Australian Open men’s semifinals

Alexander Zverev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Alexander Zverev rose up so high, in a late match when he took down the No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz in four sets, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4. Two year ago, the German was very close to win a Grand Slam for the first time, but he hurt himself in Roland Garros, on the court, and he had to retire. After that, he couldn’t play for months.

But finally, he is much better then he has, with his huge forehand, his backhand, and also, when he serves. He is more consistent, when he is there, reaching. Yes, he has lost some mediocre matches,  and his return and also at the net, he misses some easy shots. Yet Zverev can be very steady, and he can also mix it up.  

Alcaraz can look spectacular, but he is very young, so he won’t be perfect all the times. But on Friday, Zverev will have to play fantastic again, as he will have to face again Daniil Medvedev

Zverev can be controlling, consistent, and aggression He did against Alcaraz.

“I was rushing him quite a lot,’ said Zverev. “I was playing extremely aggressive, kind of taking the racquet out of his hands. You have to do that against him. If you let him control the points, control the pace of the game, he’s unbeatable,” he said. “He’s the best player in the world when it comes to that. I really had to take it into my own hands and I felt like I did that well.”

At Roland Garros, when he suffered a huge injury against Rafa Nadal, that would put him out of action for the entire year. When Zverev came back, and he looked so-so, but he knew that it would take him a long time to become much more solid.

He has a huge challenge, as last year, Daniil Medvedev beat him five times, and he lost just one versus Zverev . The Russian is more consistent, and he can react, with his forehand and her backhand. He is not great at the net, but he can return if he can find it.  They know each other well, so to win it, Zverev will have to change him, point after point. One way or another, Medvedev will beat him, again.

The No. 1 Djokovic will play against the Italian, Jannik Sinner, in the semis,  in the other semifinal.

.

The 22-year-old  is more aggressive, and he can also think inside within his head. In the ATP Finals in November, he upset Djokovic in there first match, but then in the final, the Serbian out hit him, backhand to backhand. Sinner can beat him, but to do it again, he must attack with his forehand, and really hustle.

“This is what I practice for, to play against the best players in the world,” Sinner said. “Obviously [Novak] has an incredible record here, so for me it’s a pleasure to play against him, especially in the final stages of the tournament where things are a little bit more interesting I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough. I will control the controllable, which is giving 100 percent, having the right attitude, fighting for every ball.” He will bring it into the fifth set, but agains. the No. 1 Djokovic will hit some amazing shots and he will grab it, one more times.

Aussie Open preview: Gauff, Rybakina, Rublev

Grigor Dimitrov
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

There have been some upsets in last week’s tournaments.

Grigor Dimitrov won Brisbane, beating Holger Rune7-6(5), 6-4 in the final. He has come close over the years, but he had not won an event since 2017 at the ATP Finals. However, the Bulgarian can be so consistent, when he is feeling it, and he can also throw in some terrific shots. He is currently ranked No. 13,  so he can look very steady, but then, he can back up and chuck in some wild shots. But the very talkative person can discuss his life, on court, and even off court, he really does how he feels. He cried when he won another title.

“I think there’s a lot of emotions on so many different levels for me,” Dimitrov said. “I think clearly winning a title, it means a lot to me. It’s been a while. I think having that moment is in a way what I’m after.”

Dimitrov actually thinks that at the Australian Open, he can go far, again. In 2017, at Brisbane, he won it when he beat Kei Nishikori in the final. Then in Melbourne, he was flying high, knocking off Richard Gasquet in the quarters, and finally, at night, in the semis, Rafa Nadal beat him in five, fantastic sets.

Next week, in the Grand Slams, Dimitrov will be secure again, but in the past 11 majors, he hasn’t reached into the quarters, so it is time to swell again.

“It humbles me in the same time because I feel like I’ve been playing good tennis, and I also feel there’s a little bit more that I can get better at on a few more things,” he said. “Who knows, if those things go right, what else might be coming my way.”

