Australian Open 2018: The young players to watch

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    With only eight days to go until the beginning of the Australian Open The Roar takes a look at some of the lesser-known Australians who will be contesting the first Grand Slam of the year.

    Jaimee Fourlis
    Currently ranked 328 in the world, Fourlis won her spot in this year’s main draw courtesy of a win in the Australian under-18s championships in early December. It continues a promising run in Grand Slams for the 19-year-old, who won a round at the Australian Open last year, the youngest Australian to do so since 2008.

    Fourlis also won the 2017 French Open wildcard play-off, and in her debut in Paris she took a set from Caroline Wozniacki in her first-round loss. She also won her first title in Perth in 2016 on the second-tier ITF circuit.

    Fourlis has shown that she has the talent to compete with the top players, and she will be hoping for a decent draw in this year’s Open.

    Destanee Aiava
    Aiava has been touted as the next big thing in Australian women’s tennis for the past few years, and it’s not hard to see why. At only 17 she’s ranked 153 in the world after rising more than 300 places in the rankings in the past year, and it wouldn’t surprise to see her in the top 100 by year’s end.

    She has been one of the world’s top-ranked juniors, with accolades including winning the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in 2012, winning five titles on the ITF junior circuit in 2014 with a 41-7 win-loss record, reaching the third round of the Australian Open junior championships in 2014 and 2015 and representing Australia in Junior Fed Cup in both years.

    She has progressed to the senior tour with a finals berth at the Canberra Claycourt International in March 2016 after entering the week as qualifier, and se made her debut at the Australian Open last year after winning the Australian under-18s championship.

    At the 2017 Brisbane International she was the first player born in the 2000s to contest a top-level WTA event, winning her first-round match, and she played in the qualifying tournaments of the other three Grand Slams.

    This year her entry into the Australian Open comes courtesy of winning the wildcard play-off, winning 6-4 6-0 over Tammi Patterson.

    Alex De Minaur
    After his performances in Brisbane this week he’s fast becoming a household name, and it wouldn’t surprise to see De Minaur win a round or two at the Open, such is his current form.

    He’s 18, ranked 210 in the world and could be pushing the top 100 at year’s end should his good form continue – in the past two years his ranking has improved from around 1000 to its current level, which is a staggering increase.

    His form on the junior tour in the past few years has been excellent, having reached the singles final at the US Open in 2015 and Wimbledon 2016. He won his first ITF Futures title, a third-tier tournament, in 2017 in Portugal, and he has made the final of two Challenger events, which are second-tier tournaments.

    He made his senior Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open last year, winning his first-round match against veteran Austrian player Jurgen Melzer, after being given a wildcard into the event.

    This year he well and truly earned it, winning the Australian Open wildcard play-off in December.

    Lizette Cabrera
    At 20 she’s older than her fellow Australian wildcard recipients for this year’s Australian Open, but Cabrera is one of Australia’s most promising young players.

    She had a breakout year in 2016, winning two second-tier titles and dramatically improving her world ranking. In the past two years her ranking has risen by more than 800 places to its current high of 152.

    She made her WTA debut in 2017 in Brisbane and her Grand Slam debut at last year’s Australian Open, losing to another young player, Croatian Donna Vekic, in the first round. After Brisbane Cabrera made the quarter-finals of WTA tournaments in Taipei and Hong Kong, an excellent achievement for a young player.

    She ended the year in good form and comes into the Australian Open after contesting the lead-up tournament in Hobart.

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • January 7th 2018 @ 11:40pm
      Mick_Lions said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:40pm | ! Report

      Watched 2 of De Minaur’s matches.
      The boy can play!
      He has pluck, energy, composure and speed to burn.
      Had Harrison on the ropes but couldn’t seal the deal.
      I think he will struggle over 5 sets though and i dought he’ll get any easy round 1 opponent.
      I certainly wish him good luck though!
      One to watch in the near future.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 8th 2018 @ 4:45pm
        tsuru said | January 8th 2018 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        Mick, can you tell us how de Minaur looks physically this January? I’m in Mexico just now, so I haven’t been able to catch any video from Brisbane. The last time I saw de Minaur his game was impressive, but he really looked like he needed a few kilos of muscle to be able to keep up the pressure. As you say he looks like he’d struggle in a tough 5 setter. I remember a year or so ago reading that Sasha Zverev’s trainer was aiming to give him a couple of kilos of muscle a year for 2 or 3 years. To me it seems de Minaur needs that too.

    • January 9th 2018 @ 12:26am
      Felicia Martin said | January 9th 2018 @ 12:26am | ! Report

      Interested to see how Destanee does this year, she looks like she can really give the top 100 a crack if she gets through with no injuries. Seems like an injury haunting year for many top-ranked players, so looking forward to seeing new players break on to the scene. Destanee could be our next Sam Stosur, and like Ash Barty could make top 20 giving her a couple of years.

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