The champion: Nadal wins Paris again, crushed Wawrinka

ROLAND GARROS, DAY 15 – 

THE MEN
During the past three years, Rafa Nadal was struggling. His body was messed up, he lost a lot of confidence, and frequently, he pushed the ball around.

But, this year, he began to feel substantially better. He started to believe that when he had the opportunity, he could belt the ball.

And he did, crushing Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1 to win Roland Garros for the 10th time.

How good was he during the past 15 days in Paris? How about amazing, as he only lost 35 games in seven matches. 

“It’s the most important event in my career without a doubt so to win again here is something I cannot describe,” said Nadal.
 
This season, his backhand has improved tremendously. It used to be land in the middle of the court, but now it is substantially deeper, with more action. We all know that his forehand if so heavy, so strong and lands with so much depth.

But his backhand was, well, it was very decent over the past 13 years. However, it wasn’t hard enough and many times, it was too short. Just fading away.
 
In 2015, Nadal’s body was breaking down. He couldn’t run as fast as he used to on the clay. 

He lost in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and, at RG, going down against Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the quarters.

In 2016, at RG, Nadal retired in the third round. Obviously, he was pretty hurt. At the US Open, he was knocking out in the fourth round in five sets against Lucas Pouille. In the fall, he barely played. 

But this year, he was finally healthy. His doctors helped him a tremendous amount. It took a few months, but in April, he was ready to rock ’n’ roll.

He crushed everyone, including Wawrinka. After the first set, the Swiss had no idea what to do. He couldn’t out-hit Nadal’s forehand, backhand, his serve, his movement, basically everything. The three-time Grand Slame champ Wawrinka was desponded.

“When you play against him, he’s amazing fighter. On clay he’s just tough to play,” Wawrinka said. “There is always one ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce that’s what the other player make on that surface. He creates a doubt that you cannot have if you want to beat him. And on clay especially, because the way he’s moving, it’s even more difficult.”

Nadal was extremely happy. He is now ranked No. 2 again, and in the next few months, he could snare the top spot. 

The great positive is that Nadal isn’t tired and he can actually go to England and seriously compete at Queens and Wimbledon.
 
But right now, he is only thinking about RG. He was thrilled.

“It’s about the work of every day. Yeah, happened 10 times here already,” Nadal said. “Have been magical all the things that happened in this tournament for me. So very happy. Today was a very important day for me. Have been some tough moments last times, injuries, so it’s great to have big success like this again. Happy because I have been working a lot to be where I am today.”

THE WOMEN
Very few people knew who was Jelena Ostapenko when she came into Roland Garros on the first day. But, at the end, the entire world saw she can crush the ball.

Latvian Ostapenko was never very nervous, and even when she was down in the second set, she had to keep pushing, harder and harder, and camping out inside the line. She was down 3-0 in the second, and she was very close, but she couldn’t keep the ball inside the courts. Within seconds, Ostapenko changed the dynamic, and Simona Halep couldn’t do a darn thing.

Ostapenko won the tournament 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, grabbing the title. Now she is ranked No. 12. It is possible the 20-year-old can sneak into the top 5 — or higher?

The key to her progression is she is so driven. 

“I was losing 6-4, 3-0, and then in my mind I was just, I’m just going to enjoy the match, andI will try to fight until the last point. And then I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way,” she said. 

Ostapenko is so incredible powerful that, while she can miss it here and there, she will continue to go for it, on her forehand, backhand, first serve, at the net — almost anything. Of course, she has been poor at times, but this year overall, she has become very consistent. It’s not all about crushing the ball, but winning.

Ostapenko had hit 54 winners on Saturday against Halep. Talk about aggression.

“I hit quite a lot of winners from that ad court down the line, so I was trying to put it in, of course,” she said.

Of course.

The sad thing is that the 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is out for the rest of 2071 because she is pregnant. The five-time champ Maria Sharapova just pulled out at Wimbledon because she wrecked her back and she won’t be to play until late July, or longer.

The No. 1 Angie Kerber isn’t playing well at all this year, and the No. 3 Pliskova is inconsistent to tell. 

So maybe by the end of the year, Ostapenko can become No. 1. Who would have thunk that?

