Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Players to Watch in 2012: Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (’90)

The 21-year old German had his breakthrough at the end of 2011 winning the first-ever ATP Challenger Tour Finals, catapulting him to the top 100 to close the year. It may not come as a surprise, given the fact that Stebe was ranked as high as 6th in the world in ITF, but the way he caught fire in the second half of the season was very remarkable.

Stebe hit the ground running, winning his first 17 matches of the year (consecutive futures titles in Turkey, and a run to a Korean challenger final coming from the qualy). He ended the season at 48-17, and improved 297 spots from 378 to 81 in the world. Stebe won the aforementioned 2 Turkey future events (F5 and F6), plus 2 more Challengers events and the year-end tourney.

Stating that his rise was meteoric might even be an understatement. Stebe proved early on that the futures were too easy for him, and by the end of the year he showed that the Challengers were too. Rui Machado, Lucas Lacko, Andre Begemann, Mathias Bachinger, Paul Capdeville, Guillaume Rufin and Go Soeda, all warriors of the Challenger tour were dismissed by this 6’0 German who only seems to be getting started.

Ranked right outside the top 80, Stebe will now focus entirely on proving himself at the ATP level in 2012. However, he already has a head start. Playing at home in Stuttgart and Hamburg on clay in mid-July, Stebe defeated Fabio Fognini, Nikolai Davydenko (twice) and Juan Carlos Ferrero, masters of the surface.  He also defeated Ryan Harrison in 5 sets to qualify into the main draw at Wimbledon, where he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in R1.

Judging by his ease at burning through the different levels of professional tennis, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stebe crack the top 32 by year’s end. He gathered most of his points playing second-tier Challengers in Asia but proved he can play and beat the better players in clay at the highest level. Keep an eye on Germany’s newest star.

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