In 2012, Americans Jack Sock and Steve Johnson made a name for themselves advancing to the 3rd Round of the U.S. Open. Who are some names to keep an eye on in 2013? Here are a couple young Americans making a little noise as we enter the New Year.
Smyczek, a Milwaukee native, enters 2013 with the highest ranking of his career. The 25 year old currently sits at 128 in the singles rankings and is poised to break through to the top 100. Smyczek, moved to Florida and now regularly trains with fellow Americans Mardy Fish, James Blake and John Isner and actually lived with Mardy Fish before currently sharing a house with John Isner. The training has clearly paid off as Smyczek went from 273 in the World to his current ranking in the last year.
Smyczek defeated Jack Sock to win the Challenger tournament in Champaign, Illiinois in mid November and made it to the semifinals the week prior in the Knoxville, Tennessee and goes into 2013 with some momentum.
Prior to these Challenger Events, Smyczek qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open and advanced out of the first round against Bobby Reynolds before falling to 18th ranked Kei Nishikori in straight sets in the second round. He had failed to qualify in the Australian, French Open and Wimbledon and clearly played his best tennis as the 2012 season progressed.
The American has wins in his resume against the likes of Jurgen Melzer, Igor Andreev, Jack Sock and Denis Istomin in the last year. Can he keep his momentum gained towards the end of 2012 in 2013? He is certainly one to chart as the season advances.
Kudla was actually born in Kiev, Ukraine but moved to the States when he was 1 year old. The 20 year old entered the 2012 Season ranked 276 but currently sits at 137 in singles. He grew up in Virginia but now trains in Boca Raton, Florida.
Kudla won the Charlottesville, Virginia Challenger event at the beginning of November. The following week, he defeated Jack Sock early in the Knoxville Challenger before falling to American Michael Russell in the third round.
He made the Main Draw of the U.S. and Australian Opens in 2012. losing to Marcel Granollers in the first round in New York and Tommy Haas in the first round in Australia. However, Kudla won two events in 2012. He met Roger Federer in Indian Wells in March and Andy Roddick in San Jose in February of 2012, falling to both. But had two victories against Tobias Kamke of Germany twice in the season. Kamke is currently in the top 100 in the World.
At the age of 20, Kudla has a solid chance of improving and moving to the next level. Will 2013 be a stepping stone in that direction?
The United States currently has 7 players in the Top 100 of the World, once again led by John Isner at 14. Isner is followed by Sam Querrey at 22 and Mardy Fish at 27. Despite retiring, Andy Roddick is still in the top 40, followed by Brian Baker, Ryan Harrison and Michael Russell.
With players such as Andy Roddick retiring and James Blake falling down the rankings, the United States could use a boost from some young blood. Can either of these players take the next step? Time will tell, but with players such as Sampras, Agassi and Roddick, who carried the torch for their Country, removed from the game, it is worth keeping a close eye out for the next potential torch bearer.
(photo of Tim Smyczek)