Like it or not, but the Williams sisters are getting old, and their reign is about to be over, and probably would have been over if the two Belgians never retired. What we are waiting for now is the new dominant force that every era had to help transition the game. When Martina Navratilova was getting older, a young pair of women arrived on the scene to gain dominance during that era, named Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. After they started to get old, a very young Martina Hingis arrived to stake her claim as the new dominance in woman's tennis. After Hingis, you had the Williams sisters show up to prove that the Swiss Miss style of tennis was in the past, and a new power game was on the horizon. We were supposed to get a dominance of young Russians but they turned out to be too inconsistent.
Where do we go from here? There are very few girls in the top of the WTA right now that are still young (young in terms of tennis, so around 23 or below). Here are the girls who are the future of tennis' best hope to help usher in this new era:
Caroline Wozniacki: She is probably the best hope of all. She has the rare combination of looks, personality, and skill that already have her as one of the fan favorites. I was wishing to not have to write this article after she won the 2010 US Open, but she fell apart after dominating for most of the tournament. The reason for optimism is that she made huge strides in 2010 in her overall game. She won 4 singles titles this year, including the summer series and made at least the round of 16 in every grand slam this year. Now she has a better serve and is almost the woman's version of Rafa, because of her ability to play defense and use speed. I have high hopes for Caroline in 2011, while she is only 20, she needs to grab at least one grand slam this year before the years fade away and she becomes Elena Dementieva. She does have the potential to be the best and a multiple grand slam winner, if she can get a little more power and tougher mentally.
Who Do You Think is the Next Big Thing in Women's Tennis?
Agnieszka Radwanska: The 21 year old native of Poland made great strides back in 2008 to become a top 10 player in the world, but in the last two years she has remained at the same spot, and has not progressed far in any grand slam besides Wimbledon, where she does reasonably well. The reason for optimism is that she's still young and has been real good for the past few years. She has the potential to reach a grand slam semifinal this year. She most likely won't be a multiple grand slam winner, but in time could win one or two, enough for a very successful career.
Victoria Azarenka: This 21 year old is very similar to Radwanska. She had a great 2009 season, reached as high as number 7 in the world, along with a few quarterfinals, and showed great potential. She seemed to take a step back this year for whatever reason. Her ranking, although still very high at 11, dropped, and she failed to do anything noteworthy after reaching the quarters of the Australian open. She did win a singles title this year though. The reason for optimism here is that the talent is definitely there, she just needs to fulfill it. She is going to have a very similar career to Aggie Radwanksa, however I think she is a little more talented and thus could leave her with more grand slams, although I don't see that many in her future either.
Yanina Wickmayer: The 21 year old Belgian was a late bloomer, and didn't really come onto the scene until 2009. She does not have the talent of the other girls right now but you can clearly see the potential after she reached the semis of the 2009 US Open. She is bigger than these other girls at 6 foot, and has more power. She, also, made improvements at the grand slams compared to her 2009 self, except at the US Open. If she reaches her full potential she has a chance to be better than Azarenka and Radwanska, but who knows if that will ever happen. Wickmayer's future is hard to determine, she could be one of those girls that never fully reaches her potential and ends up with zero grand slams or she could, and finish with multiple.
Dominika Cibulkova: A very feisty player 21 year old who has a lot of heart. Her main problem is natural rather then just skill or mental. She is 5'3 on a very good day, and could pass for 5 foot. She is very fast, and has a lot of power for her size but her size is what's hindering her. In past decades this would not be a problem, but girls are just getting bigger and stronger in today's game. If you think Justine Henin is small, she has a good 3 inches or so on Dominika. However, she reached the semifinal of the French Open last year and the quarters of the US Open this year, which is more accomplishments than Azarenka or Radwanska. There is no counting out heart and toughness.
Maria Sharapova: It's hard to believe this three time grand slam champion is only 23 years old. However, constant injuries and her lack of mobility have caught up to her. Her yearly ranking keeps dropping because of said injuries and her future isn't as bright as it once was. That being said, she is as tough mentally as anyone in the game and has as much power as anyone too. If she can stay healthy, she will have tournaments where her big blasts aren't missing and can win a few more. I could see another three grand slams in her career, giving her six, which is a great career to say the least.
That is the top of the bright, young stars I can see for now. If anyone has a dark horse they know about, then tell me.