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Australian Open 2014 Tennis: Most Promising Performances from Melbourne

China's Li Na poses for photos at Brighton Beach with her Australian Open trophy following her win over Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Aaron Favila/Associated Press
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 27, 2014

After a wild 2014 Australian Open, the rest of the tennis season could be exciting and unpredictable. Both the men and the women's draw produced surprise winners. Victories for Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na could be the beginning to a strong season for both. 

Here's a look at the players who had the most promising performances in Melbourne.

 

Li Na

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Though she is no stranger to the Grand Slam scene, and she had already won a major at the 2011 French Open, the Aussie Open title could set Li up for her biggest year yet. 

Her game is best suited for the clay courts of Roland Garros. Heading into the French Open, Li's confidence should be riding high. At 31 years old, she has a good chance to win half of the year's Grand Slam events with the French Open in May.

If you mentioned that possibility to someone two months ago, they probably would have laughed. No one is laughing now.

 

Dominika Cibulkova

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Dominika Cibulkova didn't beat Li, but simply advancing this far was a huge accomplishment for a player who won just four Grand Slam matches in 2013.

Eclipsing the previous year's worth of Grand Slam victories in one tournament is a big deal. The 24-year-old should leave Melbourne excited about the rest of the year and her continued growth as a player.

 

Eugenie Bouchard

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Eugenie Bouchard of Canada looks on in her semifinal match against Na Li of China during day 11 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty I
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The 2014 Australian Open was just the beginning for Eugenie Bouchard. The 19-year-old Canadian has her best tennis ahead of her. With two of the world's best in their 30s (Serena Williams and Li), there will soon be room for another player among the elite.

Her performance in Melbourne guaranteed her a spot in the Top 20 WTA rankings, and she can at least say she lost to the eventual champion of the tournament.

Li's experience was a little too much to overcome in the semifinal round, but Bouchard figures to have many more chances to capture a Grand Slam in the coming years.

 

Grigor Dimitrov

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22:  Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria celebrates a point in his quarterfinal match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day 10 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The 22-year-old Bulgarian advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. He took the first set from Rafael Nadal and battled to tiebreakers in the second and third frames. 

The man they call "Baby Fed," due to the similarities in his game to Roger Federer, truly had a breakthrough performance. 

Grigor Dimitrov is trying to ditch the nickname in hopes of making his own moniker. Per Jocelyn Gecker of The Associated Press (via The Huffington Post), Dimitrov said:

"We have said it loud and clear, that my name is Grigor. I think I am proving that every day and every match that I'm winning out here in the Slams. I think that page is definitely in the past now."

It will be interesting to see if he can build on this momentum for the rest of the year. If he does, no one will have an issue remembering his name.

 

Stanislas Wawrinka

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland looks on in a press conference after defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain during day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by
Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

Wawrinka's breakthrough has been a long time coming. But in moving past Nadal and Novak Djokovic en route to the Australian Open title, he solidified himself as a major threat in each of the three remaining Grand Slam events.

Can he follow up his first Grand Slam title with a win at the French Open, Wimbledon or the U.S. Open? The legendary Pete Sampras seems to think Wawrinka has the skills necessary. He told BBC Sport:

"This will hopefully be the beginning for Wawrinka. The win over Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals was a big moment. He got through it, he's now a Grand Slam champion and is on his way."

Wawrinka will be 29 in March, so if he's going to make the most of his new-found momentum, he'd better get on it right away.

After such an eventful tournament, the tennis world is no doubt starving for the next Grand Slam. The French Open begins May 25. Start the countdown.

 

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