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The future is in good hands with these women

Madison Keys hits a forehand
by Dan Imhoff
Saturday 5 July 2014

The hype may have centred on 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard reaching her first Grand Slam final, but a slew of other players made hefty inroads at Wimbledon 2014, pointing to bigger things to come.

Simona Halep
Hardly going out on a limb saying the world No.3 is one to watch, but it is the nature of Halep’s rise over such a short timeframe, which justifies her tag as a rising star of the game. At just 22, the Romanian backed up her French Open runner-up result to reach her first Wimbledon semi-final, completely dismantling last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki before injuries hampered her charge against Bouchard. The match never lived up to expectations but was a glimpse into a future rivalry at the top of the women’s game, as the only two players this year to have reached the quarter-finals or better at the three majors.

Lucie Safarova
Before Roland Garros, the Czech lefty had not reached a fourth round at a major since 2007, seven years since she beat world Amelie Mauresmo at both the Australian and French Opens. She did not drop a set on her run to a maiden slam semi-final this week before Fed Cup teammate Petra Kvitova stopped her in her tracks. Reaching the second week of back-to-back majors again has been a long time coming, but a return to the top 20 has Safarova poised for a big finish to 2014. A Fed Cup triumph alongside Kvitova in a home final in Prague would be the icing on the cake.

Zarina Diyas
With the rare distinction of being the only Kazakh-born player competing under the Kazakhstan flag, 21-year-old Diyas had a breakthrough Wimbledon campaign, upsetting No.15 seed Carla Suarez Navarro and former finalist Vera Zvonareva en route to the fourth round. A short baseliner, Diyas’s game is built around big, flat groundstrokes. She notched 95 winners in her first three rounds before Halep stifled her spark.

Madison Keys
A left thigh injury robbed the big-hitting American of her moment having to pull out of her third-round match with Yaroslava Shvedova, after fading light interrupted their match. The 19-year-old had arrived at Wimbledon having forged her way to the Eastbourne title, where she defeated Angelique Kerber in the final and she carried a seven-match winning streak on the turf into her third-round assignment. A top-30 ranking has ensured Keys will be seeded at a major for the first time when her home slam rolls around in September.

Ana Konjuh
The youngest player to reach the third round at Wimbledon since Jelena Dokic 15 years ago, 16-year-old Konjuh blitzed her way through three rounds of qualifying before former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki ended her five-match winning streak. It is all the more impressive when you consider the Croatian missed the best part of the first half of the season to elbow surgery. Last year’s junior Australian and US Open champion is limited by the ITF’s age eligibility rule until she turns 18, but big things are expected from the Dubrovnik teenager as her powerful game develops.

Belinda Bencic
Last year’s junior champion at the All England Club is on a similar upward trajectory to Konjuh. The newest 17-year-old Swiss miss regularly consults with her idol Martina Hingis’s mother and part-time coach Melanie Molitor and the similarities in her game show. Much like Hingis, Bencic – also of Slovak heritage – has a game built on consistency and court craft as opposed to bludgeoning the ball. As she surged past rising Haitian-American Victoria Duval to reach her first Grand Slam third round at this year’s Championships, Hingis was cheering her own from the stands. It was a different story days later when the pair faced off in the mixed doubles third round. Hingis would claim bragging rights in that match, but Bencic’s time will come.

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