Young guns: Raz Mirza looks at six youngsters ahead of Wimbledon
Our tennis expert Raz Mirza looks at six young players who are primed to shine at Wimbledon
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 10/04/14 5:25pm
The last 32 men's singles Grand Slam titles have been shared between just five players, so which young player could break that sequence?
Given the fact that Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro have so far only racked up one major title each, that has left Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to share an incredible 31 crowns between them.
But all eras must eventually come to an end and when the likes of Nadal and Djokovic do finally slow down, a new generation will be waiting to take up the mantle.
Here, Raz Mirza takes a look at six youngsters who will be looking to make a major breakthrough at SW19.
Grigor Dimitrov (Sky Bet odds: 66/1)
Grigor Dimitrov: The Bulgarian is a hit with the female fans
It's now common knowledge that the Bulgarian is dating Maria Sharapova after they were seen walking hand-in-hand during the Madrid Open and then the Russian second seed came to Queen's Club to watch him in action. Other than his love life, Dimitrov is also starting to make huge strides in the men's game. He earned the tag 'Baby Federer' following his triumph at Wimbledon and the US Open as a junior in 2008. He finished in top 50 for first time in his career last year before reaching the final in his first tournament of 2013 in Brisbane - a match which he lost to Andy Murray. Since then the 21-year-old stretched Rafael Nadal to the limit in the quarter-finals at Monaco in April and he then shocked world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the Madrid second round in the longest three-set match of the year for his first ever victory against a top-five player. The Serb did exact his revenge in the third round of the French Open with a straight-sets win though. And Dimitrov is not too shabby on the grass either after reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 AEGON Championships at Queen's Club. His country feel they may have found a new hero after Hristo Stoichkov - a former footballer who led the national side to the 1994 World Cup semi-final. And they may just be right because this could be the year that the 28th-ranked Haskovo-born player steps up at a Grand Slam.
Milos Raonic (Sky Bet odds: 66/1)
Milos Raonic: Has shown signs of improvement this season
Born in Podgorica, Montenegro, Raonic moved to Canada with his family at the age of three and started playing the game at the age of eight. He has since grown into a 6ft 5in powerhouse. Last year he was named Newcomer of the Year after rising 125 places to No 31 in the world rankings. Raonic, 22, won the SAP Open title in San Jose title for the third year in a row earlier this year although he has struggled to make an impact since then. He lost to Fernando Verdasco in Madrid before a shock early exit to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Rome. He is known for his huge serves and bludgeoning groundstrokes - a perfect game for grass - but he admitted after his defeat to Sam Querrey at SW19 last year that he needed to start playing with more 'grit'. He recently reached the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open before losing again to that man Nadal. Handily enough, Raonic trains in the Catalan city and is guided by Spanish coach Galo Blanco. Despite dumped out of the Gerry Weber Open on the Halle grass by Gael Monfils, the world No 15 is certainly one to keep a close eye on during Wimbledon.
Benoit Paire (Sky Bet odds: 400/1)
Benoit Paire: The Frenchman has a tendancy to play well on grass
The youngster was recently tipped as a future world No 2 by French newspaper L'Equipe and there is no reason why this 24-year-old from Avignon can't go on and achieve that. He's currently ranked at 25, but was was one of most improved players last year, jumping 48 placed to No 47 with 26 match wins. Although clay is his favourite surface, he does have a tendancy to play well on grass and after reaching the third round of Wimbledon last year he will be hoping to make further progress this summer. He's been in promising form this season, reaching the semi-finals in his first tournament of the year in Chennai before making his second ATP final in Montpellier. Paire defeated world No 7 Juan Martin del Potro to record his first win over a top ten player at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in April before going on to lose to Roger Federer in the semi-finals. After another third round exit at the hands of Kei Nishikori at Roland Garros, Benoit will be hoping things don't go pear-shaped at SW19.
Bernard Tomic (Sky Bet odds: 125/1)
Bernard Tomic: Has been dealing with off-the-court issues recently
Tomic was born in Stuttgart, Germany to a Croatian father and a Bosnian mother before the family migrated to Australia when he was three-years-old. He had a talent for the game from a young age and won three Orange Bowl titles before going on to win the Australian Open Junior Boys' Championships at the age of 15. Tomic went from world No 208 at the end of 2010 all the way to No 42 the following year. He reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. He disappointed in 2012 with a number of early-tournament losses and created more headlines off the court than on it, including run-ins with police in his sports car and claims he was not trying hard enough. He was recalled to Australia's Davis Cup team after captain Pat Rafter disciplined him for a lack of professionalism earlier this year. The 20-year-old did begin this season by bagging his first ATP title at the Apia International in Sydney. However, just as things seemed to be looking up, he was missing from the draw for the Rome Masters after his father, John was charged with assaulting his hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, after allegedly head-butting him near their hotel before the Madrid Open and things didn't improve heading into Roland Garros after he pulled out of his first-round match because of injury. He most recently made another early exit at Queen's Club, so it remains to be seen what kind of mental state he will be in for the start of Wimbledon.
Jerzy Janowicz (Sky Bet odds: 80/1)
Jerzy Janowicz: Has risen swiftly through the rankings in the last two years
Janowicz claims to have Pete Sampras' style and Marat Safin's attitude. He is Poland's very own rising star at 6ft 8in and is also climbing up the rankings like a steam train. He has gone from 161 in the world to No 22 in a little over two years. His parents were both professional volleyball players, so it was a no brainer that he was always going to follow in their footsteps and become a professional sportsperson. He picked up a racquet at the age of five and hasn't looked back. After making his Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at Wimbledon, Janowicz rose to prominence at last year's Paris Masters by reaching the final in his maiden Masters 1000 event. Although he lost in straight sets to Spain's David Ferrer, he has been trying to become the first Pole to win a title since Wojtek Fibak in 1982. The 22-year-old plays with passion and flair and never holds back with a dangerous crosscourt forehand and flat serves which hits top speeds of up to 135mph. The big-hitting beanpole is always seeking to improve his form and recently crashed out of the Madrid Open to eventual semi-finalist Tomas Berdych, although he did make his mark in Rome by upsetting world No 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before catching the attention of the female public by ripping his shirt in celebration. He went out of the French Open in the third round to Stanislas Wawrinka before making an early exit in his first grasscourt tournament of the year at Halle when he was upset by lucky loser Mirza Basic of Bosnia. Apart from that blip, his achievements have been quite remarkable considering he has gone from playing a tournament in Barnstaple to SW19 in the space of 12 months.
David Goffin (Sky Bet odds: 500/1)
David Goffin: Is currently struggling to find his best form
The Belgian youngster is considered to be one of the sport's most promising stars but has only come to prominence in the last year. He was born in Rocourt, which is the same town as seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin, and was taught the game by his father, Michel from the age of six. Claycourts are his forte and he surprised everybody by reaching the fourth round of the French Open last year after entering the tournament's main draw as a lucky loser. He went on to beat Radek Stepanek in five sets before dispatching Arnaud Clement and Lukasz Kubot. Goffin became the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round of a major championship since fellow Belgian Dick Norman at Wimbledon in 1995. He faced his childhood idol Roger Federer. The Swiss master prevailed in four sets that day, but spoke positively about his younger opponent after the match. After winning two Challenger events in his career, Goffin has certainly come a long way in a short space of time. He also went on to reach the third round at Wimbledon and the 22-year-old has since climbed to world No 59, although he has dropped back to 84 after falling at the first hurdle at Roland Garros to Novak Djokovic. He has gone off the radar this year as he struggles to find his best form and most recently made an early exit on grass in Halle, losing to German Mikhail Zverev.