Men's Tennis: 13 Unknowns Who Will Break onto the Scene and Compete in 2012
Men's tennis has been dominated by the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for the past few years.
This year saw a change in the guard, where both Roger and Rafa were dethroned to some extent by Nole.
Even now, it seems as though Andy Murray could be making his mark on tennis history likewise to the fashion that Novak was able to do.
So, what does 2012 mean to the tennis world? Will new players emerge and imprint their talents on the top of the game?
Here are 13 unknown (to most tennis viewers) male athletes who will be gunning for the top players' spots next season.
The Dutchman is currently at a record-high ranking of No. 40 in the world.
His fluid service motion and aggressive forehand have already led him to great defeats of some top players.
Unfortunately, he has not been mentally tough in the past to close out matches against stars such as Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slams, but hopefully he will turn over a new leaf in 2012 and secure his spot in the Top 20.
This talented lefty has given renowned players a run for their money on multiple occasions, such as Lleyton Hewitt, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tomas Berdych.
Sadly, he has yet to earn a big win to propel himself to the forefront of the tennis arena, but I still expect wonderful things from his game to unleash on his opponents.
Nicknamed Baby Federer, this youngster plays similarly to the great legend of the game of tennis.
He still has a few shots to develop, but the desire to succeed is certainly in his mind and he should be in the Top 20 very shortly.
The British No. 2 player showcased his abilities during the start of the 2011 grass season, reaching his first ever semifinal of an ATP event at Queen's Club.
Expect this man to get hungrier for more wins in 2012.
This 18-year-old British junior player finally made his breakthrough, winning the 2011 Junior U.S. Open to capture his first Slam.
It is unclear whether or not he will turn pro next year, but he certainly would enter the Top 100 within a few years.
Thiemo De Bakker
The Dutchman has fallen off the rankings, sliding from No. 40 in 2010 to a current spot barely in the Top 200.
He possesses an arsenal of weapons and has the ability to beat any top player when he is on.
Unfortunately, Brad Gilbert's nickname for him, The Debacle, seems to be very accurate.
Most people first heard about Bernie when he made an impressive quarterfinal run at the prestigious Wimbledon event, narrowly losing to Novak Djokovic at that stage.
He has been waiting to make a breakthrough for years, and for many critics, it seems as though the desire is not fully there yet with him. Sooner or later, though, he will become a Top 10 player due to his phenomenal use of variety and smarts.
Now ranked at a career-high No. 30, the six-foot, eight-inch South African has been slowly ascending to the top of the tennis realm.
His very powerful serve and devastating ground strokes can punish any opponent, and he should be labeled a threat to anybody that faces him.
At a career-high ranking of No. 32 in the world, this feisty competitor from Croatia is undergoing a late bloom in his tennis career.
Having beaten Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup, his confidence is now through the roof, and he is definitely a giant killer that can do a large amount of damage.
Having just turned pro last year after winning the junior U.S. Open title, he is still assimilating into the professional tennis world.
However, he endured great success, winning the 2011 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles title, partnering Melanie Oudin to show that there is still much hope for American tennis.
Another American who should shoot up the rankings next year is this youngster.
With a beautiful service motion, aggressive shot-making from the forehand wing, a great willingness to come to the net and speed that resembles that of a young Nadal, he is looking to make a statement about his talents in the upcoming season.
Another American who is looking to add more hope for tennis fans in the U.S. is Mr. Sweeting.
He has a very hard and flat forehand to complement his top spin, which allows for a myriad of changeups against players to get them off their games.
His serve has a slight hitch in it, but it can still be used effectively as a weapon if he seeks to improve his motion and practices much more.
His kick serve is also world-class and does not usually let him down—it is simply the low first serve percentage he exhibits that explains why he gets broken.
This Aussie sensation has been rapidly improving and building upon his game as of late.
Being ranked the second highest Australian (besides Bernard Tomic) at a spot of 80, he can only get better and move even higher.
He is a very smart player that displays patience and a lack of fear to approach the net, which is why he will be among the unknown men's tennis players to ascend to the top of the rankings next year and become "known."
This article was written by Jeff Cohn, a sports writer and enthusiast.