Notes on a Draw Sheet: Nadal falls to Dolgopolov; Nishikori vs Fed at Halle final?

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Rafael Nadal looked pretty good at Stuttgart, winning the tournament, but on Tuesday he lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4 at Queens. A few years back, it appeared that Dolgopolov was ready to charge into the top 10 because he has so much variety, but he is rarely consistent which is why he hasn’t been unable to push it deep into the Grand Slams. However, he was thoughtful over Nadal, so maybe he can win another match or two.

The Spaniard is still not back to form. Yes, he is trying very hard to get back to No. 1, but he is ranked No. 10 now and he is up and down, which is why he was mediocre at best against Novak Djokovic in the quarters at Roland Garros. However, the former two-time champ at Wimby can do it again, but he has to become more aggressive and stop pushing the ball. It is very difficult to know how he will turn up, and whether he will unleash his fury.

At home in Queens, Andy Murray beat Lu Yen-Hsun 6-4 7-5 and he is the favorite here, but at this point he won’t be called an automatic until he can stop the Big 3. He should be able to yank Fernando Verdasco in the next round; he certainly will have a huge advantage against Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters as the Bulgarian hasn’t played well at all this year. But, if he manages to go up against the US Open champion Marin Cilic, that should be a very tight match. Cilic beat Adrian Mannarino 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2, which is a good win as the Frenchman can be a complicated. Eventually, the tall Croatian will be rising again and soon…

There is a lot of talk about the young Aussie Nick Kyrgios, and that is understand after he reached the Australia Open quarterfinal, but pay attention to another youngster — Thanasi Kokkinakis — who beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7(3) 6-2 6-4. He can crack the ball both ways. How about Kyrgios, who lost to Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 6-4? The Swiss is on fire and the RG champion will make a big impression on grass…

John Isner was satisfied in beating the fellow US male Jared Donaldson 7-6(11) 6-4. There is a lot of attention to the 22-year-old Jack Sock, but the 18-year-old Donaldson is tall and powerful. Just by qualifying at Queens gives Donaldson a heads up.

In Halle, the 37-year-old Tommy Haas went down to Andreas Seppi 7-5 6-2. I would assume Haas will play next week, but at his age on singles, it is very difficult to win a ton. Way back when, the great Jimmy Connors won matches until he was 40 so maybe the former No. 2 Haas will hang in there. But, he has been hurt so many times that it will be almost impossible to go far. But if he can receive the right draws, maybe he can grab a few matches…

Well what do you know, Ernests Gulbis beat beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4 7-6(3). He is now ranked No. 86, way down from last year when he was ranked No. 10 after the US Open. He has lost pretty much everything, but he is much better than that. Maybe he is turning it around already…Kei Nishikori has a decent chance to win the tournament, if he can serve gigantic. He might face Roger Federer in the final. Nishikori beat Dominic Thiem 7-6(4) 7-5…Here is a good win by the American Steve Johnson, who beat Bernard Tomic 6-3 7-6(4). Johnson is a real scraper. I have been thinking that Tomic would go far on grass, given that he has reached the quarters at Wimby, but now I am not so sure. Last week he lost against Nadal, which is always difficult, but the 22-year-old should be ready to take down the very best. We shall see, very soon.

THE WOMEN

WTA: Petko is strong and beatiful

WTA: Petko is stymied again.

At Aegon Classic Birmingham, the young Czech Katerina Siniakova bested Andrea Petkovic 4-6 6-1 7-6(4). The 19-year-old Siniakova was frustrated at times during the third set as she wasn’t able to dictate, but she kept banging hard and grabbed it over the veteran. There are so many good Czechs that soon, another will rise and reach the top 20. There are already nine Czechs in the top 100. That is impressive…

Simona Halep is the top seed, which is good news for Birmingham, as there are a slew of very good players. Halep did not step up on the red clay, especially at RG, and she said that she wasn’t too strong enough. Well, at the very least, she has begun just fine, beating the Britain Naomi Broady 6-4 6-2…

Another Britain Heather Watson lost, going to down against Aleksandra Krunic 7-6(5) 6-4. That nation really needs Laura Robson to come back. She has yet to decide she will play in Eastbourne or Wimbledon. She has been out for 16 months, a very long time…

Is Victoria Azarenka is really ready now? This is a perfect opportunity to win the title. Yes, she doesn’t love grass, but she knows it much better now because she understands the surface. The former No. 1 edged Varvara Lepchenko 7-6(7) 6-4 and now will face Zarina Diyas. Azarenka should be able to over power her, but she must be able to bend low because that is what grass is all about.

PIC OF THE DAY, JULY 17

Here is the pic of the day, when Genie Bouchard goes against Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchman beat the Canadian in the first round at RG on clay, and now Mladenovic is ready to swing away and she will believe that Bouchard will become nervous again. Clearly, the Canadian is lost out there. She can play extremely well, just like when she reached the 2014 Wimbledon final, but after that she was no longer just thinking about the ball.

This year, she managed to win two matches at Indian Wells in early March, but then she lost a marathon match against Lesia Tsurenko. After that, she has gone two wins and seven losses, including last week against Yaroslava Shvedova in the Netherlands, when she fell 6-4 1-6 6-4. She had a real chance in the third set, but she froze.

Without a doubt, her coach, Sam Sumyk, is encouraging her to focus on the ball and nothing more. It has to come now, and given that thousands of fans will unlikely be suspicious of her on Ann Jones Centre Court, she should be ready to hang in there. She is very fast, she can play inside the baseline and she can return with authority. Of course, Bouchard has to keep the balls in the court. She will chatter her teeth at the end, but she will make it through in three tight sets.

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