Cilic goes down, but he can turn it around

Marin Cilic is hard to figure it out. Somedays, he can play great. Other days, he’s completely out of it.

In Miami on Friday, the vet Jeremy Chardy beat Cilic 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. There are times when Cilic can blast the ball, but the Croatian has to be patient. In this match, Cilic did not.

This year, the former 2014 US Open champion has had a poor season. He has five wins and seven losses. At least he reached the semis in Acapulco, but then Rafa Nadal crushed him 6-1, 6-2.

The 28-year-old is ranked No. 9, but soon enough, he will drop out of the top 10, unless he can figure it out.

He did win a major, and when he’s feeling it, he can beat anyone. Perhaps he can go all the way during the summer.

Perhaps.

“Now I know if I’m playing my best tennis, I’m going to be able to win a Grand Slam,” Cilic said. “Before it would always be the question, ‘If I’m playing my A game, is that going to be enough?”

Best Pix from 2017 Indian Wells by Mal Taam

Click here for a fantastic photo gallery by Mal Taam from ’17 Indian Wells’ BNP Paribas Open.

Mladenovic v. Halep set for Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS. March 12 — A couple years ago, Simona Halep became No. 2. She reached the final of Roland Garros. There she was very close to her first Slam win, but Maria Sharapova stepped on the gas, winning to 6-4 in the third.

Halep had lost, and cried, but she believed that she could win at the Grand Slam.

She hasn’t yet. 

In 2016, she was on fire, racing around, hitting hard and crushing balls. She won Madrid, Bucharest and Montreal. But guess what? At the Slams, her head wasn’t into it.

She lost early at the Aussie and Roland Garros. At Wimbledon, she managed to go into the second week, beating Madison Keys, but she fell against Angie Kerber in two tight sets.

At the US Open, she reached the quarters again, losing another very tight match, going down to Serena Williams, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

She wasn’t quiet there.

Now she will face KiKi Mladenovic at Indian Wells.

As Halep said, “I’m here, and she’s here.”

Mladenovic beat her in Paris and Birmingham, but Halep topped her in three long sets at 2015 Cincinnati.

Mladenovic is rising, while Halep is struggling.

One way or another, at Indian Wells, it should be a classic.

Venus: “My current battle involves me”

Indian Wells – The veteran Venus Williams looked like her leg was almost broke.

She was down late in the second set against Jelena Jankovic and in looked like that she was about to retire. But, gradually, her legs began to loosen up. She wasn’t slow anymore and she began to hit the lines. She came back quickly, and eventually, she won it 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1.

Venus is 36 years old. With the way she is playing now, it is possible that the seven-time Grand Slam champion could stay at the WTA Tour until she is 40. That is very unusual to be playing singles at that age when you are not as fast that you used to be, but you never know.

It’s been nearly 20 years when Venus walked on the court at Oakland. She won a match and from there, she never backed down.

The last time Venus won a major was in 2008, when she won Wimbledon. Could she ever win another Grand Slam title, like Roger Federer did in Australia?

Possible. 

“My current battle involves me getting closer to No. 1. So that’s the biggest battle I’m fighting right now. It’s rather selfish perhaps,” she said.

Hantuchova is still there: Will she stay, or go?

Daniela Hantuchova plays a $25K. Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

At the beginning of their careers, the younger players have to start at the ITF and USTA Pro circuits.  Everyone wants to reach the top pros, but you have to rack up some wins on the smaller circuits.

If you’re not winning titles at this level, at least you have to improve every year, so you could win more consistently. Some willmove on, while others are stycj there for a very long time.

If you’re not moving up the WTA/ATP level, you would have to decide: Do you want to stay, or do you want to go?

This week, in at the Morgan Run Women’s Open in Rancho Santa Fe/San Diego, three major players are still hanging on:
 
Michelle Larcher De Brito, a popular Portuguese  player who cracked the top 100. But she is now ranked No. 242.

The American Maria Sanchez,  who played at USC and was the No. 1 collegiate player throughout the 2011–2012 season. But, when she turned pro at the WTA, she was close to reaching the top 100, but could not.  Now she is ranked No. 414.

And believe it or not, the former No. 5, Daniela Hantuchova, is there at Morgan Run. The Slovak once reached the Australian Open semifinal. She won Indian Wells. She loves Southern California, but she is 33 years old and had a bad year in 2016. You know, 2015 wasn’t very good either.

Hantuchova breezed through the first round with a double bagel over Louisa Stefani. But, the rising top seed, Kayla Day, eliminated her in the second round 7-6(3), 6-1.

Hantuchova is ranked 245. If she is ready to retire, or is she thinking that ‘hey, Serena Williams is 35 years old, and she just won a major in January at the Aussie Open. If she could go it, maybe I can.’

Can she?

In a few weeks in IW, maybe we can see Hantuchova finds some wins and some peace of mind.

Pliskova, Dimitrov, Vandeweghe are on fire

The week of February 13

FED CUP

The Czechs once again won, with Karolina Pliskova crushed Garbine Muguruza 6-2 6-2. Without a doubt,  the No. 3 Pliskova  can a major this year. Perhaps at Wimbledon.

Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The Americans won fairly easy in Hawaii, cracking the Germans. The rising CoCo Vandeweghe won two matches, smoking the fine player Andrea Petkovic. USTA flap over playing old version of German anthem put damper on otherwise excellent American performance. Now the US has to face the Czechs at home in April. Will Serena and Venus play? Questionable.

ATP ACTION

Grigor Dimitrov, who won Sofia over David Goffin, says that the now No. 12 is exhausted, but he is thrilled that he finally was able to win Bulgaria.

The 19-year-old Alexander Zverev played outstanding tennis, beating Richard Gasquet in the final at Montpellier. He teamed up with his brother, Mischa, to take the dubs, too. Very soon, he will go deep at the Slams.

The 36-year-old  Victor Estrella Burgos won Quito, as the march of the 30-somethings continues.

THIS WEEK

Doha, Qatar

Believe it or not, Karolina Pliskova and  Garbine Muguruza could face each other in the third round. The Spaniard is hoping that the hard courts aren’t too fast. Three other top players — Angie Kerber, Aga Radwanska and  Dominika Cibulkova — are still in contention. Aga could face her good friend, Caroline Wozniacki , in the second round. They have had some marathons.

Rotterdam

Unfortunately, there aren’t any of the top 5-ers. But there are some fun players, like Mario Cilic, Dominic
Them, Tomas Berdych, Goffin and Dimitrov. Who wins? It’s likely Cilic, given that Dimitrov is exhausted.

Memphis

Memphis has struggled at times, but they are still there, which is admirable.  There are not many great teams, but good ones, like Ivo Karlovic, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and … Bernard Tomic. Can you imagine if he wins the title? Where is the defending champ? See below …

Argentina

Kei Nishikori won Memphis many times, which he decided to go south, way south and now he is in Argentina. It must be about the $$$. There is on clay, which is just fine, given that he was won at Barcelona. This week, it’s Pablo Cuevas, David Ferrer (who is declining) and Pablo Carreno Busta.

US glides into Davis Cup second round

No, thanks, Mike & Bob. We’re good.

US Davis Cup captain Jim Courier must have been pretty confident to send out Olympic bronze medalists Jack Sock https://www.viagrasansordonnancefr.com/ou-acheter-du-viagra/ and Steve Johnson to earn the third and deciding point as Team USA faced off against Switzerland. The Americans had to snake their way through a determined Swiss duo of  Adrien Bossel/Henri Laaksonen 7-6(3) 6-3 7-6(5).

The doubles rubber victory sealed the first-round for the US. They will travel to Australian for a second-round matchup.

Playing in  the shadow of Bob and Mike Bryan didn’t seem to affect the American team and a packed, partisan crowd in Birmingham, Ala. Earlier this year the twins, who own just about every men’s doubles record any team could ever want, announced their retirement from Davis Cup competition. The Bryans won and played in more US Davis Cup matches than any other team. Since 2003, the brothers have been such a mainstay that the team U.S. had only sent out four different combinations for the doubles rubber in 34 ties. Compare that to most countries who often send out a hodgepodge of non-stars to represent them.

Like the Swiss, who are here without two of the world’s best: Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.

Courier choose to go with the Sock/Johnson combo instead of playing Sam Querrey, who was relegated to the fourth spot on the team as Sock and John Isner where picked as singles players. It’s fair to predict that Querrey will be pegged to play one of the two dead rubbers on Sunday. These matches will be the best of three sets.

In doubles, the Americans pulled out the first set by overcoming a mini-break early in the tiebreak. Throughout that set the Swiss couldn’t smack a backhand winner while Sock/Johnson totaled eight.

The second set was another story as the Americans took a strong lead, winning 13 of 14 points in the early games. The Swiss rebounded with one break but still couldn’t counter the Americans, who converted two of five break points.

The third set provided some real drama, igniting a crowd who inserted chants and songs into pauses in the action. Both teams capitalized on a break each to set up a tiebreak.

