Tennis

Isner, Querrey could score big in 2011

John Isner
John Isner's big serve and marathon Wimbledon match pushed him into the spotlight.
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Welcome to the 2010 Year in Review. Beginning Dec. 21, in a time frame just shy of a fortnight, FOXSports.com's panel of tennis commentators — Matt Cronin, Richard Evans, Zack Pierce, Addie Rising and Brian Webber — will share their thoughts on the topic of the day. So check back each day to catch one final look back at a memorable year in tennis.

TO CONTINUE OUR YEAR IN REVIEW, WE ASK . . . WHO IS POISED TO BREAK OUT IN 2011?

Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey won four titles in 2010.

Nick Laham

CRONIN: John Isner. Without a doubt, younger players such as Marin Cilic, Ernests Gulbis, Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Berankis have loads of potential, but if you are looking for a 25-year-old man who is ready to peak and is prepared to break through to his first Grand Slam semifinal (or possibly further), look no further than Isner, a 6-foot-9, flame-throwing American who has improved as much as anyone on tour over the past two years.

With his towering frame, the 19th-ranked Isner never will be a speedster, but he can numb anyone with his huge first serve, can whip a forehand and has improved his net game a great deal. His conditioning also has improved, and, as he showed in his record-breaking win over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, he has plenty of heart. Expect the North Carolina native to end 2011 in the top 10 and reach the second week of at least two majors.

EVANS: At the top I would anticipate top-10 breakthroughs for Gael Monfils and Ernests Gulbis, if both stay fit and concentrate, but lower down the scale it’s a toss-up between Lithuania’s Richard Berankis, currently ranked No. 87; Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, No. 106, and 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison, who finished the year at No. 173.

Harrison is the youngest and has the most ground to make up, but the way he handled Ivan Ljubicic at the U.S. Open before going down in a five-set thriller to Sergiy Stakhovsky convinced me that Ryan, with his big serve and serious approach to the game, is heading for a major advance in the coming months.

Berankis beat Ryan Sweeting at the U.S. Open and, at 20, is poised to take that next step, while Dimitrov, a year younger, is continually spoken of in glowing terms by those who have plotted his progress since he won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior titles in 2008.

Now coached by Peter McNamara, a no-nonsense Australian, Dimitrov cleaned up on the Challenger circuit at the end of the year, winning two events in Thailand and one in Switzerland as well as beating French Davis Cupper Michael Llodra in Orleans.

A year from now, it will be fascinating to see which one of this talented trio has progressed the most.

WEBBER: Sam Querrey. We'll go with a very specific definition in this category because the American is already a top-20 player: Querrey will finally post a breakout performance at a Slam next year. By every other measure, Querrey had a marvelous season in 2010, winning four singles titles and prevailing on three different surfaces, including clay. But Querrey is still waiting to take the next step and make a big splash in the second week of a major. He missed an opportunity this summer at Flushing Meadows when he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16. Querrey has all the tools to make a deep run at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open next year: a giant serve, a wicked forehead and good mobility for a 6-6 player.

With a little more mental tenacity and maturity, look for Querrey to make more notable headlines next year.

RISING: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Jim Courier and the U.S. Davis Cup squad. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking. The first-year coach has plenty of Davis Cup experience, and his squad now has enough years under their collective belts to make some noise. Andy Roddick has committed to Davis Cup for 2011, and with John Isner and Sam Querrey continuing to emerge as rising top-20 players, Courier has some choices and depth this time around. Here’s hoping the United States can surprise Chile in the World Group first round in March.

PIERCE: Vera Zvonareva. Here's a fun stat: the women ranked No. 1 and 2 have won a total of zero Grand Slams. The women ranked Nos. 3-5 have won 23. Those top two women would be Caroline Wozniacki and Zvonareva, and with the Russian reaching the final at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year, she seems to be the hotter of the two surging youngsters.

Richard Evans and Matt Cronin are tennis writers for FOXSports.com. Brian Webber is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com's tennis coverage. Addie Rising and Zack Pierce are tennis editors for FOXSports.com.

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