Finding Serena Williams' successor(s?)
The USA has been known to dominate women’s tennis right from the very start. This pattern of dominance continued with the Williams sisters, until about 2008 when Venus somehow slipped but Serena gradually became stronger and stronger and now sits as the top ranked player in 2013. But the fact of the matter is that Serena is 30, and while she may clarify that she has no plans to retire anytime soon, a time will come when American tennis fans, journalists, photographers and everyone even remotely related to tennis will ask – who’s next?
The time to find her replacement – no, more like successor(s?) – may actually already be upon us, as while writing this article there are already 10 Americans in the top 100 women tennis rankings, more than any other country. And with most of the youngsters, the future of American tennis certainly looks promising. Leading the American charge after Serena is 20-year-old Sloane Stephens, known as much for her press wit as for her emphatic run to the Australian Open semis earlier this year, where she beat none other than Serena on the way. While Sloane has struggled this year after bursting on the tennis scene, with her age and her talent, there is much to look forward to from the young American in the years to come.
Going further down the rankings, we see a host of Americans including World No.25 Varvara Lepchenko, the struggling but always dangerous Venus Williams, and the talented duo of Madison Keys and Jamie Hampton. The latter two have especially impressed in recent weeks, with Madison Keys beating former French Open champion Li Na in Madrid, and Hampton fighting out a win over former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on her way to a noteworthy 4th Round result at the French Open. Keys, only 18, has already pushed several top 10 players to the edge and is comfortably seated just outside the top 50. Also just outside the top 50 is the skillful and experienced Bethanie Mattek-Sands who started the year ranked 169, but after a slew of victories (including a run to the semis in Stuttgart, and a 4th Round finish after beating Li Na in Roland Garros) is ranked 58. Also in the mix is former college player Mallory Burdette, a youngster with an impressive array of weapons. Two more youngsters, namely Lauren Davis and Christina McHale, round up the Americans in the top 100.
US tennis has also proved through recent results that it does have a capable future, with an impressive outing in Roland Garros. Jamie Hampton, Mattek-Sands and Stephens were all impressive on the red clay – famously known as the surface which brings about the most trouble for the Americans. These three, along with top seed and eventual winner Serena Williams, reached the Round of 16, which is the first time that the US had four women players in the Round of 16 of a Grand Slam event since the 2004 US Open, when Serena, Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati led the charge.
With impressive results, unique gamestyles, and some with age on their side, it is hard to argue that the American women don’t have a chance to continue to reach the upper echelons of tennis. Us tennis fans will just have to wait and watch.