 

Halep vs Ostapenko in final: ’It’s very fast court, so it really fits me’


At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 13 — How good is Simona Halep? Is she great? Fantastic? Nearly great? Over hyped? Up and down?

We will find out tomorrow as she returns to a final in Paris.

The same questions can be posed about the 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, even though her career is ahead of her.

We all know that Ostapenko is incredibly aggressive, that she can crack the ball from both sides, and she can come into the net when needed. But even though she has had a very good year overall, she is still learning. She can nail the corners for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, slap it way wide. But as she said yesterday, she needs to be a calm, composed, driven.

On the clay, she reached the final at Charleston, upsetting Caro Wozniacki and Mirjana Lucic. In the final, she quickly lost against Daria Kasakina. So, so many errors, but at least she got there.

She qualified in Stuttgart and Rome. In Paris, she was ready go play ball.    

“I’m playing pretty well on clay. But here I think it’s very special, said Ostapenko. “It’s very fast court so it really fits me. … Since I probably
started to play tennis, I had a possibility to play aggressive. So, I was always trying to play aggressive and that’s my game style.”

Halep says that everyone knows that she is right there to grab No. 1 for the first time. But she has never played against Ostapenko, and she’s a little worried. She has to decide: Can she just stand and wait for the ball, or does she need to attack the Latvian immediately?

“It’s tough to know what to expect against Ostapenko. She’s hitting very strong the balls,” Halep said. “It’s going to be the same plan. But I will focus more on myself. I’m not focusing on herself too much. I just want to do my game, to be there, focused, to move well.  It’s going to be a big match, tough match. I know that she can play her best tennis. She has nothing to lose. So, I’m going there and I will be ready.”

The guys

What an amazing match by Stan Wawrinka, who overcomes Andy Murray 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1 in the semis.  The Swiss won the tournament two years ago. He believes that if he plays great, he could stun Rafa Nadal.

Wawrinka and Murray ran side-to-side, up and down, back and forth. It was all about the backhands, and Wawrinka won, going very deep and super heavy. He rarely looked tired.

“There are two ways of seeing things and I chose to be positive, knowing that I was dominating,” said Wawrinka.

The No. 1 Murray looked a little bit better over the past two weeks, but he has struggled this year, at least for a No. 1. Will it go away this year? It’s hard to say, but we do know that he will always push himself. Very hard, or too hard.

“Maybe the lack of matches has hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match,” Murray said. “A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, over four, four and a-half hours, that can catch up a little bit. … Physically I didn’t feel my best at the end.”

Wawrinka has won the three major finals he has played. Here is the most important thing: If Wawrinka wins, he will own four Grand Slams titles. Murray has three majors. If the Swiss passes the Scot, does that mean that Wawrinka is better than Murray? Day to day, over the past 10 years, Murray has been better than Wawrinka, more consistent, but over the past three years, Wawrinka has risen.

When they retire, then we can find out exactly who was better.

Nadal destroyed Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 6-0 in the semis. Clearly, Nadal is the favorite. His lefty forehand is phenomenal, and he has actually improved his backhand, finally hitting it deep. If Nadal wins, he will have 15 Grand Slams. Then, possibly, Roger Federer’s 18 will be in his sights.

Murray: ’It’s about finding a way to get the win.’ to battle Wawrinka

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 12 — Andy Murray has won three Grand Slams, twice at Wimbledon and once at the US Open. He has won a ton of titles, at the ATP 1000s, the 500s and then 250s.

He reached the final at Roland Garros last year, and he tried very hard, but Novak Djokovic was much more consistent and his forehand was harder and deeper.

However, at least Murray was enthusiastic, knocking off Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the semis. Now they will clash again, on Friday, in Paris.

Both have played extremely well in the past 11 days. Wawrinka has been locked in, but Murray has been a little off. However, the 30-year-old Scot exactly knows when it’s time to run, and change it up, and hit it as hard as you can.

Over the years, Murray has changed his movement and strokes. His forehand has improved greatly, his first serve is tremendous and he almost never gets tired, going left and right, hour after hour.

These two have played each other 17 times, with Murray ahead 10-7. Their head-to-head shows they have had on-and-off streaks, with Murray taking the last two meetings in 2016 while Wawrinka gad three in a row from 2013-15. They are both veterans, so the nerves aren’t an issue, but it is possible to get angry, or very happy. One way or another, it will be extremely close.

“I don’t know how Stan is going to play on Friday. I don’t know how I’m going to play,” Murray said. “Last year, I feel like I played some really good tennis and managed to win the match, but you have no idea. You don’t know what the conditions will be. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to win the match. It’s not always about how well that you play or, the level that you play at. It’s about finding a way to get the win, and that’s what I will try to do. In an ideal world you play great tennis, and play a really good match. That unfortunately can’t be the case always. Don’t know how either of us are going to play, but with the right attitude, right game plan, right tactics, you can still win matches.”

Nadal/Thiem faceoff in semis
Will Rafa Nadal cruise against Dominic Thiem? Nadal is playing as well as he can now, blitzing the opponents. However, Thiem did beat him in Rome, but the Spaniard was pretty tired after winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

No excuses, however. It’s all about Nadal’s massive forehand, and Thiem’s impressive one-handed backhand. Plus, the serves matter a lot, as do their ability to come to the net and put it away some volies. It should be a blast — we hope.

Halep sneaks past Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova was as aggressive as she could be, but Simona Halep was so consistent, so fast, totally locked in, winning 6-4 3-6 6-3 to reach the final. Pliskova was close, but she made a few too many errors at the end, which really caused her.

Now Halep has a legitimate shot to become No. 1, if she manages to take down 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, who just moved from a teen to a 20-year-old today. The Latvian is so aggressive, off both sides, forehand, backhand and her big serve. In beating Timea Bacsinszky 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 she hit 50 winners. Totally on the ball. Ostapenko, still a relative newcomer, has never reached the final at a Grand Slam, and maybe she will be super nervous. If she can focus, she definitely has an opportunity. She believes that someday, she will become No. 1. It will take time, but she’s pretty close all ready.

Halep has been No. 2 before, but she has not been able to snag No. 1, which she can if she takes the title. Over the past two months, she has refocused and has found a way to smack the ball deeper, and make her serve game smarter.

The two haven’t played before. Halep said that she hasn’t seen Ostapenko much, so she will have to look at tape. She will attempt to grind her, but if she cannot, then she must push her very early.

“My first Grand Slam and No. 1 in the world. It’s a big challenge. I think I have the game. I have the mentality to win, but it’s gonna be tough,” Halep said. “I expect her to give everything she has, to hit all the balls, to play with confidence. But I’m confident, as well. It’s a big thing. If it’s
gonna happen, it’s gonna happen, two things in the same time.”

Djokovic folds, rising Thiem to face Nadal

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 11 — Without a doubt, Dominic Thiem played incredibly well to stun Novak Djokovic 7-6(5) 6-3 6-0 in the quarters. The most amazing thing was two and half weeks ago, the Serb blew him out 6-1 6-0 in Rome. Last year in the semis in Paris, Djokovic easily beat Thiem in three sets.

It’s one thing to lose, but why the heck did Djokovic look so awful in the third set? Over the past four years, the former No. 1 has been so consistent, so smart, so on the ball — all the time. But not anymore, as his head is spinning around. In the third set, he didn’t want to play anymore. He was done.

Can the 12-time Grand Slam champion recover soon? I doubt it. But, by the end of the year, Djokovic have calmed down. It’s very hard to say. That is exactly what he is thinking.

“In the last couple of tournaments, I have had some great matches. It’s unfortunate to finish Roland Garros the way I have done today,” Djokovic said. “I obviously always expect a lot from myself, but it’s a fact that I’m not playing close to my best, and I know that. I’m trying, as everyone else, to work on the game, and work on things. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a whole new situation that I’m facing, especially in the last seven, eight months, not winning any tournaments, which hasn’t happened in many years. All the top players have been through that. So, I guess you’ve got to go through it, try to learn your lessons and figure out the way, how to get out of it stronger. It’s a big challenge, but I’m up for it.”

Instead of facing Rafa Nadal in the semis, it will be Thiem going against the Spaniard. Nadal got through when Pablo Carreno Busta retired in the second set. Nadal has sailed through the tournament with very little time spent on court.

Nadal and Thiem have played a bunch of times, with Nadal blasting him in Barcelona, and then Thiem out-lasting him in Rome. It should be fairly close, but the 14-time champion Nadal is the favorite for sure. Nadal will try to crush Thiem’s one-handed backhand by applying his heavy spin. If he does, Nadal will waltz into the final.

We saw a fine win by Stan Wawrinka, who destroyed Marin Cilic 6-3 6-3 6-1. The Swiss is so good right now that he has a legitimate chance to reach the final, if he manages to upend Andy Murray.

Last year in the semis, Murray out-though Wawrinka 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2. This time, Wawrinka has to be patient, and wait for his opportunities.

New women’s No. 1 could be crowned

What a comeback by Simona Halep, who was down 6-3, 5-1 to Elina Svitolina before she recovered, and Svitolina became super nervous. Halep won 3-6 7-6(6) 6-0. The Romanian stood tall, while Svitolina cracked under pressure.

On Thursday, there will be a gigantic match with Halep facing Karolina Pliskova. If Pliskova prevails and moves on to the final, she will become No. 1. If Halep wins the semifinal, then the Romanian needs to win the tournament to become No. 1. If neither of those things happen, Angelique Kerber stays on top.

Imagine that. Maybe a new No. 1.

Bacsinszky: Had a nightmare, but woke up, and then played great

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 10 – At certain times, Timea Bacsinszky can play up to her potential. Other times, she is mentally out of it. However, in the past three years in Paris, she has been enthusiastic, running like the wind and finding the lines. The Swiss seems to love at RG, and maybe she is a real favorite in the tournament.

On Tuesday, she clipped Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-4 and will face Jelena Ostapenko, who stunned Caro Wozniacki.

In 2015, Bacsinszky reached the semis, beating Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova before going down against Serena Williams. In 2016, she reached the quarters, upsetting Venus Williams before she lost against Kiki Berdens.

Now, Bacsinszky is back in the semis once again. She has not played very well this year, but when she walks on court in Paris, she is happy and she will let it fly.

However, when you are sleeping, well, that can be very difficult. The dream thing.

“I really get nervous. Like, this night, I went to bed more or less at 11:00. I woke up at 4:00,” Bacsinszky said. “Could not sleep for an hour. Went back to sleep. Woke up earlier than my alarm. My heart was beating. It was a rush. Then I imagine I was dreaming or doing a nightmare about I had to leave the hotel room to go to another tournament, but I forgot some things in the closets.

“I remember my nightmares and dreams pretty well. But I remember that I had, like, three towels that I wanted to give to my siblings because I have three, but I forgot them in the closet. So it was a big drama.”

I would say so. 

“But when you wake up, take a shower, go eat, stretch it off, and by the time you arrive on court, you can settle in. However, it will take a while. I do get nervous, but everybody does. And as soon as you understand that it’s the same for everyone, and thanks god it’s like that, because otherwise you’re a rabbit and you cannot feel those good emotions,” Bacsinszky said. “Because if everything is just coming and is so easy, it would be less fun. I try to take the fun part of it. So if I’m nervous, I try to be less nervous. If succeed, then I’m happy, and I try to play with it and I try to take the momentum.”

She will play against the 19-year-old Ostapenko on Thursday.

Murray vs. Nishikori
On Wednesday, the No. 1 Andy Murray will face Kei Nishikori, which should be a five-set classic.

In the 2016 US Open, Nishikori stunned Murray in the quarterfinal.
However, Murray has beaten him nine times, while Nishikori has only won two matches against the Scot.

In the past two and half years, Murray has beaten Nishikori in Madrid, Canada, the Davis Cup [twice], the Olympics and the ATP World Tour Final. 

There were a number of tough  matches at times, like in November 2016 in London, when Murray put down Nishikori 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4.

“Obviously lost against [Kei] at US Open. He plays well on the clay, obviously,” Murray said. “Very solid off both wings. Kei is dangerous off both wings. Moves well, quick.”

Nishikori hasn’t won a tournament this year, but he reached the quarters at Indian Wells and Miami on hardcourts. On clay, he reached the quarters in Madrid, but he pulled out. In Rome, he lost against Juan Martin del Potro and, in Geneva, he lost against Mischa Zverev in the quarters. 

Here in RG this week, Nishikori said physically he is 100 percent. He outlasted Hyeon Chung in five sets and then he beat Fernando Verdasco in four sets.

He does think that he can upended Murray, but he says in order to do so, he will have to be perfect.

“We have been playing so many times. He’s great player,” Nishikori said. “Very smart tennis player. It’s never easy, and I think he’s been playing well and (been) watching some matches. He’s hitting great balls. So I’m sure it’s gonna be tough one, but try to enjoy and try to win the match.”

 

Stan Wawrinka working to win another major

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 9 — There were a couple great contests on Monday, with Stan Wawrinka out-hitting the Frenchman Gael Monfils, 7-5 7-6(7) 6-2. Earlier, Elina Svitolina out-lasted Petra Martic 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Wawrinka has won the tournament here in Paris, but Svitolina has yet to come close. Without a doubt, the Swiss is playing extremely well once again. His backhand is scary and his forehand is very heavy. Wawrinka really wants to grab it again, but now, he is pushing back against the top players. He will face against Marin Cilic in the quarters, then maybe against Andy Murray in the semis, and very likely, Rafa Nadal in the final.

The Swiss knows how to play, but his body is pretty sore. We would think that he will yank Cilic from side to side, but if he has to play for a solid three hours. On Thursday, his toes will be cranky. Then he will find out whether he can last the distance.

Svitolina hasn’t gone deep at the majors before, but she has improved a ton. Now,she will have to face Simona Halep, who trashed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-1. Halep is a serious favorite.

No. 3 Karolina Pliskova overcame Veronica Cepede Royg 2-6 6-3 6-4. This is the first time that Pliskova has reached the quarters at RG. Finally, she’s showing some ability onclay.

Spaniard Caroline Garcia took out Alize Cornet 6-2 6-4. Garcia played extremely next up is Pliskova. Toss-up for sure.

Murray is playing better and better and against Karen Khachanov, he was explosive, with his backhand and forehand. He will be the favorite against Kei Nishikori, who sprinted past Fernando Verdasco 0-6 6-4 6-4 6-0. It looks like Murray and Nishikori will go to five sets, with some fun, long rallies. Murray believes he can grab it. Nishikori thinks that, too. Murray rarely gets nervous, but Nishikori does. If the Japanese wants to win hisfirst major, he is must step in and go for it. That is the only chance he has. 

Marin Cilic: “The form is quite good”

ROLAND GARROS, DAY 8: The rain came fairly late on Saturday and a number of matches could not finish. The weather has been fine in Paris, actually over the last week, and it has been beautiful for the most part. Who doesn’t love the summer, wherever you are?

Before the rain poured, there were some impresses matches. Like
Marin Cilic, who crushed the tired Feliciano Lopez 6-1 6-3 6-3. He just blew him out. Cilic won the 2014 US Open, taking down Roger Federer in the semis, and then, in the final, he was locked in and overwhelmed Kei Nishikori.

Since then, Cilic has been only pretty good at the Grand Slams. In 2015, he reached the quarters at Wimbledon and the semis of the US Open, but Novak Djokovic took him down twice.

In 2016, Federer got him back in the quarters and at the US Open in the third round, American Jack Sock crushed him.

On clay in 2015 Roland Garros, David Ferrer busted Cilic in three sets. The next year in Paris, he lost in the first round. Cilic has reached the fourth round of RG a number of times, but can he reach the quarters, finally?

He has an opportunity because over the past two month as he has become more patient. He reached the final at Istanbul (losing to Milos Raonic), and he lost against the very good young player Alexander Zverev in Madrid. Then he lost in Rome against John Isner. Not bad, but not great, either.

But during the past week in Paris, Cilic rose up. On Monday, he will have to go against the huge server, Kevin Anderson. Cilic is favored, but there will be many short points. He has to hit it very deep, or else, Anderson can out-think him.

“The form is quite good, I have to say,” Cilic said. “I’m feeling really well and definitely with the fitness. I haven’t spent too much time on the court and won all the matches quite straightforward. Didn’t lose too much energy. And that’s definitely extremely important.”

How about Fernando Verdasco, who won again? He destroyed Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. He stunned Zverev in the first round, and now the older man will face Nishikori, who just won a five-setter. They will do it again, in a five-setter, for hours and hours.

