As 2011 comes to a close, tennis fans around the world are discussing what the tennis landscape will look like in 2012. Much discussion is centered around women's tennis.
2011 saw many of the high-profile women's tennis players faced with injuries or simply a level of play well below their personal expectations and those of their fans. Will 2012 be any different?
Of course, there is no concrete way of determining what will happen. However, based upon players' on-court performances in 2011, we can provide a potential outlook.
This slideshow will do just that. It will provide a look at 15 players who seem poised to make an impact on women's tennis come 2012. For this particular slideshow, the term "unknown" will be used loosely as some players may have been on tour for a while, however, they seem to just now be at a comfortable and productive place in their career.
As with any list, unfortunately, some deserving players will be left out. That's where your insight is requested. Please feel free to not only comment on the players listed, but do provide your personal insight on players who you feel should be a part of this list. That allows for a great discussion on the upcoming tennis season.
Current Ranking: No. 23 (s) No. 26 (d)
Vinci is a potential double threat as she's ranked just outside the top 20 in both singles and doubles. She actually reached her career-high of No. 18 back in September for singles before falling a few spots to No. 23. She captured three singles and three doubles tournament titles in 2011.
One of her best performances came as she defeated Yanina Wickmayer, Dominika Cibulkova and Jelena Dokic at 's-Hertogenbosch for the title.
Current Ranking: No. 27 (s) No. 30 (d)
Anabel Medina Garrigues is another double threat in that she plays both singles and doubles well. She captured a couple of titles in singles and doubles, while also reaching the third round at the US Open before losing to Vera Zvonareva.
Current Ranking: No. 17
When talking about Asian women on the tour, most talk centers around Li Na. However, that may change a little if Shuai Peng has any input.
2011 seemed to be a good year for her career, as she went deep into a number of tournaments.Here are a few highlights:
- Reached semifinals at Auckland, Birmingham and Charleston
- Reached fourth round at Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open
- Along the course of her 2011 tournament play she handed defeat to top-name players like Svetlana Kutznetsova, Jelena Jankovic, Li Na and Francesca Schiavone
Toward the end of the year, Peng experienced a hip injury. However, she was still able to come back and reach the fourth round of the US Open.
If she continues on this pace, she could break into the top 10 in 2012.
Current Ranking: No. 8
Great year for Agnieska Radwanska. She captured three singles titles (Tokyo, Carlsbad and Beijing). Additionally, she teamed with Daniela Hantuchova to capture the doubles title in Miami. And outside of the tournaments she won, she saw some deep runs in other tournaments.
She has a lot of skill that some may underestimate. Just ask some of the big names that she handed defeats to or provided a serious challenge to despite losing over the course of 2011 like Francesca Schiavone, Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic and Vera Zvonareva.
Radwanska has stated that her biggest goals would be a Grand Slam win and becoming No. 1—attainable aspirations based upon her court play.
Current Ranking: No. 53
Don't let her small stature mislead; Simona Halep is a gifted player.
2011 wasn't exactly a great year for Halep, but she did well in showing her potential. She reached the third round of the Australian Open, the quarterfinals of Auckland and she gave Serena a little challenge at Wimbledon, taking her to three sets after winning the first one. She also won matches against top seeds Li Na, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Alisa Kleybanova.
For 2012, do not underestimate Halep.
Current Ranking: No. 76 (s) No. 6 (d)
Though Vania King's strong point is doubles (two titles in 2011 with partner Yaroslava Shvedova), she was able to reach the third rounds of both Roland Garros and the US Open. The experience from playing doubles seems to be crossing over to her singles game.
She looks to move up the rankings in singles if not to the top 50, at least very close. In fact, back in 2006, she reached No. 50, her career high.
Current Ranking: No. 34
2011 seemed to be getting off to a good start for Kaia Kanepi. She began the year getting up to No. 17. She reached the semifinals of the Paris indoors and the third round of Indian Wells. However, she faced some injuries that of course affected her game. The injury would affect her off and on.
However, toward the end of the year, she had a fairly strong showing. She reached the quarterfinals in Tokyo and the third round at Beijing.
If Kanepi can stay healthy, she should be able to move back into the top 20.
