Wimbledon: Serena clocks Sharapova, young Muguruza stops Radwanska

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It was inevitable. Maria Sharapova was going to hit the corner as hard as she could, but before she started, she had to return Serena’s massive serves and when she was serving, she had to be very unpredictable. She did not on both accounts.

Once again, Serena Williams thumped past Sharapova 6-2 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon final for the eight time. The 33-year-old Serena was cool, collected and lethal. She did not face a break points, she nailed 13 aces, and she won 86 percent of her first serves (25 of 29, thank you). She broke Sharapova three times. That was enough.

Yes, Sharapova had a few fine moments, but she was not close to being playing perfect, while Serena almost did. Essentially, it is all about why Serena has beaten Sharapova 17 matches in a row: Serena has a much better first and second serves, and Serena reads Sharapova’s serves substantially better. It is simple, but every effective. When Sharapova manages to get into the points it is 50-50, but that isn’t often enough, as she is frequently skidding around and she cannot dictate. Look at her percentage when Sharapova was hitting her second serve on Thursday: try 29 percent (6/21). Ouch and goodbye.

Perhaps someday, she will finally upset Serena, but she has to figure out where exactly Williams tends to go. She has to dash over quickly and get the ball into play and deep. Serena has a very good idea which way Sharapova is serving (such as down the T all the time), but maybe the Russian/American will finally find it. You know, all the so-called Big-4 (Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal) can return the big guys who serve 140-plus and winning those matches. Is it possible for the five-time champion Sharapova be able to return the 120 mph too? Not yet, but she will keep pushing on.

Eventually, a 21 year old was ready to jump up, and that is exactly what Garbine Muguruza did, when he took down Aga Radwanska 6-2 3-6 6-3. Yes, Radwanska could have played better in the third set, but the Spaniard out hit her and she was very intelligent. She knew that the Pole would try to be trick her, but Muguruza kept looking where the opponent was going. She was patient and when she had a legitimate chance, she went for it. She has a big first serve, she can crack her forehand and backhand and she isn’t shy at the net.

Yes, Williams is the favorite for sure, but Muguruza shocked her at the 2014 Roland Garros and Serena bested her in the Aussie Open, but it was three sets. If Muguruza isn’t very nervous, she can push her.

 

 

Vandeweghe would love to become No.1, but very long way to go

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WIMBLEDON – CoCo Vandeweghe is still very young, only 23 year old, but she has learned a lot over the past two years. In the second round at Wimbledon, she upset the world No. 11 Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5) 6-4.

On an excellent game for the Americans on Wednesday, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bethany Matter-Sands, John Isner and Denis Kudla all came through.

Mattel-Sands, who upended the No. 7 Ana Ivanovic in straight sets, said that the women are stronger and stronger.

“It’s great.  I think we had 16 players in the main draw this year, maybe more, including some doubles players,” Mattel-Sands said. “But, no, a few years ago, I was being asked, What happened to USA tennis, and I said, Well, it comes and goes.  I think there were a lot of younger players that coming that showed promise.  Sure enough, I think we have a really strong contingent of American players and it’s really good to see.”

The San Diego resident Vandeweghe wasn’t afraid at all against Pliskova. She went out on court, hit huge serves and was very effective. Some people thought the Czech might out hit her, but the American knew exactly where she was going. Vandeweghe dictated her terms.

“I wasn’t nervous about playing her. I had more confidence that I was the better player,” Vandeweghe said.

“Not just because of that. I think I have more weapons than her, personally. She’s definitely the higher ranked player, she’s had the results through the year, consistently but I thought off the ground I could rally her, which I did. In the return of serve games if I got a beat on her serve I would be able to break her, which I eventually did. And I thought I could serve better than her, which I did. I really think going there that I was the better player and I should win that match.”

Vandeweghe has a tremendous amount of confidence. She can go up and down at times, but she loves the grass and last year she won a tournament at the Netherlands, grabbing seven wins and the title. A few weeks ago, she went back to the Netherlands, reaching the quarterfinals. She has been ranked inside the top 40 most of this year and she wants to move forward.

