Locked and loaded for 2014

Ve­kic and Mat­suyama among five young guns primed to fire next year

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

GETTY IM­AGES

Donna Ve­kic’s peers be­lieve that the Croa­t­ian ace is on the verge of great­ness

GETTY IM­AGES

Hideki Mat­suyama, 21, is Ja­pan’s top golfer

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