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Notable Improvers Of The Year

Improvers

Raonic© Getty ImagesMilos Raonic has continued his rankings rise by winning two ATP World Tour titles this season.

ATPWorldTour.com reviews five storylines from the first quarter of the 2012 season. In the fourth installment, we take a look at some of the most improved players in recent months .

The breakthrough star of the first quarter of 2011 was arguably Milos Raonic. The Canadian’s rapid rise up the South African Airways ATP Rankings was curtailed in the summer due to hip surgery, but he has hit back strongly at the start of the 2012 campaign.

The 21-year-old Raonic reached a career-high World No. 24 at the end of February, having reached three ATP World Tour finals in the first two months. He captured titles at the Aircel Chennai Open (d. Tipsarevic) and the SAP Open (d. Istomin) in San Jose and was runner-up at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships (l. to Melzer) in Memphis.

Moving into the European clay-court season, Raonic, who trains in Barcelona, has the opportunity to make even greater strides, with a semi-final showing at the Estoril Open his best showing at the same stage last year.

Bernard Tomic began to fulfil his eagerly anticipated potential with a Wimbledon quarter-final effort last year, and replicated that form on home turf in January to hit a career-high World No. 34. The 19 year old, who is the youngest player in the Top 100, opened his season with a semi-final showing at the Brisbane International (l. to Murray), before thrilling the Rod Laver Arena crowd with two dramatic five-set wins en route to reaching the Australian Open fourth round, where he succumbed to Roger Federer.

Like Raonic, he too has ground to make up as the ATP World Tour moves onto clay, having failed to win a tour-level match on the dirt last year.

Australia has had more reason to cheer over the past year with the rise of Matthew Ebden, who has more than halved his ranking since the start of last season. The 24-year-old Perth resident, who is currently a career-high World No. 75, finished strongly in 2011 by reaching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Ebden has crept further up the South African Airways ATP Rankings this year, buoyed by qualifying into the main draw and defeating World No. 8 Mardy Fish – his first Top 10 win – en route to the fourth round (l. to Isner).

Speaking exclusively to atpworldtour.com, Ebden revealed, “I think last year was the first time I played a Masters 1000 qualifying or main draw, so it was nice to qualify then. I had quite a few wins on the ATP Challenger Tour leading into the tournament. I’ve made good progress since then with a lot of improvements. I just really believed in myself and was able to continue moving up, and here I am a year later.”

Japan’s Kei Nishikori has endured the expectation of a nation in his journey up the South African Airways ATP Rankings, breaking through last year with a semi-final showing in Shanghai and a landmark victory over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the final at the Swiss Indoors Basel last year.

The 22 year old followed up strongly at the start of his 2012 campaign by winning two five-set matches, including victory over World No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open (l. to Murray). He subsequently rose to a career-high World No. 16 in March. 

FIRST QUARTER REVIEW
Monday: Isner - From Marathon Man To Dangerman
Tuesday: Djokovic - Still The Man To Beat 
Wednesday: Memorable Matches Of 2012

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