This is the first time on the Slams that she has reached the third round. Vandeweghe is ambitious and she believes that some day she could grab No. 1.

“I’ve always thought to be No.1” she said. “It’s kind of similar of going into a match and thinking for me, I’m not going to win. It’s like winning a Grand Slam, winning a gold medal, those are lifelong dreams of mine. So to put it to the way side for whatever reason, I think is silly.”

Vandeweghe admitted that when she first started on the tour, she wasn’t strategic. She was still learning to play, trying to figure it out which way she should play. In 2006, she was given a wild card at a tournament in San Diego. She had a blast, but as she admitted, she could be wild.

Now, she is much smarter.

“Maturity is probably a big thing for me,” she said. “I’ve also improved a lot in the fitness department. I’ve focused a lot on that. I’ve found my game style. I have a lot of variety, a lot of different things I can do on the court. So it was kind of reigning it all in for me.
I always went and played tennis and just played. It wasn’t like game plans or if I get put in this pickle, this what’s going to happen. I’m going to serve my first serve here and I’m putting my first shot here. That was never a structure in my game till about two years ago. It was just me playing tennis.”

Vandeweghe knows Serena very well – they all do. Vandeweghe and Serena once played against each other in 2012, when Williams bested CoCo in the final. The tall and strong woman played very well then, and she has watched a close eye on the legend.

Vandeweghe respects Serena greatly and Williams leads by her example.

“I’ve faced Serena a couple of different times and it’s when you’re down a break point or you feel that momentum switch at 4-3 in the games, where most momentum changes happen in a match – I think Serena is very high up there. She definitely makes it about Serena in any match that she plays. For me, I think that’s also her own way of doing things and that’s her own killer instinct. Where she’s going to take upon herself to beat you – you’re not going to beat her. So that’s just a different mind frame.”

 

Wimbledon, Draw and Quartered: Serena vs Venus could happen in 4th round. Can Kvitova win again?

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Is Venus ready to reclaim her magic on grass? Ron Cioffi/TennisReporters.net

FIRST QUARTER

Serena Williams is hands down the favorite at Wimbledon and while she was stunned by Alize Cornet in the third round last year, this time she won’t be nervous, which is why she has won three majors in a row: the 2014 US Open, the 2015 Australian Open and Roland Garros.

However, this fortnight could be very tricky. She opens up against the young Russian Margarita Gasparyan who qualified and who has won a ton of matches this year. However Serena will batter her with some massive strokes. She could face the veteran Czech Petra Cetkovska who can also swing away, but she cannot put together ace after ace. The third round will be on the Centre Court for sure, when Serena could face Carolina Garcia (who can move quickly), Heather Watson (the Brit knows how to bend low), Daniela Hantuchova (who reached No. 4 ages ago) and Dominica Cibulkova (who is back and reached the 2014 Aussie Open final). Any one of those four could beat each other, but not over Serena, who will understand how exactly how to play any of those foes.

Interestingly, the entire world is talking about the 33-year-old Roger Federer who still has a real chance at Wimby, but what about Venus Williams, who won five titles in the All-England Club? The 35-year-old won here for the last time in 2008, when she stopped Serena. She does has a small shot this year. She is not as fast as she used to, nor can she dominate with her serves as she can’t smoke her first serve over 120 MPH. But she loves the grass, which means she will try as hard as she can because she almost disappeared on the clay. She has a pretty good draw early when Venus will overpower the American Madison Brengle, and she could face one of the Italian veterans in the third round – Errani, Schiavone and Vinci – but none of them have ever figured out the grass.

So then Venus will take on Serena, the only time they have played each other in the Round of 16 in a major. In 2005, at the US Open, Venus hit the lines and won. Serena is 14-11 head to head, but Venus did manage to overcome Serena in three long sets in 2014 Montreal. Yes, Venus knows exactly how to play her sister as they hit with each other for ages, but since around 2012 Serena had become substantially better while Venus has dropped off. While Venus will be close, Serena will be able to out-hit her with a more accurate forehand and these days, a better first serve and a much better second serve.

