Teen queens showing signs of promise at Australian Open

Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:03am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Simon Cambers

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - When Martina Hingis was busy winning grand slam titles in the late 1990s, it seemed like teenage stars were ten a penny in the women's game.

Fast-forward to 2014 and it is now eight years since a teenager won a grand slam title, when Maria Sharapova the U.S. Open at 19.

Since then, only three teenagers - Sharapova at the Australian Open in 2007, Ana Ivanovic at the French Open the same year and Caroline Wozniacki at the U.S. Open in 2009 - have even made it to a grand slam final.

More promising teenagers have bitten the dust in the first two rounds of the Australian Open but there are signs that youth may be coming of age.

Five teenagers ended last year inside the world's top 50, led by number 12 Sloane Stephens, and the sight of 16-year-old Belinda Bencic pushing world number four Li Na hard on Wednesday suggests big things for her future.

Having won through qualifying, she looked overwhelmed as she lost the first set but took Li to a tiebreak in the second before going down 6-0 7-6, impressing the Chinese in the process.

"She played exactly like Martina Hingis, I feel," said Li, a compliment Bencic is yet to tire of hearing. "She gave me a very tough time at the end of the second set."

A junior champion in Paris and Wimbledon last year, Switzerland's Bencic already has 11 sponsors, including Rolex, and is coached by Martina Hingis's mother, Melanie Molitor.   Continued...

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland serves to Li Na of China during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed