Taiwan's Yang Tsung-hua (楊宗樺) became the country's first young tennis player to finish the year as the world's top-ranked junior, but now faces the even bigger challenge of converting that promise into a thriving pro career that has eluded many other highly-ranked juniors.
The 17-year-old, known for his powerful, though at times erratic first serve, secured the top spot thanks to the International Tennis Federation's rankings system for juniors that weighs both singles and doubles performances.
Yang, who captured this year's French Open junior singles title, trailed Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and Australia's Bernard Tomic in the singles rankings, but made up the gap with outstanding doubles results in partnership with Taiwan's Hsieh Cheng-peng, including trophy-winning runs in the Australian Open and Wimbledon junior doubles.
After being ousted in the Orange Bowl's round of 16 by American Alexander Domijan, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, it was another reminder to Yang that one's ranking in today's fiercely competitive tennis world provides no guarantees for success.
It's a lesson Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun, who was ranked 8th in junior singles at the end of 2000, and Wang Yeu-Tzuoo, who finished 2001 ranked 5th, have learned the hard way.
Both have faced considerable obstacles in sustaining a professional career at the highest level, including litanies of injuries and funding shortages.
Also, for every Roger Federer (1998) , Andy Roddick (2000) and Richard Gasquet (2002), who turned their top junior singles rankings at year's end into outstanding pro careers, there have also been Arnaud di Pasquale (1997), Kristian Pless (1999) , Gilles Muller (2001) and Donald Young (2005) who have never fulfilled the promise of their top ranking.
Yang, who plans to turn pro next year and is already ranked 550th on the ATP Tour after playing in some lower level Futures events this year, will soon find out if he can make the successful leap to the pros that has eluded so many juniors.
(Via etaiwannews.com; Image via ITF)