It’s that time of year again. The ATP and WTA app has been updated and five events are showing on the home screen. Yes, the new tennis season is upon us and once again we take a look at eight British players that we expect to climb the rankings in 2019.
Last year, we has some success (and some not so much). As a general rule, we try to avoid players in the top 150 (sorry Harriet)! Now, let’s take a look at The Big Racket’s 8 British players to watch out for in 2019
1. Katie Swan (Current: 183)
Ok, we start with an obvious choice but we cannot ignore Katie Swan after the season she had last year. 2018 was the season we’ve been waiting for Katie to have. Winning a second career $25k ITF tournament in Spain (her first was in October 2017, courtesy of a Katie Boulter retirement in the final), Swan went on to really make a name for herself in the summer.
After winning her first ever Grand Slam match at Wimbledon against Irina-Camelia Begu, Swan was just one match away from qualifying for the US Open, falling to Heather Watson.
This season, Swan is back in Australia for the first time since reaching the Australian Open Girls’ final four years ago. And with little to defend between now and April, Swan has a fantastic opportunity to break new ground in 2019. A string of results could see a debut in the top 100 before the summer.
2. Jack Draper (421)
Another safe choice, but Jack Draper has an opportunity this year to really get British fans excited. A potential benefactor of the new ITF entry system, Draper showed last year that he is ready to take on the challenges of the ITF tour.
Since reaching the Boys’ final at Wimbledon, Draper astonishingly won three ITF $15k events, including one in Lagos, Nigeria. The left-hander ended the year at world number 421 and the signs are positive that he can continue to make inbounds towards the top 250 this year.
Sure to have the backing of the LTA, Draper has all the makings of a future British tennis favourite. It’s very rare that British juniors scrapping it out on the ITF tour make The Tennis Podcast, but Draper has caught the eye of keen journalists, and he should be one to watch in 2019.
3. Emma Raducanu (575)
If we’re going to discuss Jack Draper, we have to include Emma Raducanu. One year younger than Draper, Emma also had a hugely impressive year in 2018. Reaching the Quarter Finals in the Girls’ event at both Wimbledon and the US Open, Raducanu won two ITF $15k professional titles.
Perhaps her most eye-catching performances came at the Wirral $25k tournament in October, where she defeated both Ayla Aksu and Barbara Haas, before falling in the semi-finals. Emma is certainly one to get excited about but perhaps we should be a little grounded with our expectations of the teenager, who won’t turn 17 until November.
4. Jan Choinski (269)
Hand’s up who thought we’d be following Jan Choinski in 2019? The 22 year-old will start the year representing Great Britain after switching allegiances from Germany in December. He qualifies for Britain thanks to his mother, who is from Southampton, and is certainly a player fans should be excited about.
A regular on the Challenger circuit towards the latter stages of 2018, Choinski loves the clay and even defeated Alexander Bublik at Roland Garros qualifying last year. At 22, he has the potential to go far and, with the backing from loyal British fans, can hopefully make the transition onto the Challenger circuit full-time, moving away from the Futures events altogether.
5. Freya Christie (565)
2019 feels like a big year for Freya. After a nightmare couple of injury-ridden seasons, Christie ended last year with a string of tournaments down-under. And while she hasn’t won a main draw match on the ITF tour since reaching the Quarter-Finals in Woking in August, it’s easy to forget that Freya is still only 21.
Sitting outside the top 500, Christie has a lot of work to do if she is to get close to her career high ranking of 286 back in 2016. However, if she is able to put together a run of victories, Christie could regain her confidence and be one to watch again for British tennis fans.
6. James Ward (190)
What a season James Ward has in 2018. Hard work and determination saw the former top 100 player and Davis Cup hero climb inside the top 200, where he ended the year as the British number three. Yet, little was written about his unlikely comeback, with most of the media’s focus on Dan Evans’ return from a drugs ban.
Ward’s success came on the Challenger circuit, reaching two finals and two semi-finals. And with practically nothing to defend in the opening quarter of the 2019, Ward could make significant steps to break into the top 100 once again. He’ll be turning 32 in February, but there’s no reason why Wardy cannot rediscover his very best form and become a regular on the ATP tour.
7. Francesca Jones (404)
18 year-old Francesca Jones ended the year just outside the world’s top 400. Last year, the teenager added two more ITF titles to her mantlepiece after a fruitful spell in July. Unlike most British players on the women’s tour, Jones thrives on the clay and ended the year with some encouraging runs at both $25k and $60k level tournaments.
Francesca has an excellent opportunity to reach the top 300 this year, and has nothing to defend in the first three months of 2019. Scheduled to make an appearance in Monastir, Tunisia, Jones will be looking to build on an excellent 2018 by winning some crucial early ITF points on the W15 events.
8. Luke Bambridge & Jonny O’Mara
For our final players to look out for in 2019, we’re switching our attention to the doubles. With a plethora of talent in British doubles tennis, it’s Bambridge and O’Mara who really caught the eye towards the second half of 2018 and will be looking to build on a hugely successful season.
Winning two ATP titles in Eastbourne and Stockholm, as well as two Challengers events in Surbiton and Orleans, the British duo are growing together as a doubles pair and could be a force to be reckoned with on the ATP tour. While they ended last year partnering different players, with less success, let’s hope that Bambridge and O’Mara partner again in the new year and continue their rise up the ATP doubles rankings ladder.
Do you agree with our selections? Is there anyone missing from this who should be included? Let us know by Tweeting @TennisBigRacket or comment below!
Image: Peter Menzel