Who will face Serena at the quarters? Three will pop up: Ana Ivanovic, Belinda Bencic or Victoria Azarenka. We know that Azarenka can push Serena to the wall, but Williams always seems to figure her out. Ivanovic and Bencic have played over the past five weeks but it is the young Swiss who is ready to jump out in front. Bencic will reach the quarters and, while she can mix it beautifully, she is not quite there. Serena will reach the quarters once again.

SECOND QUARTER

Maria Sharapova hasn’t been able to win a second Slam at Wimbledon. She was a baby when she shocked the world in 2004 at the age of 17 and it looked like she would grab a few more. While she can crush the ball, she can fall down while sliding on the turf. But she has come close so perhaps she is ready to shine. She should be able to reach the quarters as she should be able to out-think Irina Begu in third, hit the lines over the very tough Flavia Pennetta or Andrea Petkovic in the fourth round. But, in the quarters, then she would have real trouble. He could face Lucie Safarova, who knocked him out in Paris and reached the final, or another Czech, Karolina Pliskova, who strikes viciously. And how about the rising Sloane Stephens, who reached the semifinal at Eastbourne? All three could upend Sharapova if she is off, but not yet because she was less than 100 percent when she was sick in Paris. Pliskova is ready to enter the top 10, and she looks very similar to Sharapova, but she isn’t mentally there yet. This time, Sharapova will go further and reach the semifinal.

THIRD QUARTER

This is a toss-up, with Angie Kerber slightly favored because she looked very solid two weeks ago and now she feels like she’s isn’t in her head. She will likely play Garbiné Muguruza, who is terrific on clay, but she is not on grass. In the fourth round she will likely face Carolina Wozniacki, whose body is stiff and admittedly she has said that she isn’t very comfortable at All-England. Kerber will be just fine, who will dig low and bounce Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinal, who could upset Simon Halep. The Romanian just fired her coach and she is very troubled. Lisicki is super- aggressive and has already thrown in some huge aces, but her so-called friend bothers Kerber to the point where she caves in. Kerber will reach the semifinals, fairly easy.

FOURTH QUARTER

The defending champion Petra Kvitova could grab Wimbledon again, but she is ill once again which means she is vulnerable. Yes the big lefty can dictate from the word go, but when she’s not 100 percent she doubts herself. That’s exactly what will recur. Yes, she should be able to reach the second week because she has sweet draw in the first three matches – like crushing Jelena Jankovic who doesn’t like the grass – but in the fourth round she is ready to be had. The will have to face Aga Radwanska, who has played quite badly this year (except at Eastbourne), but once she came on the grass she began to turn it around. She was all over the place this season, but she knows which way to go, and she can be very creative.

Even though Radwanska is fragile, she will school Genie Bouchard/Madison Keys/Alize Cornet/ Ekaterina Makarova in the quarters. On hard courts, you would have to think that Makarova would out-punch the other ones, but she is erratic on the grass, so find another who will settle down and lock in. It should be Keys, who is a terrific serve and pretty darn good with her big strokes. The 2014 finalist Bouchard is completely out of it, so Keys will bang her head with Radwanska, but the Pole has too much experience and will reach the semis for the third time.

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.

Report Card, women at Roland Garros. Serena gets an ‘A’ but what about Safarova?

A+ Serena Williams

In 2015, she has never had to struggle as much as she did at Roland Garros, very sick and completely out of it. But, when she came on court, one way or another, she was going to find the right place. Serena has won plenty of Slams over the years, but she has never played three-setters in five matches, which were all against the hot and ambitious players. She didn’t just blast huge serves, but she mixed up her attack, ran down the balls even though it appeared to be out of reach and when she was down 2-0 in the third set against Safarova, she woke up, yelled at herself every second and quickly rose to the heaven. Yes, Serena can be had if she isn’t feeling right, but she wants to tie against Steffi Graf at 22 majors this year and when she faces Wimbledon and the US Open, she will be locked in.

