1. Sesil Karatantcheva
Ms Karatantcheva returned to professional tennis this week following her two year ban for drug offences. The 18-year-old Bulgarian still maintains her innocence however we are not here to judge, she has served her punishment. Her first tournament was a complete success - coming through qualifying before winning the $25K Surprise Futures title in Arizona. Considering her situation it was a remarkable achievement. Whethere she will be welcomed back on to the tour with open arms is another matter...
2. Uladzimi Ignatik
The 17 year old Belarussian won his first futures title in only his sixth ever professional tournament at North Miami. Ignatik finished 2007 as the #2 ranked junior despite winning the French Open title and finishing runner up at Wimbledon. He is currently ranked 876 though his ranking will move up significantly after this result and there's no doubt he's one to watch in 2008.
3. Ricardas Berankis
Lithuanian Berankis was the junior who beat Ignatik to the World Junior #1 ranking at the end of 2007 (he was also US Open junior champion). Berankis took part in the North Miami tournament but could only manage a semi-final finish losing to American Todd Paul who in turn lost to Ignatik. Berankis however has already won a futures title and is ranked 706. So who transfer their junior success best on the senior circuit? Only time will tell...
4. Anastasia Pivovarova
Another year another potential female Russian star. 17-year-old Pivovarova currently ranked 234 has had a fantastic start to the year winning the Tampa Bay futures title last week (the 5th of her career) and the semi-finals this week at the Surprise tournament (where she lost to Karatantcheva). In 2007 she picked up wins against established players Benesova, Knapp and Makarova. Though Anastasia, who trains at the Evert Academy, has a bright future she will have climb over a lot of her Russian counterparts to reach the top of the game - she's ranked only 27 in her native country.
5. Michelle Larcher De Brito
What a difference a week makes. Last week the 14-year-old (soon to be 15) was playing at the JB Group Classic in Hong Kong with Venus Williams, Sharapova and Dementieva (who she teamed up with in doubles). A week later Michelle, who is ranked #296, lost in the last round of qualifying at the Surprise futures tournament in Arizona. However after a strong 2007 where the young Larcher De Brito defeated Shaugnessy at Miami (the 7th youngest female ever to win a main draw match), she is in prime position to make a strong impact on the women's tour in 2008. Watch this girl, she will be a world beater!
6. Xin-Yuan Yu
With the Chinese female game taking off the men's game has been left, well, quite far behind. There is however some hope in the year of the Beijing Olympics. 22-year-old Yu has won 7 futures titles and this week reached the semi-finals of the most recent Chinese future title. Though singles is not where Yu excels- with Shao-Xuan Zheng he has formed a solid doubles partnership. The title the pair took out this week was the 20th of Yu's career.
7. Miles Kasiri
In 2004 a British junior made the junior boy's final at Wimbledon - the first time in over thirty years. You maybe surprised to find that this was not Andy Murray but a lad by the name of Miles Kasiri. Since then the young Brit has done little except court controversy. He was suspended from the LTA training programme for lack of effort, something he blamed on a constant injury.
8. Naomi Broady
British women's tennis has had little to cheer about for some time.... 17-year-old Broady is no certainty to improve upon this however she is certainly making some progress. Last week, unseeded, she made the semi-finals at the futures event in Sunderland. An achievement she also made last November in the same city. In 2007 she also took top 100 player Casey Dellacqua to a third set tiebreak at the Surbiton event. Currently ranked #723 it seems the only way is up for Broady, however how far that is, is anyone's guess.
9. Gaston Gaudio
This week has featured many fresh faced future champions... however the other side of the challenger and futures tournaments is the fading stars... In 2004 unseeded Gaston Gaudio swept to a dramatic victory at the French Open where he came back form two sets down to defeate Coria. He went on to win 8 titles and reach a career high of #5 in the world. A few years later Gaudio is ranked 176 and losing 6-0 6-3 to rising star Nishikori in the first round of the Miami Challenger. Granted it was his first tournament back since an ankle injury in September last year but his lack of form has been going for some time. Quite the fall from grace.
10. Jan-Michael Gambill
The pretty all-American boy reached a career high of 14 in 2001, won three ATP titles and was a Wimbledon quarter-finalist. He is now in the twilight of his career aged 30 and his form in the last 12 months has been woeful. He has played 7 matches in the last year and has lost all games without winning one set. His most recently 6-4 6-4 loss was to the eventual champion of the Miami challenger, Eric Prodon. Gambill, who has been out injured, has only played ATP or challenger events in his 'comeback' so if he is serious about some form of professional career in 2008 he's going to have to win some matches - so off to the futures tour Mr Gambill!