The No. 5 Andrey Rublev also won, winning Hong Kong,  last week. He really needed that, as at the 2023 ATP Finals, he did not win a match. He looked pretty tired. However, in the fall, the important person looked very clean, when he reached the final in Shanghai, beating Dimitrov in the semis, and then finally, he lost versus Hubert Hurkacz. He was close enough, but week to week, he can be looked depressed, and angry , in the court. Still, the Russian can look classic, at times, so this year, he should reach into the semis at the Slams, for the first time, if he can, as last year, in January, he played against Novak Djokovic, and the Serbian crushed him in just seven games. He has to be much better, ASAP.

The No.3 Coco Gauff kicked off early, winning Auckland, edging  Elina Svitolina  6-7(4) 6-3, 6-3. It was pretty close, but her backhand, her first serve and at the net, she controlled it.

“It was not my best level of play, but sometimes, when you are not at your best and you win, it makes you more satisfied,” Gauff said.

“It gives me a lot of confidence beating Elina. It was cool seeing how I handled the pressure especially after losing the first set. I was proud of the mental fight I showed today.”

She is 19-years-old, and she is growing, gradually, or maybe she will be more quickly. Her forehand is now improved, and while at times it isn’t very deep enough, she seems to unavoidably to do. When they are teenages, they are so excited that she wants to play all the times, and sometimes it will do the same things, wherever you can, and other times, they don’t focus all the time, on the court. She may become  No. 1 eventually, but at the last two tournament, in October and November, she lost against the current top player, Iga Swiatek. The Poland person is still the most complete player week after week. Gauff

has to put together with her strokes, more often.  She has to, as last year at the 2023 Aussie Open, she lost in the fourth round against the huge hitter, Jelena Ostapenko. This time, the American has to be totally inhibited.

How about Elena Rybakina who also won, smashing over  Aryna Sabalenka 6-0, 6-3.  What a blow out. When she is so consistent, and caring, then she can stay in there, but last year, she looked very good, but then, she would explode, and then she made some many errors. The crazy thing is that the Russian reached into the final at the 2023 Aussie Open, and it looked like she could win her second Grand Slam, but   Sabalenka out hit her with her massive  forehand, to win it 6-4 in the third. They did that again, three more times, and they split, it. It will occur time and time again, as both of them will go dish deep at the majors. It is some  terrific matches.

Notes

Rafa Nadal pulled out of the Australian Open as once again, his legs are  beating down. He is 37-years old,  and pretty soon, he will retire.Maybe this year, or next, it is hard to say, but it is ticking, faster…

In Adelaide, Tommy Paul and  Sebastian Korda are playing this week, and in Auckland Ben Shelton is playing. A young Frenchman, Arthur Fils, who is winning a lot. If they have a great week, then at the Slams, they can leap so early…The same goes with the Aussie Alex de Minaur, when it took him a while to be more consistent, and now, finally, he cracks the Top 10 for the first time. The must have been huge.  He is coached by two players who went very deep at the Slams including Sergi Bruguera, and Sebastien Grosjean.

Coco Gauff against Iga Swiatek in Cancun

Coco Gauff
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Coco Gauff has another change to beat the No. 2  Iga Swiatek, but she will have to out-hit her, backhand to backhand. Swiatek really likes to go cross-court, and then she has a chance, to crack it down the line, usually, she will do it. Gauff really runs fast, and she can also hammer her backhand. Last year, her forehand could be up and down, but now, she is much more consistent, and deeper in the corners. The Polish person Swiatek had a  terrific first serve, and she can also attack with her return, but there were times that she missed some critical shots.

They have played each other nine times, when Swiatek won it won eight times. The American Gauff has to play tremendous to beat her again.
.
“She’s definitely one of the best players ever and in our generation, too,” Gauff said. “I mean, it’s something that I have to do better against her. The more I can play against her, the more I can get better. Hopefully, for this time I would love to get a W on the head-to-head. We could potentially play for our second time if we both keep doing well. At this rate, we probably will have the most matches ever at the end of our careers.”

Oh really? They must already be thinking about it. In the WTA Finals Cancun, it will be super tight. Gauff does have at the net, and while Swiatek has a more consistent forehand. However, at least today, the American will snag it 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Neither Ons Jabeur or Marketa Vondrousova played well in the first round when they lost, but this time one of them will show up and play much more harmonious. When she is locked in, Jabeur, can move it around, all atop on the place. She can chuck in some fine drop shots, and also, she can slice it. But at times, her shots are two short.