A Lucie Safarova

The 28-year-old lefty has been around for a long time and for the first time in Paris, she didn’t get nervous or stop thinking. Both her forehand and backhand are more powerful, she has found much better angles and she knows how to strategize. Her biggest win was in the fourth round when she upset the defending champion Maria Sharapova in two excellent sets. Maria tried to stare her down and she could not, as Safarova looking right back at her and said, “I am still here.” Now the question is, can she go deep at Wimbledon once again?

A Timea Bacsinszky

The Swiss isn’t that young (she is 26 years old) so it’s not like she has come out of nowhere, but when you watch her you can see that she ripped both sides down the line and she has a pretty good first serve. She upset the defending Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, which was huge, and she didn’t stop there, reaching the semis before Serena stepped on her in the third set. But now it looks like we will see her in the top 20 for years to come.

Ivanovic IW 11 MALT4950B+ Ana Ivanovic

The Serbian had a real chance to reach the final again, but she wasn’t there against Safarova. She fought very hard during the tournament and she was dominating with her ferocious forehand, but she was nervous when she knew that she could win the title. Can she recover?

B+ Alison Van Uytvanck

The 21-year-old’s performance was completely unexpected, as she upset at the Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic and beating the other unknown Andreea Mite to reach the quarters. She has much more belief now.

B+ Andreea Mitu

It’s not easy to gain to a fourth round when you entered the tournament ranked No. 100, but she did, stopping Karolina Pliskova and Francesca Schiavone. It appears that the 21-year-old from Romania is now here to stay.

B+ Garbine Muguruza

She played very well to beat Giorgi, Kerber and Pennetta, but she wasn’t quite there when she lost to Safarova. Still, the 21-year-old is coming along nicely.

B+ Elina Svitolina

The 20-year-old did a fine job reaching the quarters, outhitting Cornet. Little by little she will stay in the top 20 – or the top 10 – for a long time to come.

B Alize Cornet

Yes, just reaching the fourth round is not the biggest deal, but being able to play in front of the Frenchy crowds during the second week made her cry with a wide smile.

B Sara Errani

The Italian looked shaky entering the RG as she lost early in Madrid and Italy. But in Paris she scored wins over Germans Petkovic and Goerges to reach the quarters, but then Serena crushed her.

B Sloane Stephens

Yes, Sloane was unable to upset Serena in the fourth round, but at least this time she was very close and she showed that now she doesn’t fear the top players.

B Julie Goerges

The German pretty much owns Wozniacki, out slugging her in the second round, but she was anxious when she lost 6-2 6-2 against Errani in the fourth round.

B Irina Falconi

The 25-year-old American hasn’t loved clay over the years, but she did good job in Paris, reaching the third round for the first time.

C+ Ekaterina Makarova

OK the No. 8 Russian doesn’t love clay, but at least she managed to get to the fourth round, where she lost to Ivanovic. That is about as good as she could get.

C+ Maria Sharapova

Sure she was super sick, but she had opportunities against Safarova in the fourth round. The 2012 and 2014 champion was disappointing, but at least she tried as good as she could. However she needs a huge win at Wimbledon.

C+ Flavia Pennetta

The former top 10-er had a big win over Suarez, but then the veteran was so-so in losing against Muguruza.

C Petra Kvitova

It was cold during the first week and she struggled. However she had battled and reached the fourth round, looking she had a real chance to reach the semis or better. But, during the third set against Bacsinszky, she melted. That is Petra, you never know where the ball is going.

Madison Keys

The promising American has yet to figure the red clay, which is why she went down to Timea Bacsinszky in the third round. Patience, please.

Victoria Azarenka

Ye,s the former No. 1 is trying this year, but she is not there yet, falling against Serena in three sets. She had chances, but she lost her cool.

C Andrea Petkovic

The German has been hurt over the past two months, so reaching the third round wasn’t so bad.

C- Carla Suarez

So much expectation for the Spaniard coming in to Paris, so much disappointment after fell to Pennetta in the third round

C- Angie Kerber

It looked like the German could go far until she fell apart in the second and third sets against Muguruza. Where is she going now?

