The recent perception of women’s tennis is that the last few years has lacked quality, especially when compared to the quality of the men’s game.
The problems have stemmed from the fact that stars like the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters have suffered from long term injuries while Justin Henin sadly had to retire after her comeback attempt failed. This has left a power vacuum at the top of the women’s game which has not been adequately filled.
This year’s Wimbledon though has provided some optimism that a new generation of young players, led by champion Petra Kvitova, are ready to create a new era of women’s tennis with more quality and some potentially great rivalries brewing.
Here are five women ready to bring in that new generation.
The Wimbledon champion is the obvious place to start. Kvitova’s victory perhaps represented a changing of the guard when she outplayed Maria Sharapova to win her first Grand Slam title.
It was not a great surprise that the 21 year old won the title, she has the perfect game for grass. A big lefty slicing serve combined with a hard, flat forehand. When you add in a solid backhand and good movement around the court, Kvitova has the potential to be a multi-slam winner on all surfaces.
The one weak point in her game would appear to be her concentration. In both the quarter and semi-finals, she appeared to lose focus at the start of the second set allowing her opponents back into matches she had dominated.
Make no mistake, the talented Czech will be around for many years.
Every Wimbledon needs a feel good story and the 21 year old German provided it. A year ago, Lisicki was struggling to comeback from a series of career threatening injuries. She’s back now and coming off a fantastic run to the Semi-Finals of Wimbledon where she beat French Open champion Li Na and Marion Bartoli on the way.
Lisicki’s main asset is her serve which registers at nearly 125 mph. She also possesses a big forehand and an extremely well-disguised drop shot off both flanks, a shot she used to great effect against Bartoli.
Lisicki still has plenty of work to do on her game though. Her second serve is nowhere the quality of the first coming in at around 75 mph and she does tend to get tight when serving out matches, this was apparent when she lost to Vera Zvonareva at the French Open this year.
With fellow Germans Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic also improving, a fully fit Lisicki is leading a renaissance in German tennis.
Azarenka has attracted more attention for her grunting (measured at 95 decibels!) than her tennis, but the Belorussian made her first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon this year.
Like Kvitova and Lisicki, Azarenka is a powerful ball striker of both flanks. She has a solid serve and good movement around the court, but her main strength is her excellent return of serve which has helped her reach number four in the world.
Azarenka’s biggest weakness appears to be herself. She has pulled out of number of tournaments with niggling injuries and in the case of last year's U.S Open, collapsing on court with a concussion. Clearly her fitness is still an issue.
It may seem strange to include the current world number four in a list discussing the next generation, but Azarenka has yet to reach her full potential. When she does, she is a threat to win a Grand Slam
While she may not be the biggest name on the tour, Pironkova could be one of the stars of the future.
The Bulgarian has shown that she can mix it with the best, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year and the quarters this. Both times, she beat Venus Williams and this year upset the world number two Vera Zvonareva.
Pironkova’s main weapon is her powerful backhand. She has also shown plenty of mental toughness, pushing Petra Kvitova all the way in their quarter final this year when it looked like she was being totally dominated.
However, Pironkova has yet to find any real consistency. Great performances at Wimbledon have been somewhat tempered by poor results, elsewhere especially this year. She also lacks the power of many of the top players today.
At 23 though, there is still plenty of time for her to improve.
She may only be ranked 237 at the moment, but this Wimbledon showed glimpses of why the 17 year old Brit is highly regarded.
A winner of Junior Wimbledon at the age of 14, her style of play is not too different from Kvitova. Robson has a big lefty slicing serve and a heavy forehand. This was certainly apparent when she gave Maria Sharapova plenty of trouble in the early stages of their second round match at Wimbledon this year.
Robson is some way from being the finished article though, her movement around court is poor and she is prone to making a lot of unforced errors. This year has been especially tough with a number of injuries and coaching changes. This would explain her low ranking and why she has not made the progress that fellow British hope Heather Watson has.
If she can get past these problems, the British public may have more to cheer about than Andy Murray.