Vondrousova  looked pretty good in the first set, but in the second set , Swiatek scrub her out. She can hit hard off both sides, and she is quick, but however, she can fall down, mentally. The Czech can look absurd when she is on, but when she is not, she sails. Really, though, Vondrousova, can re-ship it, and in the match, she will win it 7-5, 6-3.

MEN
That was surprising when Roman Safiullin beat Carlos Alcaraz  6-3, 6-4 in Paris. He hit some prime  backhands. Now the chance that Alcaraz will finish the No. 1 would be a stunner….
Taylor Fritz  withdrew due to his injury. He may not make into the ATP Final now, but he will have to wait in see…

Hubert Hurkacz  might be the guy, depending his results. He has had a fine fall…

Tommy Paul still has a shot, but he has to win Paris. His match was a marathon, so to do it, day after day, that would be incredible.

US Open picks: Friday, Sept. 1

Caroline Wozniaki
Ron Cioffi/TR

Caroline Wozniacki  over Jennifer Brady
The former No. 1 Wozniacki played pretty well when she knocked off Petra Kvitova. Her backhand has always been excellent, and her returns were terrific. However, her forehand is pretty good, but not great, which is why she has only won more than one at a Grand Slam. Can she do it again? That would be a huge challenge.

Brady was very good for a long time , but in 2021, she got hurt, physically, and she could not play in the WTA for two years. That is very long. Before that, she made it in the semis at the 2020 U.S. Open,and in 2021, she reached into the 2022 Aussie Open. Yes, she was darn good. However, Brady still is trying to get back, physically and mentally. She does really like to crush the ball, but Wozniacki is more in control. The Dane will win it in two tough sets.
 
Karolina Muchova over Taylor Townsend
The Czech can look so good, when she is sprinting, and slap it back. Over the past three months, she reached the final at Roland Garros and Cincinnati. She didn’t win it, but she is right there. Muchova appears to be healthy again, so the American Townsend has to play great to upset her. She is quite good in the doubles, but in the singles, she has improved this year, but she has not beaten a lot of top 10 players. Yes, the veteran wants to show the fans that she is legitmatety very good, but to watch it, she is going have to play great. She will at times, but really, Muchova is a better player. She will win it in two basic sets.

Tommy Paul over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
This should be a terrific, wild match. The American Paul beat him in Miami in straight sets, but the Spaniard wants to play much better at the U.S. Open. At the Australian Open on the hardcourts, again, Paul edged him 6-4 in the fifth set. Davidovich Fokina pushed himself back, and Paul attacked him, with some excellent shots. His forehand is a little bit better, but Davidovich Fokina has a more consistent backhand. Paul is more comfortable at the net, while Davidovich Fokina likes to add some different shots.
They will have another long five sets, and once again, Paul will beat him again, 7-5.

Taylor Fritz over Jakub Mensik
The 17-year-old Mensik qualified, and he has played almost every week, going to a bunch of small events. However, the teenager can be pretty steady, and also, he is tall, so when he gets a chance, he can swing hard and try for a winner.  He beat a number of juniors, but this time, he has to play substantially better to upset Fritz, who has gone deep in a lot of events. Fritz once won Indian Wells, but he has yet to go into the second week at the U.S. Open. The San Diego native really wants to, so he has to be super consistent.  As he said, the American Andy Roddick won the title in 2003, but that was it. Will it be this time?

“We’ve all been hearing about who’s going to be the next American (after) Andy Roddick 20 years ago our entire careers. We all want it so bad,” said Fritz. “Hopefully it’ll be one of us soon.”
He will win it over Mensik in straight sets.

US Open 2023: Which men will reach the quarterfinals?

Daniil Medvedev

First Quarter
Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz won the tournament last years in New York, but he couldn’t play at the Australian Open, due to an injury, but now he is back, with his phenomenal strokes. The No. 1 does think that he can win it again, and maybe he will, but he has to be rock solid, almost each match. He should be fine, into in the quarters, when he might have to face against Jannik Sinner, who has played much better this summer, and possibly against Alexander Zverev, who once reached here in the final in 2020, but he has been up and down, week after week. Grigor Dimitrov can look terrific with his fun one-handed backhand, but it is hard to say that he is really locked in. In the quarters will be Alcaraz versus Sinner.
Dark horse: Tallon Griepspoor

2nd Quarter
Is it possible that Daniil Medvedev will play excellent ball and win it again, when he won the 2021 in Flushing Meadows? Yes he is so consistent, and he can move it all around, but he has had some tough matches in the summer, losing when it was very tight. He could possible do it again, but he can go back of the baseline, rather than rushing into the net. It will be up to him, and yes, he can reach into the quarters, but he could face against Alex de Minaur in the fourth round, who is so much better then he is really on. However, the reason why is that the Aussie has yet to reach in the top 10, as he slips, here and there. It should be a very close match, but the Russian will beat him in five sets.

Andrey Rublev should get through, or maybe he will not. If you watch him, he can look very good, and then he disappears,  but in the first round he has to beat Emil Ruusuvuori, a pretty good player. Somehow he will, but then he might have to face versus the veteran Gael Monfils, who has had a terrific summer. That match will be a blast, on court, as the Frenchman can really celebrate. Rublev will take it, though, but in the fourth round he will lose against Hubert Hurkacz, as in the summer, he became much more aggressive, and he put it away. This time, he will reach into the quarters, the first time at the US Open.
Dark horse: Nicolas Jarry

3rd Quarter
Will Casper Ruud rise up again at the US Open?  He did that in 2022, reaching the final here, and he did also when at the 2023 Roland Garros. He lost, both of them, but before that, he can be so fantastic, with some stunning shots. However, this year he looked very good at times, but he can also drop down, especially with his serve and his return.  He has to play fabulous, early, as he might have to face against three different people, with Sebastian Korda,  Adrian Mannarino, and  Frances Tiafoe. The two Americans want to do very deep in the second week, here. Tiafoe has reached into the semis two years ago, and when he is on, he can split the ball, but he has not played well in the summer. Korda just came back due to his injury, and he looked pretty good this week, but he can win a few matches, yet he still needs more time. The veteran, the Frenchman, has so much variety, when he plays, each week, and there are other times when his strokes are not there. Essentially, Ruud will reach into the quarters.

How about Holger Rune? He has had some fine matches, in Monte-Carlo, Rome, and Wimbledon. He is still pretty young, but he might face the American, Tommy Paul, who has had a very good year.  But in the fourth round, against Rune, will he be there? I would think, yes, Paul will, in five brutal sets.
Dark horse: Ben Shelton

4th Quarter
It is almost so obvious that when Novak Djokovic is on top of it, he will put on a show, just like when he out-lasted against Alcaraz in three hours, 49 minutes. That was won of the best match this year. But this is different, three out of five, rather than two out of three. But Djokovic is used to it, as he has won the U.S. Open many times. Even in the first three matches, it will be pretty easy. Maybe he can play against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round, but that Canadian is really straining. How about against Taylor Fritz or Lorenzo Musetti?Close, but no cigar. Stefanos Tsitsipas could reach into the quarters, but he has not played well during the summer. He might be out. How about the other American, Christopher Eubanks, who has had a superb this year,  but to beat the top players is questionable. Djokovic  will be there in the quarters,  as will be Fritz, but then he is going to have to play incredible to go into the fifth set. Try to do it.
Dark horse: Milos Raonic

Novak Djokovic: the Wimbledon favorite

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Wimbledon starts, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will be the favorites, but it is possible that the American men Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda can go deep into the second week.
 
The former champ John McEnroe said, “I think Taylor is a confident kid. He’s worked really hard on his movement and fitness, which is the reason to me he’s in the top 10,” McEnroe said. “He hits a great ball. I don’t think he’s actually that comfortable on grass. I think Tiafoe is a better volleyer and more skilled at net, athletically better. That would help him on the grass. Taylor hits a better ball and is a bigger guy. His serve is probably a little bit more dependable.”

Neither of them have reached very far at Wimbledon, although they are pretty young. They have to be more consistent and attack pretty early. In order to win point after point, they can construct their strokes. And, of course, they have to be totally locked in, all the time.

