By McCarton Ackerman
The Emirates Airline US Open Series isn’t just the place to watch the biggest names in tennis compete. Each summer, emerging stars of the game record the biggest victories and tournament results of their young careers. And while some of these players seemed destined for a breakthrough, others come out of nowhere to captivate fans with their flashy play – and their unexpected results.
Denis Kudla (pictured above) is fresh off the biggest result of his young career and will look to be one of the breakthrough stars of this summer. He cracked the Top 100 after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon earlier this month, which marked the first time he reached the second week at a Grand Slam. Having missed both the Series and US Open last summer due to injury, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue climbing the rankings over the next few months.
Fellow American Steve Johnson has produced consistent results throughout 2015 that leave many believing he’s ready to challenge the world’s top players. He’s reached the quarterfinals at three ATP World Tour tournaments so far in 2015, in addition to advancing to the third round at the Australian Open and French Open. With all three of his career Top 15 victories coming on U.S. hard courts, he’s proven that he can excel during the Series.
On the women’s side, rising teenager Belinda Bencic is poised to make a major splash during the Series. The 18-year-old from Switzerland first made the tennis world take notice last summer by reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open, and she has followed that performance up with solid results. She won her maiden WTA title last month in Eastbourne, England, and reached the finals of two other WTA events in the last 12 months. And with wins over players this year including reigning US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard, she’s capable of beating top players on big stages.
American teenager CiCi Bellis will also attract plenty of attention this summer. Since defeating 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of last year’s US Open, the 16-year-old has won three $25,000 events on the USTA Pro Circuit and reached the third round of the Sony Open in Miami, where she lost to world No. 1 Serena Williams. With no ranking points to defend until the US Open, Bellis is playing with little pressure this summer and can swing freely on the court.
A crop of talented American juniors on the men’s side could also make their presence felt during the Series. Keep an eye out for current world junior No. 1 Taylor Fritz, reigning French Open boys’ singles champion Tommy Paul, reigning Wimbledon boys’ singles champion Reilly Opelka and former junior world No. 2 Frances Tiafoe, who has jumped well over 800 spots in the ATP World Tour rankings since the start of the year.