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Trending up: Future stars firing in February

  • Matt Trollope

Although some in the tennis world enter a form of hibernation in the aftermath of a Grand Slam event, the sport continues to play out across the globe.

And in the weeks since Australian Open 2023 concluded in memorable style, several young talents have captured attention with breakout performances.

Get to know more about five rising stars who could make an even bigger impact as this season unfolds.

Arthur Fils

The 18-year-old Frenchman announced himself to a wider tennis audience with last week’s eye-catching run to the Monpellier semifinals. 

There, he upset top-50 opponents Richard Gasquet and Roberto Bautista Agut, then overcame compatriot Quentin Halys, to reach his first ATP-level semifinal.

And it was the manner in which he did it, with audacious shot-making, broad smile and obvious joy for competing on big courts, and memorable celebrations. 

Arthur Fils beats Quentin Halys in Montpellier
Arthur Fils reacts after beating Quentin Halys to reach his first career ATP semifinal in Montpellier, France. (Getty Images)

Fils did not travel to Australia in January, instead competing on the ATP Challenger circuit in Europe. It proved a good choice, as he reached two finals; his victory in the Oeiras final in Portugal marked his first professional title. 

In just three months he has more than halved his ranking, hitting a career-high of world No.117 after his run in Montpellier, which ended in a 7-5 6-2 defeat to eventual champion Jannik Sinner.

It’s a remarkable rise, given he was ranked outside the top 600 at the beginning of 2022.

Fils was a Roland Garros boys’ singles finalist in 2021, the same year he peaked at world No.3 in the ITF junior rankings.

Alycia Parks

Also flourishing in France was Parks, who continued her rapid rise up the rankings with her first career WTA title in Lyon.

This came in the first week of February, a tournament she ended with a statement 7-6(7) 7-5 victory over world No.5 Caroline Garcia, who was roared on by a packed home crowd at the Palais des Sports de Gerland.

Garcia had a formidable 11-3 record in tour-level finals and had won her last five, but it was the 22-year-old American who proved the superior player.

Behind her elite serve, power and all-court weaponry, she elevated her game in the highest-stakes moments – all elements evoking comparisons with her favourite player, Serena Williams.

Parks’ victory over Garcia took her indoor winning streak to 15 matches – she won consecutive WTA 125K titles indoors at the end of 2022 – and she’s won 16 of her past 18 matches.

As a result, she has vaulted to a career-high ranking of world No.51, a position ensuring entry to higher-profile tournaments.

Parks was the top seed in Australian Open qualifying, where she fell in the second round. But it was also in January that she told “I definitely see myself as top 10 this year.”

Given the manner in which she’s trending, this would not be a surprise.

Wu Yibing

Another player soaring up the rankings is Wu Yibing, who rose to a best-ever ranking of 58th after his milestone triumph at last week’s ATP tournament in Dallas.

The 23-year-old saved an incredible four championship points to beat the highly-fancied John Isner in a thrilling final – a story capturing global headlines.

This was because Wu became the first Chinese male player to win a professional singles title, while his ascent makes him the highest-ranked Chinese man in history.

Cool and calm on court but with the ability to produce quite jaw-dropping tennis, Wu has enjoyed a meteoric rise, improving his position by more than 1,800 places in just 11 months.

He first commanded attention in 2017 when he won the US Open boys’ singles title and rose to junior world No.1.

But a combination of injuries, surgery and COVID travel restrictions meant he missed almost three years of international competition.

He finally re-emerged in January 2022, and is clearly making up for lost time.

Anastasia Potapova

Despite being just 21 years of age, Potapova feels like a comparative veteran among the others profiled in this piece.

She became a Wimbledon junior champion in 2016 with a memorable victory over Dayana Yastremska, and on the professional tour reached her first WTA final in 2018, cracking the top 65 almost four years ago.

But she subsequently fell outside the top 100, revealing in a interview that “it became more about the vacations, going to restaurants, to the beaches and parties … the tennis itself became low priority” and admitted to not practising with the same drive.

When she rediscovered her passion for the sport and recalibrated her mindset, her results have since been remarkable.

Ten months ago she was ranked 122nd but now sits at a career-best No.31 – a ranking that would earn her a Grand Slam seeding – after capturing last week’s WTA title in Linz, Austria.

Anastasia Potapova WTA Linz champion
Anastasia Potapova poses with her trophy after winning the WTA Linz title. (Getty Images)

In the past year she has won more than 40 matches, earning her first tour-level title in Istanbul as well as reaching the Prague final and semis in Lausanne, Hamburg and Cluj-Napoca.

A fabulous shot maker and intense competitor, Potapova’s next goal will be improving on her best-ever showing at a major, which came in a third-round run at Australian Open 2021.

Sebastian Baez

The Argentine reminded everybody of his talent last week in Cordoba by winning his second ATP title – yet first in almost a year.

Baez peaked at world No.31 in August last year but had dipped to 47th after a forgettable six-month stretch; he entered Cordoba having lost 17 of his most recent 18 matches.

But a resurgent run on home soil will hopefully restore his confidence, and give fans a chance to see the dynamic player in action more often at the latter stages of tournaments.

"I'm 22 years old and I'm in the place I've always dreamed of. Obviously I want more but I enjoy it to the fullest,” Baez said after his Cordoba triumph.

Baez might be just 170cm tall but at his best he can generate notable power on his forehand, and possesses a crisp backhand plus excellent footwork and movement, especially on clay.

He owns top-20 wins over Andrey Rublev – who was ranked No.8 at the time – and Cristian Garin and has now appeared in four ATP finals.