Of the four Grand Slam events, Wimbledon is arguably the most prestigious – many players are not as comfortable on grass as they are on clay or hard courts, and the tournament has a rich history going back to 1877, making it the oldest Major.
Thanks go to Elizabeth Eckhart for this guest blog. Follow her on Twitter.
Even in a game like tennis, when years of practice and a bit of natural talent are necessary, however, sometimes vivacity and youthful exuberance lead to championship wins.
How old are the youngest Champions of the modern era?
The youngest players to hold the silver gilt salver or cup at the All England Club in the modern era are Boris Becker, who won in 1985 at the age of 17, and Switzerland’s Martina Hingis, after besting Jana Novotna in three sets in 1997 when she was just 16 years old. The following list of young tennis players who have taken to the grass in 2014 may just be the next generation of greats, giving the veterans a run for their money in this year’s tournament.
Who are some of the rising stars in women’s singles?
After reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open, 2012 Junior Wimbledon winner Eugenie Bouchard defeated Angelique Kerber to go through to the Wimbledon semifinals. After defeating Cornet, Petkovic and Hantuchova in earlier rounds, Bouchard’s tennis star will continue to rise.
Lauren Davis, in her second Wimbledon appearance, had also advanced to the third round by beating No. 12 ranked Flavia Pennetta, and looked to cause some trouble of her own. The plucky American is 20 years old and ranked 55 in the world. She’s also one of the smallest pros on the grass today, at 5 feet, 2 inches, which she compensates for with plenty of aggression and a strong, two-handed backhand. Unfortunately, Davis’ run at Wimbledon ended with a disappointing loss to China’s Shuai Peng in the third round, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In a surprise three-set victory over No. 9 seed Victoria Azarenka, Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia was in it to win. The youngest top 100 seed in 2010, Jovanovski also defeated a former No. 1, Jelena Janković, the same year. The 22-year-old is ranked 45 in the world, and though she exits this year’s Wimbledon with a respectable loss against Tereza Smitkova, she may yet find victory in the doubles.
France’s Caroline Garcia, 20, is ranked 46 in singles and yet another who seems to have a solid career ahead of her. Even Wimbledon hero Andy Murray once declared that Garcia could be No. 1 in the world someday. This year, however, proves she’s not quite there, after her defeat to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, ranked number 22 in singles.
Ana Konjuh, ranked 189, seemingly came from nowhere to reach the third round. The 16-year-old from Croatia faced and lost to Caroline Wozniacki (ranked 16) in round 3. Still Konjuh is expected to return, having already won the girls’ singles and doubles title at 2013 Australian Open and the junior singles title at US Open the same year. She turned pro in 2014.
Who are the promising under-25s in men’s singles?
On the men’s side, experience trumps youth for the most part as the majority of players are in their late-20s. However, there are a few young men who may challenge the vets in the future.
Not as tall as John Isner but just as dynamic, Australian Nick Kyrgios, at 6 feet 4 inches, is creating a lot of buzz in the tennis world. He is currently ranked No. 144 and is the talk of the tennis world for defeating World No.1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon. Kyrgios turned pro in 2013, and previously saved nine match points to pull off a defeat of Richard Gasquet, the number 13 seed at Wimbledon. Kyrgios will play Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, known as “Baby Fed,” just celebrated his 23rd birthday. The former Junior No. 1 and Wimbledon’s 2008 Boys Singles Champion got the better of No. 1 Novak Djokovic in 2013 at the Madrid Open. Winner of the 2014 AEGON Championships at The Queens Club, Dimitrov’s current ranking is No. 13, making him the biggest threat of the new class. He’s still in the competition, and will take on Andy Murray in a quarter-final clash.
Although 22-year-old Pablo Carreno Busta lost in the first round to David Ferrer in four sets, the promising young Spaniard recently jumped 12 places in the rankings and is now No. 61 in the world. We haven’t seen the last of him, that’s for sure. Ferrer was, however, bested by 23-year-old Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in Round 2, who even shut out the seasoned pro 6-0 in the second set. An unexpected result for sure. Kuznetsov is a former Junior Wimbledon champ, and he called the win the “biggest of my career,” something he will likely remember even after his loss to Leonardo Mayer (ranked 64).
Probably the easiest way to catch the rest of what promises to be an excellent tournament is by tuning into ESPN, which also offers many matches streaming online, or even better the Wimbledon Mix channel that DirecTV offers ( see their website for details) which allows you to watch up to six matches at once in HD – great for any Wimbledon addict.