The first quarter of 2017 is in the books, and before the WTA tour turns to the European red clay, it's time to take one last look back at the Top 5 moments that have shaped the season thus far. First up on our countdown, the young guns who became ones to watch on hardcourts and clay...
Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue: Fans looking for the next wave of American talent need look no further than the Middle East and Sunshine Swings, as each featured tough teens ready to compete with the game's best in 2017. Starting at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, CiCi Bellis picked up where she left off after a blistering end to last season. Aged 18, Bellis stunned former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the quarterfinals, becoming the youngest to make it that far in Dubai since the event's inaugural year, when Lina Krasnoroutskaya made the quarters in 2001.
"I'm really just enjoying it more just thinking about how much fun I'm having and what an experience it's been for me so far."
Over in the California desert, reigning junior US Open champion Kayla Day was eager to make the best of her BNP Paribas Open debut. The 17-year-old made a thunderous start to her pro career in just her fourth WTA main draw, shocking Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in three grueling sets.
"I want my results to come, like, now," Day said in March. "I want everything to be as fast as possible. I think my coach is really good about telling me, like, focus on the process and improving and the results will come."
Day played fearless tennis and showed off an impressive lefty serve to earn the biggest win of her career and eventually push Roland Garros champion Garbiñe Muguruza in her very next match. These impressive results helped both Americans earn career-high rankings.
All-Teen Affair In Charleston: The Volvo Car Open is a tournament steeped in WTA history, so where better to pay homage to the tour's future and play host the first all-teen final since 2009? Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko won back-to-back junior Grand Slams back in 2014, with Kasatkina conquering the French Open and Ostapenko winning Wimbledon; just three years later they would find themselves battling for a maiden WTA title. 19-year-old Kasatkina knocked out Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig and a slew of youngsters and veterans alike to reach her first final against Ostapenko, who stunned former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and a surging Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the semifinals.
"I was so motivated after this hardcourt season, which was not very good," Kasatkina told WTA Insider. "We started to work really hard, become more disciplined. Thanks to my team, because I was more of a kid just one month ago. Because of them, I became more mature. This is the key. You have to decide what you really want from your life."
The match-up was the first all-teen encounter since 2009 when Yanina Wickmayer defeated Petra Kvitova to win in Linz, and featured an intriguing contrast in styles as Kasatkina outfoxed Ostapenko's effortless aggression to take home the title and kickstart her claycourt season as the youngest WTA Premier title winner since Belinda Bencic won the Rogers Cup in 2015.
Earlier in the event, another teeanger made some noise as 18-year-old Fanny Stollar came through qualifying to reach just her second WTA main draw and surprise Indian Wells winner Elena Vesnina in a pair of tiebreaks en route to the third round.
Czeching Into Biel/Bienne: The first edition of the Ladies Open Biel Bienne was a week for the future, to borrow a phrase from Anett Kontaveit's coach, Glenn Schaap. The 21-year-old Estonian roared into her first WTA final but came up against an even younger force in 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova. The Czech teenager spent most of 2016 sidelined due to a left elbow injury, but had previously shown her immense talent on the junior circuit, where she was once a World No.1.
Vondrousova was playing just her second WTA main draw event, and wasn't even sure if her ranking of No.233 would be enough to get her into qualifying. The Czech star battled into the main draw and didn't drop a set from there, defeating Annika Beck and Kristyna Pliskova before upsetting top seed Barbora Strycova in the semifinals. Playing her first WTA final - though her fifth final of 2017 after reaching four on the ITF Circuit - Vondrousova was the lowest ranked finalist since an unranked Justine Henin reached the 2010 Australian Open final, but nonetheless outhit Kontaveit to become the youngest WTA title winner on any level since Ana Konjuh won the Aegon Open in Nottingham in 2015.
The win propelled the teenager into the Top 200 for the first time, making a youngster aiming just to make French Open qualifying re-evaluate her season goals in a major way.
"I won a 15K and that was like a thousand dollars, so I definitely don't know what I'll do with the money I won here!" she joked of the over $40,000 prize money on Sunday. "My mom will have to help me out!"
All photos courtesy of Getty Images and Valeriano Di Domenico.