Tennis’ Rising Stars: Who To Look Out For
November 03, 2016
The ATP World Tour Finals is about to come to a head over the next few weeks. Novak Djokovic is a firm favourite at 6/5 with Betway in a competition he’s looking for his fifth straight victory.
But what happens when the great Serbian hangs up his racket, who’re the new kids on the scene who could potentially follow in his footsteps and start to make a real name for themselves over the next few years.
The British number two first shot to fame last year when he made his Davis Cup debut in the final against Belgium and for two sets blew the current world number 11 David Goffin off the court with a bombardment of fiery winners and blistering forehands. Despite losing that match, the 21-year-old has not looked back and has now firmly established himself as one of the top 50 players in the world, blessed with a new-found confidence and improved court craft.
His rising maturity was evident in July’s Davis Cup win over Serbia as the youngster notched up his first ever points in the competition – taking maximum points and shouldering such responsibility with aplomb following the withdrawal of Andy Murray.
Edmund reached the fourth round at the US Open by demolishing Richard Gasquet in straight sets – his first win over a top 15 player. Another notable scalp followed two rounds later when he silenced the New York crowd by eliminating the danger of big-serving John Isner in four sets.
However, Edmund was unable to repeat his domination against the magical backhand of the Frenchman earlier this month in Antwerp where he reached his first ATP semi-final, as Gasquet fought back from a set and a break down to emerge victorious.
2016 has certainly been a breakthrough year for Edmund and one that should be heralded as an overwhelming success. Surely a first ATP final is just around the corner?
The 20-year-old Russian star was quick to stray away from any comparisons with Marat Safin following his recent success at the Chengdu Open – his first ever triumph in an ATP event. “He was fiery but every player is different, everyone has their own character and charisma,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
Over the course of the week, Khachanov defeated four seeds and five players ranked in the top 62, with his 6ft 6in frame and heavy groundstrokes causing an array of conundrums for his opponents.
His world ranking has elevated to 63 following his victory in China and this is set to catapult further following another impressive display last weekend – this time in Vienna when he reached the quarter-finals and even held a match point against the gargantuan serve of Ivo Karlovic before losing out 6-3 in the deciding set.
At just 18 years of age, high expectations have been placed on Tiafoe – widely considered to be one of the USA’s upcoming stars. At the beginning of October, he was the youngest player in the top 100 and is part of what could potentially be a future golden generation for America as he and three other teenagers currently sit in the top 200.
Tiafoe showed signs of his exciting ability in the US Open – his only Grand Slam main draw of the year. In an encounter of American tennis present versus potential, Tiafoe threw away a two set lead in the first round against Isner in a match that he dominated for large spells. However, the youngster can already boast wins over compatriot rival Taylor Fritz and Australian John Millman who was ranked 66 at the time – his most noteworthy result to date.
With his uncanny style and unconventional forehand, Tiafoe will look to build on his most recent tournament success when he defeated fellow countryman Noah Rubin in the final of the Stockton ATP challenger.
A self-confessed admirer of Rafael Nadal’s game, Kasatkina showed her own mastery on the clay courts of Paris when she lifted the Roland Garros junior crown in 2014. The Russian is now 19 years old and in August reached her highest world ranking of 24.
This campaign has seen her debut in all of the major tournaments since last year’s US Open and in January she claimed her first top ten win when she ousted Venus Williams in Auckland. It will come as no surprise that she perceives the red dirt to be her strongest surface as it allows her to generate an inordinate amount of top spin, with the “King of Clay’s” influence noticeably prevalent on her forehand side.
The Russian has reached two Premier event quarter-finals this year at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup respectively, but she will need to improve her mental toughness on court in closing out matches if she is to put herself in contention for the sport’s biggest prizes.
In 2015 the Croatian became the youngest player to win a main tour title since Tamira Paszek in 2006, when she defeated Monica Niculescu to win the Nottingham Open. A winner of two junior Grand Slam titles, Konjuh made her WTA-level debut in 2014 and this campaign has seen her go on to create further history.
By defeating Agnieszka Radwańska in the fourth round of the US Open, the 18-year-old became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist in a decade and also the first Croatian female in the last eight of a major for 12 years. This run saw her climb back into the world’s top 50 and despite her tender age, Konjuh has already amassed a wealth of experience on the WTA circuit. Her outstanding physicality and thunderous serve will make her a threat at major tournaments for seasons to come.