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There could be a different look about the 2023 WTA Finals
  1. Tennis

Tennis: Five breakthrough players who could make next year's WTA Finals

This year's WTA Finals had a fresh look with four players - Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Daria Kasatkina – taking part in the singles competition for the first time.

However, there were a few rising stars who missed out and will be hopeful of making a future appearance in the competition.

Racing Post expert Dan Childs picks out five of those talented youngsters who may have a chance of qualifying in 12 months time.

Zheng could be the pick of the WTA's rising stars

The WTA tour lost two of it's top talents in 2022 with Ashleigh Barty and Serena Williams retiring from the sport but there are plenty of rising stars hoping to make their mark in 2023, including talented 20-year-old Qinwen Zheng, who may be on the brink of a major breakthrough.

Zheng was a talented teenager, who reached the semi-finals at the US Open and French Open junior events in 2019, but she has taken a while to transfer her talents to the senior tour.

However, considerable progress was made in 2022 with Zheng winning eight of 12 matches at Grand Slam events, including a run to the round of 16 at Roland Garros which featured a notable 2-6 6-2 6-1 second round triumph over Simona Halep.

The 20-year-old appeared in her first senior tour final at the Pan Pacific Open in September – losing 7-5 7-5 to Liudmila Samsonova – and finished the season at a career high ranking of 25.

Zheng will be hopeful of making further strides next year and it would not be a great surprise to see her lining up in the WTA finals in 12 month's time.

Anisimova ready to kick on

While Zheng is still waiting to go deep at the Grand Slam, the same cannot be said of American Amanda Anisimova, who reached the French Open semi-finals as a 17-year-old in 2019.

Anisimova has had a few ups and downs over the last three years but she has shown some positive signs in 2022 by reaching the fourth round at the Australia Open and posting a career best quarter-final effort at Wimbledon.

Anisimova had a difficult end to the season due to a broken toe which forced her withdrawal from the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

She attempted to play through the pain at the US Open but was well below her usual standard when suffering a 6-3 6-3 first round loss to Yulia Putinseva.

Anisimova missed the rest of the campaign but did enough in the early part of the year to suggest that she could be one to watch in 2023.

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Canadian ready to shine again

Another player looking to recapture the brilliance of her teenage years is 20-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who was the US Open runner-up in 2021.

Fernandez was a talented youngster, who finished runner up at the Australian Open juniors in 2019 and won the French Open juniors that same year.

However, her most notable achievement came at last year's US Open where she defeated three top five players - third seed Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and second seed Arnya Sabalenka - on the way to reaching the final, where she lost out to Emma Raducanu.

Fernandez's results tailed off in the early part of this year but she returned to a high level when reaching the French Open quarter-finals.

Achieving greater consistency is Fernandez's next challenge but she has the game to trouble some of the world's best players and could soon return to prominence.

Czech making positive strides

One of the later developers in the women's game is 24-year-old Czech Marie Marie Bouzkova, who came to wider attention with a run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year.

Bouzkova did not break into the top 100 until she was in her twenties and had to wait until July this year to claim her first senior tour title at the Prague Open.

However, her progress throughout the year has been steady with a career high ranking of 26 achieved at the end of October.

Bouzkova could have further scope for improvement in 2023 and may be one to follow.

Youngster garnering attention

Almost seven years younger than Bouzkova is her 17-year-old compatriot Linda Fruhrvitova, who has the potential to have a stellar career.

Fruhrvitova demonstrated her ability by reaching the semi-finals at the Wimbledon juniors in 2021 and has caught the eye this year with a run to the fourth round at the Miami Open and a title success at the Chennai Open where she defeated Magda Linette 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the final.

The Czech teenager is a long shot to reach the WTA finals in 2023 but her star should continue to rise.

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