Current Ranking: No. 37
Shahar Peer began 2011 pretty strong. She found some tournament depth, reaching the third round of the Australian Open, Charleston and Rome, and she reached the quarterfinals at Indian Wells. The highest point of her year had to have been reaching the final at College Park.
However, at the end of the year, she did suffer a low-back injury.
She began the year getting up to No. 11, but she finished it at No. 37. If she can recover from the low-back injury, she should at least be able to return to the top 20.
Current Ranking: No. 35 (s) No. 21 (d)
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez is a great example of a player who has been on tour for a while without reaching the point that most people would recognize her name. However, she is definitely one to watch in singles and doubles. She reached her career high in both in 2010, reaching No. 4 in doubles and No. 19 in singles.
2011 wasn't a particular strong year for her, but she did capture two singles titles and a couple of doubles.
If she can find her rhythm again, she will be moving back up in the rankings.
Current Ranking: No. 28 (s) No. 7 (d)
Keep your eyes on Maria Kirilenko, a player who is quietly finding her rhythm and executing her game well on the court. She did well in three of the Grand Slams this year: fourth round at Roland Garros, third round of Wimbledon and the fourth round of the US Open.
Outside of the Grand Slams, she also found depth at other tournaments. She reached the quarterfinals at Tokyo, defeating Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic along the way, and Beijing, again defeating Samantha Stosur on her journey.
For good measure, she teamed up with Victoria Azarenka to capture two doubles titles.
She's a quiet threat. Don't underestimate her ability on the court.
Current Ranking: No. 42
Christina McHale is a great example of America's hope for the next generation of women's tennis. She began the year reaching No. 98, reached No. 45 by September and finished the year at No. 42. All of this has occurred for a player who was ranked No. 712 in 2007.
In 2011, McHale found tournament depth in several tournaments. Her greatest accomplishment and most recognizable had to have been reaching the third round of the US Open following her defeat of Marion Bartoli.
Though she did experience a low-back injury, she should still be expected to do well in 2012.
Current Ranking: No. 21
Despite injury, Julia Goerges had her best year in terms of tournament depth and rankings. She reached her career milestone of reaching the top 20 early in the year, and she reached the third round of all four Grand Slams. Over the course of the year, she even handed out a couple of defeats to top players, like Caroline Wozniacki (Madrid) and Jelena Jankovic (Toronto).
Though she slipped out of the top 20, do expect her to move right back up into the top 20 in 2012.
Country: Great Britain
Current Ranking: 92
Heather Watson is another of the faces of the next generation of tennis. Her most memorable 2011 moment had to have been her first-round US Open match with Maria Sharapova. She seemed to be the only player to really challenge Sharapova outside of Sharapova's loss to Flavia Pennetta in the third round.
2011 also saw her reach three quarterfinals (Auckland, Memphis and Quebec City).
The tennis world should be prepared for more exciting tennis from this young Brit in 2012, as she could easily break into the top 50.
Keep in mind, Watson's season-ending ranking was 588 in 2009 and her 2011 season-ending ranking is No. 92. True potential.
Current Ranking: No. 18
2011 has been a good year for Dominika Cibulkova, despite experiencing an abdominal injury around the middle of the year.
She reached the quarterfinals and semifinals in several tournaments, handed defeat to No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki twice and won her very first WTA singles title in Moscow.
Watch very closely as you are in store to see Dominika break into the top 10 in 2012.
Country: Czech Republic
Current Ranking: No. 2
Petra Kvitova made a tremendous impact on the tennis world as she came in and won Wimbledon 2011. Following that, her game seemed to lose steam. However, she got herself back on track to finish the year with a total of six titles and a career-high ranking of No. 2. She seems to be the main player to keep an eye on for 2012.
The photo seemed to be symbolic, because if she continues to play as she currently is, she's going to be doing a lot of interviews.
Current Ranking: No. 97
The player with not only skill beyond her age, but wisdom as well. Sloane Stephens, like Christina McHale and Madison Keys, won the hearts of American tennis fans. Like her two fellow players, she is the face of the next generation.
2011 saw her break into the top 100. She reached her career-high No. 89 in September. She is most remembered for some great tennis at the US Open, reaching the third round as a wild card. She also reached the quarterfinals at Carlsbad.
Stephens experienced a left-wrist injury in September, causing withdrawals in September and October, but hopfully, she should be fully recovered to continue playing some great tennis come 2012.