Ranking the Most Successful Countries in Tennis During the Open Era

Jeremy Eckstein@https://twitter.com/#!/JeremyEckstein1Featured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2014

Ranking the Most Successful Countries in Tennis During the Open Era

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    Nearly half a century of Open Era tennis has witnessed world-class competition expand from a handful of dominant countries. Globalization has paved the way for more countries to grow their own tennis champions and legacies.

    These changes are happening more rapidly as the 21st century has included upgraded viewing and communication technologies. And the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal era has been instrumental in further expanding the popularity of their sport to the world.

    The following slides will examine 30 different tennis countries. The first five slides list five countries which have not established much tennis tradition but have a chance to move up quickly behind young players.

    The remaining slides will rank the Open Era legacies and current power for the top-25 tennis countries in the world. Each country will be scored on a 100-point scale:

    40 percent of the weight will assess the country's Open Era legacy of ATP champions. Grand Slam titles and multiple champions are most important, especially if the success extends across generations. Davis Cup success is also assessed.

    35 percent of the weight will assess the Open Era legacy of WTA champions and Fed Cup contributions.

    20 percent of the weight is awarded to the recent relevance and success of the country, in this case beginning with the 21st century. This extra weight rewards modern success in a more globally competitive field.

    5 percent of the weight is an outlook on the country's prospects for the next decade, which are a measure of the current power and future estimate of how well tennis will flourish.

    This is a scale to recognize the many champions and achievements for each country. Most of these are from Europe and the Americas, but tennis is reaching out to new countries and fans.

Future Watch No. 5: Japan

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    Eventually, Japan will have Grand Slam champions. Tennis is still in its professional infancy there, but it is  growing with important tournaments located there.

    Kei Nishikori, ranked at No. 17, is the most likely player to create the kind of Grand Slam story that could open more doors for Japan. He is a young, talented all-court player who works hard with his conditioning.  He could be comparable to Spain's David Ferrer and become a top-five kind of player but will need more improvements and breaks to be a true Grand Slam contender.

    One Grand Slam run could galvanize Japan, but Nishikori will likely perform with good consistency and try to capitalize on a few golden career opportunities.

Future Watch No. 4: Denmark

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    In 2010, Caroline Wozniacki became the first Scandinavian WTA player to hold the No. 1 ranking. Of course she has been criticized for having this honor without winning a Grand Slam title. Her best finish was finalist at the 2009 U.S. Open.

    Now ranked at No. 10, Wozniacki's tennis has fallen even as her fame keeps rising. She is currently receiving more attention for her relationship with golf champion Rory McIlroy.

    With new coach Thomas Hogstedt, Wozniacki will look to regain her competitive fire,  brush up on her fine defensive court skills and add more offensive variety. She has shown the talent to compete for Grand Slam titles and has several more years to peak and compete after Serena Williams leaves the tour.

Future Watch No. 3: Canada

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    Already the only player in Canadian history to penetrate the ATP top 10, Milos Raonic might become a Grand Slam winner. He has an enormous serve and good offensive baseline strokes. The key will be improved footwork and defense.

    Raonic is a dangerous player in any draw and has shown surprising ability to compete well on clay as well as hard courts. His booming serve could make him an annual Wimbledon contender.

    He could be the one to lead Canada to tennis relevance.

Future Watch No. 2: Bulgaria

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    Already the most successful player in the history of Bulgarian tennis, Grigor Dimitrov is the youngest player in the ATP top 50, currently ranked No. 23.

    It's his all-around tennis skills and promise that make him an intriguing player and potential Grand Slam winner. In 2013, he pushed Rafael Nadal to three tough sets at the Monte Carlo quarterfinals. A few weeks later, he defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Madrid.

    If Dimitrov improves his conditioning and finds the confidence to be a consistent and big winner, Bulgaria could be gaining the eyes of the tennis world.

Future Watch No. 1: Poland

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    Agnieszka Radwanska is already the most successful Polish player of all time. She was a Wimbledon finalist in 2012 and reached No. 3 in the WTA rankings. She is currently ranked No. 5.

    Radwanska is a popular and intriguing personality, and at age 24 has very savvy offensive skill and potential. She is a great bet to win a Grand Slam title and further bring attention to Poland.

    Her ATP parallel is 23-year-old Jerzy Janowicz, who may also possess Grand Slam talent. Janowicz has a massive serve and talented variety with his forehand and has already become famous with his 2013 Wimbledon semifinal appearance. He might be the most likely young ATP player to win a major.

    If either of these two players wins Grand Slam titles, Poland will crack the top-25 legacies for tennis countries.

25. Ecuador

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    ATP Legacy: 11/40

    Andres Gomez is the tennis legacy for Ecuador. He provided consistent top play in the 1980s as a singles and doubles player, especially on clay. As a veteran, he received his greatest fame when he won the 1990 French Open title against young Andre Agassi.

