For obvious reasons, tennis media is currently revolving around the top-ranked men and women of the sport. That doesn’t mean we should forget about the rest of the tour, though. Plenty of players, young and old, are currently on the rise in the ATP and WTA circuits.
Tennis, like all sports, has proven to be very unpredictable throughout its history, with veterans and youngsters alike suddenly emerging from the bottom of the rankings due to impressive victories. It all starts with their very fist tournament wins.
In this slideshow, I have pointed out a few players that have proved their potential in the past, but haven’t won any titles in their respective tours (ATP or WTA). All of these players can hope to see their first tournament wins in 2012.
8. Shuai Peng
With the way Shuai Peng played in 2011, it seemed as though she had been around as a strong player for quite a while.
In reality, though, 2011 was her first Top-20 season. Some may wonder how she managed to reach No. 17 in the rankings without winning her first tournament. The answer is simple: by falling just short so many times.
Peng’s 2011 season saw one final, four semifinals and six quarterfinals. She also reached a career-best fourth round in three of the four Grand Slams. Assuming Peng learns to capitalize on these various opportunities, she should be able to win her first tournament this season.
7. Grigor Dimitrov
Having finished 2011 at number 76 in the ATP rankings, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov is currently the third youngest player in the Top 100 (20 years old, behind Harrison and Tomic).
Although he did not manage to reach any finals or semifinals in 2011, he proved himself as a solid all-surface player by reaching a quarterfinal on each of the three main court types (grass, clay and hard).
Players like him can often end up successful in today’s game, where so many players focus on just one surface. Dimitrov hasn’t seen much success yet, but 2012 could very well be his breakout yea
6. Christina McHale
Christina McHale is right up there with Stephens as one of the top American prospects for the women’s tennis world. At only 19 years old, she is currently ranked number 38 on the WTA tour.
McHale has pulled off quite a few upsets recently, including wins over former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinatti, Marion Bartoli in the 2011 U.S. Open and Lucie Safarova in the 2012 Australian Open
By proving herself against some of the top players in the women’s game, McHale has shown the talent that she has to offer. We can expect to see her first title in 2012.
5. Fabio Fognini
Fabio Fognini has been one of the top Italians in tennis for a while now. Even though Italy hasn’t seen much success in the ATP’s recent history, Fognini has put them on the map with a few solid Grand Slam appearances.
In 2010, the 24-year-old Italian reached the third round of two Grand Slams (French Open and Wimbledon), and in 2011 he appeared in a Roland Garros quarterfinal. He also saw his first Top-50 appearance in 2011, and a career-high rank of 32 in June.
Although he is too old to be considered a future star, he definitely has the potential to win a solid amount of tournaments throughout his career, and it may start in 2012.
4. Sloane Stephens
Currently the youngest player in the WTA Top 100, Sloane Stephens is one of the top American prospects in the women’s game. Having made her Top 100 debut in 2011, don’t be surprised if she makes some noise in 2012.
Stephens impressed the tennis world in the 2011 U.S. Open by making the third round, taking down the 23-seed, Shahar Peer in the process. American fans can hope to see some late-round action and a first tournament win this season.
3. Donald Young
Back in 2005, he was the top-ranked junior in the world, and he was expected to rise quickly as a star. Unfortunately, his professional career (which began at a very young age, in 2004), has not seen much success yet.
However, at his current age of 22, he can hope to win his first ATP tournament during the 2012 season. In 2011, he saw his first ATP final (Bangkok) and his best Grand Slam appearance at the U.S Open, where he reached the fourth round after upsetting Juan Ignacio Chela and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Whether or not Young will become a top player soon remains a mystery, but 2012 should be a good year for the rising American!
2. Bernard Tomic
Arguably the best prospect in all of tennis right now is Australian Bernard Tomic. So much hype has surrounded the 19-year-old in recent seasons that some may be surprised to hear he hasn’t won an ATP tournament yet.
Based on his impressive showing “Down Under” to kick off the season, where he defeated Fernando Verdasco after dropping the first set, and later Alexandr Dolgopolov in another five-setter, it seems as though Tomic is ready to win a few ATP titles.
2012 will most likely be the year that he takes his first.
1. Ryan Harrison
American tennis is in desperate need of a new star, and it shouldn’t need to look much further than 19-year-old Ryan Harrison. Not only is Harrison undoubtedly the top prospect from the United States, but he is also one of the most promising young players that the sport has to offer.
A player with as much potential as Harrison can ignite at any time, and it is likely that he will make his first splash in the tennis world during the 2012 season. Watch for Harrison to be a contender in the smaller tournaments that he participates in this year, as well as a dark horse to advance a few rounds in a Grand Slam.