Players worth watching in 2007
Bonnie DeSimone gives you the players worth watching in 2007. (And we're not talking about Federer, Nadal or Sharapova.)
November's news understandably has been dominated by the top eight players in each tour as the year-end championships unfolded. Fields in both the ATP and WTA generally were stocked with established competitors in their mid-20s. Only two of the 16, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, were under 21.
Who can we expect to see bubbling up from the more youthful contingent next year? Though tennis seems to be short on teenaged sensations right now, here are some educated guesses, in alphabetical order.
Men: 21-and-under to watch
Nicolas Almagro, 21, Spain
2006 year-end ranking: 32; 2005 year-end ranking: 111
Quietly compiled a 23-10 record on clay, went deep in several tournaments on the surface and won his first ATP event while competing in the long shadow cast by Nadal.
Marcos Baghdatis, 21, Cyprus
2006 year-end ranking: 12; 2005 year-end ranking: 56
Stunning Australian Open final appearance established his star appeal so quickly that it feels as if he doesn't belong on this list, but he's age-eligible. Had winning records on clay, grass and hard courts and was 5-6 against top 10 players. Reached Wimbledon semis and perched in the top 10 himself from mid-July to mid-October. Won first ATP title in Beijing late in the season.
2006 year-end ranking: 13; 2005 year-end ranking: 24
Hot summer enabled this all-surface player to rise in the rankings for the fifth straight year despite going 0-2 in finals. Went 10-4 in Grand Slam events and showed grit by winning all three of his five-set matches, two at Wimbledon and one at the U.S. Open.
Novak Djokovic, 19, Serbia
2006 year-end ranking: 16; 2005 year-end ranking: 78
Showed versatility and endurance in his third professional season, winning two ATP titles and leading the men's tour in tiebreak wins (19-3). French Open quarterfinal run was turning point in his season. Struggled with top 10 players, going 2-7.
Richard Gasquet, 20, France
2006 year-end ranking: 18; 2005 year-end ranking: 16
Reached finals on clay, grass, hard court and carpet and won three of the four, but prevailed in only one of seven matches against top 10 players. Also can stake claim to being one of only five players to beat Roger Federer since 2005.
Gael Monfils, 20, France
2006 year-end ranking: 46; 2005 year-end ranking: 30
Injuries and uneven play led to somewhat of a sophomore slump. Will look to make the transition from flashes of brilliance to consistent play, especially on clay.
Andy Murray, 19, Great Britain
2006 year-end ranking: 17; 2005 year-end ranking: 64
Can tell his grandkids he was one of two guys to beat Roger Federer in 2006 (second round at Cincinnati). Won an early-season tournament in San Jose, then limped along until hiring coach Brad Gilbert in July and thrived under their collaboration. His fitness and temperament remain the object of intense British media scrutiny.
Stanislaus Wawrinka, 21, Switzerland
2006 year-end ranking: 54; 2005 year-end ranking: 30
Beat David Nalbandian twice this year and won his first ATP event in a walkover when Djokovic retired. Good results against his fellow young guns.
Honorable Mention: Donald Young, 17, United States
2006 year-end ranking: 484; 2005 year-end ranking: 553
The experiment continues. This lefty and 2005 world junior champion is still winless in ATP matches (0-9) in his third season after turning pro. Best showing this season was a semifinal appearance in a Challenger event.
Women: 19-and-under to watch
Anna Chakvetadze, 19, Russia
2006 year-end ranking: 13; 2005 year-end ranking: 33
Learn to spell this name. Upset victory in Moscow, where she steamed past more highly regarded countrywomen Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova showed this teen doesn't want to get buried in the Russian avalanche. Won both of her finals this year.
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Tatiana Golovin, 18, France
2006 year-end ranking: 22; 2005 year-end ranking: 24
Who knows how much more progress this vivacious Russian-born player would have made had she not severely sprained an ankle when she had Sharapova on the ropes in Miami in March. Still looking for her first WTA title, but had six of her seven career top-10 wins this season, including two apiece over Petrova and Nicole Vaidisova.
Ana Ivanovic, 19, Serbia
2006 year-end ranking: 14; 2005 year-end ranking: 16
Graceful player continues to improve. Can play on all surfaces but was at her best on hard courts, where she won both of her titles (Canberra and Montreal).
Vania King, 17, United States
2006 year-end ranking: 61; 2005 year-end ranking: 202
Weighed college entry, then turned pro in July and never looked back. Won WTA event in Bangkok, only the second U.S. player to win a title this year.
Michaella Krajicek, 17, Netherlands
2006 year-end ranking: 35; 2005 year-end ranking: 58
Kid sister of '96 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek won two tournaments this year (including her first outing at Hobart, Australia), but is still seeking to impress at a Grand Slam.
2006 year-end ranking: 20; 2005 year-end ranking: 45
Won three WTA titles this season and reached fourth round at French Open and U.S. Open.
Aravane Rezai, 19, France
2006 year-end ranking: 48; 2005 year-end ranking: 189
An assertive personality with equally assertive shots. Strong finish included advancing to fourth round of U.S. Open. Could be hurt by political wrangling between her father and the French federation.
Olga Poutchkova, 19, Russia
2006 year-end ranking: 38; 2005 year-end ranking: 197
Stayed on lower-level ITF circuit for most of the season, then emerged after first-round U.S. Open loss (her Grand Slam debut) to reach two finals at WTA late-season indoor events.
Nicole Vaidisova, 17, Czech Republic
2006 year-end ranking: 10; 2005 year-end ranking: 15
Proved 2005 wasn't a fluke with a strong if not spectacular season. Won title on clay in Strasbourg and advanced to semifinals of French Open. Defeated Amelie Mauresmo in two of their three meetings this year.
Honorable mention: Anna Tatishvili, 16, Georgia
2006 year-end ranking: 300; 2005 year-end ranking: 1,151
John Evert's pupil showed poise, power and hints of a great future when she defeated then-No. 41 Sania Mirza as wild card in Miami.
Bonnie DeSimone is a freelancer who contributes frequently to ESPN.com.
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