Iga Swiatek versus Aryna Sabalenka: another marathon

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo

Just last week, in Madrid,  in the final, Iga Swiatek  edged Aryna Sabalenka  7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7) in Madrid. That was beyond close, but in the end, the Polish person kept swinging and painting the lines. However,  Sabalenka also can read the ball, where she is throwing it to different places. They both have had a terrific year so far, most of the time, and the No. 1 and the No. 2 can focus almost all the time, point to point.

Will Swiatek go super aggressive early, or will she be more patient? Sabalenka might also leap on the second returns, and try to snap a winner. They both hit some huge forehands and there backhands, down the line, or crosscourt. They can also hit it flat, or spin it. They are very fast when they are running, and they rarely get tired. They know how they play, so they will   have to change it up a little bit, as when it goes close again, someone will chuck in some cool shots.

“Honestly, I don’t think it makes sense to think about these two matches as one continuing story because totally different tournament,” Swiatek said. “Different week, as well. It’s not like it’s going to be the same.”

Sabalenka said that all week, she was thinking why she lost. Madrid is slower, on the court, but Rome is faster. The rallies will be there, but it won’t be so long. Sabalenka might try to hit it even more deep.

“I saw somewhere Swiatek said she’s not really thinking about me when she’s practicing,” Sabalenka said, “but I personally, after so many tough matches that I lost against her, I’m always trying to improve, I’m always trying to get better. So next time I play against her I have something else to bring on court and to put her under a bit more pressure and see how many chances I’m gonna have.” 

Swiatek  won it the last time, but on Saturday, Sabalenka will rise in  another fun three sets, and the Belarus will win it 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Rome: Fritz, Paul win – how far can they go?

Tommy Paul
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It is somewhat unusual for the American men to go deep in the clay courts in Europe, but this week in Rome, Taylor Fritz  and Tommy Paul are still there. Fritz rose up in the third set and beat  Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-7(11), 6-1, while Paul mashed Daniil Medvedev 6-1, 6-4. Clearly, both Dimitrov and Medvedev looked pretty tired, given that the Russian played a very, very long match, and his legs were almost gone, but at least Paul attacked him early and often. Fritz was struggling during the first three months, but he started to be much more consistent, and to change it, more. 

Many of the American men and women don’t love in the slower clay, but eventually, if they want to really understand what they have to do, then they can be to provide.

“I think it was a pretty clean match for me, other than maybe the first or second game in both sets. I played some really good tennis,” Paul said. “I played pretty aggressive, that was the game plan coming in.”

Both of them will have to, as Fritz will take on Alexander Zverev in the quarters, a very tough opponent. Paul realizes that he will have to almost perfect, as Hubert Hurkacz won it again, upsetting the famous Rafa Nadal, and on Tuesday, he edged Sebastian Baez 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4.  He might be tired, but Hurkacz can  hit very powerful, and to  hit it deep,in the corners.

Danielle Collins is still playing wonderfully, and while she said that she will retire at the end of the year, but she has only lost one time in 2024, winning 18 matches. Her confidence is sky-high. Her forehand and her backhand are rugged, and she jumps on it, almost immediately. However, she has to face against the two-time Grand Slam champion, Vika Azarenka, who will try to dominate it, slamming it, everywhere. But the American Collins can also do the same thing, to be patient.

“I think my physicality and where I’m at mentally right now,” Collins said, “I’m just really dialed into my tactics and what I need to do against each opponent. I think I’m playing really smart tennis right now.”

She must be. The No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka is rarely tired, on the court, even when she had played for hours and hours, on the court, she just likes to run. She has to face against a fine veteran, Jelena Ostapenko, who is still addicted to try and put it away, immediately. It is possible that  Sabalenka is physically hurt, as on Monday, she needed more than three hours to edged Elena  Svitolina. Her  lower back and hip area were pretty sore, but Sabalenka might be recovered on Wednesday.  It seems like that Sabalenka loves Rome: “It’s still one of my dream tournaments.” 

Tabilo over Djokovic, Hurkacz downs Nadal

In just one day, both of the other great champion, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, were gone, losing somewhat early, in Rome. Alejandro Tabilo played a terrific match, beating Djokovic 6-2, 6-3. The No. 1 put together more than a few errors, and he also didn’t crush the ball, with his amazing backhand and his forehand. He has mentally out of it.

Nadal went down again, as he could not re-find where he needed to do,  when Hubert Hurkacz out-stroked him, winning it 6-1, 6-3. Hurkacz played fantastic, but Nadal was almost awful, very rare, that the Spaniard has won so many titles on the clay, but soon, he will retired. His body is going away, soon.

Neither Tabilo or Hurkacz have won a Grand Slam yet, but when they are on, they can beat almost everyone. Yet they have to continue to prove it, and they know that if they want to win day after day, they have to be super smart, and also, really go for it. Tabilo said, “I came on court just looking around, just trying to soak it all in and trying to process everything. I’m just trying to wake up right now.”

Well wake up, on the court, to all of them. The Chilean has to face against Karen Khachanov, a very tight match.

There is two American men still left, when Taylor Fritz beat another guy,  Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-4.  Fritz  didn’t play great, but good enough, while Korda made some so-so shots, or mediocre shots.  Korda plays almost every week, so maybe he should not play way too much during the year. Maybe he isn’t very happy.

Fritz looks better and better, reaching the semis in Madrid, so he can do it again next week in Rome.  If he does that, his confidence will shine, again, but he has to face against Grigor Dimitrov, who has been playing extremely well in 2024. That should be a long, tough match.

Tommy Paul beat Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-2, and while he has been struggling, here and there, at least he is finally liking on the clay. On the hard courts, he can be darn, good. He will face versus Dominik Koepfer, who is also smart, so just try to fool him.

There will 16 women players on the singles, on Monday, when there should be some marathons.

Naomi Osaka has become better, with her backhand, and when she is 100 percent, on the matches, she can pound anyone. However, she had a child, and she could not play for a while, but now she looks more powerful, both sides. She has to face the No. 7, Zheng Qinwen. That should be fascination, as Osaka is starting to understand on the dirt.

“I just wanted to play smart tennis. I wanted to play the higher-percentage ball no matter what,” Osaka said. “I think in that match, when it got tight, I did overhit maybe one or two shots. I kind of realized that and I tried to get back in the groove of things.  For me, I’m very aware that I can’t beat her defensively, so obviously I have to go for my shots. I don’t want to play flat here either.”

Yes, also with some spin, and low, or  really high. The No. 3 Coco Gauff has to find a way against Paula Badosa, who has lost to her three times. The other American, the No. 13 Danielle Collins, played terrific on the hard courts, but over the years, in the clay, she did not go super deep. Now she has another chance when she has to play against another veteran Irina-Camelia Begu. Win another match, and again, and again.

Rome: Alexander Zverev amazed by Rafa Nadal

Alexander Zverev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Before they start to play in Rome, Alexander Zverev talked with the journalist whether Rafa Nadal will play in Roland Garros, who will likely be the last time in Paris. Nadal has won 14 Grand Slams at Roland Garros. Zverev was playing terrific, but he fell down and he ruined his leg. He had to retire. Nadal won, eventually, and while Zverev is much better now than he returned when he did, but he still isn’t playing 100% on court.

Yet Zverev does have a few memories. When he started, on the tour, he could see that Nadal is phenomenal.

“I have mixed feelings and mixed emotions obviously about that match, about playing him there just simply because it was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever played in my career, but it was the worst ending I’ve ever had to a tennis match in my career,” Zverev said. “ [Nadal] ball becomes all of a sudden a few kilometers an hour faster. All of a sudden his footwork and foot speed becomes a lot faster.  It’s more difficult to hit a winner, especially on Philippe Chatrier, which is a massive court, so he has a lot more space. It is very difficult. It’s the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport, playing Nadal on that court.  I would love to do it one more time just simply to kind of have a different ending to those memories, right? That’s just something in my mind. I would love to play him one more time.”

They might in Rome, or in Paris, in the next four weeks. But we don’t know, yet. Nadal has not yet reached into the semis this year, playing three events, when he returned, and the injured man is still not yet healthy. But he said that he could play 100 percent, but he doesn’t sure, yet. Regardless, Nadal will fight on, and hope that he can go deep in Rome. He will face Zizou Bergs, the Belgian, on center court. People will cheer him, every second.

There are a number people who are still there, the Italian men and the women. Somewhat sadly, the world No. 2 Jannik Sinner pulled out, due to another injury, but Matteo Arnaldi can play on the number one court, and the young man will play against Tomas Machac in front of a lot of fans. He really has to feel on the ball.

Over the past year, Jasmine Paolini has added more game. She might not be very tall, but she can drive the ball, corner to corner. She is 28-years-old, which mean that she is a veteran, but she did won Dubai two months ago, so she has to  thrown in some more, aggressive, shots.

“Usually I want to hit more flat, but my coach says to me always to try to play more topspin because it’s good to have a variation on your game. I think it’s something different because in female tennis you see like more flat shots,” she said. “It’s not easy also because you need maybe a little bit more time. But I try to mix it up a little bit. I think it’s good to change a little bit the variation, the speed of the ball,”

There will be three more matches on Thursday with Emma Navarro against Paula Badosa, Shelby Rogers against the No. 7, Qinwen Zheng, and Amanda Anisimova, who just became back this year against to play with the veteran, Sara Errani. Talk about stroke after stroke, for many hours.

Andrey Rublev wins Madrid, edging Felix Auger-Aliassime

Andrey Rublev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Andrey Rublev began to play in Madrid,he was almost lost. The Russian started pretty good in January, when he won a small event, in Hong Kong. Then  he reached into the quarterfinals at the Australia Open and he looked very decent, until  he backer off, and he lost against the soon-to-be champion in Melbourne Jannik Sinner. 

However, they can lose, but they can re-set what they are going. Well, Rublev didn’t do much of anything, as over the next three months, he did not go deep again, until now.

Rublev won Madrid, overcoming Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5 in the third set to grab it. He also beat the No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz as well as the American, Taylor Fritz. All of a sudden, his huge strokes came back.

“I think it’s normal to have ups and downs because this season I started really well and I was playing amazing,” Rublev said. “Then somehow I started to do a bit worse and then a couple of weeks I could not win a match. I think this is normal to have up-and-downs and everyone go through this, so I guess my focus was not to feel if when I will go back to normal or what is normal.”

Is it really normal? It could, if the player can be very focused, on court. When he runs, Rublev  can be fast, and when he has a decent chance to start to nail the ball, he can crack it, with his heavy forehand and his backhand. He can flatten it out, or he can split it. Also, he can change the direction. 

 Rublev is currently ranked No. 6, and he will have another chance to win a Grand Slam for the first time. Yes he has won a bunch of very good players, but in a three-out-of-five, it is certainly tougher to win seven matches in a row, rather than two-out-of-three. It is a huge difference.

At Rome and Roland Garros, Rublev will have to be even more solid to go super deep, again.

Perhaps that Auger-Aliassime was out of it, all year, until he went to Madrid. He lost almost all of the time, which was unusual, because in 2022 and 2023, he was darn, good. But then he fell out, and he missed so many errors. That was unusual, but in the final in Madrid, he returned, and while he lost in the final, he put together some terrific, calm shots. He has always been super fast, and he also can try to grind it. Now, at least last week, in the clay, he touched some soft shots, with his backhand close to the net. The winners, came. However, at the end of the third set, he was close to win it, but the now No. 20 missed a few critical error and he lost. Auger-Aliassime can be consistent for the rest of the year. He must prove it, going into the summer.   

NOTES

Sinner had to retire in Madrid, and then he couldn’t play in Rome, due to an injury. The No. 2 also said he might play at Roland Garros, but maybe not,  unless he is 100 percent. That mean he won’t become the No. 1 in Paris, unless he gets healthy, which will be tough, anyway.

Four people had a fine week in Madrid with Fritz, Jiri Lehecka, Mariano Navone and Alejandro Tabilo.

Three of the Grand Slam champions are there in Rome with  Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Rafa Nadal. Will one of them win Rome again? Maybe not, as Djokovic pulled out in Madrid, Medvedev got hurt, on the court, and Nadal is still trying to play more consistent. 

One of the players, Casper Ruud, won Barcelona, so his confidence is so high. Try to do it again.

Madrid final: Iga Swiatek to take down Aryna Sabalenka

Iga Świątek
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

They have done it before and now, on Saturday, in  Madrid, the No. 1  Iga Swiatek will face the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. The two players can bash the ball, side to side, and even hit it down the line, and hope she can nail a winner.

Swiatek can almost be perfect, but she can drop off. However, in the past week, she played terrific, beating Beatriz Haddad Maia in three sets, and then in the semis, she ran so fast, very deep, wiping out Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3. 

Once again, Sabalenka can frantic when she cannot raise her game, enough, but she is very consistent, overall, and her serve has become much better over the past one and a half years. Sometimes, she can revert her serve, but she does turn it around.

Here in Madrid, in the quarters, she pushed the teenager,  Mirra Andreeva, as  she knew how to figure it out and what to do. In the semis, it was a marathon, a great one, when Sabalenka  outlasted Elena  Rybakina  1-6, 7-5, 7-6(5).

The battle is on.  

Swiatek has beaten Sabalenka  6-3 overall, and on clay, it is 3-1. But it is true that Sabalenka can be more patient, and fool her.

The wild thing is that exactly one year ago, in Madrid, Sabalenka won it, beating Swiatek 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to win it.  This time, she can do it again, but it will be a gigantic challenge.

“I would say [last year’s final] was the best match I ever played, especially on clay court. I think the level was just super high,” Sabalenka. “It was clean, it was intense, powerful game. Yeah, I think that was the best final I ever played.”

Oh really? How about what Swiatek said: “I wouldn’t say we’re trying to figure [the game plan] out, because we kind of know what I should play, but sometimes it wasn’t easy to implement it. “So this is something that I want to improve. So it’s not like we need to change a lot, but we need to stick to the plan and I need to implement it a little bit better, sometimes.”

Swiatek will take it, 7-5 in the third set.

Rublev over Auger-Aliassime
Speaking of this, how about Andrey Rublev, who lost so many matches this year, as he was very erratic. But now, he began to be much more thoughtful, and patient. Over the past nine days in Madrid, he nailed it, over the No. 2,  Carlos Alcaraz in the quarters, and then in the semis, he beat the American,  Taylor Fritz, 6-4 6-3. Where did that come from?

“Mentally I was feeling much better and I was able to perform,” said the Russian Rublev. “Putting emotions in the right direction. For sure it has helped me to reach the final. Without this, I would not be in the final.”

But he did, and now in the final, on Sunday, he will face against Felix Auger-Aliassime, who in the semis, Jiri Lehecka had to retire, in the first set. The Canadian  Auger-Aliassime has not had a very good year, but he did reach into the top 10 in 2022,  so now, the current No. 35 can finally play wonderful. Both of them have to. Rublev leads his head-to-head 4-1 versus  Auger-Aliassime, so the Russian is  better than he is, but it could change, quickly.

“We’ve always had three-set battles, even back in 2018, I was much younger,” said Auger-Aliassime. “He’s always a player that fights hard, that’s always present every tournament, us players have highs and lows but he’s always there.”

Rublev will win it in three sets, taking the third 6-4.

Can Nadal win Madrid for the last time?

Rafael "Rafa" Nadal

Will Rafa Nadal actually play at Roland Garros, given that over the past couple years, his body is breaking down? Is he finally healthy again, or will start to go down, ASAP? He doesn’t know, but however, he will try, day after day, and then, in a month, if he be confidence again, then he will charge on the wild clay? No one, really knows.

At Madrid, Nadal beat Alex de Minaur  7-6, 6-3 , which is somewhat surprising, as last week in Barcelo,  the Aussie beat him in straight sets. Now though, Nadal’s  huge forehand is coming back.

“I think last few days my body feelings improved a little bit, but not sure yet,” said Nadal about Roland Garros. “I understand for you sometimes it’s difficult  to understand some things, but for me, Roland Garros is the most important tournament of my tennis career, no, and all the things that I lived there, enjoyed there, stays in my heart forever.  So is not a thing about losing or winning. It’s about going on court there with the feeling that I can fight and I can be competitive, let’s go on court and dream about what can happen, no?  So if I am not able to go on court and dream about even if it’s the minimum percentage, for me don’t make sense to go on court, no? I prefer to stay with all the amazing memories that I have.

“I want to be there, and even losing, but go on court with the chance to dream about something important, if that happens, I gonna be on court. If I am not allowed to make that happen, even if it’s a super, super small percentage, I probably will not go on court. That’s the feeling, and it’s best-of-five, so it’s a different story.”

He is so right, especially playing with the best-of-five, rather than the best-of-three. That is a dramatic difference. Nadal has won 14 titles in Paris, the most ever. He is the so-called “king of the clay.” He was so consistent, with his massive forehand, his incredible return, his speed, with his gigantic  legs.

But Nadal is aging, and he cannot stop it. However, if he can continue to play well in Madrid, and maybe in Rome, then he will have enough time to recover. After that, at Roland Garros, he will be very intense.

Who would have known that Thiago Monteiro upset  Stefanos Tsitsipas  two days ago. He has never gone deep at the big events, but now the 29-year-old is playing wonderful. The Brazilian believes that he can grab it, when he is playing tremendous. Good luck with him.

“I knew I had a big challenge ahead against a top player, but I was feeling good. I was just trying to enjoy also, and I just believed that I could create opportunities and believed in my game that I was back to feeling good again,” Monteiro said. “So today it worked really well, and it give me,  big confidence to know that in a good day I can play, in high level against these big guys.”
 
Win or lose this week, even though Ons Jabeur has been up and down this year, but she does lover to really mix it up, and chuck in some fantastic drop shots. Maybe Jabeur will start to win again, but the No. 9 had not played very well since last September. That is a long time. She said that she doesn’t have to know what to do on the court, but to understand how to react. She will have to be more patient.

“I just was going, like, with the flow and seeing how the game was focusing a lot on myself lately.  I feel like I want to get back the creativity and the intuition part that I play really well with,” Jabeur said. “I know I’m intuitive person, so the more I let myself play more freely, the better I play. Obviously it’s very important to have tactics, but I feel like sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on me. If I want to go do a dropshot on a return, I will do it. I don’t want to regret it after or having someone, like, Why did you do that? Wrong choice. Yes, it’s my choice.”
 
She has to face against Jelena Ostapenko, a very aggrieve person. On clay though, there should be some long, physical rallies.

The No. 1 Iga Swiatek lost in Stuttgart, losing against the terrific player, Elena Rybakina, but she won Indian Wells, and plus, she has won four Grand Slams. But first, she has be more clear, when she is playing. She still has to adjust to it.

“You need to kind of switch your mindset sometimes during the rallies or make different decisions.  So, yeah, you need time, for sure,” she said. “Everybody needs it, I think. But also, the most important thing is not to treat clay the same way everywhere, because honestly in Stuttgart it’s different. Here it’s much, much different than Rome and Paris. Rome is the slowest. You go from the fastest in Madrid to,  the slowest in Rome and then to kind of average in Paris.”

The Americans are trying to win a huge another event,  when Sebastian Korda has to face against Daniil Medvedev. He is going to grind it, all day…This should be a fine match, when Danielle Collins has to play versus the No. 2,  Aryna Sabalenka. Collins has yet to beat her, so she has to change it up, and be more careful. Something extra.

On clay, Sloane Stephens was brilliant, wins Rouen

Sloane Stephens
Ron Cioffi/TR

Month after month, when  Sloane Stephens is up and down all the time, but last week, she finally raised it again, winning a title, in Rouen. How she did that, when in the first three months, she could not turn on the lights, but this time, she went for it, earlier.

On Sunday, she beat  Magda Linette 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. That was pretty darn good in the third set. Her forehand and her backhand went deep, close to the lines. She could lose it early again, but the former 2017 US Open champion is finally satisfied.

As Stephens said, she is friendly with Linette, but she beat her anyway. “She’s one of my favorite people on tour. We spend a lot of time together and practice together a ton. We talk literally every single week . It’s so nice to play against someone I really care about in the final.”

Now Stephens will have to play against the great players, at Madrid, Rome and then, at Roland Garros. Hopefully in Paris, she will be ranked in the top 30, at least. Can she reach into the second week? Time will tell.

The other American, Taylor Fritz, made it into the final in Munich, and it was possible that he could win it all, but the veteran Jan-Lennard Struff finally won the tournament. He was so darn happy, when  he beat Fritz 7-5, 6-3. He is 33-year-old , so it took him a very long time to breath, in the final. This time, he was super consistent.

“I have been on the tour for such a long time. It’s an unbelievable feeling to win my first title [on] home soil,” the German said. “I played good tennis this week. I am very happy, as I beat many great guys. It’s just amazing to do it here in Germany.”

He did, and while Fritz couldn’t win a tournament, at least he got there.

Ruud dominates in Barcelona
In Barcelona, Casper Ruud really knew it, in the final, as eight days ago in Monte Carlo , he lost in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Yet this time, Ruud decided to win it, he was going to have to play more powerful, and push himself, close to the baseline. He did that, when he won it 7-5, 6-3 over the Greek. Ruud has won 11 titles, 10  on clay, so obviously he really likes to rally. However, if he can win a huge event, he can actually try to win at the French Open, but it is still early. The No. 6 is  thrilled.

Rybakina wins in Stuttgart
Over in Stuttgart, Elena Rybakina won the title, and once again, beating everyone when she is really on. She can be so aggressive, and she can throw it all around, everywhere. Yes, she can be ticked off, when she is not thrilled during the match, and she can toon it out. However, when she is thoughtful, and patient, then she can beat anyone.

In the semis, she beat the No. 1 Iga Swiatek  6-3, 4-6, 6-3 , and then in the final, she blasted the young player, Marta Kostyuk, 6-2, 6-2. That was the first time this year that the No. 4 Rybakina won a tournament. So now, she is very satisfied and more confident. As she said when she beat Swiatek: “I think it’s just style of the game. Iga, she moves really well and she likes to dominate in the rally. With me, it’s difficult because I play fast, I play flatter, and also like to move the opponent.

“So matchup where we are both pushing each other, both trying to dominate in the point. So I think of course also my serve helps a lot. That’s why some matches I win; some matches I lose. But it’s always tough for her to play against me and for me to play against her.”

Can Emma Raducanu win consistently?

Emma Raducanu
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It can take a long time to recover on the court, to understand what you need to do, or something, but the former U.S. Open 2021 champion, Emma Raducanu, is getting better now. This week, she is playing Stuttgart,  a very solid area, and Raducanu seems to be more thoughtful, on court and off. Last year, she got hurt in April 2023, and then she could not play during the rest of the reason, as she had to undergo a surgery, on both her hands and her ankle. She did win a couple terrific matches this week, but over the past three and a half months, she has been up and down. However, she can make a decision, and then to decide to go crosscourt, or down the line. She can be  aggressively, or be patient. It is her decision.

Raducanu beat Angie Kerber pretty easily, but there were long rallies, yet she most of it.

“You need to be really careful not to overpress. She makes the court seem really small,” Raducanu said. “ There were moments in that match where I didn’t really know where to hit the ball because I felt like she was covering so much of the court and she was using my pace really well.  I think just not trying to squeeze the lines too much and kind of just playing the shot and almost not trying to hit winners, and accidental winners I feel like are the best way, because I wasn’t trying to blast winners around the court. I was just committing to my strokes and would hit winners by accident sometimes. I feel like that’s the best way to approach it because then you’re not getting stressed out. It’s just a pleasant surprise when it happens.”

She must have been. The 21-year-old is a fine player with her forehand and her backhand, and she is also somewhat quick. Her serve is so-so, and at the net, she is OK, but not fantastic. Maybe she will, someday, but she has to become substantially better, as she has only won one event, and nothing else.

“I think the last weekend I played some great tennis. I’m mentally in a good place,” Raducanu said. “I’m taking a lot of confidence from the training I’m doing. I feel like I can actually, like, lean on that more so now because I’m actually doing the work, whereas last year it was very difficult. I have played a lot of matches and I’m feeling fatigued than being super fresh and losing. It’s funny, because you always want something that you can’t have.  But I am playing some really good tennis.”

She is going to play even better, as she has to face the No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who can take you out immediately. … Also in the quarterfinals, Elena  Rybakina is ready to try to win another title, but while she can look stunning, she can also fold. Or maybe she will not, yet she has to face against the Italian Jasmine Paolini, who has had a terrific season, winning Dubai. She is more aggressive then she did five years ago….Coco Gauff has had a pretty good year, yet as she has said, she can miss some key opportunities. She will go up against Marta Kostyuk , a re-match, as Gauff beat her 7-6, 6-7,6-2 in the third, a marathon. One more time?

With the men, how about the teenager, Arthur Fils, who a big match in Barcelona? It will take him more of a while, but his two coaches, Sergi Bruguera and Sebastien Grosjean, have done it a lot when they went into the big matches, so maybe they can teach him with more various strokes…Rafa Nadal lost there and while he did not play great when he went down, but he just came back, with his frequently injury,  so assuming that he can play 100 percent, then he will be very good again. But that is a huge question, health wise…There are two players who are seeded like Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and they look on top of it. But can they win the event? That is possible, as long as they can be a victim, on the famous clay.

Stefanos Tsitsipas wins Monte-Carlo

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Who would have thought that Stefanos Tsitsipas would suddenly rise up in Monte-Carlo, and then, he actually win the event? Before that, in three months, he was so-so, but on the clay in France, he began to play much more consistent, and also, he decided to hit the ball really harder.

The Greek beat three top 10 players, with Alexander Zverev, Jannik Sinner, and in the final, he out-hit Casper Ruud 6-1, 6-4. After he overcame about No. 2 Sinner in three dramatic sets, with some tremendous forehands, he knew that versus Ruud, he could pump it early, and then, pound the ball. He did, and now, he is going into Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros, who should be on top of the ball.  Or maybe he won’t be, as the last time he won it was in Los Cabos, Mexico, back in July, and after that, he became erratic. Really, you never know, but last week, he look phenominal.

“This is an unbelievable win for me. Capturing that win today was nerve-wracking,” Tsitsipas said. 

“I had to go out there and show my tennis as I promised every single of them I will make the most out of it. I am glad I presented on court and showed some ruthless tennis. From the beginning to the end my play was cohesive and I was able to blend in a lot of different shots.”

Unfortunately, Ruud looked tired. In the semis, he upset the No. 1 Novak Djokovic in three very tough sets. He played incredible, with some terrific strokes, and even he was able to stay in there, backhand to backhand. Crosscourt and down the line,  Djokovic is the best player of all time, but Ruud wore him down. The 25-year-old is more emotional when he is playing great. Now he has to refresh, as he will play in Barcelona, this week, so if he wants to go deep again,  he is going to have to be super patient.

USA over Belgium in Billie Jean King Cup
This has been going for years, in April, which was called the Fed Cup, but now, it is called the Billie Jean King Cup. Ok, that is fine, but not many people know who it is.

Someday, many will, or maybe not, but in Orlando, the United States won 4-0 in  the qualifying series.

In the singles, Jessica Pegula and Emma Navarro  won it, as was did Caroline Dolehide and Taylor Townsend in the dead-rubber doubles. Many of the Americans have won it so many times, but over the past 10 years, it has been harder. They will find out when in November, in Seville, Spain, there will be 12 teams. That could be dramatic. The new first-year captain Lindsay Davenport played so many times, over the years, so this time, she knows that she has a lot of work to do. Clearly, she was a terrific player, but currently, she has to learn coaching, gradually. She was happy though, a solid victory.

“It’s been an awesome experience. It was a little overwhelming last year when I just had my first conversation with the USTA,” she said. “I can’t do this. I’ve got four kids. They came back and they’re like, We really want to make this work. I was super happy about that.  It was never not about the players. Being on court with players is something I love. It was hard to balance practices, there were some meetings . I think I would look to schedule days differently. Like I said, it was a learning week for me also.” 

Yes it does.

Stuttgart hosts a number of the top players with Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina. That should be a wild week.