Australian Open: Sky Sports looks at six women who could make an impact
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 23/01/14 10:29am
Given the fact that Serena Williams has won 17 Grand Slam titles, the 32-year-old won't be around forever.
Previous grand slam winners Venus Williams, Li Na and Sam Stosur are also edging ever closer to retirement, while Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has already decided to hang up her racket.
World No 2 Victoria Azarenka is leading the charge for the new crop of stars in the women's game and there are a select group of women who are aiming to join the Belarusian as a future major champion.
We take a look at some of the youthful female talent aiming to make a major breakthrough at Melbourne Park.
Sloane Stephens (Sky Bet odds: 33/1)
Sloane Stephens: Aiming for another semi-final appearance in Melbourne
The American teen was the newcomer on the block in 2013 and oozed charm through her infectious personality. Stephens loves the big stage as well as the attention and she received plenty of it at last year's Australian Open after making it through to her first grand slam semi-final, thanks in large part to a sensational win over her idol Serena Williams. Despite going down to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the last four, the performance in Melbourne helped put her name on the tennis map and she'll be aiming to repeat the feat in 2014. The 20-year-old from Plantation, Florida enjoyed plenty of shopping, sightseeing and Haagen-Dazs ice cream at Roland Garros before reaching the fourth round for the second consecutive year. Stephens took her excellent form into Wimbledon where she reached the quarter-finals for the first time, wowing observers of the game with her prodigious serve and powerful stroke play. Williams exacted her revenge on Stephens in the fourth-round of the US Open. But her athleticism, speed and fluid all-court motion makes her a dangerous competitor Down Under.
Simona Halep (Sky Bet odds: 25/1)
Simona Halep: The Romanian won six WTA titles in 2013
The 22-year-old Romanian collected the WTA's Most Improved Player Award for 2013 after winning titles in Nuremberg, 'S-Hertogenbosch, Budapest, New Haven, Moscow and the Tournament of Champions in Sofia - second only to world No 1 Serena Williams (11 titles). She also rose an impressive 36 spots from 47 to a career-high world No 11 following a remarkable year on the circuit. The former French Open junior champion, whose idol is Justine Henin, was not so prolific in the majors though. She suffered early exits at the Australian and French Open and failed to impress at Wimbledon. A disappointing grand slam season came to an end with defeat against an unseeded Flavia Pennetta at Flushing Meadows. Despite her achievements, Halep split with her coach Adrian Marcu in order to further her career. She will be determined to show her critics just what she is all about with an improved showing at Melbourne Park.
Eugenie Bouchard (Sky Bet odds: 100/1)
Eugenie Bouchard: The Newcomer of the Year proved a hit at Wimbledon
WTA's newcomer of 2013 is a former Wimbledon junior singles and doubles champion who has soared to a career-high 32. The 19-year-old arrives in Melbourne as the only female teen ranked in the top 100 and her rise is all the more remarkable considering she was ranked at 144 towards the end of 2012. The girl from Westmount, Quebec, made her first grand slam main draw appearance at the French Open but went out to Maria Sharapova in the second-round. At Wimbledon, she recorded a career best win against former No 1 Ana Ivanovic on Centre Court and made it as far as the third-round. In October, she reached her first WTA Tour final in Osaka, Japan, but despite winning the first set, the experienced Sam Stosur came through to win in the decider. Bouchard sports a long and lean frame, bright smile and golden locks and if she continues to show the same kind of skill, athleticism and aggression in her game, she has every chance of causing and upset or two in Australia.
Madison Keys (Sky Bet odds: 250/1)
Madison Keys: Has a monster serve and ferocious groundstrokes
The big-serving 18-year-old finished 2013 on a high note with a semi-final appearance in Osaka, Japan. Three quarter-final appearances in Sydney, Charleston and Birmingham have helped the Rock Island native close in on the top 30. At 5ft 10in she is still growing and looks to have everything in the locker, including a monster serve and some ferocious groundstrokes. Keys has wonderful balance and her court coverage can compete with some of the very best in the game. Her best grand slam appearance came at Wimbledon where she destroyed British No 2 Heather Watson before bowing out in the third-round to the unorthodox Agnieszka Radwanska. Madison may hold the key to the future of women's tennis in America and clearly has the weapons to be a top 10 player.
Magdalena Rybarikovan and Dominika Cibulkova: Enjoyed a successful year
The Slovak duo have been enjoying a successful last couple of years for the small mountainous European nation. The diminutive Cibulkova stands at just 5ft 3in tall but carries tremendous power which has helped her shoot up the rankings to 23. She was responsible for one of the upsets of last season when she took out top seed Victoria Azarenka at the French Open on her way to the quarter-finals. Most of Cibulkova's best results have come on the clay, although her success at Carlsbad in 2012 and Stanford in 2013 suggests she can compete on the hardcourts of Melbourne. Rybarikova, ranked 37, has been more successful in terms of WTA titles, having won in Birmingham, Memphis and has enjoyed winning back-to-back titles in Washington DC. The lean and leggy player has a beautiful two-handed backhand and has a smooth and smart game which includes a solid serve and variation to her groundstrokes. She arrives in Melbourne having recovered from recent back and wrist injuries to take her place in the draw for the first slam of the year.