It’s easier to predict who might have a break through year, than who will break through as serious top 10 or 20 players. The difference is in the head. Players like Dolgopolov, Raonic and Tomic look to me like they have the winning mental attitude and talent of course but we’ll have to see. It can take a few years to finally crack the top 10, just look at Mardy Fish or Jurgen Melzer.
This list however, looks at the players who could make their point next year.
1. Daniel Brands
This 6’5″ German player has been threatening for a while and with some good Challenger tour results at the end of 2011, could finally put the pieces together. At 24, he needs to make a move out of journeyman status.
2. Tobias Kamke
Another German, Kamke has a big game and had some decent results including a win of Tomas Berdych. He was named newcomer of the year by the ATP and 2012 could be his arrival year.
3. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe
Winner of the inaugural Challenger Tour finals and 2 other Challenger events, Stebe jumped hundreds of ranking positions in 2011 and is in the top 100. It will be a big test to see if he can make the significant jump into the top echelons of the game.
4. Mischa Zverev
Another German! Maybe this should be top 10 German players to watch? Zverev has had injury woes but is making a comeback. Once ranked as high as 45 in 2009, he has a great serve and volley game and could post some decent results on hard courts or grass next year.
5. Matthew Ebden
Flew under the radar in 2011, but looked good to me. Aussie tennis looked in deep trouble a year ago but with Tomic, Matosevic and Ebden the future is much brighter. His best result in 2011 was a quarter final at the Shanghai Masters that impressed many.
A Michael Fassbender look-a-like, this Austrian almost won the Vienna Open in 2010, narrowly losing to fellow Austrian Melzer in the final. He seems the most likely heir as top Austrian for a while.
7. Denis Kudla
Almost missed a match in Newport after his alarm failed, Kudla, went on to make a big impression at that event and many think he’s the real deal.At only 19 and ranked 275, he could make some of the biggest rankings gains.
8. Steve Johnson
USTA Nationals winner Johnson is little known outside of the USTA inner circle, but certainly has a game to trouble the top 100. He took Alex Bogomolov to 5 sets at the 2011 US Open and racked up some nice Challenger wins. American tennis in 2012 might be the sleeper hit.
9. Joao Souza
At 6’4″, Souza brings some heat on court and won 6 matches in a row as a qualifier to make the Kitzbuhhel semi finals. Reminiscent of fellow Brazilian Guga Kuerten, he could be one to watch for upsets on clay next year.
10. Vasek Pospisil
He will be a trouble for his opponents and commentators alike. Canadian Pospisil follows on the heels of breakout Canadian Milos Raonic and could really lift their Davis Cup potential next year as he did in 2011 with 3 wins against Israel and Ecuador.