It used to be that women matured early in tennis. But Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are the last women to win Grand Slams as teenagers. The average age of the current women's top 10 is 26.1, and this year's major title winners were Williams, 28, Francesca Schiavone, 30, and Kim Clijsters, 27. With the aging women's tour, let's take a look at the next generation of possible pro hopefuls. Are any of them the future of the WTA?
The fiery Russian
This year's U.S. Open junior winner was a spirited 16-year-old named Daria Gavrilova. A tremendous retriever on the baseline, the Russian is a strategic player who mixes up her shots and gets into her opponents' heads by never letting them get comfortable -- and shrieking loudly on every point. Gavrilova reached the Roland Garros final and won the Eddie Herr in 2009. And this summer, she topped the girls' rankings after she won the gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games.
Marylander Beatrice Capra came out of nowhere at this year's U.S. Open to win two matches -- in the women's draw. After winning a wild-card playoff to enter the tournament, the 18-year-old, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., upset 18th seed Aravane Rezai with a mix of composure and variety from the baseline. But she couldn't keep it up: In the third round, she fell to Maria Sharapova. The defeat may have saved her from the kind of dizzying pressure placed on the shoulders of, say, Melanie Oudin after her 2009 Open quarterfinal run. Capra's performance moved her from No. 371 to No. 201 in the world.
Another U.S. junior, 17-year-old Sloane Stephens, has been touted for her potential for a while, but she's had limited results in the junior Slams. That is until this year. Partnering with Hungary's Timea Babos, the Florida native has won the past three junior majors in doubles. That's good news, because the game of four is a good one to master young. The all-court skills that Stephens is perfecting could pay off on the WTA tour.
Only 10 points separate twins Kristyna and Karolina Puliskova in the ITF junior rankings. The slender, leggy, big-serving Czechs are ranked Nos. 6 and 7, respectively. The sisters played an exhibition with Martina Navratilova when they were in their early teens, but have competed very little on the international junior circuit until 2010. They made a grand debut, however, each winning a junior Slam this year. Karolina, a brunette right-hander, won the Australian Open, and lefty blonde Kristyna matched her sister by winning Wimbledon. As for their pro prospects, they're making progress. Kristyna also leads the way on the WTA tour, at No. 216 to Karolina's 271.