Rising Tennis Stars with the Grass-Court Game to Make a Splash at Wimbledon 2014

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

Rising Tennis Stars with the Grass-Court Game to Make a Splash at Wimbledon 2014

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    The always-volatile, revolving list of up-and-coming tennis stars often changes after each Grand Slam. A number of young players leapt on to the list after impressive French Open performances. 

    But how many of them have a game that translates well to grass-court play? 

    The quick and slick grass courts favor the big server and swift movers. If they can serve and volley, even better.

    hink of the greatest grass-court players of all time. Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Bjorn Bjorg, Martina Navratilova, Venus and Serena Williams, all have tremendous serves and can serve and volley. 

    So who among the rising stars has the type of game to succeed at the All England Club?

    Simona Halep, 23, is hardly a rising star. When you reach No. 3 and nearly win a Grand Slam in your first appearance in a Slam final, you are beyond up-and-coming. You have arrived.

    Likewise, No. 10 Kei Nishikori, 24, is no longer on the rise. Perhaps not a bona-fide superstar, Nishikori has been on the tour too long to be considered a member of generation next. Heck, he was born just two years after Novak Djokovic. 

    Players on this list are 23 and younger and have had some success. Most importantly, they have the weapons in their arsenal to make a deep run at Wimbledon. 

Honorable Mention: Belinda Bencic

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    Belinda Bencic, 17, won French Open and Wimbledon titles as a junior. She's been compared to compatriot Martina Hingis. She's even been coached by Hingis' mother.

    However, Bencic sometimes suffers from the crushing weight of high expectations. If she can measure up mentally, she has the all-court game to do well at Wimbledon.

Eugenie Bouchard

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    Eugenie Bouchard has proven her mental toughness by reaching the semifinals in the last two Grand Slams.

    What will help her on grass is how early she takes the ball. She's also an excellent defender who can absorb pace from the big-hitters.

    The experience of grueling three-setters against Carla Suarez Navarro and Maria Sharapova will help Bouchard when it comes to closing out matches. 

Milos Raonic

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    Milos Raonic made a big splash at the French Open by reaching the quarterfinals.

    His game is better suited for grass. The big-serving Canadian can rack up free points with aces. Although Raonic, 23, has never moved beyond the second-round at Wimbledon, recent success and a higher-ranking (11) will bolster his chances. 


Garbine Muguruza

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    Hot off her French Open upset over Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza enters Wimbledon ranked No. 27, a career high.

    She lists Williams and Sampras as her favorite players. She claims to have watched 100 videos of Williams.

    At 6'0", Muguruza packs a powerful serve. If she enjoys even a fraction of the success on grass as Sampras and Williams, she has a bright future at Wimbledon. 

Jerzy Janowicz

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    Jerzy Janowicz has struggled this season. He's lost an opening match seven times.

    But he returns to Wimbledon where he had his breakout performance last year. Janowicz surprised many by reaching the semifinals where he lost to Andy Murray.

    The 23-year-old, who lists Sampras as his favorite player, is 7-3 on grass. The grounds at Wimbledon could provide the spark he needs to reignite his career. 

Ajla Tomljanovic

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    Ajla Tomljanovic is another big-hitting player with a promising career.

    She trained at the Chris Evert Academy in Florida and considers Evert "a second mom." Tomljanovic credits Evert with helping her with the mental aspects of tennis.

    A strong mind and mighty forehand can take her far at Wimbledon. 

Grigor Dimitrov

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    Grigor Dimitrov, 23, is moving dangerously close to bypassing up-and-comer status and going straight to "woulda-coulda been."

    He's ranked No. 13, an admirable accomplishment for most players. But Dimitrov is not most players.

    Often over-hyped, Dimitrov sometimes underachieves. He's pulled off some impressive upsets. However, he's yet to move beyond the second round at Wimbledon.

    Dimitrov patterns his game after Federer. Perhaps this year he lives up to his nickname—"Baby Fed." 

Sloane Stephens

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    Sloane Stephens got off to another shaky start this season. She dropped to No. 19 after reaching a career-high of No. 11.

    She reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2013. This year she has an added advantage, the marvelous mind of Paul Annacone.

    Annacone coached Federer and Sampras, two of the best grass-court players ever. Stephens has incredible speed and produces easy power from both wings.

    If Annacone can help Stephens move her game from beyond the baseline to end points quickly, she could reach her first Grand Slam final.