Men's Tennis: 5 Players Who Might Be the Next Big Thing
We are fortunate enough today, here and now, to be watching some of the best quality tennis that has ever been played.
With all respect, as much respect that can be given to the older generations of men's tennis and world No. 1's, it feels like the present is just on another level.
Sampras dominated, then Federer came and shattered the record books, then he was overtaken by the King of clay, Nadal, and now he has been succeeded by the nearly unbeatable Djokovic. The amount of players that have cycled in and out has been pretty remarkable.
So it gets me wondering, who is in the next changing of the guard? Who will be the next young gun to step up and wow the crowd and etch his moment in tennis greatness?
These players, they may never be as great as the formerly mentioned, but it wouldn't surprise me if they go on to do great things. And who knows, maybe we will be talking about one of them in five years time like we talk about Nadal and Djokovic.
The 21-year-old Japanese national looks poised to make his name a household one, and not just in Tokyo.
Nishikori sports a tremendous aggressive baseline game accompanied with superb defense and strong ground strokes off both wings. His style reminds me a lot of Aussie great Lleyton Hewitt.
The young man out of Shimane Prefecture has already earned his spot in Japanese tennis history by becoming the highest-ranked male in the Open Era, as well as being the first Japanese born player to defeat a world No. 1.
Nishikori has settled into his game after dealing with injury issues early on and is starting to get the results in both the Grand Slams and Masters 1000 tournaments.
Can he take it a step further in 2012 and beyond?
It's pretty nice to say that you have been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal and hold a Top 50 ranking at the age of 18.
Tomic, now 19, is a big serving Aussie standing at 6'4", but he accompanies that serve with some fantastic ground strokes and a quality feel around the net.
Australia wants another champion. They might be closing in on something here with Bernard Tomic. He is still incredibly young and is showing tons of promise around the tour with some good results in 2011 in both the Slams and Masters events.
He can start his 2012 campaign off well with a good showing at his home tournament, the Australian Open.
It's a huge compliment if your game is being compared to a young Roger Federer, but those are the comparisons that Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov has garnered.
The 20-year-old is just starting his tennis career, with 2011 being his first full year in the heat of competition in Grand Slams and Masters events. And while the results weren't overwhelming, he has shown tremendous promise.
Dimitrov plays a solid all-court game but needs to work on a few things things before he can turn into a perennial competitor.
But it's not far off at all for the young Bulgarian.
American tennis needs Ryan Harrison. And I feel like American tennis might get Ryan Harrison on a big level.
The 19-year-old Louisiana native is a powerful player given his rather small six-foot frame. Harrison relies on very heavy ground strokes and serve and volley play to pressure his opponents.
Like Dimitrov, Harrison is just starting to break in at a level where he can make some real noise. He put up a decent fourth-round result at Indian Wells this year as a wild card and crawled out of the first rounds of both Wimbledon and Cincinnati.
Harrison is a brash and fiery player who needs to learn to control his emotions on court. But we know just how much American tennis fans love their animated and passionate players.
Harrison follows suit quite well. Perhaps the successes will soon come also.
The current world No. 27 has proven to be a solid contender even at the ripe young age of 20.
Raonic does, however, have one big knock against him thus far: injuries.
2011 has been a difficult year for the Canadian who earned his first-career title in San Jose, a finals in Memphis and a fourth-round run at the Australian Open. But injuries have crept into the young man's career already, which is disheartening.
Raonic sports a huge serve that often rings in at 140-plus mph. He backs it up with big ground strokes and some very good movement for a man standing at 6'5". His game is similar to that of former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro.
Raonic first and foremost needs to find a way to stay healthy. If he does, Canada could have a real gem here.