Tennis is an incredibly competitive sport and players can feel an immense amount of pressure because of the individuality of it. On a team sport, any given player can certainly have an off day and miss a few shots. However, they have other teammates to pick up the slack – it’s a group effort, and if they lose, it’s not entirely on a single player’s shoulders. Tennis is a little bit different. If a player has an off day, they lose – plain and simple. It could be as small as a qualifying match or as significant as a Wimbledon Final. Tennis players have no back up when they’re on the court – they have to rely on themselves.
As with all individual sports, it’s also a bit easier for newcomers to stand out. After all, you don’t need to look at the roster to find out who a certain new player that isn’t as familiar is. You merely look at who’s playing in any given match – two athletes get equal billing, whether they’re a newcomer or an established pro. While winning titles requires you prove your prowess with a racket against some of the sport’s greatest, winning the public’s attention is a bit easier in tennis.
Tennis is also a sport that features a lot of attractive athletes. They look a bit better than most athletes on the court, solely because they have a bit more freedom to pick their outfits. Yes, they often have to wear gear that is by whatever brand sponsors them, but they don’t need to don the same uniform day after day. However, even when they’re off duty, tennis stars are often the most beautiful and stylish. Just look at superstar Maria Sharapova – she rose to the top based on her tennis skills, but could easily have become a supermodel instead.
While many hot newcomers initially get noticed by the public because they look great on camera, they definitely won’t make it big in the tennis world if they don’t have the skills.
Here are 15 of the hottest newcomers in tennis.
15 Laura Robson
21 year old British tennis star Laura Robson was already enrolled in a tennis academy at the age of 7 and quickly rose through the ranks. At the age of 14, she won the Wimbledon Junior Girls’ Championship and has continued to achieve success in tournaments. In the 2012 London Olympics, she played mixed doubles with fellow British tennis superstar Andy Murray and won a silver medal. Unfortunately, Robson has fallen out of the rankings because of an injury that has kept her off the courts for awhile. However, based on her track record until now, if she manages to shake off her injury she should have no problem continuing her rise to the top.
14 Sloane Stephens
When she appeared at the 2013 Australian Open, coming in with an impressive ranking (25th in the world) and managing to beat superstar Serena Williams in the quarterfinal, player Sloane Stephens seemed like the next big American tennis star. She has been complimented by Williams herself, and ESPN even dubbed Stephens “the heir apparent to [Serena] Williams.” However, despite her exciting rise at the beginning of her career, her play within the past year or two has been making people question whether she has the consistency to become a truly great player. With early exits at some 2014 tournaments and a wrist injury that required a fair bit of time off, 2015 will be the year Stephens needs to prove herself.
13 Jovana Jaksic
21 year old Serbian tennis player Jovana Jaksic wasn’t the newcomer with the biggest impact – instead, she’s been patiently climbing her way to the top. Jaksic, who started playing when she was only 8, earned her pro status in 2009. In 2010, she played in the ITF Circuit; a year later, she won two singles titles. The year after that, she won six singles titles. In 2014, she was the runner up at Monterrey. Unlike many newcomers whose careers have been stalled by injuries, Jaksic just continues to play her best and move up in the ranks spot by spot.
12 Kei Nishikori
Japan’s Kei Nishikori has been impressing the tennis world since he started, and at 25 is well on his way to potentially becoming one of the next big names in tennis. He’s currently ranked Number 5 in the world and holds the distinction of being the only male Japanese tennis player to have a spot in the top 10 in the ATP Singles Ranking. Named ATP newcomer of the Year in 2008, he had a bit of a career hiccup when he needed to take some time to get surgery for a shoulder injury. However, he quickly bounced back and was runner up in both the 2014 US Open and 2014 Madrid Masters. He already has an enormous fan base in Japan, but tennis fans around the world are beginning to learn exactly who this exciting newcomer is.
11 CiCi Bellis
In comparison to some of the newcomers on this list, Catherine Cartan “CiCi” Bellis doesn’t have many tournament appearances or much prize money to her name. There’s a pretty good reason for this – she’s only 15 years old, and only turned pro last year. At 15, the American tennis star has already won three singles titles and one doubles title on the ITF Circuit. She’s been the talk of the tennis world lately, setting plenty of records – for example, when she beat Dominika Cibulkova last year, she became the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match in almost twenty years.
10 Simona Halep
Romanian player Simona Halep picked up a tennis racket at the age of 4 and it’s been a decision that shaped her entire life. At the age of 23, she’s ranked Number 3 in the world. She’s won countless accolades in her career thus far, including 11 WTA titles, the WTA’s Most Improved Player award in 2013, ESPN Center Court’s 2013 Most Improved Player, and more. She’s defeated some of the biggest names in tennis, including Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic and more. She’s sponsored by Adidas and has an endorsement deal with Vodafone Romania. Halep definitely shows no signs of slowing down – it’s only a matter of time before she snags that Number 1 status.