C- Venus Williams

It has been a rough year on clay for the elder Williams and, while she tried against Sloane Stephens, she was all over the place.

D+ Karolina Pliskova

I really like the No. 12 this year overall but she is too slow on the clay, which is why she was stunned by Mitu.

D Simona Halep

Yes, her opponent, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, can go for it and she was super aggressive, but Halep was unconvincing in the second round and didn’t change up at all. That was a serious blow to the 2014 finalist.

D Carolina Wozniacki

Caro looked OK to best Karin Knapp in the first round, but then she hit way too short and she was punched out against Goerges. She just does not know how to play the clay.

D- Genie Bouchard

Clearly the Canadian is trying very hard but it is in her head now and she gets super nervous when she is out there playing.

F Aga Radwanska

As she admitted she can’t handle the clay, but she is better than that when she is into it. She wasn’t at all when she loss to Annika Beck in the first round. Trying hard is mandatory.

Serena vs. Safarova in Roland Garros Final: Is she super sick?

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DAY 13, ROLAND GARROS –  Serena Williams is sick, badly sick, which is why she didn’t show up to Roland Garros on Friday, saying that she needs to lie on bed and rest. Clearly, she was ill during her three-set win over Timea Bacsinszky, looking like she would vomit, or collapse, or just give up. But she hung in there and played an excellent third set and raced away.

So now, will she be OK more or less when she battlesLucie Safarova during the final? Perhaps not, but after two days, she will feel a little better and she will be ready to rumble. The 19-time Grand Slam always finds a way and she will need to. Safarova hasn’t played much better this year and during the past 13 days, she has been outstanding, knocking off Maria Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza and Ana Ivanovic, which is darn good. Safarova has improved her angles, from both her forehand and backhand, she can go down the lines, she is pretty fast and when she really wants it, he can kiss the lines with her first serves. Plus, her doubles have improved (she is in the final with Bethanie Mattek-Sands) which has helped her at the net.

Serena is bigger and stronger but she has struggled during the fortnight, having to win four three-setters. She will have to do it again, and this time she will have to go up into the wall, but once again Williams will win her third Roland Garros, her 20th Grand Slam overall. By the end of this year, she could have tied with the legendary Steffi Graf at 22. Who would have thunk it?

Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray will continue on in the semis with the Serbian is up over the Scot 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-3. Murray came roaring back, but Murray had a big chance up a break early in the fourth set and let it go. If Murray can upset Djokovic (and yes Novak has beaten him seven matches in a row), he has to go super strong in the beginning. On Saturday, the will start at 1 pm.

Stan Wawrinka took down Jo Tsonga in four sets in nearly four hours. The Swiss has the best one-handed backhand in the business now, better over his buddy Roger Federer on that side over the past two years. However, Stan is way up and down and while he can whale from every side, we have no idea who is going to show up. We assume he will be happy, he will be fine and ready to go. He hopes. But if he is in the zone, he could beat either Djokovic or Murray to win his second Slam title.

Serena vs Sloane: The Picks, Roland Garros. Does Stephens has a real chance?

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Monday, June 1

Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens

Obviously Victoria Azarenka was very upset at a line call at 5-4 in the second set, when she hit a heavy ball on the line but Serena argued that it was a late call of out. The umpire inspected the mark and saw that the shot was good, but the point would be replayed. Vika was very angry.

Yes, maybe Azarenka could have woken up again or feel confident, believing that she can finally beat Serena at a Grand Slam, but she did not.

Because really, Williams was down 2-4 in the second set and then she knew she had to step on the gas and she did, grabbing 10 of 12 games and winning 3-6 6-4 6-2. She was down 0-2 in the third set, and then she found the lines quickly and the upset Azarenka was erratic. She seemed to be dreaming and she lost six straight games. She was out-hit, pure and simple and, if Azarenka can ever beat Williams, she will have to stay there every second, because at the Slams – in fact at every tournament – you can never give in. To a degree in Paris on Saturday, she did not.

