ATP finalist, including titles in Umag, Croatia, in 2011 and Washington, D.C., in 2012. He's still only ever reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal (2011 Australian Open), but maybe he's on his way now, catching that wave with guys like Grigor Dimitrov, Ernests Gulbis and Marin Cilic.

Watch out, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer, the youth movement is for real.

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