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April 7, 2014 Article

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Becoming A Superstar -- Risers Of First Trimester 2014
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

The long journey to superstardom begins in a childhood driven by the tennis schedule -- lessons, endless practice, tennis academies, youth tournaments where the aspirants test themselves against their contemporaries. Many aspirants slip away over the years, but the most talented and determined press on, dreaming of fame, fortune, and the honor of representing their nations at the sport's highest level.
 
Here, we explore the cohorts currently nearing the end of the pipeline -- those prime performers now in their late teens or early twenties, now at the cusp of stardom. They are now in the minor leagues of pro tennis -- the men's Challenger tournaments, for example. A few have already shown success in the qualifying rounds of main-tour events and Slams. Many are ranked in the world's second hundred, some have penetrated the first hundred, a few are starting to challenge the upper hierarchy. Most continue to grow in strength and stamina, train ever more relentlessly, deal with injuries and other troubles.
 
Within each age cohort a rank order of ability has evolved over the years, changing slightly from season to season. One of our interests here is to sense how well those players who lead at early age continue to maintain their edge over their contemporaries until they later confront the older and more experienced players standing in the way of their dreams.
 
Our exploration depends heavily on knowing the young player's current playing ability compared with that of his or her close contemporaries. To measure current ability we use playing results during the first trimester of tennis-year 2014. Thus our snap-shot in time is shorter than the 12-month period used for the official rankings.
 
Case Study 1. Women, age 19 and under
 
Female athletes tend reach championship levels earlier than their male counterparts. In our first exercise here, we look at the current female teenagers, (age 19 and under, born after March 1994). Here are the top teenagers as ranked by playing results during First Trimester 2014 (Trimester 1/14).
 
Women, now 19-and-under, ranked by results in Trimester 1/14
1. Elina Svitolina, 19, height 5-9 (Ukraine)
2. Belinda Bencic, 17, 5-8 (Switzerland)
3. Madison Keys, 19, 5-10 (U.S.)
4. Allie Kiick, 18, 5-7, U.S.A.
5. Anna Schmiedlova, 19, 5-9 (Slovak Republic)
 
Helpful perspective comes by looking backward, examining the rank order in previous trimesters among the identical player population (those now 19 and under). We find considerable stability in the successive ranking lists. Svitolina, tops now, was also in first place for the previous trimester, and she, Keys, and Schmiedlova were regularly among the leaders in other recent trimesters.
 
Madison Keys is a powerful right-hander with superior serve. A good yardstick came at Wimbledon 2013, where at age 18 she won two main-draw matches and won a set from A. Radwanska. That success was a nice improvement over the year before when at age 17, she lost in the qualifiers at Wimbledon. She was hampered with right-injury in late 2013.
 
But results of the last two trimesters reveal that Elina Svitolina has for now surpassed Keys. Elina is slightly the smaller of the two, is also right-handed, also favors the serve. The Ukrainian player won two main-draw matches at Australian Open 2014, losing in two close sets to Sloane Stephens. Her combined W-L record in main-draw matches at Indian Wells and Miami 2014 was 4-2, the two losses coming in split-setters against seeded players. Meanwhile Anna Schmiedlova, in fifth place here, remained in the picture by capturing the recent ITF event in Osprey, Florida, where she defeated three players ranked in the first hundred.
 
The newcomers to the newest list were the two younger players -- Belinda Bencic and Allie Kiick, second and fourth in our rank order. Bencic, 17, is a stylish performer schooled in Switzerland by the mother of Martina Hingis. Belinda has been compared in her playing skills to Martina. The new Swiss Miss jumped upward in the last week of the trimester by qualifying for the main-tour event in Charleston and advancing to the final four, where she lost in a third-set tiebreaker. Kiick also accelerated her rise during the trimester.
 
Case Study 2. Women, age 20 and under
 
We now broaden our gaze, adding the women who are age 20. We find only one penetrator from the teenaged group into the top five here.
 