Sock and Johnson hits a number of stunning points, with low-angled volleys and crushing overheads. The Swiss had a chance to blast away an overhead late in the tiebreak. But the overhead didn’t have much pace and Americans were able to track it down and smash a down-the-middle groundstroke winner. The point of the match.

Other ties

Australia, led by legend and captain Lleyton Hewitt, surprising took down the Czech Republic in straight matches. The Czechs played without top player Tomas Berdych.

While playing on the road in Tokyo, France took all three matches to advance. Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon made the trip while Kei Nishikori did not play.

Led by Novak Djokovic, Serbia dispatched Russia in three. Italy, Croatia and Belgium stand 2-1 after two days.

Isner overcomes slow start to nail 2-0 lead

 

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Maybe what John Inser needed was a match within native South to find his big serve and groundstrokes.

Isner overcame a first-set loss and months of underachieving to defeat Henri Laaksonen in the second rubber of the US vs. Switzerland tie.

Isner returned is personal nirvana – the tiebreak – to dispatch Laaksonen in the fourth set. Isner found his stride with a 46 62 62 76 (1) victory.

The 6’10” American backed up an earlier victory by Jack Sook to give the US and expected early lead in the first-round World Group Davis Cup tie.

Even though he had no aces in the tiebreak, Isner cracked two service winners and watched as Laaksonen double faulted match point.

As usual, Isner’s biggest weapon is his serve and he put away 28 access, surpassing 500 in his Davis Cup career. As he turned around the match after a mediocre first set, the American had four aces in the last game of the second set.

As the first set fell away, the possibility of Isner less than stellar recent play must have crossed his and coach Jim Courier’s mind. Isner has only won two matches this year, exiting from the Australian Open in the second round. Except for an appearance in the Paris final in the fall, Isner has had less than spectacular results in the last half of 2016. During that time, he lost his standing as America’s top male player, which he had held for numerous years.

“I felt energized by this crowd,” he said during a post-match interview, citing the pro-American spectators who used a large drum and chanting to back their team.


Sock downs Ciudinelli in first rubber

The most trouble Jack Sock had in taking down Marco Chiudinelli in the first rubber of the US vs. Switzerland Davis Cup tie was grabbing a first-set break. It took the American six tries to seal the set.

The rest was smooth sailing.

Sock cruised with a 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory in the World Group first round. Dominating with his usual brand of punishing forehands and big serves, Sock battered the Swiss in the last two sets, repeating the pattern he has used to move into the Top 20.

In a turn of events, Sock has moved past long-time top-dog American John Isner. Now Sock played the No. 1 position in this tie, as his last six months has shown improvement while Isner seems to be slowly losing the edge in his vaunted power-serving game.

Of course, Chiudinelli’s place in the world of Swiss tennis has long been No. 3, slipping now down to No. 146. That makes  Henri Laaksonen, at No. 127, the top Swiss player here. But, hey, this is the Swiss B team with the last two men’s Grand Slam winners – countrymen Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka – being no-shows.

Sock clamped down on Chiudinelli beginning in the last game of the first set. At 0-30 Chiudinelli’s second serve bounced off the tape and barely missed the line, giving Sock three set points. Then the Swiss rattled off three straight service winners. Chiudinelli throws in another double but he bangs a punishing overhead to get back to deuce. It wasn’t until Sock placed a dying drop shot on the sixth break point that he grabbed the first set.

The American was off and flying, taking the first three games of the second set, breaking on his only break chance of the set. In the second game, Chiudinelli had to face a Sock service winner. He followed it up with a sloppy ground stroke. Sock easily took control of the game. Bolstered by the early break, Sock started feeling his game.

“I think I was a little hesitant at the beginning; maybe too conservative playing when obviously my game is to kind of play big and hit big forehands and be aggressive. … Then, when I was able to get the break it kind of made me able to play my game.,” Sock said. He agreed that he built some real momentum in the second set.

Asked about his success with drop shots, he added, “I think I hit them at the right time except for the 3-all game. I tried to hit it at deuce, which was idiotic.”

The Swiss complimented Sock, saying, “(I) struggle a bit with his heavy serve. Yeah, he had good serves at a lot of those moments. When I managed to get the ball back, he followed up with some good second shots.”

Sock sets the stage for what is predicted to be relatively easy first round. If the US wins here, it would face the winner of the Czech Republic/Australia tie. The Aussies took a 2-0 lead today as Jordan Thompson shocked Jiri Vesely and Nick Kyrgios was also a straight-set winner over Jari Satral.

Nadal vs Federer again, in Aussie Open final


Roger Federer is in the Australian Open final.

