With the retirement of Maria Sharapova and the realization that the slow, steady slide of Serena Williams off our radar seems to be picking up steam, it’s time to recognize the next generation of young stars on the WTA Tour. Very soon these five young players will be battling it out for titles, endorsements, and prize money. In fact, they already are.
Bianca Andreescu became known to most tennis fans last year at around this time when she surprised everybody and took the title at the BNP Paribus Open at Indian Wells (unfortunately she just withdrew from this year's tourney). She won $1,354,010 by dismantling pretty much the entire field of top players, walking through a draw that included Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, Angie Kerber, Ash Barty, and Serena Williams. Andreescu, who was unseeded and entered as a wild card, took out 18th seeded Qiang Wang, 20th seeded Garbine Muguruza, and Ukraine’s 6th seeded Elina Svitolina before knocking out finalist Angie Kerber, the 8th seed from Germany, all in the dry California desert.
Unfortunately, the Indian Wells title came with a heavy price tag, as Andreescu, then only 18-years-of-age, badly injured her right shoulder. She traveled to Miami for the second half of the Sunshine double, but, after digging out a few matches, was forced to withdraw in the fourth round. Even with her bum shoulder she knocked out Irina-Camelia Begu, Sofia Kenin, and Angie Kerber (the second time in a week) before calling it a day. She bravely entered the French Open where she was the 22nd seed and was able to win a round (Czech Marie Bouzkova) before being forced to withdraw before a tasty second round matchup with Kenin because she couldn’t play without pain.
Andreescu was unable to play Wimbledon, but came back to win both the Canadian Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the finals, and the U.S. Open, where she once again silenced the younger Williams sister, and literally became a star. Along the way she knocked out Katie Volynets, Kristen Flipkens, Caroline Wozniacki, Taylor Townsend, Elise Mertens, and Belinda Bencic. She finished the year ranked #4 after playing a very limited schedule and is poised to become one of the biggest female tennis stars in the world.