“They will do it again, in a five-setter, for hours and hours.”
How about Rafa Nadal, who destroyed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1 6-2 6-2? He is playing perfect. Way to go for Pablo Carreno, who overcame Milos Raonic 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-4 8-6. It was more than four hours and, if he is a little bit tired, he will be done early in the next round because Nadal will grind him until he falls down.            
                        
Gael Monfils advanced after Richard Gasquet retired. Monfils can raise up at RG, as he has reached the semis twice in Paris, but now he has to face Stan Wawrinka, who is playing incredibly well. Good for Kei Nishikori, who toppled Chung Hyeon 7-5 6-4 6-7(4) 0-6 6-4. He says that he is feeling healthy. We will see on Monday, as he has to face the veteran, Fernando Verdasco, who can run and run and run. Will Nishikori get hurt? Possibly, because he gets hurt all the time.

In the past two months, Dominic Thiem has played extremely well. However, he will have to face against Novak Djokovic, who destroyed him in Rome. Thiem  is young, but as he said, he doesn’t know how to play against Djokovic. He better figure it out ASAP.     

Wozniacki with upset
What a huge win by Caro Wozniacki, the former No. 1 who beat Sveta Kuznetsova in three sets today. It’s been a long time for Wozniacki, who has never understood how to play on clay. It has taken her 10 years, but finally, she figured it out … running around and crushing her backhand, going deep and to sharp angles. Her forehand is getting better with a lot of spin. She may not win the tournament, but she could reach the semis, or possibly, into the final. Wozniacki hasn’t won a major, but she has won a number of different events. At least she keeps trying, and that matter a lot.

There goes the Americans. Venus Williams went down against Timea Bacsinszky 5-7 6-2 6-1. A few hours before, John Isner lost against Karen Khachanov. Next week, there will be no USA people at all in singles. None of the guys, none of the women. Outside of Serena Williams, in the past 12 years, there have been no one who went very deep at RG. Someone has to change up their tactics, and figure out how to do it the right way.
 
What a huge win by Kristina Mladenovic, who took down the former champ Garbine Muguruza 6-1 3-6 6-3. Mladenovic is on a roll. She will be favored against Bacsinszky. The Frenchwoman could even reach the final. Mind blowing.

On the other side, two players can reach the semis:  Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova. They have finally learned to figure out clay — or we think so.

Venus Williams: Can she finally win Roland Garros?

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 7 – Do you remember when Venus Williams came to Roland Garros when she was only 17-years-old?

2017 is the 20th time she has played here in Paris. She has been very good, and very bad. Obviously, Venus has won a ton of tournaments, like Wimbledon and the US Open. But not here in Paris. She has been close some years. On clay, she has a phenomenal backhand and her gigantic first serve is still a weapon. Still, at the age of 36-years-old, her superfast speed is fading.

Can she finally win Roland Garros? I doubt it, but she has a chance — a small chance — but a chance.

Let’s review three great wins at Roland Garros over the years, and three awful losses here in Paris.

GREAT WINS
In 2002, she clubs the nine-time champion Monica Seles 6-4 6-3 in quarters.
In 2004, she destroyed Frenchwoman Mary Pierce 6-3 6-1 in the third round. The half American Pierce had won RG in 2000.
In 2006, she was very steady and bested Patty Schnyder 4-6 6-3 6-2. Schnyder said, “I can never win.”
 
BAD LOSES
In 1997, Venus came over to RG for the first time, and she lost 5-7 6-3 7-5 to Nathlie Tauziat. She was extremely upset.
In 2006 in the quarters, she lost 6-7 6-1 6-3 against the big server, the Czech, Nicole Vaidisova.
In 2013, in the first round, she lost 7-6 6-7 6-4 against the Urszula Radwanska. A brutal loss.

On Friday here in RG, she beat Elise Mertens and will face the tricky Timea Bacsinszky on Sunday. If she wins, she will have to play Garbine Muguruza and/or Kristina Mladenovic. That will be very difficult for sure.

THE DEFENDING CHAMP
Muguruza is rolling on and on, as whacked Yulia Putintseva. On Sunday, she will have to go up against Mladenovic, who is red hot. Mladenovic almost lost, but she came through over American Shelby Rogers 7-5 4-6 8-6. The Spaniard Muguruza won RG last year but has been spotty, at best, since. Big battle coming.     
         
