Young rising stars a breath of fresh air at French Open

Young rising stars a breath of fresh air at French Open
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates after defeating France's Alize Cornet during the women's fourth round at the Roland Garros 2015 French Tennis Open in Paris on May 31, 2015.

The French Open is approaching its climax, and I'm delighted that after nearly two weeks of action on the famous red clay of Roland Garros, three of the eight women's quarter-finalists are WTA Rising Stars.

Spain's Garbine Muguruza is 21, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina only 20, and 21-year-old Alison Van Uytvanck have all enhanced their reputation over the past few days.

That's a fantastic ratio, and I think the success of the rising stars in general has been a prevalent theme this year at Roland Garros.

It is a big reason why we introduced the WTA Rising Stars programme in Singapore last year.

It's about getting young players ready, it's about teaching them the things they need to know, which will help them very quickly gain confidence to excel in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

We know that confidence is one of the biggest, most important elements in professional tennis.

At that level, there is such a fine line between who is winning the tournaments, who is in the top 10 and who is a WTA Rising Star, and it really comes down to confidence and belief in yourself.

A good example of that is Ana Ivanovic, who has made it back to the semi-finals of Roland Garros for the first time since she won it in 2008 as a 20-year-old.

Her confidence is now back and it is probably better than it ever was. Ana is now 27 and she is someone you cannot discount in a tournament, because she is also much wiser.

In 2008 she was young and didn't really know what it was like to jump into the limelight like that and I think there is an adjustment period from rising star to star for many players.

STRUGGLED

It's something that Petra Kvitova has admitted publicly - that she struggled for a couple of years after winning her first Wimbledon title in 2011 because her life had changed overnight. It can be very difficult for youngsters who become Grand Slam champions to handle all the different pressures.

Once they learn how to deal with it they can finally reach equilibrium, whether it is a year later, or perhaps seven years later, like Ivanovic.

We've seen a couple of players over the past year that have gone from WTA Rising Star to star in a matter of months, like Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard, who are now ranked world No. 3 and 6, respectively.

It can be tough when you achieve so much so quickly, because anything less from then on will always be deemed a failure in the eyes of most critics.

Take Canada's Bouchard for example - she's had some really good results this year, making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, but nobody seems to talk about that.

It's all been about her losing, and it can be tough for a 21-year-old. She was not spared when she was knocked out by unseeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in the first round of this year's French Open.

Bouchard qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, and if she doesn't achieve what she did last season it will unfortunately be seen as a failure.

This is what the rising stars have to deal with. There will always be people who will say and write things that are not necessarily great, but learning to deal with it and blocking out the negatives is all part of being a top player.

It's been exciting to see the top-quality women's matches at Roland Garros.

Lucie Safarova has done really well. She's reached the semi-finals and it's great to see her move into the top 10.

Serena is always fantastic too - she can be a set down and, just when it seems like she won't make it, the champion comes out when it matters most.

Let's hope the final tomorrow is a classic that showcases all that's good about the women's game.


This article was first published on June 5, 2015.
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