Yes, for many, many years, he stood tall, winning 17 Grand Slams, beginning 2003, when he won Wimbledon.

Nearly 14 years later, he is still there, having a great time.Either way, he will face his good friend, Rafa Nadal, who overcame Grigor Dimitrov  in nearly five hours.

In 2009, they played each other in a final, when the Spaniard took him in five classic sets.
Will it be another amazing match?

That’s possible, but as Nadal said, things have changed. That are older and wiser.
said Nadal, who has won 14 Slams.

In July last year, both men were hurt. Federer stopped playing the rest of the year. Nadal stopped in the fall.

Now Federer is pretty healthy and raring to go.

Nadal will recover on Sunday night as he will have 43 hours to rest before he will walk on court.
Federer beat two top 6 guys,  Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, in five sets. Apparently, his legs are strong.

“You can only do so much treatment to feel decent. What I’ve just come to realize is when you don’t feel well, you have too many problems going on, you just won’t beat top-10 players,” Federer said. “
At some point you reach a limit, and you just can’t go beyond that. You can play them tight. You might win one of them. You just can’t win back-to-back. Just not feeling free enough, in your mind, in your body.

“That’s where both, I guess, Rafa [Nadal] and myself said, ‘Okay, enough of this already. Let’s get back to 100%, enjoy tennis again, enjoy the practice. Not just practice, treatment, practice, treatment, match, treatment. All the time all you’re doing is fighting the fire.’

“From that standpoint, the six months definitely gave me something in return. I didn’t go into a direction where I felt like I had to reorganize my life or reorganize my tennis in any way. I just wanted to get healthy again. … I am super happy I was able to win another five-setter in a Grand Slam. I don’t know how many times I won two five-setters in a Grand Slam. Maybe never before. So this is big.”

Late at night on Friday/Saturday, Nadal was tired, very tired. Those two have played many times, but things have changed, or that’s what Nadal says.

“I think this match is completely different than what happened before,” Nadal said. “Is special. We have not been there in that situation for a while, so that makes the match different. I really don’t think about what happened in the past. I think the player who play better is going to be the winner.”

Venus and Serena will face off at the 2017 Australian Open

Venus Williams and Serena Williams will face off in the 2017 Australian Open final, as Venus overcame CoCo Vandeweghe 6-7 (3) 6-2 6-3, and Serena crushed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni  6-2 6-1.

The famous sisters have been playing for a very long time: Serena won her first major in 1999, while Venus grabbed it in 2000. They’ve faced off 27times over the years, with Serena 16-11 versus Venus. Clearly, Serena is better, winning 22 Grand Slams, and Venus winning seven majors. During the last four times at the Grand Slams, Serena beat Venus at the US Open and Wimbledon, twice. But, in 2008 in the Wimbledon final, Venus took Serena down. It seemed like Venus would win majors year after year, but she didn’t. Serena did, having racked up numerous majors in the last few years.

Now, one of them will win on Saturday. Combined, they will be 30 Grand Slams.

“She’s my toughest opponent. No one has ever beaten me as much as Venus has,” said Serena. “I just feel like no matter what’s happened we’ve both won. … A Williams is going to win this tournament.”

Venus said: “Everyone has their moment in the sun. Maybe mine has gone on a while but I’d like to keep that going. I got nothing else to do. Let’s keep it going.”


Here is the story at 2008 Wimbledon between the sisters. On Friday, another piece of the sisters, the 2003 final at at the Australian Open.

WIMBLEDON – Venus Williams said it all with a shy smile.

She had just won her fifth Wimbledon championship. Inside, she was bubbling with joy, but on the outside, there was no in-your-face, wild celebration.

No, not with her little sister Serena standing a few feet away, visibly upset after Venus handed her a 7-5, 6-4 defeat in a final where Serena clearly looked like the younger sibling who couldn’t find the golden key to unlock Venus’ treasure chest of All England Club secrets.

Just how could Venus defend one break point after another, come up with untouchable serves, sure-handed volleys and blitzing groundstrokes whenever Serena seemed prepared to seize control of the match and win her third title?
Why does Venus play so much better on the sleek green lawns, when outside of the historic club, she has looked oh-so-vulnerable since ’01, failing to win another major on hard or clay courts, while Serena has proved herself to be a better all-around player, winning majors on every surface?

Simply because Venus is a better athlete and more knowledgeable player on grass and when she plays her best, like she did in the final, she’ll beat Serena time and time again on the turf. “I love winning and realize one has to win and one has to lose and I’ve been at the losing end of the Slams many times, so I guess it was my time to win,” said Venus, who handcuffed Serena with twisting serves to her body. “But I was pretty excited about that win because it was so close. Of course the celebration isn’t as exciting because my sister just lost.”