“Both of them would be in the quarters of Alcaraz or Djokovic, which would make it more difficult. I think at this time those two and maybe [Sebastian] Korda are the guys. Tommy Paul looks like he’s fallen off at the moment a little bit,” McEnroe said. “Hopefully he’ll get it back. I think there’s going to be guys soon, Americans, that are going to make the breakthrough within a year or two hopefully. I think that’s going to be big.”

Yes it will, as the U.S. men have not won a Grand Slam since 2003 at the US Open with Andy Roddick won it. It might be 20-years-ago in September that they cannot win another Slam again. But before that, in England, you can actually play longer in the rallies. They don’t have to slide all the time, and they can actually return, more. In the 1990s, there were some really quick rallies, and with millions of aces.

“The people that can add that adaptability and finish points at net successfully, like an Alcaraz, for example, who is a really good volleyer, Novak learned it, so did Rafa [Nadal],” McEnroe said. “I believe that’s why Tiafoe has a shot because he’s skilled at net. That will help you get over the hump at Wimbledon. Yes, it’s more homogenized. Yes, it’s more like hard courts. The bounce is higher, but there’s still a nuance that only a few get it.


“Look at [Casper] Ruud, for example. He’s regarding this as he’s showing up, hoping for the best. He could be out in the first round or two. [Stefanos] Tsitsipas doesn’t seem to be comfortable at all, can’t figure out how to play on the grass. There’s an opening. There’s many guys that don’t even understand it, or girls for that matter. That’s why it’s pretty narrowed down who can actually win it. That’s why Novak can afford not to play any tournament because he’s so confident, he understands what it takes, he doesn’t feel the need to play any warmup matches and he still wins it almost every year.”

Yes, he is the now 23-Grand-Slam champion. Djokovic really thinks that he can win another major once again. However, he can lose here and there, so at Wimbledon, he can become lost during a match, and he will fall down. Or maybe Alcaraz will rise, now.

As he said: “Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon, but I will try to play at this level to have chances to beat him or make the final. I saw a statistic that Novak has won more matches at Wimbledon than the other top 20 players (combined),” the Spaniard Alcaraz said. “What can you say about that you know? Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon. That’s obvious. But I will try to play at this level, to have chances to beat him or make the final at Wimbledon.”

The Picks on clay in  Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters: Wednesday, April 12

Stan Wawrinka
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Stan Wawrinka over Taylor Fritz
The American returns to play on the dirt, and while he really likes the hard courts, he had improved a lot, but during the clay last year, he has been so-so. Now it is time to measure up. Fritz can hit with his fast forehand, and his bashing backhand. He can also be patient, but others time, he can be to distracting.

Clearly, the 38-years-old Wawrinka is aging, but the Swiss has played some amazing matches, on clay, when he won the 2015 Roland Garros, stunning  Roger Federer. His one-handed backhand is so heavy, with huge spin, and his forehand is also hard, and at times, when it is flat. However, he is little bit slower, and he has lost a number of matches. But with that, now in the spring, he will make a huge effort to show the fans that he can actually turn it on. Yes, Fritz is the better players on the hard courts, but on the clay, it is still Wawrinka, who will win in three, jarring sets.

Holger Rune over Dominic Thiem
This is super interesting that Thiem played his best match this year, easily beating Richard Gasquet. The Austria grew up leaning how to play on the clay, and gradually, he improved his heavy forehand and his backhand. However, he was hurt, and he lost control. Yes, he is darn smart, on the court, but the former 2020 U.S. Open champion started to push the ball, rather than making the attempt to hit it close to the lines.

The 19-year-old Rune has not playing well, hardly at all. He has won some decent matches, but he has not reach into the final in 2023, losing early at Indian Wells and Miami. The good thing is that last year in the fall, he was on fire,  when he won Paris, stunning Novak Djokovic. This week, he has decided that even if he loses,  at least he can make some different strokes, and to be much more focus. Rune is trying to be confident again, which means that while he knows that Thiem can grind it, all over the place,  he can out hit him. The No. 9 Rune will win it in two brutal sets.

Matt’s yesterday picks

Correct: Novak Djokovic over Ivan Gakhov
Correct: Stefanos Tsitsipas over Benjamin Bonzi

Matt’s current week picks

2 out of 4: 50% correct

Let Taylor play!

