Locked and loaded for 2014
Vekic and Matsuyama among five young guns primed to fire next year
Tennis Donna Vekic
AT just 17, Vekic is the youngest player in the WTA world top 200, ending 2013 in 86 having reached a career-high 62 in July. In September last year, at 16, Vekic became the youngest WTA finalist in six years when she reached the Baku championship match.
She was runner- up to Daniela Hantuchova at the Birmingham grasscourt event earlier this year, having posted the first three Top 50 wins of her career over Urszula Radwanksa, Sorana Cirstea and Magdalena Rybarikova.
“She’s a very talented girl,” said Hantuchova.
“She moves very well and has a great serve. She has a great team around her and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about her.”
Golf Hideki Matsuyama
MATSUYAMA once again underlined his potential by becoming the first rookie to win the Japan Golf Tour money-list – playing in only 13 tournaments to do so.
Matsuyama rose to prominence when he won the Asian Amateur Championship in 2010 and earned a slot in the following year’s Masters, the first Japanese rookie to do so.
Since then his progress has been impressive, taking him to 23rd in the world rankings and eclipsing Japan’s last great hope Ryu Ishikawa.
Watch out for the powerful Matsuyama at the Masters in April as he has already played two tournaments at Augusta National and has taken a liking to the course.
He was also tied for sixth in his British Open debut this year, joint 10th at the US Open and 19th at the PGA Championship.
Cricket Prithvi Shaw (India)
THE 14- year- old run- making machine is creating the kind of buzz in Mumbai schools cricket not seen since Sachin Tendulkar hit the headlines in 1988 with a then worldrecord stand of 664 with childhood friend Vinod Kambli.
Prithvi Shaw became a household name across India in November when he smashed an astonishing 546 off 330 balls with 85 fours and five sixes during a Harris Shield inter-schools match in Mumbai.
Statisticians said it was the third-highest recorded score in any form of cricket behind an unbeaten 628 by Englishman Arthur Collins in 1899 and Charles Eady’s 566 for Australia in 1901.
A week later, Shaw hit 188 in the same tournament and was immediately signed up by Sunil Gavaskar’s management company so that he can “pick the brains” of the legendary Indian opener.
Football Eder Alvarez Balanta (Colombia)
BALANTA, who will turn 21 early in the new year, is a prom- ising left-sided Colombian centre-back who is already probably the most important player for his club side, Argentine giants River Plate.
Powerful and athletic, Balanta has broken into the Colombian national set-up and he is hopeful of featuring for Los Cafeteros at the World Cup in Brazil.
By the time that comes around, he may well have been snapped up by a leading European club. Barcelona, who are short of defensive options and whose Argentine coach Tata Martino knows him well, have been keeping close tabs on the player.
Rugby Tommaso Allan (Italy)
ITALY has never been a production line for talented flyhalves but the Azzurri may just have uncovered a little gem in Allan.
Born to a Scottish rugbyplaying father and Italian mother – and nephew of former Springbok and Scotland hooker John Allan – the 20 year old could have chosen either of his parents’ homelands to represent. Having turned out for the Navy Blue of Scotland at every youth level, he opted for the Royal Blue of Italy at senior level, making his debut during the November internationals for a side that has been crying out for a talented playmaker ever since Argentine- born Diego Dominguez retired in 2003.
Allan came up the club youth ranks at Wasps, but he now plays for French Top 14 side Perpignan. – Sapa-AFP
Donna Vekic’s peers believe that the Croatian ace is on the verge of greatness
Hideki Matsuyama, 21, is Japan’s top golfer