Which British players will shine bright in 2018 and who can build on a fantastic 2017? Here, we take a look at eight players to watch ahead of the new season.
1. Jay Clarke
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We had to start with Jay Clarke. The Derbyshire teenager had a breakthrough year in 2017, reaching a Challenger final and winning a Futures events. Breaking inside the top 250 was a phenomenal achievement for Clarke and, as a result, interest in the young Brit will only grow in 2018.
He made an impressive run at Wimbledon qualifying, defeating Marcelo Arevalo and Elias Ymer, and was two sets to love up against Sebastien Ofner before letting the match slip away from his grasp.
After a fine year, it’ll be interesting to see how Clarke steps up onto the Challenger tour. He has shown he has potential – reaching the final in Bangalore – and now it’s a question of consistency and patience. Knocking on the door of the top 200, Clarke will almost certainly receive a wild card for Wimbledon and could cause a big upset should he make the first round.
It’s going to be a big year for the youngster. He will find frustrating periods and will likely travel further and for longer periods than he has ever before. It’ll be fantastic progress if he can maintain his top 250 ranking, and maybe even break into the top 200.
2. Katie Boulter
Another obvious selection but Katie Boulter had to be mentioned. In a year which saw her breaking into the top 200, reach three finals, being one set away from US Open qualification and come close to causing an upset at Wimbledon, Boulter will be looking to build on a fantastic season.
She will be heading into unchartered territory when she travels to Melbourne for Australian Open qualifying and the young Brit, who was plagued with injuries in her early career, will have more opportunity to play in the ITF 100ks and WTA tournaments.
With good performances comes greater expectation and there’s real hope that Boulter can break into the top 100 in 2018. A run of consistent performances over the British grass season – where she will likely be handed wild cards in the bigger WTA tournaments – and backing up her impressive performances on the ITF tour could see Boulter reach new heights.
3. Alexander Ward
At 27, it could have been forgiven if you’d have thought that Alex Ward’s career had peaked. Ravaged by injuries, Ward made a remarkable comeback at Wimbledon, where he ‘did a Willis’ and came through six rounds of qualifying to make the first round for the second time in his career.Embed from Getty Images
At the time, Ward was ranked outside the top 800 but still overcame the likes of Go Soeda and Teymuraz Gabashvili. Reaching the first round of Wimbledon was impressive for Ward, but what followed was remarkable.
Reaching a final on the ATP Challenger tour in Columbus, Ward then won 12 consecutive matches on the Futures tour in America, winning two titles. This form elevated Ward back inside the top 300 and now he’s fully fit, 2018 could be the year where he kicks on and surpasses his career high of 242.
4. Gabriella Taylor
Perhaps most famous for being ‘poisoned’ during the Wimbledon girls tournament in 2016, Gabriella Taylor had a fantastic season in 2017. The 19 year-old won two $25k tournaments – one in Korea and the second in India – and claimed some notable scalps, including Maryna Zanevska, Arina Rodionova and Luksika Kumkhum.Embed from Getty Images
Backing up these impressive results is going to be a challenge for Taylor. Agonisingly close to a career high ranking, Taylor has the ability to become Britain’s next big hope. Patience will be key for Taylor and 2018 will hopefully see her play in more $50k and $100k tournaments as she looks to make the next step up in the rankings.
5. Tom Farquharson
Like Alex Ward, Tom Farquharson could be a late bloomer. At 25, his biggest achievement to date is without question taking the Boys’ doubles title at Wimbledon with Liam Broady in 2010.Embed from Getty Images
Despite only having a career high ranking of 429, Farquharson pulled together 10 successive wins to win two futures titles in Britain in September, to add to his title in Dublin. More notable was perhaps the fact Tom went to the Challenger circuit after this run. In November, Farquharson came through three tough rounds of qualifying in Bratislava, defeating the higher ranked Ante Pavic and Jan Mertl to make the first round, where he would eventually lose to top 200 player Jurgen Zopp in three tight sets.
2018 could be the year Tom Farquharson peaks and while 25 seems old for a tennis player to break new boundaries, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. If he keeps playing as he did towards the latter stages of the year, then he’s certainly one to watch.
6. Jodie Burrage
There are a number of teenagers on the women’s side that could’ve made this list. Francesca Jones and Emily Appleton certainly have potential, while Katie Swan has shown she has fantastic ability. But it’s Jodie Burrage who has made this list as one to watch for 2018. Why?Embed from Getty Images
In her first year as a professional, Burrage has already made two ITF $15k finals, winning one in Dublin to rise to a career high of 537. The 18 year-old has also impressed in doubles, winning two titles in November with fellow Brit Freya Christie. With titles in the bag, and defeating players ranked around her, Burrage has shown she has great potential to break into the top 300, which is exactly where she should be looking towards for 2018.
7. Jonathan Gray
Another youngster that has a big year ahead of him. With a career high of 550, 2017 was a good year for Gray, making several quarter and semi finals on the Futures tour. In August, he surprised many by making the final in Belarus, before losing to former top 100 player Marsel Ilhan.Embed from Getty Images
It was at his last tournament where Gray won his first title on the ITF Futures tour. Playing in Thu Dau Mot City in Vietnam, Gray defeated two top 500 players, including veteran Ti Chen in the final, to take the title.
The reason Jonathan Gray makes this list is because of this impressive title at the end of the season. He has all the momentum to really make a run at the start of the season and win more titles. It would be great to see him receive wild cards in some of the Challenger events in Britain, but he needs to impress the decision makers before then with some good form. With young British talent seemingly resting on Norrie, Edmund and Clarke, it would be great for Jonathan Gray to add his name to the mix.
8. Maia LumsdenEmbed from Getty Images
Finally, and probably unsurprisingly, we have added Maia Lumsden on the list. Like many of the teenagers on the list, Lumsden embarked on her first full year as a professional, and she hasn’t disappointed.
Another player on the list to reach a career high this year, Lumsden has won two singles titles this year, in addition to three doubles titles. Both of her impressive singles titles came in Britain – in the Wirral in February and Sunderland in October. She also came close to causing a big upset in Wimbledon qualifying, falling to 22nd seed Barbora Krtjcikova 6-4 6-7 8-10.
With a very successful year behind her, Lumsden has a fantastic opportunity to continue her upwards climb on the rankings table. A place in the top 300 could become a reality and her form in 2017 means she will be able to compete in more $25k and $50k tournaments. Of all the women on this list, Maia Lumsden could be the one to watch in 2018.
Do you agree? Have some of your favourite players been missed? Comment below and let us know who you feel should be on this list!