    Gomez's nephew, Nicolas Lapentti, had a solid career. His highlight was earning a semifinals berth in the 1999 Australian Open. He led his country's Davis Cup efforts into the 21st century.

    WTA Legacy: 1/35 points

    There is no WTA legacy for Ecuador. Currently, teenager Domenica Gonzalez is trying to scratch out a living as a professional.

    Recent Impact: 1/20 points

    Roberto Quiroz, another Gomez nephew, is trying to make his way on the ATP tour. The 21-year-old helped win the 2010 French Open junior doubles title but has not currently made an impact as a professional singles player.

    Outlook: 1/5 points

    Ecuador has a modest tennis tradition, and it will be difficult to find greater success with tennis becoming more global. Gomez may be running out of nephews.

    Final Score: 14/100

24. Chile

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    ATP Legacy: 8/40

    Chilean star Marcelo Rios seemed to have the special talent and charisma to be a Grand Slam force in tennis. He arrived in the mid-1990s to great hype and started to reach his potential in 1998. He got to the Aussie Open final and held the No. 1 ranking for six weeks. Then the wheels came off. Questionable attitude problems and injuries cut off his career by 2003.

    Fernando Gonzalez became a formidable power-hitting player in the last decade. He had the talent to defeat top players on his best days. He eventually reached the 2007 Australian Open final and peaked at ATP No. 5. Gonzalez won the 2008 Olympics silver medal in singles.

    WTA Legacy: 0/35 points

    Chilean tennis has not had a female impact the Open era. In the 1930s, their greatest player, Anita Lizana, became the first Latin American player to be ranked No. 1. She won the 1937 version of the U.S. Open, then called the U.S. Championships, but cannot be considered for this article.

    Recent Impact: 7/20 points

    Gonzalez is now retired but was a boon for his country's tennis.

    Of lesser fame, Nicolas Massu climbed to the No. 9 ranking. His greatest achievement was a pair of 2004 Olympics gold medals for singles and doubles (with Gonzalez).

    Outlook: 1/5 points

    Massu is now heading Chilean efforts to develop their national teams. For now, they do not have anyone currently ranked in the top 100.

    Final Score: 16/100

23. The Netherlands

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    ATP Legacy: 10/40

    In 1996, Richard Krajicek became the only player to beat the great Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in the midst of the legend's seven titles in eight years. Krajicek pulled off the quarterfinal upset in straight sets and sealed his opportunity by winning the title. It is the only Grand Slam title won by a Dutch native.

    Krajicek won 17 career titles and appeared in three other Grand Slam semifinals. He possessed a massive serve and good volley skills.

    Paul Haarhuis may be most remembered for losing to a possessed 39-year-old Jimmy Connors in the 1991 U.S. Open quarterfinals. He also teamed up with countryman Jacco Eltingh to win all four Grand Slam crowns in the 1990s.

    WTA Legacy: 5/35 points

    Brenda Schultz-McCarthy made two quarterfinals appearances at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1995. She also helped the Dutch team to the 1997 Fed Cup finals, their best team effort of the Open era.

    Schultz-McCarthy was 6'2" and served bullets. Late in her career at Cincinnati, she was clocked with a record-setting ace of 130 mph.

    Recent Impact: 2/20 points

    Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans claimed a doubles silver medal at the 2000 Olympics. Since then, Dutch tennis has had few prominent moments.

    Outlook: 1/5 points

    A few Dutch players are hanging around inside the top 100, but nobody who appears to be ready to lead the Dutch to new fame.

    Final Score: 18/100

22. Austria

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    ATP Legacy: 15/40

    For a few years in the mid-1990s Thomas Muster dominated clay-court tennis like he was the spiritual ancestor of Rafael Nadal. The intense lefty overpowered his red-clay competition and eventually racked up 40 titles in 45 finals appearances on his favorite surface.

    He claimed the 1995 French Open championship and briefly held the No. 1 ranking.

    WTA Legacy: 3/35 points

    Sybille Bammer may have been Austria's best WTA success. She peaked at No. 19 in 2007.

    Recent Impact: 2/20 points

    Jurgen Melzer is a top-30 journeyman who has not lived up to the hopes that surrounded him a decade ago. He only recently penetrated the fourth round of Grand Slam tournaments.

    Outlook: 1/5 points

    Tough to see Austria breaking through with another tennis superstar in the immediate future. Melzer and WTA No. 49 Yvonne Meusburger are both on the wrong side of 30 and not a threat for major titles.

    Final Score: 21/100

21. Slovakia

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    ATP Legacy: 10/40

    In the 1980s, Miloslav Mecir, from Slovakia, represented the former Czechoslovakia. He was a defensive-minded player who could grind away matches and opponents. Mecir appeared in two Grand Slam finals, but was soundly defeated both times by Ivan Lendl. Mecir's appearance in the 1986 U.S. Open final was the last time a player used a wooden racket in a Major. He achieved a career best ranking at No. 4 and won the 1988 Olympics gold medal in singles.