Women, now 20-and-under, ranked by results in Trimester 1/14
1. Eugenie Bouchard, 20 , 5-10 (Canada)
2. Garbine Muguruza, 20, 6-0 (Spain)
3. Jana Cepolova, 20, 5-6 (Slovak Republic)
4. Elina Svitolina, 19, height 5-9 (Ukraine)
5. Lauren Davis, 20, 5-2 (U.S.)
 
A look backward confirms that Bouchard and Muguruza are indeed the golden ones of the cohort. Both appeared among the top five in two of the previous three trimesters, and for Muguruza her new selection was her fifth in the last seven trimesters.
 
Both are aggressive, firm-striking players, tall. Garbine Muguruza, born in Venezuela and now representing Spain, during the trimester won the Australian tune-up at Hobart and then defeated Wozniacki in reaching the final sixteen at Australian Open. Meanwhile Bouchard made her way to the semis at Australian Open, losing to eventual champion Li Na. She then won twice at Indian Wells before losing to Simona Halep in three sets. In winning twice on clay at Charleston, she defeated Venus Williams in a close finish marked by errors by a tiring Venus.
 
Both Cepelova and Davis, third and fifth here, achieved top-five rank among the current 20-and-unders at least once in previous trimesters. Cepelova is the player who stopped Bencic's remarkable run at Charleston. Davis is small but compiled several striking wins in 2014 -- over Goerges at Australian Open, over Lepchenko and Azarenka at Indian Wells.
 
The only teenager to penetrate the 20-and-under group top five this trimester, Svitolina, 19, finished in second place in our tally behind Bouchard in 3/13, and Donna Vekic, now 17, finished third in 2/13.
 
If the current 20-year-olds are comfortably ahead of the teenagers, they also dominate in the next-older cohort -- the 21-and-under list (not shown here), where they occupy the top four places. Sloane Stephens, 21, in fifth place, breaks the monopoly of the 20-year-olds.
 
Case Study 3. The Remarkable Rise of Simona Halep
 
The strong rise of Simona Halep, 22, merits special attention. Simona is now #5 in the official 12-month WTA world rankings, improved from #56 one year ago. She leads the recent trimester's 22-and-under list, as follows:
 
Women, now 22-and-under, ranked by results in Trimester 1/14
1. Simona Halep, 22, 5-6 (Romania)
2. Eugenie Bouchard, 20, 5-10 (Canada)
3. Garbine Muguruza, 20, 6-0 (Spain)
4. Jana Cepolova, 20, 5-6 (Slovak Republic)
5. Kurumi Nara, 22, 5-2 (Japan)
 
Tracking back, we observe the shape of Simona's rise among her contemporaries. She first appeared among the top five of her cohort at the end of Trimester 1/13, when she finished second to Sloane Stephens. Since then, Halep has ranked first.
 
Halep's rank among women now 22-and-under
Trimester 1/12, third place (McHale was first)
Trimester 2/12, seventh place (Stephens was first)
Trimester 3/12, ninth place (Robson was first)
Trimester 1/13, second place (Stephens was first)
Trimester 2/13, first place (Stephens was second)
Trimester 3/13, first place (Jovanovski was second)
Trimester 1/14, first place (Bouchard was second)
 
Simona has a balanced game built around fine moving and striking abilities, overcoming her lack of tallness. Hers is a moderately aggressive style that puts pressure on opponents by sustained driving to the sides and corners amid good avoidance of error, ready to move inside baseline quickly to punish a soft offering. Her rise has been set back by a toe injury, which required her withdrawal at Miami.
 
Case Study 4. Men, age 21 and under
 
We now turn to the male population, those aged 21-and-under (born after March 1992). The players of this group are at roughly the same stage in their career progression as are the 19- and-unders in women's tennis. Here are the leaders in Trimester 1/14 results.
 
