2011 Australian Open: Top 10 Potential Breakout Performances
As the first round came to a close at the Australian Open yesterday, 128 players began and only 64 remained.
Through the first round, we are beginning to see who is for real in this tournament and who is determined to start off the new year on a high note. Just because it seems Rafa and Federer are well on their way to meeting in the final, doesn't mean we still won't see some of the unexpected.
Here are the top 10 potential breakout performances, in no particular order, of the remaining 64 players.
Richard Berankis, Lithuania
Tom Dulat/Getty Images
Richard Berankis is probably a player you have never heard of.
However, in 2010 the 5-foot-9 Lithuanian put together a few wins in Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He is quick and is always a tough opponent.
Berankis won his first round match in straight sets over Marinko Matosevic and will play David Nalbandian in the second round. Nalbandian is coming off a 5-set match that went until 1:00 a.m. against Lleyton Hewitt, setting Berankis up perfectly to advance to the next round where he will likely face David Ferrer.
Alexandr Dolgopolov, Ukraine
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Playing in his first Australian Open, this youngster from the Ukraine is certainly making his case as a future top-notch player in coming years.
In his first Grand Slam ever, Alexandr Dolgopolov reached the third round at Rolland Garros and also got a win at Wimbledon. He has a lot of power and is very speedy on the court.
He won his first round match in straight sets over Mikhail Kukushkin and has a fairly easy second round match with Benjamin Becker. Should Dolgopolov advance to the next round, he would likely meet Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who struggled his way through five sets last night.
Bernard Tomic, Australia
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
This Australian teenager is probably the second most popular player in the "Happy Slam" this year after Lleyton Hewitt.
Widely regarded as the future of tennis in Australia, Bernard Tomic has been getting a lot of attention. He defeated the talented Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in straight sets yesterday and will take on Feliciano Lopez tomorrow. He probably won't advance much further if he wins because a date with Rafa likely looms in the third round.
Tomic is tall, crafty and always has a good shot in him.
Kei Nishikori, Japan
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
The average tennis fan has no clue who this stellar 21-year-old star is, but that is beginning to change.
Kei Nishikori is one of the most fun players to watch and has the ability to beat anyone on any given day. He has proven himself on the hard courts, going to the fourth round at the U.S. Open in 2008 and the third round in 2010.
In the first round of this year's Australian Open, Nishikori beat the talented Italian Fabio Fognini in four sets and will play Florian Mayer in the second round, a match he should be able to win.
Lukasz Kubot, Poland
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
This image of Lukasz Kubot is during his 5-set defeat of the young American, Sam Querrey, in the first round.
Kubot is mostly known as a doubles player, where he is ranked 10th in the world, but his singles game apparently is his hidden talent. He reached the fourth round in the 2010 Australian Open and appears to be well on his way to beginning a stellar career in singles tennis.
He will play Sergiy Stakhovsky in round two and will maybe play Mardy Fish in the third round. Fish has been reportedly sick all week, so there could be room for another run by the Pole.
Nicolas Mahut, France
Paul Kane/Getty Images
It's a little hard not to be a Nicky Mahut fan after seeing his epic match against John Isner last summer in Wimbledon, where he lost 70-68 in the final set. He has reportedly not recovered from that match—which lasted more than 11 hours and spanned three days—with some lingering injuries.
However, here in Australia he has already won four matches, including three in qualifying, and he seems to be playing well. He defeated Brian Dabul in straight sets in the first round. He will play Victor Troicki in the second round, which is definitely winnable for the Frenchman.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, Ukraine
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
I feel like I am kind of hedging my bets here by featuring Sergiy Stakhovsky in this slideshow because I already put in his opponent, Lukasz Kubot.
However, both have equal potential to have a great showing during this tournament. Stakhovsky has been around tennis for a while, but he seems to continuously play at a higher level every time he is on the court.
He quickly ousted the talented Daniel Brands last round and may have more of that in him for the next couple of rounds.
Robin Haase, Netherlands
Phil Walter/Getty Images
Last year in Wimbledon, Robin Haase took Rafa to five sets and eventually lost.
However, he definitely has some big wins looming in his future. He still hasn't advanced past the second round at a major yet, but after beating Carlos Belocq in straight sets, he should have a good shot against Juan Monaco.
Blaz Kavcic, Slovenia
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
The name itself kind of gives it away. I mean, who wants to play a guy named Blaz?
He had a strong 2010 to open his Grand Slam tennis career, advancing to the second round at Roland Garros.
Ranked No. 1 in the qualifying tournament, Kavcic blazed his way through the competition and beat the big South African, Kevin Anderson, in four sets. He will play Mikhail Youzhny in the second round, but this might be a tough matchup for Kavcic. Youzhny is beatable though, and if he can get by the Russian, Kavcic just might find himself on his way to the second week of a major.
Andreas Seppi, Italy
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Andreas Seppi has been on the verge of a breakout basically his entire carer, having gotten to the third round three times in a Grand Slam, but never the fourth.
This tournament he is getting a tired Jo-Wilfred Tsonga coming off a 5-set win. Seppi is coming off five sets as well, but Tsonga has proven he can be very vulnerable against any opponent on some nights and lethal on other nights. Should he beat Tsonga, Seppi will get either Benjamin Becker or Alexandr Dogopolov, both of whom are decent, yet beatable.