    Karol Kucera had a modest career, including the 1998 Aussie semifinals and the No. 6 ranking.

    WTA Legacy: 7/35 points

    The face of Slovakian tennis has been Daniela Hantuchova. Her early years saw success as she led Slovakia to its only Fed Cup title in 2002. She also rose to No. 5 in the WTA rankings in early 2003.

    Recent Impact: 5/20 points

    Dominik Hrbaty reached the 1999 French Open semifinals. He later achieved the No. 12 ranking in 2005. He and Kucera teamed up to help Slovakia reach the 2005 Davis Cup final.

    Maybe Marian Vajda's tennis career was unnoticed, but his coaching resume includes Kucera and the recent domination of Novak Djokovic.

    Hantuchova is ranked at No. 33, ten spots behind her younger compatriot Dominika Cibulkova.

    Outlook: 2/5 points

    Tennis has been nurtured many decades in Slovakia. It produces solid players and will occasionally find some gems.

    Final Score: 24/100

20. Brazil

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    ATP Legacy: 16/40

    Gustavo Kuerten brought Brazil into the tennis world. In 1997, the skinny kid with the winning smile captured the French Open title as a relative unknown. He would go on to capture two more French Open titles by 2001, and he would briefly capture the No. 1 ranking.

    WTA Legacy: 2/35 points

    Very little impact at all from Brazilian women in the Open era. It's worth mentioning the great tennis from Maria Bueno who won three Wimbledon titles and four U.S. Open titles from 1959-66. Just a little too early for our cutoff here.

    Recent Impact: 8/20 points

    Kuerten gives credit to 21st-century Brazilian tennis, but it has dropped substantially since his retirement.

    Brazil has only two notable players. In 2010, Thomaz Bellucci flirted with the ATP top 20. In 2013, Teliana Pereira reached No. 87 in the WTA rankings.

    Outlook: 2/5 points

    Unlike neighboring Argentina, Brazil still has not established itself as a tennis power. There is certainly a large population base and outstanding athletes in Brazil, but no prospects on the immediate horizon.

    Final Score: 28/100

19. China

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    ATP Legacy: 1/40

    Chinese tennis has not even had a player land inside the ATP top 100. The highest ranking was achieved by Pan Bing at No. 176 in 1995. He had a career 7-17 ATP singles record.

    WTA Legacy: 12/35 points

    Li Na has opened the door for Chinese tennis. Her 2011 French Open title was the first Grand Slam title by any Asian tennis player. She also appeared in two Australian Open finals, and she recently achieved her career-best No. 3 ranking.

    Recent Impact: 12/20 points

    Li Na appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 2013. In the feature, Chris Evert explained the impact she is having on Chinese tennis:

    Tennis has exploded in China. The country now has some 15 million tennis players; 116 million people watched Li win the French Open. That kind of exposure is crucial to our sport, and it never would have happened without Li.

    Her celebrity and endorsements are only part of the package. China hosts important autumn tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    If China's 15 million tennis players find better training and opportunities, the future will soon produce generations of talented stars. More than one billion people cannot be ignored.

    Final Score: 29/100

18. South Africa

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    ATP Legacy: 18/40

    Johan Kriek won back-to-back Australian Open titles from 1981-82. He would reach a career high with the No. 7 ranking. Never a superstar, Kriek nonetheless reached fame with wins over other stars ranging from Bjorn Borg to Andre Agassi.

    Big-serving Kevin Curren also made his mark with two Grand Slam finals appearances. His greatest feat was defeating Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe at the 1985 Wimbledon before falling to new star Boris Becker.

    The 1990s featured the steady and unheralded Wayne Ferreira. He was an Aussie Open semifinalist in 1992 and 2003. He reached a career-high No. 6 ranking in 1995.

    WTA Legacy: 6/35 points

    In the 1990s, Amanda Coetzer was a second-tier player who peaked at No. 15 in 1993. Her best run was in 1996-97 with three Grand Slam semifinal appearances. She and Ferreira teamed up to win the Hopman Cup in 2000.

    Recent Impact: 5/20 points

    For the men, Kevin Anderson had his best season, reaching the top 20. The 6'7" journeyman carries a huge serve but has yet to crack the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament.

    Outlook: 2/5 points

    Not a lot of talent on the horizon for South Africa, but perhaps tennis will expand into more opportunities for the rest of the country.

    Final Score: 31/100

17. Italy

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    ATP Legacy: 13/40

    The 1970s featured Italy's charismatic star Adriano Panatta. He was a clay-court specialist, best known for defeating Bjorn Borg twice at Roland Garros. They were Borg's only defeats there amongst his six French Open titles.

