Top 5 WTA potential breakout players in 2023

EACH year tennis sees a number of breakout players who have a season that catapults them from the middle or lower world ranking spots, into the top echelon of players. In the women’s game, that was the likes of Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina, while Iga Swiatek went from a one-time Grand Slam winner to the clear best player in the world and three-time Grand Slam winner in 2022. Next year, there will be new names joining the list, and we take a guess at some of those players.

Qinwen Zheng (China)

The Chinese young gun was talked about locally coming into 2022, but really burst onto the scene early in the year. Often known more for their court coverage and consistent counterpunching games, Zheng stood out as an almost six-foot talent with a big serve and powerful shots. She could match it with the best of them, and she bolted from a year-end ranking of 143rd, up to 27th in the world. Just two years ago she was outside the Top 300, but following a sensational year that included a final in Tokyo and a four round appearance in Roland Garros – where she took a set off Swiatek 6-0 no less – Zheng quickly became a household name. Now set to be seeded in most event, she will look to improve her consistency to take her to the next level.

Linda Fruhvirtova & Brenda Fruhvirtova (Czech Republic)

Not yet in the public mainstream thinking of top WTA Tour players, the teenage sisters are making their move on the professional tour. Linda is now 17 years-old, and Brenda is 15 years-old, and could be the Czech Republic’s answer to the Williams sisters. Though well behind their development compared to the Grad Slam winning sisters, Brenda still has time particularly to make a name for herself in her teenage years. Linda won her first title this year in Chennai, defeating the likes of Magda Linette and Nadia Podoroska.

Not quite able to match it with the world’s best just yet, Linda finished a respectable 77th in the world and is the youngest player inside the Top 100. Brenda had an outstanding year, recording a 51-9 record and bolting up to 130th in the world. The knock was that most of those points came from WTA125 events or largely ITF tournaments, where she won a stack of titles. At one stage, Brenda went on a 27-match winning streak, taking out five consecutive titles. Her competition on the WTA Tour will be a little stiffer though.

Clara Tauson (Denmark)

Some might regard the teenager’s 2021 season as a breakout year, where she reached 33rd in the world and looked poised to crack inside the Top 20. Unfortunately injuries marred what would have been a real chance to step up into the game’s elites, spending a fair chunk of time on the sidelines or not at full fitness. After cracking through for two titles the year before in Lyon and Luxembourg, Tauson finished with just 39 matches under her belt in 2022, and a 22-17 record. She is far better than that, and with a powerful serve and nice ground strokes, expect her to prove it in 2023. Her recent form – where she gained confidence through a lowly ITF25K event title, then reached the quarter finals earlier this month in Angers’ WTA125 event before a WTA125 final in Limoges, shows she is building back her form. It might seem an eternity ago, but just last February she beat Belinda Bencic in Doha, then lead Swiatek in Indian Wells before fading away.

Elizabeth Mandlik (United States)

A little more outside the box compared to others, Mandlik is one who really came to the fore in the second half of the year. Having played in the United States Tennis Association’s ITF circuit prior, Mandlik knocked off world number 21 Jil Teichmann in qualifying to reach he main draw of the WTA500 event in San Jose. There she also defeated Alison Riske, and took a set of then world number four, Paula Badosa. She reached the second round of the US Open with a victory over another Top 100 player in Tamara Zidansek in a promising effort, but has since lost six of her past seven matches. If she can find the form she showed in the first half of the year, she could be a surprise packet on the WTA Tour. Her mother, Hana Mandlikova is a four-time Grand Slam winner and though she is 21 and a late bloomer to the senior Tour, Mandlik is a player with potential who could make the transition inside the Top 100, and perhaps the Top 50.

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