Williams will play Stephens, who played the best match all year by blowing out Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-1. Stephens says that she loves the red clay, and she shined here, having reached Roland Garros at the fourth round, four years in a row. She is only 22 years old, and she still has a long way to go, but she has reached into the second week at Paris once again and she can really play. Without question, she is super fast, she can crack off both wings and she can mix up her first serves. But at times, she will push the balls, waiting for mistakes, which is why she almost disappeared during the past year. Stephens likes to start slow during the points and when her foe pushes the balls into the center and short she can attack, but against Williams she has to try and dictate from word go. Williams not only can dominate with her giant serves, but if she is feeling good she can attack immediately off Stephens’ second serve. She won’t give her room. If she has any real chance, she has to be comfortable and lock it in, because after Stephens shocked Serena in the quarterfinals at the 2013 Australian Open, they battled off the court and since then, Sloane has become very shy. She has to get in her face. But she won’t again as Serena will win in straight sets.

Sara Errani vs. Julia Goerges

The Italian has been one of the most consistent on clay over the past five years or so and she really took it against Andrea Petkovic, winning 6-3 6-3. She is pretty small so she cannot over power her opponents, but she can grind it against almost anyone. That will occur against Julia Goerges, who beat Irina Falconi 6-4 6-1. Goerges can smack her forehands, but she can disappear during key moments. She will at RG and Errani will reach it into the quarters once again.

Petra Kvitova vs. Timea Bacsinszky

Once the Czech gets into the match, then she is just fine. She was very clean in besting Irina Begu 6-3 6-2, and now she was to figure out the Swiss, Timea Bacsinszky, who was very accurate in beating Madison Keys 6-4 6-2. Bacsinszky will try to mix up her attacks, but the big lefty Kvitova can go every which way but loose. The two-time Wimbledon champion will win in three sets, but there will be some long rallies.

Alison Van Uytvanck vs. Andreea Mitu

How, who and why? The unknown Van Uytvanck of Belgium beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-1, and the totally unknown Andreea Mitu of Romania overcame Francesca Schiavone 7-5 6-4. Van Uytvanck has played well during the qualifies, while Mitu seems to love clay as she has played a ton of tournament. A true pick’em here, but Mitu is more comfortable on the clay and will win in three sets.

And Simona Halep had a dream…Another lost at the majors

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ROLAND GARROS, DAY 4: Two years ago, Simona Halep wasn’t much at all. She was out of the top 60, she wasn’t able to beat the best players and it appeared that she would stay middle of the road. But after she lost early in 2013 Roland Garros, she perked up, changed her tactics, she was willing to take risks. She no longer just pushed the ball around and she was willing to try and hit the lines.

The Romanian decided that right now she was going to be consistent – left, right, down the middle– anywhere. For the most part, she gave it all, winning week after week at the small tournaments, but she was gaining and by 2014, she was already there. She reached the final of Roland Garros, nearly beating Maria Sharapova, but she lost 6-4 in the third when the Russian flew away, grabbing the last eight points. However, the world began to know who she was and now it looked like that the 23 year old had a real chance to win at the major. But unfortunately, she has stopped at the Grand Slams. She has looked lights out at a number of WTA tournaments, like winning Bucharest, reaching the WTA Final, winning Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells.

But at the Grand Slam, she has been so-so. She looked pretty good at 2014 Wimbledon, reaching the semifinal and she had a legitimate show to reach the final, but she was out-stroked against  Genie Bouchard. Then at the US Open, the veteran Mirjana Lucic, who has rarely gotten deep, stunned her.

In 2015, she thought she was ready to charge at the Australian Open, but as she admitted later, she didn’t feel right mentally and she loss to Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-0.

On Tuesday in the second round of the Roland Garros, Lucic beat him again, in straight sets, where she wasn’t feeling the ball. As she said, she needs to fix things, but she doesn’t really understand why she isn’t playing cool and precise at the Grand Slams. But outside the court, she will think about it deeply. Because if she doesn’t, she will never win a Grand Slam.