9 Grigor Dimitrov
Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov is currently ranked Number 11 in the world. Since breaking onto the scene in 2008, he’s amassed over 5 million dollars in winnings. Every year, he improves on the previous year’s performance and is continually climbing the rankings. He doesn’t have many big-name titles under his belt yet, but he’s also just 23. Who knows what this Bulgarian superstar will achieve in the future.
8 Marin Cilic
Cilic, the 6’6 Croatian tennis star, is only 26 years old. Despite this, he’s had a long career thus far, as he made his ATP debut in 2005 when he was only 16 years old. He was the Number 1 Junior in the world when he was starting out in 2006, and slowly rose, first placing in the top 100, then Number 22 (and the top Croatian player), then making it into the top 20, and so on. His singles ranking is currently 10th in the world, proving that Cilic will continue to work hard to stay on top in the tennis world.
7 Petra Uberalova
The 19 year old from Bratislava, Slovakia, is still very much a newcomer – her WTA ranking is currently 412, and her ITF ranking is 256. However, she still has years ahead of her, and though she’s moving up the ranks slowly, her ranking trajectory has been largely positive. She’s received a lot of attention for her good looks, so who knows – she may very well be the next Anna Kournikova, a huge tennis superstar who is world famous despite never winning any big titles.
6 Elina Svitolina
This Odessa, Ukraine native began playing when she was only 5, introduced to tennis by her sports loving family, and has been honing her skills ever since. At 26, she has a singles ranking of 27 in the WTA and is ranked number 1 in the Ukraine. With over a million dollars in prize money thus far, though she hasn’t won a major title, she’s doing very well in smaller tournaments. Her rankings have risen dramatically since she first turned pro, with a WTA singles ranking of 498 in 2010 up to a WTA singles ranking of 29 in 2014. That’s quite a jump, and she very well might crack the top ten within the next year or two.
5 Nick Kyrgios
Kyrgios is quite the athlete – though he’s obviously selected tennis as his chosen sport, he also had the potential to be a successful basketball player, having represented the Australian Capital Territory when he was younger. However, the Canberra, Australia native picked tennis, and it’s been a smart selection so far. At the 2013 Australian Open, he won the Boys’ Singles, and in the 2014 Wimbledon Championships he managed to make it to the quarterfinals and defeat tennis icon Rafael Nadal. He made it into the quarter finals of the 2015 Australian Open, this time in the men’s category rather than boys, and beat Andreas Seppi. Currently ranked number 33, this player will likely be ranked in the top 10 within a few years – and he certainly has time, as he’s still only 19.
4 Monica Puig
Since turning pro in 2010, Puerto Rican tennis player Monica Puig has continued to stun audiences, both with her skills and her good looks. With one WTA Singles title and 6 ITF Women’s Circuit Singles titles to her name, not to mention nearly a million dollars in prize money, Puig’s career will likely only get hotter. She's currently tanked 48th in the WTA and if he she continues on her current trajectory, you have to believe that this is only the beginning of a long career.
3 Ani Vangelova
21 year old Bulgarian tennis player Ani Vangelova would likely feel just as home amongst models as athletes, given her good looks. She’s not exactly the most talked about newcomer based on her skills – her current ITF singles ranking is 864. However, back in 2011 when she was starting out, she didn’t even crack the top 1000, so she has been slowly improving. Whether she ever makes it into the top 100, she’s definitely one of the most talked about based on her appearance.
2 Amandine Hesse
French player Amandine Hesse started on the courts when she was just 5 and at 22 has a promising tennis career ahead of her. She has three singles and three doubles titles on the ITF Circuit to date, and has only been improving over the years. She hasn’t yet cracked the top 100, but this French beauty will likely continue to improve. She currently sits at 27th on the WTP rankings, but similar to Ani Vangelova, if her tennis career doesn't take off, her looks will carry her futher.
1 Eugenie Bouchard
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you know who French-Canadian tennis superstar Eugenie Bouchard is. The bubbly blonde has become the tennis world’s sweetheart, and currently holds a WTA singles ranking of 7th in the world. She also has one WTA Singles title, 6 ITF women’s circuit singles title, and over four million in tournament prize money. She’s played in countless major tournaments and the tennis world seems to view her rise to the top as inevitable. Within five years, Bouchard will likely have won most of the major titles and be at the top of her game.