With this weeks French Open underway there is a Serena sized hole in the field. With Williams taking time off from tennis while pregnant, this is the chance for not only the rest of the field to shine, but also for some of the other American talent to take center stage. With half of the second round matches complete on the women’s side of the draw, there are already four American women through to the third round and another three playing tomorrow attempting to do the same.
While the young guns are hoping to make a name for themselves over the next week and half, Venus Williams is still the most likely to go deep in Paris. At 36-years-old Venus is still able to gut out a result as she did vs Qiang Wang in the first round or physically dominate an opponent as she did against Kurumi Nara in the second round. Venus has to still be riding the confidence of first Grand Slam finals appearance earlier this year, her first one in more eight years which is hard to believe, but she also has never reached the semi-final of the French Open. Even though Venus has found her groove on the court she somewhat goofed post-match by seemingly revealing the sex of Serena’s unborn baby.
While the American tennis fan hasn’t had to think about not having a topAmerican to root for on the women’s side, unlike on the men’s side, this tournament could be a glimpse into the not so distant future. Coco Vandeweghe (13) (the a fiery young American who already bowed out in the first round) and Madison Keys (12) (the solid American who has been threatening to break out for years) are the two most likely candidates to claim the throne of best American with Serena absent but there are a few even younger who could soon be the faces of American tennis, in Taylor Townsend and Cici Bellis.
Taylor Townsend, a former #1 ranked junior player, was tipped to have already made the jump to stardom but has yet to announce herself on the biggest stage. Townsend may be best known unfortunately for 2012 controversy in which the USTA didn’t want her to compete at the US Open, even though she was the top ranked junior player in the world, due to concerns over her weight. There was a public outcry at the time and many former players and fans came to her defense, but with that behind her she hasn’t kicked on to put her stamp on the court. Townsend will play Su-Wei Hsieh who upset the ranked Johanna Konta in the first round, so this may be her chance to make a run at a Grand Slam.
It seems like only yesterday that 15-year-old Cici Bellis beat Dominika Cibulková in the first round of the US Open and broke a bunch of age records in the process. Now 18-years-old, Bellis has a WTA title under her belt and has already booked herself a spot in the third round. As the former USTA Girls 18’s National Championship, and the youngest ever winner to boot, she has long been touted as the rising star of US tennis but she may even be exceeding expectations at the moment. She has climbed into the top 50 with impressive performances in WTA tournaments this year which include wins over ranked players such as Timea Bacsinszky, Yulia Putintseva, and most impressively, over Agnieszka Radwanska. Even her loses are showing that she is developing at a rapid pace. Only a few weeks ago she lost to Kiki Bertens, the 20th ranked player in the world, in Rome yet had the ability to make her adjustments and beat her in the second round of the French Open yesterday. Her win earlier this year over Radwanksa (shown below) highlights just how well she strikes the ball and moves on the court. This week will go a long way in showing us how much game, and heart, Bellis has on the biggest stage.