WIMBLEDON, London - A quartet of young players will make their tennis dreams real at the third Grand Slam of 2017. Each of the main draw debutantes - three qualifiers and one wildcard - are under 21 years old, and each is seeking to make her mark on the sport as soon as possible. Read on to learn more about their stories.
Bianca Andreescu (CAN)
Canada's teenage prodigy Bianca Andreescu turned 17 just a fortnight ago, but she's long been tipped for great things. In 2014, she won both Les Petits As - the biggest U14 event of the year - and the prestigious U16 Orange Bowl event; in 2015, she graduated to the U18 Orange Bowl crown. That was also the year in which she made her ITF Pro Circuit debut - and immediately made the final of a $25,000 tournament in Gatineau, Canada. In 2016, she went one better to win that event, as well as her first WTA Tour qualifying match as a wildcard in Montréal over Samantha Crawford, and raised her ranking from 633 to 297.
Andreescu has continued to soar in 2017, breaking the Top 200 thanks to another pair of $25,000 titles in California and Italy - and now qualifying for her first Slam at Wimbledon in what will also be her debut WTA-level main draw. The footballer's daughter is jointly coached by former Wimbledon runner-up Nathalie Tauziat - who surely provided valuable input as her charge stormed through qualifying without dropping a set - and has a friendly first-round draw against Slovakia's Kristina Kucova, who has not won a main draw match at any level since April.
Katie Boulter (GBR)
As a teenager, 20-year-old Katie Boulter was one of Britain's top prospects. At 17, she was a Top 10 junior; at 18, she finished 2014 ranked inside the Top 400. Then disaster struck: a back injury kept Boulter out of competition between January 2015 and February 2016.
But despite having to start again from scratch, her comeback has been a solid resumption of the progress she had been making. Last year, she regained her Top 400 placing - scoring a win in Wimbledon qualifying along the way - and this year she's pushed on to a career high of No.235 thanks to her first ITF $25,000 final in March (in Australia) and, two months later, her first ITF $60,000 final (in Japan). Both came on grass - so considering Boulter's comfort on the surface, she could be well-placed to take advantage of a first-round draw against the USA's Christina McHale, whose win-loss record is just 3-12 since February and who was forced to retire in her Eastbourne opener.
Anastasia Potapova (RUS)
This time last year, Anastasia Potapova was about to reach the apex of a stellar junior career with the Wimbledon girls' title. In a commendable move on the tournament's part, the Russian was rewarded for that achievement with a qualifying wildcard - and she made the most of it, taking down three consecutive former Top 100 players (Patricia Maria Tig, Cagla Buyukakcay and Elizaveta Kulichkova) without dropping a set.
At 16 years and three months, Potapova is the youngest player to successfully navigate Slam qualifying since Ana Konjuh, who had just turned 16 when she reached the main draw of the Australian Open in 2014. Known since her U14 days for an on-court intensity and never-say-die attitude that's elicited comparisons with Victoria Azarenka, Potapova has already brought some of her fighting spirit to the pros: her WTA Tour qualifying debut was, naturally, a battling 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(2) win over Maria Sakkari in Miami.
Along with her first ITF $25,000 title in Brazil in March (beating fellow 2001-born prodigy Amanda Anisimova in the final), it's enabled Potapova to rocket up the rankings: having begun the year unranked, she's now at No.294, and poised to go even higher. However, she has a tough first-round encounter against the experienced German Tatjana Maria, whose slices and dropshots can be tremendously effective on grass - as evidenced by her title this week at the ITF $100,000 tournament in Southsea.
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka scored one of the biggest ranking moves in 2016, soaring from No.548 to No.155, but it was an under-the-radar rise: the Belarusian's best results had come in Asian ITF events, where she won two $60,000 titles, and she was yet to play a WTA Tour main draw at the start of this year. That changed when she qualified for Dubai in February, but the real confirmation that the powerful Sabalenka was ready for the big time came with her performances in a pair of stunning Fed Cup ties.
The Belarusian team may have been missing Victoria Azarenka, still on maternity leave, this year - but it was the unheralded Sabalenka who stepped up in February's first round against the Netherlands to clinch a historic debut semifinal for her country, sealing a 3-1 lead with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over Michaella Krajicek. And then she did it again in April, sending Belarus into its first ever final with another clinching 3-1 win, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 over Switzerland's Viktorija Golubic. Sabalenka had never played on grass, even as a junior, before this year - but the World No.135 saved her best tennis for the moments that matter most once more. Her 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Kristie Ahn in the final qualifying round was the least amount of games the Belarusian has lost in a match all year. Sabalenka's first-round draw is a kind one: Russian World No.109 Irina Khromacheva is yet to win a Slam main draw match in two goes to date, and has just two WTA-level main draw victories in 2017.
Hear more about the Wimbledon draw in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast: