The Pick, Stuttgart, April 25: Halep vs Wozniacki, is Caro finally ready to grind again?

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Maria Sharapova went down early against Angie Kerber, Petra Kvitova lost to Madison Brengle and all of a sudden, Caroline Wozniacki had hope, not that she would win instantaneously, but everyone was vulnerable and if she was willing to grind it, she might be able to exhaust anyone. She looked terrific to beat Carlos Suarez on Friday, which was not easy at all considering that the Spaniard loves clay and she has admittedly that the dirt has given her the most trouble.

But at least this week, she has not been emotionally bankrupt and feeling spry. However while all the players out there were vulnerable, one did not: Simona Halep, who she has to face in the semifinal. The Romanian has been almost untouchable since February, winning just about everything, and nearly besting the great Serena Williams in Miami (although the last game was spotty at best). Here in Stuttgart she had to play Garbine Muguruza, who had beat Halep on the Fed Cup in Romania. But this time, on clay, she kept hitting the corners and won in three sets. That was gigantic because the Spaniard was willing to strike. Halep was ready, she didn’t just be reactive, but who saw her game beautifully.

That is what she occurred in Dubai in February, when she beat Wozniacki 2-6 6-1 6-1 in Dubai. She challenged the Dane’s sporadic forehand and charged. She faked her backhands when it looked like that her crosscourt would stay their forever but she went down the line very early and Wozniacki was confused. Yes, Caro was hurting during the third match, but she was healthy enough and simply lost because she didn’t know where to go.

What now on Saturday? The only way that Wozniacki can win over Halep is if she can stroke her forehands and backhands deep. Yes, she will also have to throw in some drop shots, but both of them are super fast so Caro can’t allow them to run up and go anywhere she wants. She has to fool her and then go for her much improved spinning lobs over her head. Her backhand is by far her best shot so she had to swing away early and often because Halep is pretty darn good, too.

Wozniacki has struggled this year but at least she’s trying. Maybe she has a real chance to win a big tournament again but not yet, and certainly not on clay. Halep will fight for hours, but won’t need to and will win in two entertaining sets.

The Pick, WTA at Stuttgart, April 23: Kvitova is ready for clay vs. Brengle; Wozniacki and Safarova face off

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Petra Kvitova looked just fine at Fed Cup last weekend, winning two contests over the French. Now the Czech has to play the American Madison Brengle, the only US in the draw at Stuttgart. Kvitova has been up and down forever, looking like she could wipe out everyone at Wimbledon, and then fading at the US Open. She has been awful at times on clay, but she has been very good at times, reaching the semifinal at Roland Garros three years ago.

Is she ready to dance this year? Who knows, but she is refreshed now after resting during March and now she is happy. Brengle has improved a tremendous amount over the past year and not only can she grind it from the baseline, but she can also attack the ball. She will threaten Kvitova, but Petra’s left-handed serve can be deadly and she will win in two tight sets.

Carolina Wozniacki has been working with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the former No. 1 who has rarely watched with the kids, but maybe she has changed now and she understands exactly how the Dane is played. Maybe on clay, Wozniacki will just grind as long her foes grow exhausted and then she can attack. That’s what the three-time RG champ Sanchez did, who was never tired. However, these days almost all the women can crush their forehands –where Sanchez could not — so if Caro just pushes the ball against Lucie Safarova, she will be gone pretty quickly.

The other Czech, Safarova, also played very well at the Fed Cup, so the lefty is happy and ready to move forward and crush her strokes down the line. These two know each other well and Caro can out-run her, but she hasn’t played well much of the year and she has to prove that she feels fine again. Safarova is and will win in three sets.

I am not going to pick with Maria Sharapova against Angie Kerber because even though Maria has been lights out at Stuttgart as she has won the last three years, she is coming off an injury on her leg and she’s vulnerable. Kerber was out of it all year up until Charleston, but then she rose, played beautifully and won the title on green clay. Last Sunday against Russia, she blitzed her foe on red clay, although Germany ended up losing. But the lefty is back, at home and is ready to battle for three hours against Sharapova. Can Angie win? Possibly but she better yank her around quickly and not hope that Sharapova is totally off. This will go three sets, but who will win on Wednesday? It’s a toss-up.

 

Fed Cup, Winners & Losers, April 19: Czechs & Russia reach final. Kvitova returns, Vesnina helps team, Germany falls

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The World Group

Czech Republic d France 3-0

WINNERS: The Czech Republic is unstoppable, once again. On Saturday, Petra Kvitova swept aside Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-4. Then Lucie Safarova — who has been so impressive over the past two and half years and rarely panics at the Fed Cup — overcame Caroline Garcia 4-6 7-6(1) 6-1. Kvitova, who hasn’t played since February, beat Garcia 6-4, 6-4 to win the tie 3-0 over France on Sunday.

The Czechs beat Germany in the final at Prague last year over Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic; they beat Serbia in Prague in 2011 over Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic; they beat Russia 3-2 in the final 2010 in Moscow over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Kirilenko, among others. Now the Czechs will play the final again, this time against Russia once again and presumably, in Prague. Do Kvitova and Safarova want a piece against Maria Sharapova? You bet they do.

LOSERS: Caroline Garcia has improved quite a bit this year but she has to be more patient and not go for winners immediately. She will in time.

Russia d Germany 3-2

The Germans thought it a had a real chance to take down the Russians after Sharapova pulled out, but they couldn’t do it when. in the fifth rubber, the excellent doubles player Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova wiped out Andrea Petkovic and Sabine Lisicki in straight sets.

Captain Barbara Rittner had so many different choices. She said that Kerber, who had won Charleston last week, was too tired and didn’t arrive until Wednesday so she needed to rest. Petkovic, who made it into the semifinals, was also tired and hurt. But they had five days before Saturday, so if they were OK, why not just put them on Saturday? At the Grand Slams, you have one day off, and then you are ready to play again. Unless you are injured, that’s fine, but if they are OK, then go with it. That is why they are the main competitors.

However, Rittner felt that Julia Goerges has been good at times on the clay and Lisicki had been played well at Indian Wells and Miami. But they both lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova and then Germany was in serious trouble. But whoops, Petkovic and Kerber were ready on Sunday, they destroyed Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova and they were ready to grab the tie. But hold on.

Rittner decided to use Petkovic and Lisicki instead of trying Goerges, but Lisicki grew nervous and wasn’t listening, while Petkovic began to get frustrated. Vesnina knew exactly where she should be and what she would do and Russia won it. Props for the captain Anastasia Myskina, who talked to the team and calmed them down at 2-2. You can guarantee that she will want Sharapova to be the leader in the final.

LOSERS: Rittner paid and they lost and that was painful. But her team has stuck in there and they have to give her another chance in 2016.

WORLD GROUP PLAYOFF

Italy d USA 3-2

Serena Williams did not play spectacular in singles by beating Camila Giorgi and Sara Errani, but in the fifth rubber, she and Alison Riske lost 6-0 6-3 to Errani and Flavia Pennetta. Props to Errani and Pennetta who really know how to mix in their shots, but Serena and Riske weren’t very enthusiastic.

LOSERS: The younger girls still have a lot to learn, including Riske, Lauren Davis and Christina McHale who lost very quickly and quietly.

Switzerland d Poland 3-2

Crazy days, that is for sure. Aga Radwanska comes out firing and beats Martina Hingis 6-4 6-0, her best match all year, even though the former No. 1 hasn’t played singles in eight years. The Swiss Timea Bacsinszky has played very well over the past two months, and she whacked Urszula Radwanska 6-2 6-1. But then Bacsinszky smoked Radwanska 6-1 6-1. That was stunning. Hingis surpisingly fell to Urszula 4-6 7-5 6-1. Back in the day, Hingis would play for hours and never looked tired. Now at the age of 34, she looks terrific moving around in the doubles, but on singles, she is not as fast. But getting tired after a couple of hours? She must have been super nervous inside, because there is no reason that her legs were heavy.

Whatever the case, Hingis didn’t play the doubles because she couldn’t run anymore, but Bacsinszky was gutsy again, playing with Viktorija Golubic and they beat Aga and Alicja Rosolska 2-6 6-4 9-7.

LOSES: Without question, Aga Radwanska has been reeling, losing to everyone and everything this year. Losing easily at home against Bacsinszky — who has played lights out – by the once former Wimbledon final shows that she is very confused.

Romania d Canada 3-0

Good for Genie Bouchard who changed her mind and came to Montreal. However, she is really slumping, losing both matches to Alexandra Dulgheru and Andreea Mitu, a real unknown. But, the tennis world knows her now. The top Romanian’s Irina-Camelia Begu couldn’t even play on Sunday because she was hurt (she beat Francoise Abanda on Saturday). Credit to all the players who won as there No. 2 Simona Halep couldn’t make it.

LOSSES: Bouchard has lost her rhythm, but she took a big hit by not shaking hands with Dulgheru at the tie. People will talk about it all year long, or until she retires.

Netherlands d Australia 3-1

It looked like Australia would win easily, but Sam Stosur was hurt and couldn’t play. The Netherlands played as well as they could, with Kiki Bertens winning two matches, beating Jarmila Gajdosova and Casey Dellacqua, while Arantxa Rus grabbed one over Gajdosova 0-6 7-5 7-5 to end it. Props to the captain, the former ATP pro Paul Haarhuis, who gave them self belief.

LOSSES: Gajdosova should have been able to best Rus, who is ranked at No. 217.

Anything odd about Berdych’s French Open chances?

History suggests Tomas Berdych is one to avoid following at the French Open this year, but his performance in reaching the Monte Carlo Masters final hinted he should not be quickly dismissed when it comes to Roland Garros.

The Czech was beaten in three sets by Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo and he pushed the world No.1 all the way, with unforced errors not helping his chances of pulling off a shock victory. But, in what was the first tournament of the European clay-court season, it offered plenty of encouragement for Berdych when it comes to the French Open, where he has a mixed record.

Berdych’s best run in Paris came in 2010 when he beat a bad-tempered Andy Murray in the last 16 before losing in five sets to Robin Soderling in the semi-finals. Last year, he advanced to the quarter-finals before being beaten in straight sets by Ernests Gulbis.

However, the fascinating feature of Berdych’s French Open record is that he tends to struggle at Roland Garros when the year ends in an odd number, which on that basis does not make positive reading for his 2015 chances.

In 2013, Berdych suffered a first-round defeat by Gael Monfils and he was beaten at the same stage by Stephane Robert in 2011 after holding a two-set lead. Another five-setter was Berdych’s undoing in 2009 in the first round when he recovered from a two-set deficit to level before going out against Simone Bolelli. And, in 2007, Berdych was beaten in straight sets in the first round by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

So, if Berdych can overcome that slightly unusual statistic and progress past the first round this year, then his price of 33/1 with betfair to win the French Open at the time this article was produced could look generous, if he lands in the right half of the draw. That is exactly what happened in Monte Carlo, where Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer were all in the other side of the draw. Berdych was in control of his quarter-final before Milos Raonic retired and he thrashed Roger Federer’s conqueror Monfils 6-1, 6-4 in the semi-finals.

Following his defeat by Djokovic in the final, Berdych acknowledged he is missing one step in his clay game, but he has time to work on that as he is missing the Barcelona Open.

He reached the final on clay in Madrid three years ago, losing to Federer, and has won tournaments in Palermo and Munich on that surface. Berdych has also reached three finals already so far this year.

Against the top players, Berdych does often fall a little short, but he has the game to test the best and he has a chance of reaching his second Grand Slam final after losing to Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010 when he had beaten Federer and Djokovic in earlier rounds.


This article was submitted by Betfair and was not written by TennisReporters.net writers.

The Pick, April 14: Dimitrov vs. Verdasco, is Grigor ready to turn around and win matches again?

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9-Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco

Without question, Dimitrov has been struggling big time. He has so much potential that if he can right his ship, than slowly he can come back to form. He has a terrific variety, can mix up his one-handed backhand, and he can take over the net. However, this year he is changing where he is going and what he is trying to do. Whether or not he is trying to be more basic, or he is using every shot to mankind, he has to find something that works soon.

Now they are on clay, playing in the famous, idyllic Monte Carlo. Dimitrov lost to David Ferrer in the fourth round last year, but after that, he was fairly decent on clay, winning Bucharest and reached the semifinal in Rome, where he lost to Rafa Nadal. Of course, Ivo Karlovic shocked him in the first round at Roland Garros, but the Croat can bomb away, any time, anywhere.

Fernando Verdasco loves the clay, but he has had a so-so this year, losing in the semifinals at Houston when he lost to Sam Querrey. Two days later, he had to fly across the ocean so he could have been exhausted in the late afternoon. The lefty has a tremendous forehand, a pretty good first serve and, when he is feeling right, he will go for his backhand down the line. But after his long trip he will be spaced out and Dimitrov knows that he has to start winning now. He will win in three sets.

The First Quarter, the men on the top 20: Djokovic an A plus, but Gulbis an F?

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Novak Djokovic A+

OK Djokovic lost to Karlovic in Doha and to Federer in Dubai, but when he was ready to rock and roll again in the three biggest tournaments – the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami – he was faster and nearly perfect inside the baseline. On hard courts he is phenomenal.

Roger Federer A- 
The great Swiss fought hard to win Brisbane, he was stunned by Seppi in the third round at the Australian Open, he was super consistent at winning Dubai over Djokovic, and reached the final at Indian Wells, when he lost to Novak in three entertaining sets. OK, he is not perfect by any means, but he is 33 years old and if he is close versus the 27-year-old Djokovic then you have to clap your hands and say ‘The old guy still has a real Slam left in him.’

Andy Murray B+
The Britain has been pretty consistent this year, reaching the final of the Aussie Open, the semis of Indian Wells and the final of Miami. He is whipping his backhand, his forehand is stronger and he is willing to charge the net. However, he fell to Djokovic in all three big matches, and lost 6-0 at the end of the Aussie and IW encounters. He looks better
than he was in 2014, but he hasn’t figured out exactly how he can bother Novak when it’s crunch time.

David Ferrer B+
Just when you thought that the 33-year-old would start to sink he is right back in there. He won Doha, Rio and Acapulco. He wasn’t great at the Aussie Open, IW and Miami, but he is hacking away, every time out.

 
Kei Nishikori B
If this was last year, maybe he would be given an B+, but during the last few months, the Japanese 25-year-old was OK, but not great. When you are ranked No. 4, it means being ready to win some big titles, but he hasn’t been able to challenge the big boys, losing to Wawrinka, Ferrer, Lopez, Isner and splitting with Raonic. Yes he won at Memphis against Anderson, yes he was ambitious at the Davis Cup but at the Aussie Open, IW and Miami, he was so-so.

Rafa Nadal B 
In the second half in 2014, the Spaniard had a very tough season. He was very hurt and he knew when he would come back he wasn’t going to be 100 percent in 2015. In the past three months, he has been OK, but as he said, he is a little scared. He is not swinging away with his backhand, his forehand is up and down and he needs to be more aggressive.He lost to Berdych at the Aussie Open, he lost to Raonic at the IW and to Fernando Verdasco at Miami. Unusual, but the former No. 1 is trying hard.

Milos Raonic B 
The Canadian was oh-so-close, winning some fine players, and barely losing to the top competitors. He lost against Federer twice at Brisbane and Indian Wells, Djokovic had his number at the Aussie Open, and he was right there against Wawrinka at Rotterdam. But he split with Nishikori and upended Nadal at Indian Wells. Raonic and Isner played a terrific match at Miami where the big boys went at it all night. If the Canadian improves a little bit, he could be besting the Big 4 frequently.

Tomas Berdych B
The 29-year-old Czech has been pretty consistent, only losing to the top 10ers:   Ferrer, Murray (twice), Wawrinka, Djokovic and Federer. None of the guys outside of  top 10 were able to twist Tomas, but he was only able to stun one of the majors, shocking Rafa at the Australian. Pretty good, but not spectacular.

Stanislas Wawrinka B 
The bazooka backhand came outof the gates in January, winning Chennai, reaching the Aussie semis (although he disappeared in the fifth set against Novak) and then he won Rotterdam. But he flamed out during Marseille, IW and Miami. He can be terrific, but he overplays.

John Isner B 
The American had lost a lot of confidence after Davis Cup against Britain, but he vowed that he was coming
together and he was, beating Anderson at IW and at Miami, he bested Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic before falling to Djokovic. That saved his season.

Feliciano Lopez C+
‘Feli’ is 33 years old and he is so much more intelligent on court. However while he did reach the final of Ecuador on
clay and he upset Nishikori at IW, he’s lost fairly early overall.

Gilles Simon C+

The French veteran started very slowly, but he did win Marseille in a terrific final over Monfils. But other than that, you tell me.

Kevin Anderson C
The tall hard hitter rarely loses to the unknown players, but he only won one against of the top 30 – Richard Gasquet – and you know he has to play better if he ever is going to knock down the big boys.

Gael Monfils C- 
OK, Gael was hurt again (stunner) and he did reach the final of Marseille. He also won a big match over Kohlschreiber in the Davis Cup, but he was in and out all the time.

Roberto Bautista Agut   D+ 
The 26-year-old Spaniard had a   terrific year in 2014, but he has done very little in the first three months, not playing on clay in South America.   He didn’t win a notable contest on the hard courts either.

 
Grigor Dimitrov D+ 
Admittedly , the Bulgarian is changing his strokes and that takes time. At least he is being honest, so you can’t expect him to be winning tournaments. However, he gets frustrated and he has done nothing during the first three months. At all.

Tommy Robredo D
The 32-year-old Spaniard went 4-6, beating three guys outside of the top 90 and one top 11 in the slumping Dimitrov.   He is slumping, too.

 
Ernests Gulbis F  
He is 1-7 this year and he lost to anywhere, anytime. He has to go back to square one.

Marin Cilic – Incomplete
After the Croat had a shoulder injury, the US Open champion just came back in IW, losing in the first round.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Incomplete
The Frenchman is also just coming back from injury, returning in Miami, where he lost in the second round. He is very good, but he is always hurt.

The Pick, Miami: Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep. Is the Romanian ready to upset the near perfect American?

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1-Serena Williams vs. 3-Simona Halep

This is a gigantic match because Halep wants to show the world that she is good enough for anyone, which includes the world No. 1, Serena Williams. The Romanian has said that she wants to win a Slam and become No.1 but in order to do so, she has to knock off the queen, assuming that Serena stays healthy.

At the age of 33 years old, Williams can’t be at No. 1 forever, but right now, she is the best player by a long shot and there is no one, and I mean no one, has proven that they have beaten Serena if she is playing 100 percent.

With that said, Halep has been more consistent over the past two years and on the hard courts, she seems exactly what to do. Of course she hasn’t won every tournament and yes Maria Sharapova has troubled her, but she hasn’t taken one loss, become extremely emotional and disappear. Now she is calm and after a loss, wake up the next day, lift her chin up and moved on. That’s why she has won 14-matches in a row at Doha, at Indian Wells and now in Miami.

Unfortunately, Williams pulled out of Indian Wells prior to their semifinal and Halep was unable to take her gloves off and seize the day. Two weeks later, the 24 year old will have another chance with even more confidence.

Interestingly, the last time they played was in the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore. Halep was on fire and super consistent and Serena had not woken up yet. Simona crushed her 6-0 6-2 in the Round Robin. Serena was very upset, saying that her serve was so bad that she was worse than the 10-and-unders. Then she locked in and by the time for the final against Halep, she was ready to nail the lines everywhere and got her right back, smoking Simona 6-3 6-0. Mentally, Halep wasn’t there, as she knew that Serena was going to play very well and she was nervous at the first ball.

That was in late October and now it is April 2. Serena hasn’t lost a match since then and outside of the Australian Open quarterfinal against Makarova and at Fed Cup when she went down to Muguruza, Halep has been very smart. She hasn’t played great every match but she has imposed herself, winning seven matches in three sets, which means that she isnt panicking.

The 19-Grand-Slam Serena rarely panics, so if Halep can win the match she has to fight all the way from the finish line. Williams is a much better serve, as she can boom the ball, ace after ace. Halep’s first serve has improved and can kiss the lines, but if she has to hit her second serves frequently, she has to take her chance because if she just pops it into the middle Serena will crush her returns where Halep cannot even touch them.

Halep can run all day and she is super fast, so if she can start the points 50-50 she will be right there, but she cannot push the ball and merely hope. She has to attack almost immediately and go for her favorite combo – her backhand crosscourt sharp and her foe is stretched to her left and then hammer her backhand down the other side and on the line – and any time Serena is out of position she has to move forward.

Serena is more powerful and can certainly out slug her with her forehand, which is heavier and deeper. If Williams is feeling well, then she will charge the net and end the points quickly.

Really, if Serena plays great she will win the match, even if Halep plays a terrific contest. Serena is still just better than she is. However, even though Serena has dominated Miami over the years, she is due to lose this year – right?

Serena won’t play fantastic, Halep will and grab it in three tremendous sets.

 

Miami, first week, Who is in, who is out? Pennetta, Monfils, Murray win; Nadal, Azarenka, Ivanovic lose

Ivanovic IW 15 TR MALT2696THE WOMEN

No. 15 Flavia Pennetta d Victoria Azarenka 7 -6(5) 7-6(6):

Given how well Azarenka has been rising again and playing better overall, it looked like the Belarussian was ready to take out anyone expect for Serena. But Pennetta is in the zone again, upsetting a former No. 1 Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells and now she stunning another No. 1, Azarenka. Pennetta wants to possibly return at the end of the year? She can be so good that there is no absolutely no chance if she stays healthy.

No. 27 Sabine Lisicki d No. 5-Ana Ivanovic 7-6(4) 7-5:

The German is finally playing better again, crushing her forehand and booming her first serves, but coming into the New Year, she thought that she might be able to win a Grand Slam again, but after nearly taking down Maria Sharapova at Brisbane, Ivanovic looked nervous again and she is now all over the place. She is not happy, at all.

No. 11 Sara Errani d beat No. 21 Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-4 6-1:

The Italian really needed the win because she hasn’t been able to best the better players, so now she will attack more often due to her confidence factor. The Spaniard has had a good last three months and now needs to rest and get ready for the clay, which she loves.

 Belinda Bencic d Tatjana Maria 6-4 7-5:

The young Swiss has turned it around now she isn’t panicking. If Bencic stays healthy, watch her crack to the top 20 by Wimbledon.

No. 1 Serena Williams d Catherine Bellis 6-1 6-1:

Bellis is very, very young, and Serena is very, very excellent and more mature. Bellis has years ahead.

No. 24 Svetlana Kuznetsova d No. 13 Angelique Kerber 6-3 3-6 6-3:

“Sveta” has a lot of guile and guts but Kerber has had an awful three months this year. Simply put: she has to remember that a top player who can grind down anyone if she actually believes. Try it.

 No. 3 Simona Halep d No. 30 Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5:

Halep is so confident right now that she thinks that even if she isn’t playing well, she can also figure out how to win. She doesn’t get wild like Giorgi does at times.

Sloane Stephens d Johanna Larsson 6-4 6-4:

Stephens is getting better and better and if she matures, she can be in the top 10 – or the top 5 – at the end of her year.

 

THE MEN

 No. 29-Fernando Verdasco d 2-Rafa Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3:

Clearly, Nadal isn’t at 100 percent. He hasn’t won a tournament since last Roland Garros and he admitted that he is lacking confidence. Verdasco has lost to Rafa so many times, but he could tell that his fellow Spaniard was a bit shaky. He was correct and now Nadal has to sit down, talk to his parents and uncles, take a breath and just grind until he feels 100 percent again. And then he can yank every other player, especially on clay. The clay is coming very soon.

