The next Ostapenko? Best young players at Wimbledon

Fox in the box – Nenad Krsticic

Twenty-year-old Jelena Ostapenko stole the show with her stunning Roland Garros victory a couple of weeks ago, but are there any other young guns who can repeat that feat at this year’s Wimbledon?

While tennis in 2017 has mostly been about the resurgence of veterans and legends like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, young Ostapenko showed that the new wave of younger players are also ready to take their place in the sun.

Not many gave the Latvian much of a chance against Simona Halep in the Paris final, but her explosive talent ended up outweighing her youth and inexperience when the big moment arrived.

We take a look at five young stars who could spring a Grand Slam surprise of their own at the All-England Club this year.

Nick Kyrgios (Australia, aged 22, world No 20)

Nick Kyrgios

A lot has been written about this fiery young Australian, who constantly struggles to balance his impressive talent with his combustible nature.

Kyrgios always seems like he’s as much in a battle with himself as he is with his opponent, leading to him constantly getting double-teamed by his own temperament and whoever’s on the other side of the net. His last on-court meltdown was only a few weeks ago at Roland Garros, where he self-destructed against Kevin Anderson in the third round.

Kyrgios was also forced to pull out of the Aegon Championship recently, but insists fitness won’t be an issue.

“Yeah 100 per cent. I mean I’d play Wimbledon if I was injured pretty bad anyway,” he said.

Kyrgios’ power game is well suited to grass and he could well be a factor if he manages to keep his cool when the big moments arrive. He is capable of anything, and that makes him a dangerous opponent.

Dominic Thiem (Austria, age 23, World No 8)

Dominic Thiem

Fast on his way to becoming one of the world’s elite competitors, Dominic Thiem is sure to be a force at Wimbledon this year.

Fresh from a semi-final run at Roland Garros, Thiem suffered a surprise defeat to Robin Haase at the Halle Open last week.

He’s a naturally gifted clay court player, but shouldn’t be underestimated on other surfaces – last year he won the title in Stuttgart on grass, beating Roger Federer along the way, and also reached the semi-finals in Halle.

With question marks over just about all of the top players heading into this year’s Wimbledon, players like Thiem, who have been knocking on the door, know they have an opportunity to open that door and cross the threshold.

Alexander Zverev (Germany, age 20, World No 12)

Alexander Zverev

Perhaps the biggest danger man amongst this year’s crop of young guns, 6ft 6in tall Alexander Zverev is an imposing figure on a tennis court in more ways than one.

Boasting all the power of the toughest big men in the game with the silky skills to match, Zverev is rightly seen as the most exciting young player in tennis. Last month, he became the youngest winner of a Masters event in a decade with victory over Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open.

Like most youngsters, though, he doesn’t quite have the consistency to match some of his more experienced rivals, as evidenced by his crushing defeat to Roger Federer in the final of the Halle Open last week.

Still, a finals run on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon is nothing to sneeze at, even if he was soundly beaten by an all-time grass court legend.

On that occasion, at least, age and experience trumped youthful exuberance, but the generation game is set to resume in London and Zverev will fancy his chances to change the outcome this time around.

Madison Keys (USA, age 22, World No 14)

Madison Keys

Boasting a powerful serve and a monster forehand, Keys is a dangerous opponent at the best of times, but particularly on a fast surface like grass.

The young American made it all the way to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2015 – the same year she reached the semi-finals in Melbourne. Keys also captured the first victory of her career on Grass at Eastbourne three years ago.

Unfortunately, 2017 has been a year plagued by injury for her, and so far she has little to show for her efforts.

Keys claimed she was fully recovered ahead of Roland Garros, however, and while she suffered a second-round exit at that event and hasn’t played since, she remains a dark horse for Wimbledon on a surface that suits her game much more than clay.

Elina Svitolina (Ukraine, age 22, World No 5)

Elina Svitolina

Here’s another impressive youngster who continues to make great strides in the women’s game. Her current ranking already confirms her as one of the best players in the world, but so far at least, a Grand Slam breakthrough still eludes her.

Considering her newfound status, it seems surprising then that Svitolina is a question mark for Wimbledon. After suffering a second-round loss at the Aegon Classic last week, the Ukranian admitted she might withdraw from the upcoming Grand Slam due to a lingering foot injury.

“There is a question about it,” she said. “I will talk with my physios. The season is very long and I must look at the bigger picture.”

If Svitolina isn’t currently able to give 100%, withdrawing from Wimbledon might be the right decision for her, but will she be able to resist the carrot of a maiden Grand Slam crown in a wide open Wimbledon draw?

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