Men, now 21-and-under, ranked by results in Trimester 1/14
1. Dominic Thiem, 20, 6-1 (Austria)
2. Bernard Tomic, 21, 6-5 (Australia)
3. Jack Sock, 21, 6-1 (U.S.)
4. Ryan Harrison, 21, 6-2 (U.S.)
5. Jiri Vesely, 20, 6-6 (Czech Republic)
 
Dominic Thiem was also at the top in the preceding trimester, 3/13. Tomic and Sock were also among the first five in 3/13 as well as regularly in earlier trimesters. Tomic earned wide esteem at very early age, but that may have led to unrealistic expectations so that his later progress is readily overlooked. The same may be true in the case of Sock and Harrison, who have held their positions among their contemporaries albeit unspectacularly.
 
In contrast, Thiem's recent success has been eye-catching. Dominic successfully advanced through the qualifiers and won at least one main-draw match in the three biggest events of 2014 to date (Australian Open, Indian Wells, and Miami). Earlier at Rotterdam Indoors in February, he defeated Nieminen and forced Andy Murray to three sets. Dduring the trimester he scored four wins over top-hundred players, thereby moving inside the world first hundred.
 
As with Tomic, injuries partly explain the ups and downs of Vesely over past trimesters. Jiri, who led the cohort in 2/13, in the recent trimester scored three wins over top-hundred opponents at Indian Wells and Miami, carrying Andy Murray to three sets at the former. At Australian Open, he won two sets from seeded Kevin Anderson before losing the last three.
 
But it is inescapable that in this group it is Dominic Thiem who seems headed highest.
 
Case Study 5. The 23-and-unders and the Rise of Grigor Dimitrov
 
The cohort now aged 23 is especially interesting, as it contains both Jerzy Janowicz and Milos Raonic, two athletes of extreme power in serving and stroking, each of whom emerged to challenge the top echelons a year or two ago. A quieter riser has been a player from Bulgaria, not yet 23, who brought more-balanced talents combining excellent power with fine movement and near-ideal stroking technique.
 
Men, now 23-and-under, ranked by results in Trimester 1/14
1. Grigor Dimitrov, 22, 6-2 (Bulgaria)
2. Milos Raonic, 23,6-5 (Canada)
3. Federico Delbonis, 23, 6-3 (Argentina)
4. Domnic Thiem, 20, 6-1 (Austria)
5. Dusan Lajovic, 23, 6-0 (Serbia)
 
Raonic had finished first for 3/13, the previous trimester. Janowicz, now 23, had been first for 2/13 but slipped to sixth place in both 3/13 and 1/14. Injury problems brought down Vasek Pospisil, who had been second to fellow Canadian Raonic in 3/13.
 
We can trace back Grigor Dimitrov's upward movement within the group.
 
Dimitrov's place among males now 23-and-under
Trimester 1/12, 25th place (Klahn was first)
Trimester 2/12, 4th place (Sock was first)
Trimester 3/12, 8th place (Raonic was first)
Trimester 1/13, 3rd place (Raonic was first)
Trimester 2/13, 2nd place (Janowicz was first)
Trimester 3/13, 3rd place (Raonic was first)
Trimester 1/14, 1st place
 
Dimitrov's recent jump reflects his reaching the final eight at Australian Open 2014, where he defeated Raonic before losing in four sets to Nadal. Then in late February Grigor won the hard-court tournament at Acapulco, winning split-setters over Andy Murray and Gulbis. He lost his second match at both Indian Wells and Miami, however, defeated by lower-seeded opponents Gulbis and Nishikori.
 
Dimitrov's margin in first place is strong, suggesting that the young Bulgarian's rise will continue. Raonic, second, is also well ahead of the others. Delbonis, third, is plainly best on clay. He and the others are in a close bunch that also includes Janowicz and German player Struff.
 