    Panatta maximized his opportunity by winning the 1976 French Open, even after facing match point in the first round. He led Italy to the 1976 Davis Cup championship and three subsequent Davis Cup finals during this period.

    WTA Legacy: 9/35 points

    Italian players have only recently begun to build a legacy. The lone Grand Slam of the Open era was Francesca Schiavone's 2010 Grand Slam title behind her old-school tennis approach. She reached a career-best No. 4 in 2011 but at age 33 is nearing retirement.

    Recent Impact: 10/20 points

    ATP veterans Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini lead the clay-court charge for Italy. Fognini has moved inside the top 20 and could be a dangerous player at the 2014 French Open.

    Italian women have won four Fed Cup titles since 2006. There are WTA hopefuls led by Sara Errani, currently ranked No. 7, and Roberta Vinci at No. 14. Five players, including Schiavone, are inside the top 50.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    With the Italian women providing depth and the men at least finding a couple of competitive players, it could be soon that we see a big-time Italian star.

    Final Score: 35/100

16. Belarus

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    ATP Legacy: 6/40

    Tennis history is still developing with the arrival of post-Soviet-era Belarus. Vladimir Voltchkov reached the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals and a career ranking high at No. 25.

    Max Mirnyi had a more consistent career in the early 2000s, peaking at No. 18 in singles and No. 1 in doubles in 2003. He and Voltchkov became heroes when they helped defeat Russia and Argentina in the 2004 Davis Cup run to the semifinals.

    WTA Legacy: 14/35 points

    Natasha Zvereva had the dubious distinction of losing in only 32 minutes in the 1988 French Open final. She was double-bageled (6-0, 6-0) by Steffi Graf in what is still the shortest Grand Slam final in history. But Zvereva did team with Gigi Fernandez to become the greatest doubles team of the 1990s. She captured 18 Grand Slam titles, and were it not for the arrival of Martina Hingis she might have had a few more.

    Victoria Azarenka is creating her own legend and laying the foundation for tennis in Belarus. In the past two years she has held the No. 1 ranking for 51 weeks, captured the 2012-13 Australian Open titles and appeared in five other Grand Slam semifinals or finals.

    Recent Impact: 12/20 points

    Azarenka is the player most likely to dominate the WTA tour if Serena Williams suddenly shows her age. She is a fierce competitor with the power and consistency to dictate a low-risk power game. She brandishes an excellent return game as well.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    Azarenka will help Belarus raise its tennis legacy. She is already a star and looking to become elite.

    Final Score: 36/100

15. Croatia

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    ATP Legacy: 17/40

    Just when it seemed that Goran Ivanisevic's time as a Wimbledon contender was over, the veteran won his 2001 trophy as a wild card. It was sweet redemption after losing three times in the final during the 1990s. The big bullet-serving lefty was the pride of his country and, outside their great basketball teams, the most visible athlete.

    WTA Legacy: 9/35 points

    In 1997, Iva Majoli scored her biggest triumph with an upset French Open title over Martina Hingis. It seemed that her future was bright at 19 years old, but eventually she faded with injuries and diminished play.

    Recent Impact: 9/20 points

    The high point of Croatian tennis in the 21st century, after Ivanisevic's Wimbledon title, was the surprising 2005 Davis Cup win. The team's heart and soul, Ivan Ljubicic, would also achieve the No. 3 ranking in 2006. Other solid professionals include Mario Ancic, Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic, all of whom competed inside the top 20.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Croatia is a solid tennis country and has the support to nurture rising talent. Next on the list is finding a special player.

    Final Score: 38/100

14. Romania

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    ATP Legacy: 20/40

    The advent of the Open Era was perfectly timed for Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac to showcase their professional and charismatic personalities. Nastase was the first man to win the ATP year-end No. 1 ranking which began in 1972. He won the 1972 U.S. Open and 1973 French Open titles and would be a Wimbledon finalist two times in the 1970s.

    Nastase and Tiriac teamed up for doubles and were Davis Cup finalists three times in this era. Tiriac would eventually become a famous coach who worked with Hall of Fame players Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic. He parlayed coaching and his promotional skills into great business success.

    WTA Legacy: 8/35 points

    The bright moment for women's tennis was Virginia Ruzici's 1978 French Open title.

    Recent Impact: 9/20 points

    Romanian tennis is making a comeback behind No. 11 Simona Halep and No. 22 Sorana Cirstea. The 22-year-old Halep was the WTA's most improved player with six titles in 2013. She shows the promise of being a Grand Slam winner.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Halep is a legitimate star-in-the-making.

    Final Score: 40/100

13. Belgium

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    ATP Legacy: 3/40

    Very little fanfare or success for Belgian tennis. There has been no legitimate Grand Slam contender.

    WTA Legacy: 25/35 points

    The golden age of Belgium tennis was a spectacular success for the the WTA. Justine Henin claimed seven Grand Slam titles between 2003-07 in what may have been the most dominant and graceful display of pure tennis ever played. She was a mentally tough champion with a near-flawless game. She might have been the best player of her generation, even if she was unable to maintain a lengthy career.