I still dream for many things in this life and in this career, because I have many years to go, and so if I lost today, it doesn’t mean that I cannot play anymore or I don’t win any more matches,” she said. “I just want to take the decision to see what I did wrong, what I have to do better, to be better, and to speak with my team, because together we have to decide some things. You know, I feel okay. Emotions, no, I don’t feel anymore emotions. They are gone. Maybe I had pressure, as well, but, you know, I feel more relaxed now than before the match. So this is a good point, because now I relax myself and I can smile, look forward to go to the next tournament. I have nothing to do now. Everything is lost here.”

 

 

 

Notes on a Draw Sheet: Taylor Townsend struggling, now working with coach Donald Young Sr.

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ROLAND GARROS, DAY 3 —  The American Taylor Townsend is now working under her old/new coach Donald Young Sr (his son is Donald Jr.). Townsend – who lost in the first round at RG — grew up in Atlanta, where the senior Young taught her when she was a kid. Now, she is returning to the Peach State. Townsend was working in Florida with the USTA for a few years and now she wants to try Young once again. Townsend was also been hitting with Zina Garrison last year, who lives in Houston.

It sounds like she is trying to settle down.

In March, she had a stress reaction in her ankle and she had to wear a boot for a couple of weeks. She hadn’t played until early May as she was out for two  months.

When she was out, she was sitting around and knew she had to make some change.

“Just mentally, physically, just everything was just trying to get healthy,” she said. “I was just trying to get back to basic things. It’s very rare that you can have someone that’s willing to coach you again who basically built your game up. [Donald] taught me how to play tennis, so he knows my game like the back of my hand. He knows my strokes and everything, the way I’m supposed to be playing. He knows the best way that I can play. He’s seen me when I was at my best, playing the game that I know I can play. So I just wanted to get back to that and just go back to basics. Get back with my family and just try to build a strong foundation, base, and just get back grounded again.”

Currently ranked No. 130, Taylor is only 19 years old … so she has a long way to go. She is very strong and has a lot of variety, but at times she isn’t sure which way she is going.

Last year, Townsend reached the third round at Roland Garros when she stunned the Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. She was only 18 years old and it appeared that she was ready to climb.

During last summer she qualified at Washington and Cincinnati, but, in the US Open, she had to face Serena Williams in the first round and she was crushed 6-3, 6-1. After that she lost her touch.

This year, she hasn’t won much at all, falling to Caroline Wozniacki twice and against Sam Stosur.  Her long-term goals is, “Top 10, Top 5 and win all the Grand Slams several times.” That is ambitious, but the 2012 Australian junior champion has a long way to go. She wasn’t progressing, so now she is hoping that she will be better, and soon.

“I was variety and what makes me special, using my slice and coming into the net and just trying to incorporate something that’s not the same,” she said. “I wasn’t doing that a lot. I was coming to net and being aggressive, but I wasn’t using everything that I know I have. My coach saw that, and we immediately jumped on that. Just trying to get me back to doing thing that I know works for me and just using variety and being creative out there.”

AND MORE, FROM ALL OF THE PLACE

The US Open champion Marin Cilic says he is finally hitting the ball well again. The Croatian has been hurt since last October and he just started back on court. He won his first match at RG. A number of people have forgotten that he is even here.

When I’m at the court I’m feeling confident; I feel that I’m playing good,” he said. “Just it’s sometimes that things don’t set up themselves like when you are confident. I mean, for example, like when you have a lot of matches, wins, things like that, you’re going to bring the best shots on some crucial moments. I think that’s what helps you the most.”

Caroline Wozniacki says that the courts at RG have changed, at least a little bit. She likes the colors on court.

I think there are much more clay on the courts in general,” she said. “I think there are more bad bounces because of that. I think in previous years it’s been much less clay, been faster to play on. The color of the clay, I think we’re used to it by now and getting our socks and shoes dirty. The orange clay on it it’s still going to look good. I’m wearing yellow these weeks, so I think that contrasts well on to the clay. It kind of brightens it all up, even when it’s a gray day out there, I’m still shining bright (smiling).”