Added the girls’ older sister, Lyndrea:” Either way it was going to be sad.”

As terrific a server and returner as Serena is, Venus trusts her heater and slice serve more, especially with her second serve. She is a more accurate and intelligent returner, swarms the net with more confidence and can hold her own from the baseline against her sister’s clean, deep and mostly accurate strokes.

Every other elite player should play close attention to how Venus intelligently approaches the lawns. No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was low balled out early by China’s promising Jie Zheng, ’04 champ Maria Sharapova was bullied by cocky Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, No. 2 Jelena Jankovic was roughed up by 31-year-old Thai Tammy Tanasugarn and No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova was tripped up by Polish teen Agnieska Radwanska.

But Venus and Serena, who held Wimbledon six combined titles entering the finals, never faltered. In the semis,   Venus outlegged Elena Dementieva in and Serena aced her way past Zheng.
Serena had jokingly said before the final that she would eat Venus’  breakfast, but all she ended up doing was crying over spilled milk.
Venus got in trouble early in the first set and went down a break, but then smartly stepped in closer on her returns, cutting off Serena’s angles. Serena held 13 break points in the match but was only able to convert two. She lost a remarkable 17 of her 22 second serve points, which put her under tremendous pressure every time her swerving wide serves or bombs down the tee didn’t find the box.

Serving at 5-6 in the first set, the eight-time Grand Slam champion fought off a set point with a searing backhand crosscourt winner, but on the next one, Serena dumped a backhand to the net and smacked her racket to the ground after handing her sister the set at 7-5. The crisis hadn’t been averted. It was full on.

“She lifted the level of her game and I should have lifted mine, but instead mine went down,” Serena said.
Serena sealed her own fate in the fourth game of the second set. After finally breaking Venus on her seventh break point with a forehand winner to go up 2-1, Serena failed to consolidate and was broken back when she erred on a forehand.

Then the clock began to tick more quickly, as Serena strained to contain her groundstrokes and to figure out just how she would continue to hold while Venus was sprinting around and playing more freely. No such solutions would come into her head.
Venus gained a match point at 5-4 after a beautiful defense-to-offense rally. Serena scalded a service winner on the first one, but on the second one, she was pushed onto her back foot and flew a backhand well wide.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, it’s five. Wow,'” Venus said of the moment of victory.

Venus secured her seventh Grand Slam title overall, tying her with just-retired Justine Henin and putting her just one behind Serena. She became just the third player in the Open Era to win five or more titles. She’s four crowns behind all-time leader Martina Navratilova and two behind Steffi Graf, who are widely considered the two finest all-around players ever. That’s some kind of company to be in.

“Definitely winning this tournament so many times puts you in the stratosphere, just because of what this tournament means,” Venus said. “Had I had this achievement at any other tournament it would have been awesome, but not nearly the same meaning at Wimbledon.”

What the rest of the Williams family would really like is for the two sisters to face off in more Slam finals, but if history proves to be an indicator, there aren’t many opportunities left. The ’08 Wimbledon final was the first time that that they’ve faced other in the finale of a major in five years, and given that the 28-year-old Venus hasn’t reached the final of a hard court major since ’03, it might not be until Wimbledon ’09 when the siblings are staring at each again with all the major chips on the line.
If that’s the case, it will be too bad for the sport. The ’08 final was played at the highest level of any of the 16 career contests between the sisters.

“Some of those rallies today I don’t think anyone could’ve got,” said their mother, Oracene Price. “That was amazing.”
Venus, who nailed a Wimbledon record 129-mph serve, added, “The level of play was really high. A lot of the times one of us was overpowering the other. So I hit a hard ball on the line, she can’t get it back. Or I tried to go for too much because I’m anticipating that she’s going to run my shot down. Or I hit a huge serve, she hits one I can’t return.”

The sisters, like the rest of the elite players, have a heavy summer schedule ahead. Along with Aussie Open champ Sharapova and French Open victor  Ivanovic, they will contest the Olympics (Venus was the 2000 gold medalist) and the U.S. Open, which starts a couple of days after the curtains are drawn in Beijing. It’s possible that in New York, the sisters will be placed on opposite sides of the draw, and if they play as well as they did in England, they may be able to stop the European title streak there – now running at five straight years.

While fans on Centre Court politely clapped during their delightful clash, U.S. fans are sure to be more emotionally involved watching their countrywomen write another chapter in the rare spectacle.

“I would love that,” Venus said.