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Six young players to watch during 2014

Belinda Bencic celebrates her junior girls' victory.
by Mark Hodgkinson
Friday 3 January 2014

Who should you be looking out for on the tennis court in the coming 12 months? Wimbledon.com picks out six...

Belinda Bencic. Soon enough, they'll be calling this little Swiss miss 'Baby Hingis' or 'Baby Martina'. Pictured above at Wimbledon last year, it's not just that she's from the cantons and clearly one of the bright young things of tennis - she won the girls' title at the All England Club last summer, as well as the junior version of Roland Garros before that  - but that she is coached, mentored and cajoled by Martina Hingis's mother, Melanie Monitor. "Belinda's got a long way to go," Hingis has said of the 16-year-old, "but she has a bright future." 

Borna Coric. How better to prime yourself for the year ahead than to train with the world number one, Rafael Nadal, in Majorca? "There was no joking around on court. We worked two hours a day on tennis and during that time there was no stopping," the 17-year-old Croat, last year's junior US Open champion, said of his boot camp in the Balearics. "Those two hours were as intense as five hours of my normal training." Nadal isn't the only leading men's player aware of Coric's talent - the teenager showed some class when playing Wimbledon champion Andy Murray at a Davis Cup tie last year. 

Ana Konjuh. After receiving a wild card into a WTA tournament in Auckland, in the first week of this year, the Croatian teenager was pitched against a top-20 opponent, Italy's Roberta Vinci. Konjuh, 16, kept on telling herself: "Don't even think about winning the match, just play every point like it's your last and give 100 per cent of yourself." Konjuh's victory introduced the 16-year-old, the winner of last year's junior titles at the Australian and US Opens, to a wider audience. 

Jiri Vesely. Spending time with Tomas Berdych, a former Wimbledon finalist, has been an inspiration to his fellow Czech, who was the youngest player to finish last season in the world's top 100. Vesely, having started the 2013 season outside the world's top 250, ended the year with a ranking in double digits, and the 20-year-old's accomplishments were recognised at last November's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals when he was presented with the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award. 

Pablo Carreno Busta. Here's a young man who spent last season jabbing at the fast-forward button. At three levels of men's professional tennis - at Futures tournaments, on the ATP Challenger Tour, and on the ATP World Tour - this Spaniard made an impact during 2013. The 22-year-old started the year by winning 35 straight matches, and seven of eight Futures finals, he won all four finals that he played on the ATP Challenger Tour, and on the ATP World Tour he achieved his first match victory in Casablanca and reached a first semi-final in Oeiras. Having started 2013 outside the world's top 700, he finished it inside the top 100, and his ambition for 2014 is to establish himself among the 40 best players in the world. 

Donna Vekic. The 17-year-old Croat is coached by David Felgate, a man best known to Wimbledon audiences for his work with Tim Henman. "Donna has been a pleasure to work with," Felgate has said. "I met her when she was 11, when she was introduced to me by her agent, who's still her agent. She came over to London for two weeks and we hit it off. I enjoy coaching, she enjoys playing and working hard, and she listens. Her rise has been amazing. Lots of people in the industry, clothing manufacturers, other agents, said: 'Oh, I'm not sure', or maybe something a little worse but it didn't matter to me, and she keeps working hard."

Who did we miss? Let us know in the comments below...


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