    Henin's rival was compatriot Kim Clijsters, who was the first Belgian player to gain the No. 1 ranking. She found it difficult to cash in and win Grand Slam finals, losing her first four attempts. She broke through with the 2005 U.S. Open title. Following time away from tennis, and as a new mother, Clijsters came back to win three Grand Slam titles from 2009-2011. Her athleticism and defensive work was beautiful to watch.

    Recent Impact: 16/20 points

    Henin and Clijsters provided a wonderful decade but are now retired. The past few years have cooled off considerably for Belgium.

    Xavier Malisse was once a future star but now is a veteran finishing his career.

    Steve Darcis provided one memorable match in upsetting Rafael Nadal at the 2013 Wimbledon first round.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    David Goffin possesses solid skills but took a step back in 2013. He might have top-20 talent but will need to put it together as he plays on in his 24th year.

    Final Score: 47/100

12. Argentina

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    ATP Legacy: 21/40

    Guillermo Vilas might have been the greatest clay-court player of the early Open era, except that he was cursed at playing his peak years during the time of the legendary Bjorn Borg. He won four Grand Slam titles from 1977-79 and still stands as the legend for Argentine tennis.

    Argentina has produced fine clay-court players for generations and have continued to produce many talented players in the top 100.

    WTA Legacy: 10/35 points

    The high point for women's tennis came with the 1990 U.S. Open title. Glamorous Gabriela Sabatini played a smart and precise serve-and-volley game to topple the favored Steffi Graf. Perhaps she could have won more but other WTA champions usually stood in the way. She was a Grand Slam semifinalist twelve times and a finalist at Wimbledon.

    Recent Impact: 14/20 points

    Gaston Gaudio's 2004 French Open title and Juan Martin del Potro's 2009 U.S. Open title score solid points in representing Argentine tennis. Other players such as Guillermo Coria and Juan Monaco show the quality depth of their country. They have had three Davis Cup finals appearances since 2006.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    The men's field has been the strongest for Argentina, but their clay-court prowess and tennis tradition figure to hit paydirt again. Del Potro is always a darkhorse Grand Slam candidate.

    Final Score: 49/100

11. France

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    ATP Legacy: 17/40

    It's been over 30 years since Yannick Noah's historic French Open championship. It was the only Grand Slam title in the Open era for a native Frenchman.

    Noah has been a celebrity in France and also an effective Davis Cup and Fed Cup coach. He guided their famous upset Davis Cup victory over the U.S. in 1991 behind Guy Forget and Henri Leconte. France also won Davis Cup in 1996 and 2001 with Cedric Pioline who was a Grand Slam finalist twice during this time.

    WTA Legacy: 17/35 points

    Mary Pierce, born in Canada and with triple citizenship, represented France. Her powerful baseline game was ahead of its time in the 1990s and she captured Grand Slam titles at 1995 Australia and 2000 Roland Garros. If only her father hadn't provided so much infamous negative drama.

    Amelie Mauresmo had an excellent career with two Slam victories in 2006. She also held the No. 1 ranking and had a strong, entertaining athletic style.

    France finally broke through with Fed Cup titles in 1997 and 2003.

    Recent Impact: 14/20 points

    France has seven players in the ATP top 35, including a pair of top 10 contenders in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, but it's increasingly unlikely either veteran will win a Grand Slam title.

    Mauresmo and Marion Bartoli have provided the biggest spark for France the past decade. The spirited Bartoli fulfilled her dream by winning the 2013 Wimbledon, followed by her subsequent and shocking retirement.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    France is an ideal country to be a tennis hero. It has wonderful weather, tradition and resources, but is craving an epic superstar. For the immediate future, this is unlikely.

    Final Score: 51/100

10. Sweden

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    ATP Legacy: 36/40

    The great Bjorn Borg brought superstar status to Open Era tennis at a level that inspired Europeans and young Swedes. His 11 Grand Slam titles paved the way for Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, giving Sweden a wonderful golden era that stretched from 1974-1992. They also took seven Davis Cup titles.

    Thomas Enqvist and Magnus Norman sparked Swedish hopes at the dawn of the 21st century. Thomas Johansson added an unheralded Australian Open title in 2002, right before the Federer-Nadal era would obliterate hope for other journeymen players.

    WTA Legacy: 5/35 points

    No Swedish women has ever captured a Grand Slam title. Their women have not competed in a Federation Cup final.

    Bastad, Sweden hosts a WTA tournament in late July.

    Recent Impact: 8/20 points

    Since Johansson's title, Robin Soderling provided the most famous moment by defeating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009. Soderling would twice reach the French Open finals (2009-10) and achieve the No. 4 ranking in 2010.

