Hotshots for 2004
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) "New Balls Please," generation have graduated with flying colours to become established stars, but who are ready to make their mark? James Buddell profiles his star picks for 2004.
TOP TEN HEAVYWEIGHT
David Nalbandian (Argentina)
He's hardly unknown, but the Argentine 21-year-old showed in 2003 that he is capable of mixing it with the world's top five.
Basing his game around a solid backhand and service return, Nalbandian is capable of winning on any surface.
The world number eight beat Roger Federer, Rainer Schuettler, Andy Roddick and Tim Henman on the back of two final appearances (Basel and Canada Masters) in 2003 and if he can remain focused a breakthrough at the majors is definately possible.
(guess a final isn't good enough, or did they already forget? LOL)
HOPEFUL NEARLY MAN
Mardy Fish (United States)
Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi may steal the headlines, but the 22-year-old from Minnesota is creating fireworks himself.
The right-hander captured the first title of his career in October beating Swede Robin Sonderling rounding off a year that included three other finals (Delray Beach, Nottingham and Canada Masters).
En Route to a final with best friend Andy Roddick in Montreal, Fish defeated three top ten players: Mark Philippoussis, Nalbandian and Schuettler.
He made his Davis Cup debut helping USA back into the World Group and finished the season ranked a career-high 20th.
(GO MARDY! )
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Rafael Nadal (Spain)
He's a nephew of a famous footballer and the conqueror of former Roland Garros champions Carlos Moya and Albert Costa, plus tour favourite Younes El Aynaoui.
The right-handed left-hander made history at Wimbledon becoming the youngest player to reach that stage since a 16-year-old Boris Becker had done so in 1984.
After a successful run on the Challenger circuit the Mallorcan reached his first ATP semi-final in Umag.
After a long season the 17-year-old finished in the world's top 50 for the first time and will hope to capture a first title in 2004 and continue his meteoric rise up the world tree.
Dmitry Tursunov (Russia)
Gustavo Kuerten remembers the 21-year-old Muscovite.
Back in late August, Tursunov pulled off a shock five-set win over the former world number one at the US Open in the first round, before falling to Xavier Malisse two matches later.
The right-hander moved to California aged 12 and enjoyed success on the Challenger circuit winning two titles.
Tursunov finished the year ranked 98th, climbing 233 places to finish in the Top 100 for the first time in his career.
Alex Bogdanovic (Great Britain)
The Belgrade-born left-hander has bags of talent: a wicked forehand and crushing serve that has attracted the attention of the British public.
With Henman and Greg Rusedski not getting any younger, the 19-year-old felt the pressure of expectation in 2003 and lost some of his focus.
A part of Britain's "B" team that were sent to Australia in February, Bogdanovic proved he could play.
Doubles legend Peter Fleming has helped to coach him, but towards the end of the year the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) threatened to take away his funding if he didn't improve.
He finished 2003-ranked 276th in the world.