Australian Open 2012: Bernard Tomic and 5 Players to Watch

Candice HareContributor IIIJanuary 10, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Bernard Tomic and 5 Players to Watch

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    We're less than a week from the first major of the season and that means it's time to put the spotlight on a few up-and-coming players. 

    Let's be honest: The top players do not always show up in Melbourne in the greatest shape and they are vulnerable to being upset, particularly by the newest crop of young talent. 

    Who is going to pull off the upset this season?

    Here are the underdogs that have the best chance of making a deep run.

5. Christina McHale

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    After her third-round showing at Flushing Meadows last season, Christina McHale has been on the radar of tennis fans worldwide. 

    After defeating the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli in 2011, the 19-year-old McHale will have high expectations to fulfill in 2012. 

    She may be young, but she's already a stalwart on the American Fed Cup team and a bronze medalist at the Pan American games. 

    Next step: making the second week of a major. 

4. Kei Nishikori

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    At 22-years-old, Kei Nishikori is a veteran on tour, but 2012 looks to be the year that he really breaks through. 

    2010 was a big year for Nishikori, as he defeated Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the top-ranked Novak Djokovic. He was also the runner-up in Basel after losing to Roger Federer in the final. 

    The young Japanese star will look to improve upon last year's third-round showing at the Aussie Open.  

3. Kaia Kanepi

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    At 26 years of age, Kaia Kanepi is somewhat of a late bloomer, but better late than never!

    The Estonian has reached the quarterfinals of every major other than the Australian Open, but after a strong finish to what was otherwise a disappointing 2011 season, Kanepi looks to have her best finish yet Down Under. 

    In fact, she has already started the 2012 season on a positive note by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Andrea Petkovic and Daniela Hantuchova en route to winning the championship in Brisbane. 

2. Bernard Tomic

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    Bernard Tomic broke onto the scene at last year's Australian Open after he reached the third round. It was an impressive run during which he defeated the No. 31-seeded Feliciano Lopez and played well against the top seed Rafael Nadal

    But, that wasn't all for the 19-year-old Tomic, as he went on to reach the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and defeated top players such as Robin Soderling, Viktor Troicki and Stanislas Wawrinka. 

    Thus far, 2012 has been good for Tomic, who reached his first ATP semifinal in Brisbane and moved to a career-high ranking of 37 as a result. 

    Can Tomic find success much to the delight of Australian fans?

1. Milos Raonic

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    Potentially the youngest up-and-coming player on tour, Milos Raonic is a Canadian superstar in the making. 

    The 21-year-old with a monstrous serve spent 2011 defeating the top players on tour including Fernando Verdasco (twice!) and Mardy Fish before suffering a hip injury that required surgery. 

    However, his recent surgery hasn't derailed his good play, as he won his second ATP tournament in dominating fashion earlier this month in Chennai. 

    His best result in a major was at last year's Australian Open, which garnered him praise from the likes of John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova. 

    The young Canadian is on a roll, and it wouldn't be too surprising if he made an appearance during the second week of the year's first major.