"I can kick her ass off," Sesil Karatantcheva boasted before facing Maria Sharapova at the 2004 Pacific Life Open. Karatantcheva (right) lost in three sets, but you had to admire the abundant confidence of a 14-year-old about to face one of the sport's hottest players. There was no bulletin-board fodder from Karatantcheva in Paris last week; she made her statements with her racket. Younger than most of the girls in the juniors event, Karatantcheva advanced to the quarterfinals of the main draw, beating a listless, shell-of-her-former-self Venus Williams along the way.
A bubbly Bulgarian who learned English listening to the Spice Girls, Karatantcheva did a brief stint at Nick Bollettieri's academy but is now based in Sofia. Still two months shy of her 16th birthday, she can't play a full WTA schedule, but she's clearly a star in the making. She moves well, hits a heavy ball (especially off the backhand) and can keep it in the court. Then there's that belief in herself. Asked if she was stunned to have beaten Williams, she said, "I have such big goals that I probably would be a bit disappointed if I lost."