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Brisbane breakthroughs beckon for rising stars

26 December 2023, by Dan Imhoff

Rejuvenated from the off-season and with a spring in their step, a swag of the biggest names relish wiping the slate clean to start the new season afresh at the Brisbane International.

A string of stars yet to make their marks at the pointy end of a major is poised to sound early intentions against a stacked field of Grand Slam winners and former Brisbane champions at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

Holger Rune

Men’s top seed Rune has star power in his corner following the appointment of former world No.1 and six-time major winner Boris Becker to his team.

Brash and bursting with ability, the Dane has been knocking on the door following three Grand Slam quarterfinal runs and his Paris Masters 2022 triumph in which he beat five top-10 opponents for the title.

The 20-year reached two further ATP Masters 1000 finals in 2023, at Monte Carlo and at Rome, the latter at which he defeated world No.1 Novak Djokovic before his ascent to a peak of world No.4 in August.

Marta Kostyuk

Former junior Australian Open winner Kostyuk made a splash in her Grand Slam debut at Melbourne Park when she became the youngest player in more than a decade to reach the third round at a major in 2018.

The Ukrainian world No.33 beat 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina to reach thequarterfinals in Adelaide to open 2023 before she and Gabriela Ruse reached the AO doubles semifinals.

The 21-year-old continued her strong start to the season with a maiden tour title in Austin, USA over Varvara Gracheva and later landed her first top-10 win over Maria Sakkari in the first round at Wimbledon.

Ben Shelton

The son of former men’s pro Bryan Shelton enjoyed a breakout AO 2023 on debut when at age 20, on his first trip outside the US, he became the youngest American man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Andy Roddick at the 2002 US Open.

While Tommy Paul brought that dash to a halt, the swashbuckling Shelton proved it was no flash in the pan on home soil when he went one better at Flushing Meadows before he fell to eventual champion Djokovic in his first major semifinal.

A win over Jannik Sinner lifted him into a maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal at Shanghai and he followed it up with his first career title at the Japan Open a week later.

Mirra Andreeva

An agonising defeat in a three-hour-plus girls’ singles final at AO 2023 could have severely dented a promising teenager’s confidence.

Not so Andreeva, who shook it off and made an immediate impact on her professional clay-court debut when she scored consecutive top-20 wins to reach the fourth round at Madrid.

There was no slowing her momentum. Having won through three rounds of qualifying, the 16-year-old became the youngest player to reach the third round at Roland Garros in 18 years in May before she succumbed to Coco Gauff.

A month later, she bettered that result when as a qualifier she notched a fourth-round showing at Wimbledon and went on to crack the top 50 in November.

Sebastian Korda

The son of former professionals AO 1998 champion Petra Korda and Regina Rajchrtova made a blistering start to 2023 before he narrowly fell to Djokovic in the Adelaide final, having held a championship point.

The athletically blessed 23-year-old stunned seventh seed Daniil Medvedev en route to his first major quarterfinal at Melbourne Park before a right wrist injury sidelined him for almost three months.

A former junior AO winner, Korda reached his sixth career final at Astana before his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal at Shanghai, where he scored his second victory over Medvedev.

Linda Noskova

The secondhighest ranked teenager in the world, clean-striking Noskova’s 2023 highlight came at her season-opening Adelaide campaign where she reached her maiden tour final before she ran into Aryna Sabalenka.

In just her fifth tour-level main draw, she won through qualifying, and scored top-10 winsover Daria Kasatkina and Ons Jabeur, and former No.1 Victoria Azarenka, en route.

The Czech also picked up hard-court wins over Amanda Anisimova and Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells and Cincinnati WTA 1000 events, respectively.

Matteo Arnaldi

One of the heroes of Italy’s triumph over Australia in the 2023 Davis Cup final, 22-year-old Arnaldi barely had time to celebrate at home before making the early trip Down Under tobegin his summer of tennis preparations in mid-December.

Arnaldi made his top 100 debut following his first top-10 win over Casper Ruud in Madridand cracked the top 50 with a fourth-round run at the US Open, which included a win over 16th seed Cameron Norrie.

Peyton Stearns

Stearns credits her experience coming through the US college system as the foundation forher rapid rise up the rankings in 2023.

The American made her maiden tour singles final at Bogata in April, which launched her into the top 100.

A first top-20 win over former champion Jelena Ostapenko a month later at Roland Garros sent her into the third round on debut. At her home Slam in New York, she reached the fourth round for the first time and climbed into the top 50.