Aussie Sam Stosur trounced Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-2 6-2, and will face the young player Jelena Ostapenko. Good match here.

THE MEN
Rafa Nadal is playing so well now that it is almost impossible to beat him. Nadal crushed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0 6-1 6-0.

Another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut, won, whacking Jiri Vesely. He will play Nadal on Sunday. That is not easy for Bautista Agut, but he has to risk it all or he has no chance to stun Rafa.
                       
Here was an upset, based on seeding. Actually, it wasn’t, because the Spaniard Pablo Carreno loves clay, while Grigor Dimitrov is so-so on the dirt. Carreno won in three sets. He will face Milos Raonic. 

The No. 6 Dominic Thiem is pretty consistent now, with his forehand and backhand, and he doesn’t mind rushing to the net.  He is the favorite against the Horacio Zeballos, but soon, he might have to play Novak Djokovic. Recently, the Serb blew him out in the semis of Rome. Thiem has to change up his tactics ASAP.

Wawrinka: ‘I know exactly what I have to do to win a Grand Slam’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 5 – In 2015, Stan Wawrinka won Roland Garros, stunning the world. He knocked out Roger Federer, Jo Tsonga and Novak Djokovic to snare the title.

This year, he has been A-OK. Not great, but so-so. However, last week, he finally felt much better, winning Geneva in his home country.

Now the three-time Grand Slam champion is ready to rock ’n’ roll. Today, he beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4 7-6 7-5. On Saturday, he will have to go up against Fabio Fognini, who has played fantastic ball recently.

But it doesn’t really matter because once Wawrinka gets hot, he locks in and he will go for it right on the lines. His deep forehand, heavy one-handed backhand, his tricky first serve is way up there.

Can he win Roland Garros one more time? He has a chance this week, but now, he will face some very difficult opponents: Fognini in the third round, maybe Gael Monfils in the fourth round, maybe Marin Cilic in the quarters, maybe Andy Murray in the semis, and then in the final, perhaps Rafa Nadal or Djokovic.

That is very rough, but doable.

“I don’t want people to talk about me. What matters to
me is to make a deep run in this tournament,” Wawrinka said. “If I can reach the final, people will talk about me. So, I just
want to move forward to notch up victories. Whether I’m part of the favorites it doesn’t matter at all.

“I know exactly what I have to do in order to win a Grand Slam. I have already won three Grand Slam titles, so I just want to remain focused on what I do.”

Good wins (sort-of)
Kevin Anderson took down Nick Kyrgios 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-2. That’s fine stuff by the veteran Anderson, but how in creation is Kyrgios’ so flat?

Guess who Anderson will play on Saturday? The Brit Kyle Edmund, who out-hit Renzo Olivo 7-5 6-3 6-1. Who expected that in the third round? Their first serves are gigantic, both of them.

Feliciano Lopez out-lasted David Ferrer 7-5 3-6 7-5 4-6 6-4. The tall Spaniard is getting older, but wiser. Now he has to play against Cilic. It’s all about rushing to the the net. That’s what Lopez does, he comes at the net all the time.

Juan Martin del Potro beat Nicolas Almagro, who retired after reinjuring his knee. He was seriously hurt, he laid on the ground and wept. Too bad. A sad day.
Delpo will have to go up against Andy Murray. The Scot is favored, but the Argentine has won a major before so it should be very close.

The American John Isner beat Paolo Lorenzi and he seems to be enthusiastic, playing mmuch better recently as compared to a disappointing first four months.

The Women: more good wins (sort of)
Aga Radwanska took a long time to beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3. The Pole has never won a major, but she came close at Wimbledon, and she went deep at the Aussie Open and the US Open. But at Roland Garros, she has given up, because she cannot seem to overpower the other good players. Her backhand is wonderful, and she has so much variety, but she can get down on herself. Radwanska has been ranked in the top 5 forever, but she has yet to climb up the mountain and raise the trophy.

It’s hard to see Radwanska winning RG, but if she manages to reach the second week, then maybe. Here’s what Aga says:

“To be honest, if you’re talking about the Grand Slam, if I make thatkind of decision, it would have to be so bad and Iwouldn’t even walk normally. Of course clay, it’s never been my favorite surface. I’m not expecting, miracles here, but I will try my best. I’m playing really what I can do this yearon the clay, this is also Grand Slam. So it’s asimportant as Wimbledon or Australian Open. That’swhy I really want to play here, and do my best.”