No. 17 Gael Monfils d No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6(4):

As expected, Monfils was cool and calm and was more accurate when Jo returned after four months due to an injury. Tsonga will have a tough time on clay courts, but the big man he has to try. His body is ticking.

No. 28-Adrian Mannarino d No. 7 Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6(4) 7-6(5):

The lefty Frenchman hasn’t been able to threaten to beat the big boys, but he did in Miami, stunning Stan, who has been so-so this year. Dominic Thiem d Jack Sock 6-4 6-3: The Austria youngster took out another up and coming player, when Thiem stopped the confident USA Sock. We will see both of them for years to come.

No. 15 Kevin Anderson d No. 24-Leonardo Mayer 6-4 6-4:

Anderson is very consistent on the hard courts. Yes, it’s hard for him to beat the top-10 guys, but he can beat anyone below him, witness over Mayer. No. 3-Andy Murray d No. 27-Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-4: The Colombia has been pretty impressive over the past year, but Murray seems to have watched everyone, so he knows exactly where he can go.

No. 8-Tomas Berdych d No. 25-Bernard Tomic 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 6-1:

Tomic was right there in the second set, but Berdych nailed a couple of huge shots and repelled him. The Aussies has played almost every week since the start of the season and needs to rest – badly. He has improved a lot but he does not want to burn out.

The Picks, Monday, March 30, Miami

Carolina Wozniacki vs. Venus Williams Venus has been better over Wozniacki essentially forever, owning her head to head 6-0, beating her in three sets in the final at Auckland at the start of the year. Caro has not had a good year and she knows that this time, she has to play much more aggressive and forceful or Williams will beat her in straight sets.

Even though Venus’ forehand can be great or bad, it’s thick and stronger over Caro, who frequently pushes her forehand. Why she doesn’t step into her forehand using her left leg out in front doesn’t allow her to crunch the ball.

The Dane is faster than the 34 year old Venus is, but she is substantially better at the net. Let’s say Caro’s backhand and Venus’s backhand are even – their best serves down the line and cross court – but when the American is clicking with her first serve, she can hammer them at 120 MPH. Caro’s first serve improved during the last half of 2014, but she has regressed in 2015.

Really the only way that Wozniacki can upset Venus is that she has to go for her shots, smoke the balls, mix it up and hit sharp angles. Winner or lose, the 24 year old has to try and not push the ball around because if she does, Venus will beat the heck out of her. Venus is not as great as she was say 10 years ago, but she is still very good. She is fresh, she loves Miami and will figure out how Caro is playing. It will be close, but Venus will win, in three long sets.

The Picks, Miami, March 27: Murray v Young, Nadal v Almagro, Sock v Fognini

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Andy Murray and Donald Young once had a terrific year at the 2011 US Open and the American was very aggressive and caned with his forehand during the first week, but then the Britain was more composed and took him out in three sets. They know each other pretty well, and both know that Murray can attack with his deep backhand to the right and the left. Against Young, he also has a bigger first serve and with is cute volleys. Murray, who recently bested Young in Davis Cup last month, will win again, this time in Miami by winning in two sets.

Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro have played tons of ties, mostly on clay, and Rafa has beaten him every time, except last year, when Almagro stunned him at Barcelona. After that, Almagro was out of much of the year due to an injury, but he has looked fairly decent during the past six weeks. However, even though Nadal became hurt the other day, what he can eat him alive with his left forehand against Almagro’s one-handed backhand. Nadal is much more confident on hard courts and he win in straight sets.

Here is an upset: Stan Wawrinka is slumping again and Carlos Berlocq wants to show off in front of Argentina/Miami USA. Take Berlocq in three sets.

Late at night, the American Tim Smyczek will face Jo Tsonga who is back after an injury for the past four months. Yes, Tsonga is substantially more powerful, but Smyczek loves the large stadiums and will upset the Frenchmen in three sets.

Another American, Jack Sock, had a fine Indian Wells and already has a lot of confidence. He will go up against Fabio Fognini, whom he took him down in the doubles final. While the Italian has more variety, Sock has a bigger serve and forehand and win in three sets.