Taylor Fritz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When I was the Atlanta Open media director, one reporter who was new to tennis asked, “What’s a lucky loser? How can a loser be lucky?”

I explained tennis’ practice of letting qualifiers who lose in the final round of qualies move into the main draw if a main-draw player withdraws before play starts. The rule gives more players a chance to play and advance into the tournament. Plus, it gives the fans an extra match to watch.

So, why not do that with the main draw? Let’s let Taylor Fritz advance into the Wimbledon semifinals.

Rafael Nadal, who downed Fritz in the quarterfinals, announced today he would not play his next match. He was scheduled to face Nick Kyrgios on Friday in the semis.

But, there are no lucky losers in the main draw or in any tennis tournament. If a player withdraws, his/her upcoming opponent gets a walkover. No opponent, no match.

What is the alternative?

Just like the advantages to give a lucky loser a slot in the main draw, the advantages of moving a loser further in the tournament are the same.

  • The fans, especially those who spent a whole lot of English pounds at Wimbledon, will get to see two semifinals instead of one.
  • The losing player will be pleased to get another match and can continue in the tournament.
  • No opponent would have one less match than another. In the upcoming Wimbledon singles final, Kyrgios goes in having played only five matches while his opponent will play six matches.

Oddly enough, there is a rule that allows Fritz to advance. If Nadal had decided to retire during the match (as seemingly he was encouraged to do by his camp), then Fritz would have been the winner. So, to a certain degree, it was the timing when Nadal decided to stop that means a Wimbledon semifinal won’t be played. Explain that to the fans and TV networks.

As happens when a player pulls out of a Grand Slam before the first round, both players would get a payday. To make sure giving up the match was not too attractive, the player withdrawing could get a small slice of the money. How about 25 percent?

What happens if Fritz is already on a plane to the U.S. when Nadal announces his withdrawal? Undoubtedly, he would return to London. But, what if this happens in a $25K low-level tournament and the player has arrived in the next city? Well, no penalty to the player if he/she decides not to play the match.

I’ve read criticism that allowing a loser to advance goes against the core of competitive tournament structure and it could contribute to intentional losing or, even worse, the temptation to have the player who would benefit influence the player withdrawing. All these are fair arguments.

There’s nothing wrong with questioning the tournament structure and making improvements.

Let’s discuss about how we can make tennis more attractive. If you have any thoughts on this rule change, please email me at cioffi@tennisreporters.net.

Isner grabs Atlanta title for sixth time

John Isner

ATLANTA – With a fifth match point, John Isner was looking to step it up and go past his five Atlanta Open crowns. That’s when Brandon Nakashima’s second serve bounced off of the net and outside of the service box, making Isner a six-time winner of the Truist Atlanta Open. In a hot afternoon, the older American won 7-6(8), 7-5.

Call Georgia a second home for Isner, who played at the University of Georgia and continues to hear the UGA unofficial cheer of a bulldog bark at tournaments around the world. Plus, his collegiate home continues to be an advantage for Isner. In this tournaments 11 years, Isner has reached the final nine times. He lost to Mardy Fish in 2010-11 and Nick Kyrgios in 2016.

Isner moved into rarified company with six titles in one tournament. Roger Federer has at least six titles in seven tournaments while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has captured at least six at four events.

“You can’t compare me with those guys. In my earlier day, I was never pegged to be a great champion,” he said. Asked about what he considered his greatest accomplishment, he said, “My consistency. Being in the top 20 for 10 consecutive years.”

The former Georgia Bulldog avenged his Los Cabos loss last week to the 19-year-old from San Diego. Nakashima said that Isner probably learned from the match and had a better strategy for the final.

As usual, Isner depended on his booming serve, knocking down 21 aces, along with a bundle of service winners. Nakashima had 12 of his own and went into the final game with only two double faults before striking the fatal out serve.

Nakashima blasted two aces in the first-set tiebreak. But, that wasn’t enough to take out Isner, who found his range with his groundstrokes. At 8-8, Nakashima attacked the net but couldn’t deal with a dipping shot from Isner. Then, Isner cracked another menacing serve and the return sailed long.

