The WTA next generation is the new generation in the circuit. Here are the Top 100 players yet to celebrate their 21st birthday.
Naomi Osaka (Age:20, Rank:6)
“I'm the type of person that I don't really stop to think about what I've done.
I just want to keep doing things. I want to keep pushing myself, especially when I see, like, other people my age doing really great” said Osaka. She feels almost scared to be considered a role model even outside of the tennis court because of her history and image .
“f I am a symbol or if I can be an inspiration, definitely it's something that I think it's not negative, so I definitely want to take it in a positive way. I love Serena, Federer and Li Na. I think just the fact that she was like the first Asian Grand Slam champion, like from China and stuff.
For me to be the first Japanese now, I think it's really cool people can aspire”. In New York, she lifted her maiden Grand Slam title at US Open (d. Keys in SF and S.Williams in F). She was the first Japanese woman to reach Grand Slam final and the youngest US Open champion since Sharapova in 2006.
Then, she became the first maiden Slam champion to make the final of her next event since Azarenka in 2012. From her efforts in New York, passed USD $5 million in prize money for the season. Her campaign began reaching the round 16 at 2018 Australian Open when she became youngest Japanese player to reach R16 at a Grand Slam since Sugiyama at 1995 Roland Garros (19 yrs, 342 days).
She followed it making history by becoming the lowest-ranked player, youngest (since Wozniacki at 2010 Beijing) and the first Japanese woman to win a Premier Mandatory-level title at Indian Wells. Coach Sascha Bajin, in his first year as a full-time coach, has wasted no time in helping her surface to the top of the WTA Tour in 2018.
"I think everybody in this room and on this planet can learn a lot from that girl in order to maintain that innocence. I believe the more open we are and the more honest we are and show vulnerability sometimes and who we truly are, the better this world is going to be – he said -.
And all the fake emotions, I’m not a fan of it. I believe that, yeah, she’s a star for that”.
Aryna Sabalenka (Age:20, Rank:16)
One of nine players to reach 40 wins for the season, Sabalenka owned just 12 main draw victories prior to 2018.
Coached by former ATP player Dmitry Tursunov, since their partnership formed this summer, the pairing has scored the best win-by-ranking of her career over No.2 Wozniacki en route to around 16 finish in Montréal. Then in Cincinnati, the Belarusian dropped three consecutive seeds (No.9 Ka.Pliskova, No.6 Garcia and No.13 Keys) en route to the semifinals, before capturing her first career title in New Haven.
In Wuhan, she claimed the seventh Top 10 of the season and of career over No.6 Svitolina and went on to defeat Kontaveit to seal her biggest title ever. “I think I had a great experience this summer,” said Sabalenka who reached her first Premier-level final at Eastbourne.
“Probably with every match I get more confidence on the court. That's why sometimes it looks like I am a long time on this level. But inside sometimes I'm like fight with myself. I always have some problems with the court.
You don't feel some shots, you're nervous or whatever. I don't know, it's about to stay in the game, fight for every point. Well, I'm just in the game, just fight for every point. I don't think about, like, who there.
It's no easy matches here. Everyone is really tough”. Before the Wuhan final, she revealed, Tursunov asked her to remain calm during the match. However, she admitted, “it's all about me, if I want to be calm on the court or if I want to be like a small kid, like crying or something like that.
Well, I think they have to say it for me just to make sure that they did it, they did enough, everything they can”.
Sofia Kenin (Age:19, Rank:51)
Born in Moscow, Kenin moved to New York as a baby before family settle in Pembroke Pines, Florida, where she was home-schooled.
Known as ‘Sonya, coached by her father Alexander, her best memory is playing idol Maria Sharapova on Arthur Ashe when she reached the third round, in what was only fourth tour-level main draw outing. Kenin has earned half of her career prize money from this year alone.
In Mallorca, she recorded her best win-by-ranking of her career in the quarter-finals over No.6 Garcia in Mallorca and reached her first WTA semifinal ever.