Madison Keys says that her main coach Lindsay Davenport is here, as is her husband Jon Leach, but the player/coach Lisa Raymond is not here at RG. … Eugenie Bouchard, who lost in the first round, says she is hoping to play a lot grass. … Richard Gasquet has been hurt a ton this year but he says. “I’m ready for this fight.”… Novak Djokovic knows Rafa Nadal so well at RG. After all, the Spaniard has won nine titles here. “He loves playing on clay, especially here in Paris. Best of five, as well, something that is playing in his favor, because there are not many players who can compete physically with him. To accept the fact that you’re going to have to play a lot of long rallies, you’re going to have to win the points, he’s not going to give you, he’s one of the best defenders ever to play the game. So he plays with a lot of heavy topspin. You spend a lot of energy to win one set and you have to win three. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so successful here.”

Modest in victory, or so says Rafa Nadal. On French Open: “I think I can do it. Then do it is another thing.”

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By Kamakshi Tandon

Rafael Nadal has come into the French Open for years insisting that he should not be called the favorite. That he does not go into matches confident of victory. That he is only practicing hard, doing his best, looking to be competitive. And all the while, onlookers would dismiss his remarks and — usually correctly — all but hand him the trophy before the tournament even began.

Now, there is no need for Nadal to say any of this. He is not the favorite, not confident, just looking to stay competitive. Now is when he might want to sound circumspect. But he has done the opposite, dropping his usual modesty to assert his abilities and insist he is still the same player. It looks like the only way to get Nadal to be confident might be to lack confidence in him.

Having heard the Spaniard downplay his success for so long, it’s quite a change to hear him talking up his chances. But that is what the now No.7-ranked player now finds himself having to do. With just one minor title on clay and no trophies at the European events coming into the French Open, he has had to strike a different note than when he was on an unbeaten or almost unbeaten run. Instead of arguing he hasn’t been cruising, the 28-year-old now argues he hasn’t completely collapsed.

“Obviously, I didn’t have the best clay season the last couple of years. It’s obviously that I had more up and downs. Even like this I was able to play semifinals in Master 1000, another final, and one quarterfinals. It’s not terrible, but if we compare with other years, obviously looks bad, no?” he said before the tournament got underway. “That’s always gonna happen when you achieve a lot in the past. Always going to have the compar[is]ions, but that’s it. ”But seriously, my last couple of weeks have been much more positive than what the results said. Probably in Rome I was playing much better than the result was, no? So is a court that I like. Is a tournament that I love. I am going to try to put my game in a position that gonna give me the chance. If I am able to do it, I have enough experience here.”

While winning three Masters before the French Open never left him assured of being champion, winning none this time has not deterred him. “My feelings are good,” he said, suggesting he’s doing quite well for a player who started the seasion having barely played for six months because of injury and illness. “Obviously when you lose more than other years it’s obvious the confidence is a little bit less. But the positive thing is I started again in January after tough second half of the year last year. And since January, day after day, I think I improved a lot. I having less bad days than in the first few months. I am a little bit more consistent, I feel.”

Once, he would arrive at the French Open and say his first goal was to win the first round. This time, he will go as far as to aim to “try to play a great tournament here.”

“I think I can do it. Then do it is another thing. I’m going to try my best, and I think can happen,” he said.

Once, he would question himself. This time, he is encouraging himself. “When I say I don’t know what’s gonna happen, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have confidence on myself to try to be ready for it. I have to think that I am ready for it. But I know sometimes that it’s tougher to be ready for it.”

And if nothing else, Nadal notes, he has already won a record nine titles at the tournament. “Obviously winning nine times here is difficult to equal,” casually mentions the all-time great, though he is not usually one to talk a lot about his impressive record of achievements.

The new, defiant Nadal doesn’t sound like the familiar, unassuming one, but the circumstances have changed more than he has. His position now is not that different from his position in previous years. Anything can happen, he would say. Anything can happen, he says now. Like many established champions before him, Nadal no longer has as firm a grip on victory, but it is still within his grasp.

One thing, though, has changed. Nadal might not be playing as well as before, but he’s talking a better game than he ever used to do.