Nicole Vaidisova was ready to reach the top, but more than four years ago, the former No. 7 retired out of almost nowhere when she was only 21 years old. Now she is back and trying again but it is very difficult to figure out exactly how she can play. Back in the day, she always could crush both her forehand and backhand and also ran fairly fast. But is she ready to stun the No. 3 Simona Halep on Thursday? Not yet because the Czech just started last September and she still has miles to go. At the very least, Vaidisova will push her for a little while, but the Romanian will win in straight sets.

Two other picks, Victoria Azarenka vs. Jelena Jankovic and Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. Both are very difficult, because “JJ” rose again after she reached the Indian Wells final and then became scared at the end and lost. Keys, who reached the Aussie Open final, has been a hurt since February and has been erratic. Azarenka wants to become No.1 again and she knows JJ up and down and will out-slug her, winning in two sets.

At Indian Wells, Stephens played better than she did since 2014 Roland Garros so now it looks like she is ready to roll. She is an excellent player who is underrated – when she feels like playing. Keys has a substantial better serve, but Stephens can stay inside the box and whales away. She will best Keys in three sets.

‘We are human’ Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer to win Indian Wells

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BNP Paribas, India Wells, March 22- For a moment, it looked like Roger Federer was right there. Novak Djokovic had choked in the tiebreaker in the second set and lost it. He was up 5-3; he grew nervous and double faulted twice.   Why was the eight-time champion shaking in his boots? The Serbian pulled himself off the floor and broke the great Swiss to go up 2-0 in the third set. He was going to cruise again. But he stopped, Federer went at him and Djokovic hit a couple ugly serves and was broken again. It was 2-1, they were even, and Djokovic walked toward his chair and smashed his racket so hard that he destroyed it in piece of meat.

But he moved ahead. Then he kept cracking his forehands and backhands, then he returned everything that Federer was handling, then he kissed the lines.

Djokovic won the title 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 at the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells. He has now won 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Pretty easy.

Nope, but very impressive.

“The experience of playing many matches in the big stage and of this importance definitely helps in these particular moments to know what to play,” Djokovic said. “The right shot and stay calm and committed only to the next ball. We are all humans. We all fall under pressure sometimes. It’s completely normal, even though I have had so much experience. Roger, as well.

“Today 3‑2 in the third he made double fault to give me the break. So it does happen; it’s normal on this level with this kind of intensity and competitive spirit that is out there, it happens that you fail sometimes. It’s important to bounce back. It’s important to regroup, and, okay, let it go and move on to the next mission.”

The Swiss has played Djokovic so many times, entering the tournament 20-17 head to head. He had beaten him the past two times at Shanghai in October 2014, and at Dubai a months ago. Federer knew how to go straight at him. He was just fine mixing him up, but he knew that the only way to win is to pound him immediately. For the most part, Federer did, but he was un-able to stroke the lines. He had to over power him with his forehands because he cannot fool him with his one-handed backhand. His serves had to smoke inside this chest, or twist it outside the box. Federer was close, but not close enough.

“I thought it was positive for me,” Federer said. “Very positive physically and mentally. I think he smashed a racquet in the process. I felt like I was getting the upper hand from the baseline. I was making every return, first and second serve, so overall it was the perfect thing to happen. That’s why I’m even more disappointed that it ended up finishing the way it did. For me it was totally against the way the match was going. It was actually the comeback for me to really snap my authority on the match. He loosened up and tried to play a bit more aggressive and that worked. He did very well at that. After that he never looked back and he loosened up a bit.”

Federer acknowledged that Djokovic rarely falls apart. He will go home to Switzerland and will train, getting ready for the clay in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic has celebrate his 50th tournament win on the ATP Tour. He is now ahead of his coach, Boris Becker. He can buy a beer for his friend. Or drink a beer for himself. After all, at Indian Wells, he more than deserves it.

“It’s a great milestone. I don’t take anything for granted,” Djokovic said. “I believe that I have to earn everything that I do. I always try to look for additional motivation, because that’s something that is necessary, especially if you’re playing on the highest level.”