Tennis: 5 Brits in with a Shout After Wimbledon
Although only Andy Murray progressed into the second round and second week of Wimbledon, 2011 heralded the first year in a long time where the lower ranked British players looked to begin bursting through.
Many performances during and before the tournament garnered recognition and subsequently national expectation. And although only Murray going past round 2 the future looks bright for Great Britian's fellow players.
Here I take a look at five players who in the next 12 months are more than capable of making a splash into the upper heights of the men's or women's game.
1. Heather Watson
Before SW19 started it was Heather Watson and not Elena Baltacha for the first time in years who looked to head the charge of Brits at their home tournament.
She had impressed in the opening months of 2011 with defeats of players much higher ranked than herself. She then battled through three rounds of qualifying in the French Open before becoming the first British women's player since 1983 to win a first round match at Roland Garros. Although it is worth noting Baltacha achieved the same feat in her match afterwards.
Yet sadly it was not to be at Wimbledon as Heather's first round fixture was thwarted by an elbow injury right at the moment when she was looking to cruise into round 2. Her opponent Mathilde Johansson was comprehensively beaten in round 2, leading many to suspect events may have been a lot different had Watson progressed.
Optimistically though her performance leading up to the injury was powerful and what we have come to expect from a player who deems herself a perfectionist. Even with the injury her opponent had to work hard to beat her 6-4 in the final set.
She has slipped outside the top 100 in the world by bowing out in the first round, but injury free she will be the player who can catch Baltacha in the rankings. And with the Scot advancing in years there is an opportunity for Watson to become a comfortable British number one.
Who knows she may even push for a seeded spot in next years Wimbledon if she can string together a long run in either of the three alternative Grand Slams. Big things definitely are in store for Watson.
2. Elena Baltacha
It was heartbreaking to see Elena exit at the second round against seeded opponent Peng Shuai.
In terms of the quality of the tennis she outplayed her opponent in numerous games and looked by far the better player. However with her lack of depth and consistency against high ranked opponents whenever her shot making dipped in accuracy and aggression her opponent took full advantage and came back from 4-2 in the third set to claim the win.
If she had battled through then you would have expected her to make round 4 and an enticing fixture on centre court against Sharapova. In that event the smart money would of course be on Sharapova but then you have to remember that Baltacha has in the past defeated French Open champion Li Na.
Too many times in the past 12 months Elena has exited in round 2 of a tournament after a very promising first round win. However she has shown before and no doubt will show again that she can attack any competitor who she comes into contact with.
Some will say that at the age of 27 she is reaching her final few years. However so much of her time in the game has been plagued with injury, causing her play to be erratic at best.
Now however she seems to be in the form of her life and in the aftermath of a title victory at the Aegon Nottingham Challenge two weeks before Wimbledon we can now expect Baltacha to climb into the top 50 for a second time and actually stay there.
If Date-Krumm can do it in her 40's then so can Elena! What we have learned with Elena is that she should never be discarded, and with Watson challenging for her number one position it may just be the added incentive to edge Baltacha further up the rankings.
3. Laura Robson
Whilst Maria Sharapova tore her apart in the second set, Laura Robson took the Wimbledon favourite to a tie break in the first set.
This was a perfect tonic to the injury plagued season she had before SW19. Her ranking had failed to improve as expected but she certainly had the determination to succeed.
You can't help but feel that the next 12 months will purely depend on her fitness levels. If she can burst through injury free then there is nothing to stop her joining Baltacha, Watson and also Anne Keothavong into the top 100.
If she does indeed reach this feat then the sky can be her limit. A former Wimbledon Junior champion would expect no less. What is required first is a first round Grand Slam win outside of SW19. This would do wonders for her confidence and only allow her a boost in confidence and ability.
4. Liam Broady
With Andy Murray exiting after defeat against nemesis Rafael Nadal, 17 year old Liam Broady took centre stage for Great Britain at Wimbledon.
He reached the boys final of SW19 aiming to become the first Brit since Stanley Matthews to lift the boys trophy. It would have been a perfect follow up to the previous year when he triumphed in the doubles tournament partnering Tom Farquharson.
Unfortunately he did not win yet his progress has garnered obvious attention from those looking to find a successor to Britain's only top 100 player Murray.
Tennis is in Liam's blood with his older sister Natalie in the women's game. Whether Liam can make the transition from junior to senior remains to be seen, but the next 12 months will no doubt be an exciting time for him.
If he switches to being a full time senior then a decent climb up the rankings will be his main aim. He is tough on his abilities and was passionately vocal about the reasons he lost to Australian Luke Saville in the Wimbledon final.
At least we know that he can be constructive about his own abilities and look for ways to push himself forward.
5. James Ward
After an impressive run to the Semifnal at Queens, James Ward still remains something of a mystery.
Whilst his run in that tournament was a standout, his first-round exit at Wimbledon showed that he has much to learn about the men's senior game. He is after all someone who has failed to get past the first qualifying rounds at both the French and US Open's.
Will he just become another Alex Bogdanovic and remain seemingly stuck outside the top 100 for years on end? Let's hope not but if he fails to find consistency then this just may be the route he is destined for.
The next few months will be paramount to his progress. A good run of form will certainly lift his confidence and potential and he may just become the next Brit on the men's side to reach a double figures ranking position.
What may aid him is an increase in the potential in his competition. He defeated seeds Stanislas Wawrinka and Sam Querry at Queen's so he can certainly play at that level. You will know that the more accomplished he becomes facing such opponents the more opportunities he will have to chase a top 100 spot.
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