The second set’s ninth game was packed with drama and four match points. Isner stepped up early with big forehands and a backhand, down-the-line winner. He was out in front 0-40. Nakashima evened the game with two volley winners and a forcing shot which resulted in an Isner error. On the fourth match point, Nakashima banged a crisp backhand volley for a winner.

At 5-5 in the second set, Isner had to escape two break points. He employed his serve for three aces and a service winner.

The drama continued in the final game, which came down to the third deuce before Nakashima dumped a volley into the net before he double faulted.

Nakashima employed the aggressive play that earned him the Los Cabos victory against Isner. But, he said after the match that his opponent probably picked up on his attacking style. “It’s always tough losing finals, especially back to back.” Cameron Norrie defeated him in the Los Cabos final.

Asked about successfully dealing with those match points, he added, “He serves so big. That puts a lot of pressure on my serve. I told myself to stay calm and get into these rallies, I know I’m in good shape.”

At the age of 36, Isner is starting to put his career in perspective. He enjoyed bringing his two young kids onto the court, with his pregnant wife, Madison, for photos during the trophy ceremony. “This could be my last title,” he conceded in the post-match press conference.

Doubles goes to Opelka/Sinner

Reilly Opelka and Jannik Sinner prevailed in a 10-3 match tiebreak to win the doubles over Jordan Thompson/Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-7(6) 10-3. After falling in the second-set tiebreak, Opelka/Sinner dominated the final tiebreak. Sinner capped off the tournament with an ace.

Federer: ‘When the cogwheels don’t grip anymore, I stop’

Roger Federer

Roger Federer won’t play this year, because he suffered an injury, and there was no reason to be super healthy during the spring and summer anywa

Now the Swiss says that next year, and even another year, he could still be playing when he will be 40 years old. The 20-time Grand Slam champ said that he will go to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Federer is a very smart person. Still, at times he can be irritable. In an interview with SportsPanorama, he said he isn’t sure whether he will retire, or he could continue play until he will be 50-years-old.

“Since I won the French Open in 2009, the media has been chopping on this topic. But it is already clear that I am at the end of my career,” said Federer.

“I can not say what will be in two years. That’s why I plan year after year. I’m still happy right now. But when the cogwheels don’t grip anymore, I stop. When I am old, I will definitely still play tennis. But no longer train, just ball.”

Just like Federer, 99 percent of the ATP and WTA rarely stop and think about stopping. Not everyday, as they age, but they can always go back to reflecting on a match and dream, win or lose. Just playing; that is enough.

OTHER PLAYERS
Let’s stop dissecting the No. 1-10 rankings. Instead, let us look at the No.11-20, the young players.

Four of them has a chance to win ATP 1000s, or even if they reach the finals at a Grand Slam. There are four players who are still learning, such as Andrey Rublev (22 years old), Karen Khachanov (24 years old),
Denis Shapovalov (20 years old) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (19 years old).

Rublev and Khachanov are Russians, while Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are Canadians.

Eventually, when the terrific veterans finally retire, and then the majors will be wide open. In January, Rublev won Adelaide. He out-hit the big swinger Auger-Aliassime. Rublev can be very aggressive, but he can also become frustrated, and disappointed. He can crack both sides. But, he has to be more tolerant, and when he does, he will be placid and be ready to win more often.


Two years ago, Khachanov won the ATP 1000 in Paris. Then it looked like he was going straight into the top 5, but he stalled. There are times when he was magnificent, and at the 2020 Australian, in the fourth round, Nick Kyrgios edged Khachanov 7-6 in the fifth set. That must have been very hard. Khachanov is tall, but he is not very quick. I would think that at home, he has to work on his legs.

Shapovalov can be passionate, when he really wants to win, to show the earth that he is an stunning player. He can be, but when he is a little bit off, then he will fall apart. He needs to push himself closer to the net.
 
Auger-Aliassime came out of nowhere, and in January and February, he was very bold. He reached the final of Rotterdam and Marseille. Even though he lost, he was agile. He can bang the ball, but he still have to get much better when he had to return. That is critical, to reach the top.

The three wonderful players, such as Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, really know how to return. That is why they have won so many gigantic tournaments. If the young players want to go much further, they have to impose their return games.