    For the women, Johanna Larsson reached as high as No. 46 in July, 2011. The 25-year-old has since fallen to No. 81.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Maybe the Swedish legacy of Borg, Wilander and Edberg can produce enough support to nurture future stars, but rising competition from other countries will make it difficult to escape these lean years. Norman and other coaches continue to be involved with helping their sport.

    Final Score: 52/100

9. United Kingdom

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    ATP Legacy: 18/40

    Until 2012, the story of British tennis in the Open Era had been painted with failure. Inordinate press surrounded British tennis players and their failures to win Grand Slam titles, alongside stories like John Lloyd and the Canadian transplant Greg Rusedski.

    The glimmer of daylight happened with serve-and-volleyer extraordinaire Tim Henman, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist four times from 1998-2002. He added two other semifinal appearances later at the Aussie and French Opens.

    But the real breakthrough was the rise and championship success of current No. 4 Andy Murray. He has two Grand Slam titles including the 2013 Wimbledon title, which may have been the most important event in all of tennis. British tennis can bury the demons of decades past.

    WTA Legacy: 15/35 points

    In the first decade of the Open era, three British women combined for five Grand Slam titles, led by Virginia Wade's three championships. Her last title at 1977 Wimbledon is the last time a British woman has won a Grand Slam title. Maybe the British press won't notice this one.

    Recent Impact: 15/20 points

    Andy Murray is the present and future of British tennis. He has become a star in the modern era and one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. He could use some help from fellow British ATP and WTA countrymen.

    Outlook: 5/5 points

    For now, Murray is a strong bet to win more Grand Slam titles in the next few years. The full measure  of Murray's present could inspire Great Britain's future in tennis.

    Final Score: 53/100

8. Russia

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    ATP Legacy: 18/40

    Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian tennis was most represented in the late 1990s by two-time Grand Slam winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov. His baseline talent foreshadowed an even greater talent in compatriot Marat Safin who would also win two Slams by 2005.

    WTA Legacy: 20/35 points

    Forgive most of the sporting world if they are not aware that the first Russian female to win a Grand Slam title was not Maria Sharapova. Anastasia Myskina took the 2004 French Open title, but was quickly an afterthought when Sharapova captured Wimbledon one month later.

    Sharapova has been a marketable superstar along with her four Grand Slam titles. It's the kind of success story that would have seemed impossible a couple decades ago in the Soviet Union. Now, Sharapova is arguably the most popular and recognizable female tennis player of the 21st century.

    Recent Impact: 15/20 points

    The men have been solid behind Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny, but not at the Slam-competing level of the Kafelnikov-to-Safin years.

    Sharapova is ranked No. 4 and always a solid bet to win another Grand Slam title. Svetlana Kuznetsova should not be forgotten with the two Grand Slam titles she won (2004 and 2009). She is one of six Russians ranked inside the top-26 WTA players.

    From 2002-08, Russian tennis dominated with four Fed Cup and two Davis Cup championships.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    The future is bright for Russian tennis players. They are motivated to succeed and come from a country that has long pushed athletics.

    Final Score: 57/100

7. Germany

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    ATP Legacy: 22/40

    German tennis found the limelight with Boris Becker's three Wimbledon titles from 1985-89. Though he faded even as he was in his early 20s, Becker embodied the spirit and glamor of German tennis with his big serve and athletic net play. He won six majors and was a national hero.

    In 1991, Becker was upset in the Wimbledon final by compatriot Michael Stich. It was the highlight for (West) German tennis at the time even though the more beloved Becker took the defeat. It was also the middle period of three Davis Cup titles and tension between the two German stars.

    WTA Legacy: 26/35 points

    Becker might have opened the glory of German tennis, but Steffi Graf would be the undisputed superstar of all tennis. She won the 1988 Golden Grand Slam (all four Slam titles and the Olympic gold medal) and dominated with 13 Slams from 1990-1996. Her 22 Grand Slam titles and 377 weeks at No. 1 are Open Era records, balanced with at least four titles on each of the four venues. Her big forehand and consistent slice backhand were the tools to her elegant style and nearly impeccable legacy.

    Recent Impact: 8/20 points

    Since Graf, German tennis has produced talented professionals but few able to truly contend for Grand Slam titles. Tommy Haas, once a  future star and No. 2 ranked player over a decade ago is now a beloved journeyman living in America.

    Sabine Lisicki had a great run to the 2013 Wimbledon final, defeating favorite Serena Williams along the way. There are several solid Germans on the WTA.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Both the men's and women's fields continue to provide good resources and support. It's reasonable to predict that German tennis will be ready to nurture future stars when the talent arrives.

    Final Score: 59/100

6. Switzerland

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    ATP Legacy: 27/40

    Until 2003, Swiss men had no tennis legacy. Since then, they have racked up 17 Grand Slam titles and the eyes of the world. Well, it's all due to their Maestro, Roger Federer who has single-handedly carved out the greatest championship resume of all time. But Swiss tennis gets a lot of credit for the coaches and training that helped develop Federer during his formative years.

    WTA Legacy: 18/35 points

    Prior to Federer, Martina Hingis put Switzerland on the map in the late 1990s. She was a precocious teenager with savvy baseline control. In 1997, she won three Grand Slam titles. At age nineteen, she won her fifth Grand Slam title at the 1999 Australian Open. She would never win another major as she quickly faded with her injury struggles and a deeper field in women's tennis.

    Recent Impact: 18/20 points

    Federer at No. 6 and Stanislas Wawrinka at No. 8 represent Switzerland's golden age, even though they never won a Davis Cup trophy for their country. Wawrinka has only recently peaked with his best year at age 28, but is a long shot at best to claim Grand Slam hardware.

    Hingis recently attempted another comeback in doubles, which has been the most attention the women have  received since...Hingis' last comeback.

    Stefanie Voegele is ranked at No. 50 but an unlikely Grand Slam contender.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    What will be the future of Swiss tennis? Undoubtedly Federer has inspired youth in his home country, and perhaps this will be something to build upon. But there will never be another Roger Federer.

    Final Score: 63/100

5. Czech Republic

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    Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

    ATP Legacy: 26/40

    The history of Czechoslovakian tennis officially ended with 1992. It had accumulated three Grand Slam titles in the 1970s from Jan Kodes, but was most prominent behind Ivan Lendl's eight Grand Slam titles in the 1980s.

    The Czech Republic and Slovakia were formed from the Czechoslovakian Dissolution, which went into effect in 1993. The Czech Republic's only Grand Slam title has been Petr Korda's 1998 Aussie Open title.

    WTA Legacy: 20/35 points

    Officially, Martina Navratilova won her Grand Slam titles as an American, but her upbringing in Czechoslovakia must be mentioned. Would she have shaped herself into a determined tennis legend had she grown up in the U.S.? We will never know, so she scores points her as well.

    Navratilova's compatriot Hana Mandlikova was also a Hall of Fame caliber player who won four Grand Slam titles in the 1980s. Her aggressive style made her an excellent doubles player and at her peak she held her own against Chris Evert and Navratilova. She also helped her country take four Fed Cup titles between 1983-88.

    Jana Novotna redeemed her famous 1993 Wimbledon final meltdown with that title in 1988. She was also an excellent doubles player.

    Recent Impact: 14/20 points

    Tomas Berdych has been a solid top 10 player the past decade, but he has also been maligned for his inability to win enough big matches to claim a Grand Slam title. Recently, he has helped his country win the past two Davis Cup trophies.

    At age 23, Petra Kvitova has already won the 2011 Wimbledon title, and she has been a semifinalist at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.  She posses a powerful serve and the kind of of aggressive attack that could win more Slams in the future, if she can harness some of her erratic play. Behind Kvitova, the Fed Cup team won titles in 2011-12.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    The Czechs have been one of the most consistent and underrated countries for tennis power in both the ATP and WTA. It's likely they will continue with strong tennis into the future.

    Final Score: 64/100

4. Serbia

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    Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

    ATP Legacy: 21/40

    Serbia's golden age of tennis is happening now. Superstar Novak Djokovic has compiled six Grand Slam titles since 2008, but it was his three Slams in 2011 that drew the eyes of the world. He became a hero for winning Wimbledon and was named UNICEF Serbia Ambassador.

    WTA Legacy: 23/35 points

    Monica Seles, who was born and raised in Serbia, won eight of her Grand Slam titles for the former Yugoslavia. Her double-fisted groundstrokes were ahead of their time in the early 1990s as she looked to hit every ball as hard as she could. For a few years, she held the upper hand on rival Steffi Graf. Eventually she was stabbed by a deranged tennis fan in 1993, and Seles never regained her former confidence and dominance. She won another Grand Slam title as an American citizen.

    In 2008, Ana Ivanovic won the French Open. She and Jelena Jankovic continue to contend near the top 10 of the WTA.

    Recent Impact: 19/20 points

    Recently, Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic have been the forerunners for Serbia's talented young players. Serbia captured the Davis Cup in 2010 and finished runner-up in 2013. Most important, Serbia has moved forward in the 21st century with tennis from their male and female athletes. It is a rising tennis power with its last decade of achievements.

    Outlook: 4/5 points

    Serbia has long supported its athletes. With its current tennis success, Serbian youth have role models and dreams of finding their own success. Serbia should be relevant and successful in the future.

    Final Score: 67/100

3. Australia

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    ATP Legacy: 33/40

    Prior to the Open era, Australian tennis dominated the sport with epic heroes including "Rocket" Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe and Roy Emerson. Even when they were long in the tooth, they claimed 15 Grand Slam titles by 1976. Laver's calendar Slam of 1969 was the crown jewel.

