Down the line: Tennis is ageing but there’s still youthful hope in the WTA

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The new 'swiss-miss': Bencic has drawn comparisons to 5-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis.

The fact that tennis is ageing is not lost on anyone as we’re constantly seeing more and more 30+ year olds winning big titles and enjoying breakthroughs on both the men’s and women’s tours.

But the WTA has been offering up some glimmer of hope for the younger generation every once in a while and only a week after 20-year-old Caroline Garcia won her first tour-level title by upsetting Jelena Jankovic in the Bogota final, Croatian teen Donna Vekic did the same to Dominika Cibulkova in Kuala Lumpur for her maiden triumph.

Vekic is the first female player below 18 years old to win a WTA title since Vania King won Bangkok in 2006.

But she’s not the only teenager to make some noise on the ladies’ tour recently.

Last July, Elina Svitolina won her first WTA trophy in Baku as an 18-year-old, and the Ukrainian – who is the youngest player in the top-40 – has impressed lately with her fourth round showing in Miami and third round in Charleston.

Belinda Bencic, the 17-year-old who is dubbed the new ‘Swiss Miss’ in reference to Martina Hingis, made the semis in Charleston as a qualifier, taking out Maria Kirilenko and Sara Errani en route, to enter the top-100 for the first time.

So although the WTA’s top-10 have an average age of over 26 and include no teenagers, Bencic, Svitolina and Vekic are three young prospects that are easing the minds of those worried about the future of women’s tennis.

Add 20-year-olds Eugenie Bouchard and Garcia in the mix along with American pair Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys and it seems we have a healthy youthful group coming up in the ranks.

While none of these are a 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati cracking the top-10 or a 16-year-old Hingis winning the Australian Open, they’re still the cream of the crop carving a place for themselves in an era where 30 is the new 18 in tennis.

Week ahead

Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer are the top seeds in Barcelona while seven of the women’s top-10 are playing in Stuttgart, headlined by top seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Maria Sharapova, begins her title defence today with a tough first round against Lucie Safarova.

Grigor Dimitrov is a tournament top seed for the first time as he leads the pack in Bucharest while Daniela Hantuchova is top dog in Marrakech, where Tunisian Ons Jabeur is also in action.

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