young tennis players

Teenagers Tomic, Harrison Facing Great — Perhaps Too Many — Expectations

First things first: Win a singles title.

For teenagers and top 100 ATP World Tour players Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison, that should be the top priority going into 2012. But with the way both of them have shot up the rankings over the past couple of years, much more is expected from the 19-year-olds.

That’s what happens when you make the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, like Tomic did last year—becoming the youngest player since the legendary Boris Becker to do so. Or when you make back-to-back semifinals during the 2011 summer hard-court swing, like Harrison did. Those results helped solidify the hype over the two, which has been essentially building since before they hit their teens.

But is that hype too much?

The two have both openly about being future Grand Slam champions, and with some of the wins they’ve notched early on, there could be reason to believe. However, the ATP rankings have had more than its fill junior-championship winners who haven’t seen that success translate to the pros in recent years.

The fact that Tomic and Harrison come from two of the nations with the deepest tradition in the game—Australia and the U.S., respectively—doesn’t exactly ease the pressure the two are facing. Questions have been around for years about the state of the game for both countries, and Tomic and Harrison have been hailed as keepers of the flame. That can be an enormous burden for anyone, tasked to follow in the footsteps of Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Roddick—not to mention the all-time greats that came before them, such as Rafter, Agassi or Sampras.

And despite the highlights of their 2011 campaigns, Tomic and Harrison both had some growing pains off the court: Harrison was criticized for offering his opinion on how Roger Federer could hold on to the number-one ranking and Tomic’s “hooning” incident made headlines around the world.

Plus, neither one of the teens would ever be considered a genteel type when things don’t go their way between the lines! Maturity could go a long way in deciding their future paths.

The 2012 season kicked off with mixed results for the pair in Brisbane, Australia, this week: Number-eight seed Tomic defeated Julien Benneteau in three sets, while Harrison fell to veteran Marcos Baghdatis in straights.

Those two scorelines probably won’t do too much to slow or speed up the hype machine for either player. Still, eyes should be kept on Tomic and Harrison over the next 12 months—but perhaps the expectations should be tempered.