Men's Tennis: 6 Players Who Could Break Out Next Year

Erik WallulisContributor IIINovember 18, 2011

Men's Tennis: 6 Players Who Could Break Out Next Year

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    We've all seen these names, and we've all undoubtedly heard about how they're inevitably going to break out sooner or later.

    The purpose of this article is not to reiterate them, but rather to examine their strengths, weaknesses and my opinion of their potential and likelihood of achieving it.

    These players are blessed with talent, but burdened with weaknesses as well, so let's examine each aspect of their game and whether or not they're likely to reach the highest echelons of the game.

Kei Nishikori

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    Nishikori does not have a flashy game, nor a deadly weapon akin to Federer's forehand or Nadal's agility.

    He does, however, have the endless consistency of Djokovic or Ferrer, which could be considered as much of a weapon as the aforementioned. 

    Strengths

    Speed and consistency. Nishikori gives opponents problems because he is agile, reads his opponents well and has demonstrated a fitness above others in this list.

    Weaknesses

    While he has Djokovic-like consistency, he lacks weapons like the No. 1 player has. His forehand is solid but not noteworthy, his backhand is consistent but not exceptional and his serve cannot really be considered dangerous. 

    Will he realize his potential?

    I see Nishikori's career as tantamount to Ferrer's. He can break the top 10, maybe even the top five, but he unfortunately does not have the weapons necessary to become a Grand Slam champion, especially in this increasingly competitive era in men's tennis.


Donald Young

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    Young was believed to be the next American hope, and (much in the way of Andy Roddick) so far, has disappointed. 

    His game yielded majors at a junior level, but so far, has left little impact in the professional circuit. Some changes need to be made in order to take that crucial step.

    Strengths

    Athleticism. Young can play squash shots, has very solid volleys and moves well across the court. Like Roddick, there's no doubt that he is an exceptional athlete.

    Weaknesses

    Not strong enough, not enough mental strength, not enough endurance. Young unfortunately has weaknesses that far outnumber his strengths, and therefore, it's difficult to see him break out and make a deep run at a major.

    Will he realize his potential?

    With Young, it's hard to believe so. He has endless potential, but his work ethic so far has been lacking. If he can work on his conditioning and gain some force behind his ground strokes and serves, he could be a serious threat. Until he does so, he will always be considered a disappointment.

Ryan Harrison

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    Harrison is seen by many as having the most potential for America's tennis future. He is highly motivated, has shown a capacity for improvement, and at a young age, is already climbing the rankings at a solid pace. 

    Strengths

    Drive. Harrison, I would argue, is more motivated than others on this list, considering some of his interviews in which he has said that he has the ability to beat anybody.

    Weaknesses

    Unfortunately, this can be a weakness for Harrison as well. His mentality on court can sometimes escape him, because he believes that he is a champion, but so far, hasn't always played like one. He needs to find a means to cool himself off and remain focused, because he has lost some matches at a major level that he is more than capable of winning. 

    Will he realize his potential?

    I have high hopes for Harrison, though maybe they're misguided. I like his drive and fire and the fact that he is unafraid to project high (even maybe unrealizable) goals for the future. Look for him to be a threat later in his career, barring injury.

Grigor Dmitrov

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    Hailed as the next Federer by some, Dimitrov arguably has the most talent in this list. With an elegant one-handed backhand and effortless service motion, there's no question of the aesthetic beauty of his game. But could it be considered formidable as well?

    Strengths

    Talent. I've seen some Federer-like shots from him, in which he produces a winner from a position where I thought he would not even be able to get a racquet on the ball. He has a great court sense and an excellent feel for the game, which are undeniably major weapons.

    Weaknesses

    While these are weapons, they unfortunately aren't the sort that are required for success in the modern game. Those that are can be seen more in Nishikori, who relentlessly covers the court and opts to make only a handful of mistakes in the entire course of the match, regardless of his winner count. If Dimitrov wants to see success in the future, I believe he would have to work more on this aspect of his game.

    Will he realize his potential?

    It depends. We've all seen Gasquet, who has natural talent in the same vein, but who also never worked enough on his conditioning or durability, and thereby is mere fodder for opponents like Djokovic or Ferrer. I love seeing him play, but if he wants to win majors, he needs to work on conditioning and playing defense. 

Milos Raonic

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    While many are striving to play like Djokovic or Ferrer in the modern game, Raonic has what some would call an antiquated style—relying on big serves and big forehands. 

    It works for him, though, likely because of the startling magnitude of said serves and forehands. Raonic has the biggest game out of the other members of this list and could be considered the one with the most potential as well. 

    Strengths

    His strength is...well, his strength. Raonic can blow opponents off the court, and on fast courts, nobody wants to be in his half of the draw (just ask Fernando Verdasco). Raonic has two major weapons which have been vital since the start of the open era, and because of their force, he will always be considered a contender.

    Weaknesses

    The courts are becoming ever slower, which does not bode well for the Canadian. If this evolution becomes more and more realized then Ranoic's best weapons will be rendered useless.

    Will he realize his potential?

    There's no reason to believe that he won't. The only thing that could stop him, I would say, are injuries, which in this year alone have proven to be a problem that unfortunately could likely recur.  

Bernard Tomic

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    Tomic made a run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon this year, even taking a set off eventual champion Novak Djokovic

    While this was unexpected, nobody was terribly shocked. Tomic has a great game, having not only big weapons but moving surprisingly well for someone of his size and stature. It seems as though he will have a bright future.

    Strengths

    Tomic's strength is that he doesn't really seem to have many weaknesses. As I said earlier, he covers the court well and has a serve and forehand that any opponent would fear. 

    Weaknesses

    I suppose if I had to list one weakness, it's the same that all others on this list share—conditioning. The modern game requires endless fitness and the ability to grind for four or more hours on end at a major. Tomic has shown that he can endure consecutive long matches (as he did at Wimbledon), but that was through playing mostly short points, and the Australian Open would probably yield longer and more uncomfortable matches for him.

    Will he realize his potential?

    To some extent, he already has, and more than any other young contender. I put Tomic at the end of this list because I believe more than anyone else, he has the potential to be a future No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam champion.

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