Viktória Kužmová (Age 20, Rank:58)
Introduced to tennis aged four by father, Radovan, who used to run a tennis club, Kuzmova's tennis idols are Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic.
She made her tour-level main draw debut at 2017 US Open (as a qualifier, l. V.Williams). In the last 12 months, her career dramatically changed. In Budapest, as a qualifier, she defeated No.36 Cirstea, Grand Slam R-Up Lisicki, and Martic to reach her maiden quarter-final and semifinal.
She also moved to the last 8 at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and posted the career-high ranking of No.54 on July 16, 2018.
Vera Lapko (Age:20, Rank:60)
A former junior world No.1 and Liverpool supporter, Vera Lapko rose from No.320 to No.131 in 2017, her year culminating in a maiden WTA quarterfinal run in Moscow where she held a match point before narrowly losing to Irina-Camelia Begu.
On red clay, this year she broke through to her first WTA semifinal at Lugano, defeating No.28 Kontaveit en route for her career-best win to date.
Tamara Zidanšek (Age:20, rank:70)
Zidanšek climbed into the Top 100 after she won her maiden WTA 125K title in Bol.
At the Moscow River Cup, she claimed her first Top 20 win over Daria Kasatkina and her first tour-level semifinal. Since February, she sealed more than 50 overall victories and rose more than 120 spots in the world rankings.
Markéta Vondroušová (Age:19, Rank:72)
Born in Skolov, Vondroušová hose tennis over soccer as she prefers the individual nature of the sport and moved to Prague alone at age 15 to train full-time.
Last year she posted her first Top 100 season, finishing at No.67, 309 places higher than 2016 becoming the biggest ranking mover into the Top 100. At No.223, she made the WTA breakthrough by winning an International-level title at Biel/Bienne.
This year, she reached the semifinals in Gstaad and the round 16 on Premier Mandatory debut at Indian Wells (l. Martic), moving to the career-high ranking of No.50 after that run.
Amanda Anisimova (Age:17, rank:92)
Eight tournaments were enough to make Amanda Anisimova the first 2001-born player to gain Top 100 status.
At 16 years 199 days, she ended No.9 Kvitova’s 14-match win streak in the third round to become the youngest player to secure a Top 10 win since Nicole Vaidisova defeated No. 9 Petrova in 2005. She tied for the youngest player ever to reach R16 at Indian Wells, along with Iva Majoli (1994).
In Miami, In Miami, she beat Wang Qiang but went over on her ankle in the course of play during the match and had to give a walkover to Muguruza with a foot fracture. She came back for the Asian Swing and in Hiroshima, she became the youngest WTA finalist since Donna Vekic in 2013.
Anastasia Potapova (Age:17 Rank:93)
In Moscow, she lost to Olga Danilovic the first tour final between two millennials. The 2016 Wimbledon junior champion was born in Saratov, but then I move to Moscow to practice in Alexander Ostrovsky Academy, where she's been coached since then by Irina Doronina.
“My mother is a volleyball player. My grandmother is a basketball team” she said after the Wimbledon junior title. “In the preparing of the team, my granny saw the tennis practice in the same building. There was like small girls my age, like five years.
She liked it. She tried me in tennis. At first practice, I was, Oh, I like it. But then I was like it more, more, more. Now I love it. I love tennis life. I love everything here 'cause I can't imagine my life without tennis really.”
Olga Danilović (Age:17 Rank:97)
The daughter of the former NBA star Predrag, she became the first 2001-born to win a WTA title in Moscow, where she had dominated Julia Goerges in her first clash against a Top 10 opponent.
Then she defeated Potapova in the first tour final between two players aged 17 since 2005 Tokyo. A lefty like his grandfather Miodrag, who played as a centre back at OFB Beograd in the Sixties, she's coached by Alex Corretja. Sky is her limit.