Radwanska has to play against the Frenchwomen Alize Cornet, who beat Barbora Strycova. I expect the match will be on the main court on Saturday. Once again, it should be super close.

A fine win by Elena Vesnina, who beat Varvara Lepchenko in three sets. She will play against Carla Suarez Navarro, another close match.

We haven’t seen the No.17 Anastasija Sevastova much, but apparently she is rising. She crushed Genie Bouchard 6-3 6-0.

Two top competitors won, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep. If they stay healthy in the next week, they could face each other in the semis. Or they can lose on Saturday. Unpredictable.

Wozniacki: ‘Clay isn’t my favorite but … I’m hitting the ball well’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 4 – The former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki crushed the Canadian Francoise Abanda 6-0, 6-0 in the second round. While she has never loved clay, she has learned to mix up her shots. She has never gone deep in Paris, but the veteran wants to shake the stigma of being No. 1 without a Grand Slam trophy in her case.

She’s 26 years old, and she has reached the final at the US Open. What has held her back? Her forehand is so-so, and her second serve is pretty weak. Beyond that, her backhand is tremendous and she is incredibly fast — still.

But can she win a major here? I doubt it, but at least she is changing her strokes. At least today.

“I played consistent, aggressive when I needed to and mixed it up,” she said.

In the past three weeks, Wozniaki’s body almost disappeared. But she has recovered so now, she could actually reach the semis for the first time.

“At the end of the day I feel good, came in here feeling comfortable and confident,” she said. “Clay isn’t my favorite surface, but at the same time, I feel like I’m hitting the ball well.”

MORE OF THE WTA WOMEN
Two days ago, Kristina Mladenovic was exhausted after she came through her first match in three hours. Today, she blew out Sara Errani 6-2 6-3. Now the Frenchwoman has a real chance to go very deep but … she has to face American Shelby Rogers, who beat Cagla Buyukakcay. Rogers has been around for a while, but without a doubt, her fine-tuned game is there and she was a shot to upended Mladenovic.

How about the 18-year-old CiCi Bellis who beat Kiki Bertens 6-3 7-6(5)? Bertens had just won a title a few days ago and she thought she could reach in the second week. Uh, uh. The American Bellis is getting better daily and she has already cracked the top 50. The top 40 is coming soon.

Before the start of the tournament, many people thought the 2016 Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza was going to lose early. In the past year, she has not won any tournaments at all. But when she arrived in RG, she became very excited again and on court, she ran as fast as she can and ripped the ball. She overcame Anett Kontaveit in three tough sets and now, she is finally confident again.

Is she the favorite? She is very close, but first she has to beat Yulia Putintseva in the third round, which won’t be easy.

The vetrean Bethanie Mattek-Sands upset Petra Kvitova 7-6(5) 7-6(5). This ends the fairy tale comeback of Kvitova, who won her first match here after recovering from the in-home attack that seriously injured her playing hand.

The Arizonan was very aggressive off both sides, as was Sam Stosur, who beat Kirsten Flipkens. Both the 30-years-olds will go up against each other on Friday. They know each other very well. Massive forehands will be teed up …

THE GUYS
The Canadian Milos Raonic thinks he has a chance to win RG. But, even though he has a number of big wins on the hard courts and grass, he has struggled on clay. Maybe it’s time. Raonic beat Rogerio Dutra Silva 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4. Roanic is quite confident now, even as he could face Grigor Dimitrov, who upended Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-4 7-5. He is pretty confortable.

Rafa Nadal trounced Robin Haase 6-1 6-4 6-3. The nine-time RG champ is favored to win the event, but there are plenty of challenges ahead.

Novak Djokovic looked very steady, blasting Joao Sousa 6-1 6-4 6-3. I would be stunned if he doesn’t reach the semis again. We all know that Djokovic crushed Dominic Thiem two weeks ago, but maybe the Belgian will change everything. Perhaps.

A great win by Steve Johnson over Borna Coric 6-2 7-6(8) 3-6 7-6(6), and a bad loss by the Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who fell in four sets vs. Renzo Olivo. Tsonga should have made a statement here.