Belgian tennis now looking for its next hero

Nick’s Picks will have complete coverage of the 2008 French Open, and will be coming to you live from Paris for part of the event!! Also, Nick is teaming with Tennis Week to provide in-depth analysis of the French Open throughout the tournament! Check out Nick’s Picks for the entire men’s and women’s draws!

Justine Henin at the 2007 Sony Ericsson OpenFor a long period of time, women’s tennis was good in Belgium. Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters ruled the game. They were a threat to win every tournament they competed in, and were always right there at the end of the Grand Slams. Now, for the first time in a long while, neither of them are competing anymore

With Henin’s sudden retirement, Belgium only has one lady ranked in the top 100 – Yanina Wickmayer. This 18-year old Belgian is ranked #98 in the world and is the lone representative of Belgium in the main women’s draw at the French Open. Wickmayer will face #50 Akgul Amanmuradova in the first round.

On the men’s side, things are a little better, but not much. There are three players ranked in the top 100 – Steve Darcis (#45), Olivier Rochus (#66), and Kristof Vliegen (#85). All three are in the main draw at the French Open, but Rochus has already lost his first round match. Darcis will play David Ferrer (not good for Darcis), and Vliegen was losing to Albert Montanes before rain stopped play.

There is another man out there who has been inside the top 20 before in his career, and that is Xavier Malisse. The X-Man has trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy since he was a boy, and was picked to be a top player by many. But for numerous reasons (injuries, lack of focus, etc.) his career high ranking was only #19 in the world. Right now he is ranked #236, because injuries have essentially derailed the last year and a half of his career. We all know that he is capable of playing with anyone when he is on, but we haven’t seen him play up to his potential in a while.

All things considered, Belgium has some work to do. I always say that you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and now that Henin is gone, there are only question marks remaining.

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~ by Nick's Picks on May 27, 2008.

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