Grigor's loss to Kei Nishikori in Miami was a good test. The two stayed close throughout, but at the crucial moments it was the Japanese star in better command of his stroking. Nishikori, who at age 24 is just beyond our 23-and-under group, had an excellent run at Miami, defeating Ferrer and Federer after his win over Dimitrov. Having reached the semis, he then withdrew prior to facing Djokovic because of groin injury. Kei finished in first place among the 24-and-unders for the trimester just ended (not listed here).
 
RISERS AND OVERACHIEVERS DURING MARCH
 
Indian Wells
 
The long-standing Big Four in men's tennis may be less dominant than previously, but two of its members reached the final round in the California desert at Indian Wells. The first set went to Roger Federer behind some superb attacking tennis, but Novak Djokovic won the match after he raised his countering game, featuring Novak's unmatched ability in winning long, extended points.
 
Equal drama came in the tournament's early rounds, where various overachievers and risers achieved unexpected success. Six of the eight reaching the quarter-finals were penetrators from lower-seeded or unseeded levels. Two of them scored as the highest overachievers. (1) Julien Benneteau, 32, showed his best serving and striking abilities, employing aggressive tactics throughout the week, defeating four opponents including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Unseeded, by reaching the final eight, the French veteran achieved three levels of overachievement. (2) Meanwhile Alex Dolgopolov, 25, who had been seeded in the second sixteen, eventually reached the final four, defeating Nadal, Fognini, and Raonic, all higher seeded. Alex's light-footed quickness and his ability to generate sudden power were at their highest level, dazzling the galleries even as Alex charmed them with his blithe on-court manner. Thus Alex equaled Julien in scoring three levels of overachievement.
 
Other, younger risers also dented the established order. Their athleticism and especially their physical strength seemed a common attribute. Roberto Bautista-Agut, 25, defeated both Berdych and Nieminen before losing to Ernests Gulbis, thus collecting two levels of overachievement. Risers Jiri Vesely, Dominic Thiem, and Alejandro Gonzalez joined in the parade by upsetting seeded players.
 
Among the women, the prime overachiever was the tournament's eventual champion, Flavia Pennetta, 32. Flavia had been seeded in the second sixteen, so that her successive victories beyond that level equaled five overachievement levels (one level each for attaining the rounds of 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1). Flavia's more-penetrating stroking power in her final-round win over a knee-troubled Radwanska was convincing. As among the men, younger female players made strong inroads -- Simona Halep reached the final four, Sloane Stephens the final eight. Exceeding expectations by reaching the final sixteen were Lauren Davis, qualifier Casey Dellaqua, Eugenie Bouchard, and Camila Giorgi, who defeated Sharapova.
 
One surprising outcome at Indian Wells was the wide success of the U.S. women, who led the national contingents in match victories despite the absence of the sisters Williams. Critical to the U.S. lead in the tally were six first-round singles wins by unseeded Americans, most of them young and rising -- Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, Taylor Townsend, Lauren Davis, Shelby Rogers, and Varvara Lepchenko.
 
Miami
 
Surprises were fewer at the Sony Open in Miami. Serena Williams defeated Li Na in the Saturday afternoon final. Na contended well against Serena, attaining set point in her favor late in the first set. But Serena found her big artillery just in time, winning the last five games of that set and finishing strongly thereafter.
 
The verdict in the men's final was even more emphatic. Novak Djokovic took charge early, playing more aggressively than usual, delivering firm attacking shots to the angles and corners regularly, finishing off soft returns by Rafael Nadal, all amid remarkably few errors. Rafa was almost always the defender, seldom able to change the flow of the given point, missing shots that on other days might have been screamers of his own.
 
Our prime overachiever among the men at Miami was Kei Nishikori, 24. Seeded in the second sixteen, the Japanese star scored wins over Dimitrov, Ferrer, and Federer, showing excellent mobility, ball-striking, and intelligent aggression. Although Kei withdrew prior to his semi-final meeting with Djokovic, his three wins over higher-seeded players equated to three levels of overachievement.
 
The foremost overachiever among the women was American Coco Vandeweghe, 22, who advanced through the qualifiers and eventually reached the tournament's final sixteen, thus scoring three levels of overachievement. Coco is a tall, powerful athlete, who has made severe power the focus of her tactics. In her sixth match at Miami she lost to Serena Williams in straight sets, but Coco contended well much of the way, answering Serena's power with her own. Meanwhile several other young risers made nice strides in early-round play -- Keys defeated Hantuchova, Donna Vekic defeated Kuznetsova, and Svitolina defeated Bouchard. Rising Tomljanovic, 20, knocked out Muguruza.
 
The women's doubles at Miami produced an interesting result. Martina Hingis, now 33, and partner Sabine Lisicki, 24, won the crown by defeating the Russian pair Makarova-Vesnina after splitting the first two sets. Hingis, who has been a mainstay of the Washington Kastles in World Team Tennis, adds vastly to spectator interest by her main-tour return.
 
Charleston
 
Several of our young protagonists showed well in the women's Premium 700 tournament, held on clay in Charleston in the final week of the trimester. Three members of the 20-and-unders reached the tournament's final four -- Belinda Bencic, Jana Cepelova, and Eugenie Bouchard. Another, Svitolina, was knocked out earlier by Bencic in a split-setter. Cepelova upset Serena Williams earlier. The fourth member of the final four, who would go on to win the tournament, was resurgent Andrea Petkovic.
 
NEW WATCH LIST OF RISERS
 
Here is our newest Watch List of Predicted Risers, our tenth. The selections were by our computer, primarily from performance in First Trimester with adjustments for age, height, and previous best ranking. The predicted target rankings shown here are for twelve months hence.
 
Men
 
-- Alexander Zverev, age 16,height 6-5 (Germany). Sascha emerged from ITF Futures play, having been ITF Junior World Champion in 2013, now achieving moderate success in ATP Challenger events in 2014. Also during 1/14, he won the Australian Open Juniors in January, following a run to the final four at Orange Bowl. In winning the final match at Melbourne, it was Sascha's serving and stroking power and aggressive style that prevailed over American Stefan Kozlov, 15. Born in Hamburg and still residing there, Sascha is son of the former Soviet pro also named Alex, and younger brother of another pro, Mischa. Currently #822, predicted target #348.
 
-- Thanasi Kokkinakis, 17, 6-5, Australia. This tall and powerful newcomer was runner-up in 2013 at Australian and U.S. Open Juniors. (At U.S., he lost in the final round to fellow Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who is one year older.) Thanasi's selection here reflects his success in January 2014, when he won three qualifying-round matches at Brisbane and then won a main-draw singles match at Australian Open (then losing to Nadal). Prior to 2013, he played in the ITF Futures system, where he showed good success on hard courts, little success on clay. Currently #415, predicted target #164.
 
-- Dominic Thiem, 20, 6-1, Austria. Dominic was named to our late-2013 Watch List, and his even stronger performance in First Trimester 2014 now makes him one of the few that have appeared on consecutive lists. During the recent trimester he won through in the qualifiers at five main-tour tournaments, including Australian Open, Indian Wells, and Miami where in all three cases he then defeated a top-fifty opponent before losing to a seeded player. Currently #81, predicted target #39.
 
-- Taro Daniel, 21, 6-3, Japan. Taro's prime success in First Trimester came on clay at the main-tour event in Vina del Mar, Chile, where he won three qualifying and two main-draw matches to reach the final eight. All his victims were ranked in the second hundred, and one, Federico Delbonis, ranked #61. He achieved moderate success in qualifier play elsewhere but none in main-draw action. Born in New York and listing Spain as residence, his tennis nation is Japan. He played Davis Cup singles for Japan in early April, showing fine quickness and mobility along with accurate forehand work in carrying his more-powerful opponent, Rosol, to five sets. His earlier record in ITF Futures brands him primarily a clay-courter. Currently #191, predicted target #89.
 