    It would be nearly a decade before Pat Cash finally claimed the next Grand Slam title for Australia with his famous victory over Ivan Lendl at Wimbledon.

    From 1998-2002, Patrick Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt combined for four more Grand Slam titles to bolster the Aussie legacy, including Hewitt's 80 weeks at No. 1.

    Four more Davis Cup titles have been won since the golden age of Laver-Rosewall.

    WTA Legacy: 20/35 points

    The legendary Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley made Australia a power in the 1970s with a combined 18 Grand Slam titles. Court is one of a handful of players who can be considered the greatest player of all time with her pre-Open Era titles giving her 24. Goolagong Cawley exhibited remarkable footwork, consistency and baseline play.

    Since 1980, Aussie women's tennis fell off the map, going more than three decades before capturing their next Grand Slam title.

    Recent Impact: 12/20 points

    Credit Samantha Stosur for breaking the long drought. Her 2011 U.S. Open victory over Serena Williams established her as a top player. She has an all-around game complete with good serve-and-volley skills that have helped her with doubles and mixed-doubles success as well.

    Men's tennis rests on 21-year-old Bernard Tomic. He has shown flashes of talent and star potential, most noticeably at Wimbledon, but also immaturity. His turn to a new coach should be a step in the right direction.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Stosur is nearly 30 and carrying the banner for Australia. She will be playing with Tomic at the Hopman Cup, which could perhaps be symbolic if Tomic fulfills his potential to one day win Grand Slam titles. Australia could be trending up, but the jury's still out.

    Final Score: 68/100

2. Spain

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    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    ATP Legacy: 35/40

    Spain has had a proud and fine tennis tradition long before megastar Rafael Nadal took over much of the recent era. Andres Gimeno and Manuel Orantes plucked one Grand Slam title apiece in the 1970s at a time when Spaniards only came to the net to shake hands.

    There was Spanish success in the 1990s led by Sergi Bruguera's two French Open titles in 1993-94. Other Spanish clay-courters led to a deep country of stars and French Open titles for Carlos Moya, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero. This formed a strong Davis Cup run of five titles since 2000.

    WTA Legacy: 18/35 points

    The peak era of women's tennis was the mid-1990s when Arantxa Sanchez Vicario scampered for four well-fought Grand Slam titles in the era of Steffi Graf. Compatriot Conchita Martinez won her surprise 1994 Wimbledon title to defeat a nearly-retired Martina Naratilova. They led Spain to capture five Fed Cup titles in the 90s.

    Recent Impact: 19/20 points

    Nadal has been one of the two biggest tennis stars of the 21st century and one of the all-time legends. There are those who claim his eight French Open titles and 13 overall Grand Slam titles make him the greatest player of all time.

    Other Spaniards round out a deep field, including occasional Grand Slam contenders David Ferrer (currently ranked No. 3) and Fernando Verdasco. There are six Spaniards ranked in the top 30.

    The women's side is weaker without a Grand Slam contender, but they do place six players in the top 100.

    Outlook: 5/5 points

    Spain is the ideal place to nurture baseline players with its prime weather and opportunities to develop points on clay. With their current tennis boom, it could inspire more winning. And Nadal holds the No. 1 ranking and a great opportunity to win more Slams.

    Final Score: 77/100

1. United States

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    ATP Legacy: 37/40

    The Open Era saw the golden age of Australia hand off the baton of dominance to the United States. It began with Arthur Ashe's U.S. Open title in 1968, but its spiritual growth was best represented by brash Jimmy Connors and volatile John McEnroe. They helped spur on an American golden era from the late 70s into the early 80s. By 1984, America had accumulated 23 Grand Slam and nine Davis Cup titles.

    Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi led the second great wave of Grand Slam success from 1989-2003, which included 28 Grand Slam and three Davis Cup titles. It was the most successful tennis generation of the Open era and the standard for the future.

    Since Andy Roddick's lone Grand Slam title in 2003, men's tennis in America has remained Slamless.

    WTA Legacy: 35/35 points

    American women's tennis opened countless doors for female athletics in all sports. From Billie Jean King to the historic rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, Americans have won 77 Grand Slam titles and 14 Fed Cup titles. No other country is even close.

    Other American champions, including Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, added Grand Slam titles. Serena and Venus Williams pushed American tennis to a new athletic level into the 21st century.

    Recent Impact: 14/20 points

    The excellence of the Williams sisters keeps alive the flame of American tennis, particularly the greatness of Serena the past two years.

    On the men's side, the Grand Slam drought the past decade has not produced more than the feisty Roddick, who was overmatched in the Federer-Nadal era. There is much concern in America about the future of tennis.

    Outlook: 3/5 points

    Once Serena retires, Sloane Stephens could be the best hope for women's tennis. Men's tennis has few championship prospects, but the Americans hope their great tradition will nurture a renaissance.

    Final Score: 89/100


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