French Open 2012: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Who Improved Their Olympic Outlook

Neri Stein@neristeinFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2012

French Open 2012: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Who Improved Their Olympic Outlook

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    The 2012 French Open saw a lot of young stars burst onto the scene, and there's no better year for young tennis players to make a name for themselves than an Olympic year.

    Sara Errani may have lost the final to Maria Sharapova, but she did win the doubles title. Meanwhile, her compatriot, Andreas Seppi, got everyone talking when he pushed world No. 1 Novak Djokovic all the way to the brink in the fourth round.

    While the usual suspects Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Sharapova and Li Na will all be going for the gold in London this summer, it's the young stars who have the edge.

    Many young players were the talk of Roland Garros, and most of them will be hoping to parlay their strong French Open performances onto the podium in London.

Sara Errani

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    Sara Errani of Italy is ready to climb the rankings in women's tennis. At 25, 2012 has been the best year of her career, and she's improved with each tournament.

    Maria Sharapova was just too tough to beat in the French Open final, but Errani claimed the doubles title, and she will definitely be dangerous at the Olympics.

    Right now, clay is her best surface, but she should be able to translate her form to the grass at Wimbledon rather seamlessly.

    She has the experience of playing in the latter stages of tournaments and playing on big stages, and she's ready to make a name for herself with the women's side wide open.

Andreas Seppi

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    It could be a good tennis showing for Italy this summer.

    Andreas Seppi is a bit of a late bloomer, but none of the top seeds will be able to overlook the 28-year-old in London.

    He made his deepest run in a major at this year's French Open with his fourth-round loss to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, but the way he lost certainly won't have him disappointed.

    Seppi took the first two sets from the Djoker and pushed him all the way to edge in the last three sets before finally giving in.

    He doesn't have a great record on the grass at Wimbledon, but he will certainly be buoyed by his French Open performance and looking to cause a few upsets. 

Yaroslava Shvedova

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    Yaroslava Shvedova used to represent Russia but now plays under the Kazakhstani flag, and she represented it well at the French Open.

    The 24-year-old's biggest victory came over defending champion Li Na in the fourth round. She didn't back down after losing the first set rather tamely, but instead, she turned it on and completely dominated Na to win in three sets.

    She lost in the quarterfinals to Petra Kvitova, but she didn't go down easily.

    Aside from Maria Sharapova regaining control of the No. 1 spot, the women's side is wide open, and Shvedova will be looking to exploit that this summer and bring home a very special medal for Kazakhstan.

David Goffin

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    David Goffin made himself one of the top young players to watch with his performance at Roland Garros this year.

    The 21-year-old from Belgium was the lucky loser when Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw, and he made it count in each round. He defeated Radek Stepanek, Arnaud Clement and Lukasz Kubot in the first three rounds becoming the first lucky loser to make the last 16 of a major since Wimbledon 1995.

    He ran into Roger Federer in the third round, but he didn't just roll over. He took the first set against the most successful tennis player in history and pushed King Fed all the way to 7-5 in the second before losing in four.

    If Goffin is lucky enough to get a shot in London, he's certainly one to watch.

Kaia Kanepi

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    Anytime you take down a former world No. 1 and somewhat-tournament favorite, you're going to get people talking.

    Defeating Caroline Wozniacki may have lost some of its luster of late, but it's put Kaia Kanepi on the map in women's tennis.

    The Estonian took down the ninth-seeded Wozniacki in the third round with little difficulty except for when Wozniacki pushed her to a tiebreak (and won) in the second set.

    The 26-year-old went down to eventual champion Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, but the experience will surely help Kanepi this summer. Her quarterfinals appearance was the fourth of her career in a major (second at the French), and she could be a dark horse to land on the podium this summer.