You may never have heard of them, but there are unheralded players in Melbourne poised to make deep runs at the 2013 Australian Open.
Take Laura Robson, for instance. The 18-year-old—who turns 19 on Monday—just defeated No. 8-seeded Petra Kvitova (2-6, 6-3, 11-9) in a thrilling match.
Playing extra tennis might hurt a player even slightly advanced in age, but for one as young as Robson, it should have no effect. The teenager should be prepared to play in the third round of the women’s singles.
She will face another seeded player in the next round—American Sloane Stephens, ranked No. 29. Stephens is a youngster herself at just 19 years of age.
Her experience in comparison to Robson is great, but still leaves much to be desired. Her greatest finish in a Grand Slam event was reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2012. For two years in a row she has made it to the third round at Flushing Meadows in the U.S. Open.
Whoever wins that match should experience smooth sailing past the fourth round, as the opponent would be the winner of the Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Bojana Jovanovski match. Neither player is seeded.
Stephens and Robson are both understood to be rising players in the game. Of course, with their lack of experience, a slip-up is very much in play.
Their Australian Open run would likely end in the next round anyway, as the opponent will be one of these three seeded players: No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko or No. 3 Serena Williams.
Reaching the quarterfinals wouldn’t be bad for either player at such youthful ages.
It would further indicate to the tennis world that the women’s game is just fine. Two players already making a mark on the game at a time when there are still several veterans playing great tennis themselves is frankly great for the game.
Unfortunately, the men’s side appears to be even more predictable. It’s almost impossible to imagine seeing any of the current “big three”—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray—losing any time before the semis.
That may not be a bad thing for the men’s game. It only poses questions about the future of the game. But that is ultimately neither here or there in Melbourne.
What matters is that fans see great tennis.
And those three promise to offer the best tennis of any players in the world.