-- Dusan Lajovic, 23, 6-0, Serbia. Lajovic's potent all-around game was seen in February 2014 Davis Cup action, where he stretched Stan Wawrinka to four sets and also won a non-meaningful third-day singles. An upset over Wawrinka seemed possible when the recent Australian Open champion showed arm or shoulder trouble late in the match, but the Swiss star managed to prevail in a fourth-set tiebreaker. Dusan's successes in qualifying-round play and occasional main-draw wins, including in the first round at Australian Open, raise him to our list here. Currently #76, predicted target #48.
 
-- Steve Johnson, 24, 6-2, U.S.A. Steve was a member of our Watch List VI in late 2012, following a collegiate career at USC where he was twice national singles champion. His world ranking improved slightly during his 12-month tenure on our list but not enough to threaten his predicted target of #89. Now he returns to our active scrutiny, behind good results in First Trimester. In Challenger play, he won the tournament in Dallas in February, was finalist at Irving, Texas, in March, and again triumphed at Guadeloupe in April. But his best achievement came in defeating three top-100 opponents to reach the semis at the main-tour event in Delray Beach. Currently #69, predicted target #33.
 
-- Peter Gojowczyk, 24, 6-1, Germany. Peter briefly penetrated the world top hundred early this year after a W-L run of 14-2 in Doha, in the qualifiers at Australian Open, and finally at the Heilbronn Challenger. Among his victims were Kohlschreiber, Thiem, Vesely, Berrer, and Kavcic. He took a set from Nadal in losing at Doha. The magic faded thereafter amid several first-round losses, but redemption followed at Nancy when Peter defeated Tsonga in first-day's Davis Cup play, winning the extended fifth set despite leg cramping. Peter has a lively right arm, which produces severe serving and forehand strikes. Currently #111, predicted target #51.
 
Women
 
-- Elizaveta Kulichkova, 16, 5-9, Russia. Competing exclusively on the ITF Pro Circuit, Elizaveta has recorded a W-L record so far in 2014 of 11-2. That included winning the event in Hong Kong, whereupon she moved into the world's second hundred. Slender, with good power in stroking, she shows wins over older stars Ari Rodionova, Arvidsson, Falconi, Parmentier, and Bencic. One analyst, writing at sportdw.com, has pointed out Elizaveta's weakness in movement and footwork along with her strength in serve-returning. Currently #205, predicted target #111.
 
-- Belinda Bencic, 17, 5-8, Switzerland. Her successes as a prodigy propel her onto our list for an unprecedented third consecutive trimester. Her latest rise began at Australian Open 2014, where at age 16 Belinda won through in the qualifiers and then won a first-round main-tour match against a player ranked in the world's top hundred. Belinda reached the semis on clay in Charleston in the final week of the trimester, defeating Svitolina who had earlier beaten Stephens. She then lost to Cepelova in the semis in a thrilling third-set extended tiebreaker. Currently #91, predicted target #44.
 
-- Rebecca Peterson, 18, Sweden. Strong results in ITF Pro Tour action in Mexico early in the period propel Rebecca onto our newest riser list. She won 19 of her 25 matches during First Trimester, which began in November 2013 after the main-tour finale and Fed Cup final. As a wild-card entrant in Miami she advanced over top-hundred player Barthel, who withdrew after falling behind a set and a break. She lost her only other matches against top-hundred players, to Tomljanovic in Mexico and Makarova in Miami. Currently #229, predicted target #127.
 
-- Allie Kiick, 18, 5-7, U.S.A. Allie entered the world's second hundred during First Trimester amid an active playing schedule, which included four wins against second-hundred opponents in main-tour qualifying-round play and several strong runs in ITF-circuit action in Florida. She lists Aspen as residence, was born and lived in Florida, and has family roots in New Jersey. She is daughter of Dolphin former running-back Jim Kiick. Currently #155, predicted target #84.
 
