Britain’s Rising ‘Sons’

Britain’s tennis history has a bad reputation. Constantly the press remind us it’s been x amount of years since Fred Perry became the last man to win a major title with that number currently standing at 75.

Although not as bad as the males, it doesn’t make for better reading when you look at the women’s game either. If you take a journey back through the decades you’ll find the likes of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker winning Grand Slam titles in the late 1970’s.

Now their great achievements are limited to mere captions on Wimbledon’s annual summer coverage.

Having not enjoyed any success in the womens’ singles for more than 40 years now there seems to be more of a desire to have a top ranked British female to support alongside Andy Murray.

Not since Annabel Croft has a female star emerged from the UK and even she quit the sport at the age of 21 despite winning both the Wimbledon and Australian Open juniors in 1984.

Instead Britain’s female tennis players are in effect long distant relatives. Whilst you may only see your great aunt on birthdays or at Christmas the British public only see the likes of Katie O’Brien and Melanie South once a summer as a wildcard entry into the first round of Wimbledon.

Once amongst those wildcards were Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong who have now gallantly broken into the top 100 but have a combined age of 54. Though they may have four or so more years competing at high levels on the WTA tour, the chances of them holding down a top 20 place or going on a great run at a Grand Slam are dwindling every year.

The hopes of the success-starved nation rests instead with Laura Robson and Heather Watson – the prodigal “sons” so to speak.

Since winning the Wimbledon girls’ singles title as a 14-year-old much has been expected of Melbourne-born Robson. Despite her 239 world ranking she is seen as Britain’s finest hope of repeating those 2008 scenes on the senior tour.

Watson, the third best female tennis player in Britain aged just 18, sits 108 places higher than her fellow Brit. In 2009 she won the US Open juniors which you may not know much about due to the media spotlight surrounding the potential future pin-up girl Robson.

Neither has yet won a WTA title but at the moment it’s a matter of amassing ranking points via qualification rounds and a few runs on the bigger stage.

Robson missed out on the 2011 Australian Open’s qualifying event due to injury which has also seen her position in the world rankings fall. This year she’s based in Paris with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou who’s seen previous success guiding Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai into top 20 players.

Whilst Robson will probably take a few months to break through properly, Watson is pretty close already.

Quarter-final runs in the Auckland Classic and Cellular South Cup this year have given her valuable experience against quality opposition and the environment of larger courts and crowds.

Should the pair’s progression continue at its current rate this year’s Wimbledon audience might be introduced something to shout about for many summers and tournaments to come.

33 Girls' Singles - Finals
Laura Robson (left) is all smiles after defeating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the 2008 Wimbledon girls’ singles final

Heather Watson
Heather Watson at the 2009 US Open juniors final where she beat Yana Buchina 6-4, 6-1

You can follow the fortunes and thoughts of both Laura and Heather on Twitter but be sure to check back to Ace of Baseline for the latest news on the young duo.

Milos Raonic

Before I go into detail about Canada’s 20-year-old prospect Milos Raonic, watch this and imagine these scenes at Wimbledon.

As you can probably tell from the 1990’s style film quality and the rather drab serve that is not the Milos mentioned above but it’s something that we could be seeing more of in the future.

Raonic’s fans have already taken to the celebration even if the world number 37 hasn’t trademarked his wins with it.

He’s already breaking Canadian tennis records in every tournament he plays this year and half of them were set by Greg Rusedski before he decided to turn British.

In January he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open beating seeds Michael Llondra and Mikhail Youzhny before eventual semi-finalist David Ferrer ended his run despite winning the first set.

He followed this up with his first ATP tour title after defeating top seed Fernando Verdasco at the SAP Open. Verdasco was so furious with his loss that he stuck his middle finger up at the crowd. Someone had made a noise on championship point though.

To make matters worse for the Spaniard he had to face Raonic in the first round of the proceeding Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis. This time seeded second it still held no bearing on his opponent as Raonic won in three sets.

Only Andy Roddick could stop Raonic from claiming a second successive tournament victory as the American produced a spectacular match point shot to win 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (11-13), 7-5.

Raonic is now the greatest male Canadian tennis player ever. No other man from said country has ever been as high in the rankings as Raonic right now.

His fellow compatriot Aleksandra Wozniak reached 21 in the world previously but has now dropped outside the top 100.

Raonic must avoid a similar dramatic drop but this looks unlikely based on the views of tennis icons – John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova just to name-drop.

However if any of you think he’ll do a Greg and convert to British shores then I’m afraid he’s already nullified that idea.

“Come on Andy” it is then and maybe they’ll meet sometime in the near future. Certainly, the chances of that happening seem to be getting likelier everyday.

SPORTS: Milos Raonic rising fast at Australian OpenThe real Milos on his way to the fourth round of the Australian Open

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