In 2010, we will probably be missing the following players from tour:
and we might be missing the following players
Venus Williams (will be 30 and a billionaire businesswoman)
Serena Williams (will be 29 and probably will have won an Oscar)
Amelie Mauresmo (she will be 31)
Justine Henin-Hardenne will be 28 and Martina Hingis will be 30. Essentially, the current crop of top players will be mostly obsolete. As the current top players are all in their early to mid twenties, and as the next generation will be replacing them in a transition period (we are not in a transition period at the moment,) it follows that the next crop of top ten players can be found among players that are currrently under 20 years old. Players that are still in their early twenties (21/22) and are in the top fifteen or twenty already also have a real chance at being top ten. Players who are 21/22 and not ni the top twenty probably don't have a real chance because there are younger players with more room to improve. Going by the basic rule of thumb that consistent top ten players reach the top fifty by the time they are 20 years old, we gain the following set of possible contenders:
1. Maria Sharapova 19, ranked 4
2. Svetlana Kuznetsova 21, ranked 6
3. Nicole Vaidisova, 17, ranked 13
4. Anna Lena Groenefeld, 21, ranked 16
5. Dinara Safina, 20, ranked 17
6. Maria Kirilenko, 19, ranked 20
7. Ana Ivanovic, 18, ranked 22
8. Shahar Peer, 19, ranked 24
9. Tatiana Golovin, 18, ranked 33
10. Anna Chakvetadze, 19, ranked 34
11. Sania Mirza, 19, ranked 38
12. Michaella Krajicek, 17, ranked 39
13. Lucie Safarova, 19, ranked 40
14. Na Li, 24, ranked 30 (but Chinese and was retired for 3 years)
15. Vania King, 17, ranked 88
16. Alexa Glatch, 16, ranked 243 (but played solidly at Forest Hills and won a match at the US Open as a 15 year old, has been injured since Indian Wells, but won her first come back event, a 10K...seems like a real prospect)
17. Sesil Karatancheva--was ranked in the top 40 as a 15 year old
I just threw in Alexa because I have a gut feeling about her--the same one I had about Maria and Nicole (and no one else lol,) and because I'm a big fat biased American
Justine is going to stay damn near the top if she doesn't like...destroy herself.
Amelie...I think she's going to be retired. I can't see her playing at 31. She's too well rounded and rooted in reality.
Kim will probably have like 10 kids by then.
I don't think she will come back, personally.
Martina...I feel as if she will be retired. I feel as if Martina came back to win one or two more grand slams. Unfortunately, her game relies on being super quick, and I just don't think she can be as fast as she needs to be when she's 30 years old. Players typically have remained in the top ten after 27 only when they have big, powerful weapons. She won't be top ten.
Maria and Sveta are pretty much obvious locks in the top ten. It would be very hard to convince me that either will get worse with age.
I do not think Elena will be top ten. Just like Martina, Elena relies on her movement. Her big shots are nullified by her attackable serve. I think she is a lock in the top ten as long as she can stay one of the five fastest players on tour, but, as soon as she loses that step or step and a half, she will fall to the top fifteen or twenty range, in my opinion. I think that will happen right around 2010 actually. Basically, she'll be on the edge.
I do not think Nadia will be top ten. She will be 28. I think she will definitely be top twenty still, but she is not Lindsay Davenport.
I think Venus and Serena will officially have retired by then.
Anastasia Myskina said she wanted to retire by 25, but that was in 2004, so who knows. Still, she will be 29 in 2010, and she relies on her movement. I don't think she's going to be top ten.
1. Sharapova (Wimbledon, US Open, YEC champion)
2. Vaidisova (Oz Open champion, US Open runner up)
3. Kuznetsova (French Open champion)
4. Ivanovic (YEC runner up?)
5. Henin-Hardenne (French Open runner up)
I think Maria Sharapova will be the no. 1 player. She is head and shoulders above everyone else under the age of 22, despite the fact that she is 19. She has been slowly improving since Serena Williams popped Maria's plan A bubble in oz 2005. She is likely to make a big breakthrough against the top three within the next year, as she has been pushing all of them to three sets fairly consistently. However, Maria will always struggle on clay, and I think Sveta or Nicole will always be at least even on slower, higher bouncing hard courts.
I think Justine's game will have evolved. She will be slower at 28 than she is now, and she won't, realistically, be in as great of shape. The big babes will be able to overpower her. However, I believe she will evolve into a blend of Amelie Mauresmo and Martina Hingis. Without her power, she will rely more on her consistency and unrivaled mental toughness and ferocity. She will be using more angles, will be serving and volleying more etc. She will probably reach the later rounds of three of the four slams, including Roland Garros, but I think 2010 will be the first year since 2002 that she doesn't win one.
I think Kuznetsova is going to take Justine's Roland Garros crown from her. Sveta's game is like...ideal for clay. However, she is not as consistent or as determined as Maria is, and her strokes do not penetrate as well as Nicole's do (neither is her serve as strong. )
Nicole's game seems perfectly suited to Rebound Ace. The ball bounces high but penetrates well. She doesn't handle low balls well. She will get better, but she will never be good enough to win Wimbledon in my opinion.
Ana Ivanovic is also a clear slam challenger in my opinion. Her only problem is that her game is designed for fast, relatively low bouncing courts (she does not generate as much pace up high, from what I have seen.) I think she will do very well indoors, but Maria already has the fast, low bouncing courts locked up, in my opinion. Still, Ana is good enough to win a few slams, in my opinion.
In essence, Sveta will be no. 1 on slow, high bouncing surfaces.
Nicole will be no. 1 on fast, high bouncing surfaces.
Maria will be no. 1 on fast, low bouncing surfaces and will have the slight edge on medium, medium surfaces.
Justine will still win a few big clay titles, and will make a run at Wimbledon.
Ana will win the indoor tier one titles, and will beat everyone she is supposed to.
I am almost sure these five will be in the top ten. Then we have the next tier:
Karatancheva runs like the wind, has a cocky attitude that bodes well, and has two more years than any other player in history to develop her game. This is a wildcard. She could be top three or she could not make the top ten. I think she has too much spunk not to be top ten, but she doesn't have natural, flat power like Nicole or Maria or Ana. I think Karatancheva will do very well on all surfaces, but I don't think she will find enough power to consistently beat the top five.
I think Michaela has too much power and too many connections at too young of an age not to make the top ten. However, she has the attitude of Kim Clijsters, without the amazing defense. I feel that those ranked ahead of her have a different attitude.
Groenefeld has a huge serve...ginormous. That will take her places. She can also volley better than most players on this list. That gives her a unique weapon. I think she is still finding her range, and I don't think she will find the top ten until 2008 or 2009, but I do believe she will stay there for three or four years a la Petrova.
Safina is super powerful, but is the worst mover on this list and doesn't hit cleanly or flatly enough to overcome that. I think Safina will reach the top ten next year and stay there for five or six years, but I would be surprised if she ever won a major.
I really do like Tatiana Golovin. She has a very nice game. When she gives in and gets a coach, she will stop being inconsistent (she was super consistent in 2004/early 2005 when she had a coach.) She does not have enough power to win many, if any, grand slams in my opinion. However, she moves beautifully, serves pretty big, and hits hard enough to take care of people she is supposed to beat.
Maria Kirilenko--will never be top five, but is the most consistent young player I know of. However, she does not have the variety, the volleys or the mind of Hingis, and is therefore more like Myskina or Rubin. I think there will be too many power players that can hit through her for her to be a top tenner.
Sania Mirza--if she can harness her power, she will be a contender at every slam she enters. However, I see her more as a downgrade of Mary Pierce--a few really amazing top ten seasons, MAYBE one slam or a few finals, but, for the most part, a really dangerous floater in the top 20. I don't think she will ever harness her power consistently.
Alexa Glatch--she is too young for me to confidently announce her as a top ten player, and I have never seen her play. If she hits big and flat and serves well, then her results as a 15 year old suggest she should be top ten or twenty. If she is a retriever, then those results indicate little more than top fifty potential.
A player under the age of 16 we haven't seen much of yet
Elena Dementieva or Anastasia Myskina
I don't think the others have big enough games to get there and stay there. Mirza is only a potential spoiler because of her unique story (not picking up a racquet til 9 or 10, turned pro at 18 etc.) I cannot think of a perrenial top ten player who was not top twenty by her 19th birthday.