-- Jovana Jaksic, 20, 5-11, Serbia. During her young career Jovana has won fourteen singles tournaments in ITF Pro Circuit play, including nine on clay. The most recent triumph came in Surprise, Arizona, in February, when she saved fourteen match points in winning the final match against Tamira Paszek. Her main-tour debut came one year ago at Monterrey, Mexico, when she lost in the second round to Kirilenko in three sets. This year at Monterrey, she marched to the final round where she lost to fellow Serbian Ana Ivanovic. Currently #106, predicted target #49.
 
-- Garbine Muguruza, 20, 6-0, Spain. Tall and strong, favored by an aggressive style well suited to hard courts, Garbine is here selected for the third time. Right-ankle surgery and rehab sidelined her in the second half of 2013, but in January and February 2014 she won the tournament at Hobart, reached the final sixteen at Australian Open by defeating Wozniaki, and finished second at the main-tour event in Florianopolis, Brazil. Disappointments followed, in first-round losses at Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston. Currently #40, predicted target #15.
 
-- Eugenie Bouchard, 20, 5-10, Canada. This is also Eugenie's third watch-list appearance. The first came at the end of 2012, after which she surpassed her predicted 12-month target of #95 by finishing 2013 at world #32. Her rise further accelerated in the recent trimester, included achieving the final four at Australian Open and Charleston, a strong run at Indian Wells, and two singles wins in Canada's Fed Cup victory over Serbia in Group B action in February. Currently #19, predicted target #10.
 
WATCH-LIST SCOREBOARD
 
Readers can sense the quality of new watch lists by knowing the success of past lists. Here is the overall scoreboard of watch-list graduates, male and female, from the first seven lists (including List VII):
 
Number of listees, 97
Listees who surpassed predicted target, 22
Listees who improved but not enough to surpass target, 43
Listees who regressed, 32
 
REPORT CARD: WATCH LIST VII
 
The term of Watch List VII, selected in April 2013, has now ended, its members having shown only moderate success during the list's tenure. Of its seven female members, two surpassed their predicted targets, four others improved but not enough to reach the targets, and one member went backwards. Shown below are each member's current age, official rank one year ago, predicted target, and current official rank.
 
Katerina Siniakova,18, then #424, target #271, now #164
Storm Sanders, 19, then #306, target #162, now #269
Madison Keys, age 19, then #66, target #46, now #42
Kristina Mladenovic,19, then #50, target #28, now #87
Luksika Kumkhum, 20, then #130, target #69, now #107
Garbine Muguruza, 20, then #77, target #33, now #40
Karolina Pliskova, 22, then #81, target #34, now #67
 
Our male graduates were less successful. Three members surpassed their predicted targets. But all four of the others went backwards.
 
Matt Barton, 22, then #206, target #113, now #559
Grigor Dimitrov, 22, then #35, target #28, now #15
Frederico Delbonis, 23, then #116, target #64, now #43
Rhyne Williams, 23, then #144, target #84, now #153
Marius Copil,23, then #127, target #92, now #167
John Millman, 24, then #126, target #71, now #820
Alejandro Gonzalez, 25, then #167, target #128, now #79
 
Watch Lists VIII and IX remain active. Several members have done very well so far -- Halep, Bencic, and Bouchard among the women, Fognini, Carreno Busta, and Thiem among the men. Most of the other female nominees have shown some improvement, but about half the male nominees including Janowicz and Pospisil have regressed.
 
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
 
All parts of our journey here -- from the age cohorts, to the recent overachievers, to the fresh watch lists -- were mainly rooted in player results during the recent trimester. By interpreting matters more broadly and also by applying some guesswork, we here offer the few who are most likely to attain superstardom.
 
Men
Nishikori
Dimitrov
Thiem
 
Women
Halep
Bouchard
Svitolina
Bencic
 
-- Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
 

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Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014


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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.


 

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