Winners & Losers, Montreal: Murray finally beats Djokovic again

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WINNERS

Andy Murray

After he was seriously hurt at the end of the summer of 2013, Murray had to have a surgery and it took him a while to rediscover his form. Against Novak Djokovic, it took him two years, burdened by eight straight losses. But in the final of Montreal, Murray was esquire.

It took more than three hours, and he could have folded when the match grew tight, but he kept trying, coming into the net, swinging his forehand and, as always, he painted his backhand.

For the first time in 2015, he was the dictator; he decided which way he should go and he didn’t panic. Now the Brit has a legitimate shot to win the US Open again, and for the first time on hard courts this season, Murray is just as smart as the Serbian is.

Novak Djokovic

The No.1 finally lost one of the big hard courts, which is pretty unusual, given that he has out-hit and out-stroked everyone on tour, winning the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. But this time, the reigning Wimbledon champion was a little bit off in Montreal, nearly losing against Ernests Gulbis and then going down against Murray.

Djokovic had hurt his sore right elbow, which affected him, but still, he was pretty close against Murray, even if his return game was not spot on. Really, it doesn’t matter, as he has won so many tournaments over the past four years. However, the question is, can he win the US Open? He has won it only one time, in 2011. Perhaps the eight-times Grand Slam champion is a little nervous on NYC, or in Cincy this week.

Kei Nishikori

Props to the Japanese, who smoked Rafa Nadal. But how in creation did he get hurt once again? Nishikori won Washington, grabbing five matches, which included three setters.

But then he won three straight setters in Montreal until he played Murray in the semis, and he was destroyed, saying he was tired. Later, he said that he has a hip injury and he pulled out of Cincy.

He is a terrific player and when he is on, he can take down just about anyone. But, if he wants to win a Slam, he has to play very clean and directed, and maybe, just maybe, be can win the USO.

Jeremy Chardy

There seems like a million of fine French male players like Monfils, Simon, Tsonga and Gasquet, among others. Chardy was on fire and didn’t give in, up, ending John Isner 7-6 in the third set. He did manage to lose against Djokovic rather quickly in the semifinal, but the veteran won as good he possibly could get.

Ernests Gulbis

Out of nowhere, Gulbis rallied, winning three matches for the first time in 2014 Roland Garros. He was so close beating Djokovic, holding two matches points, but he was clearly nervous and he blew it. But at least he is back on track – we think.

LOSERS

 

Rafa Nadal

Yes, he was hurt very badly in the second half of the year in 2014, but he says that he is 100 percent now, so why is he so lost? He isn’t aggressive enough and he isn’t returning deep, let alone his spotty backhand. He was flat against Nishikori.

Marin Cilic

The US Open champion was saying that he is improving daily, but in the past five months, he is unpredictable. That is what occurred against Bernard Tomic, who took him out in the first round at Montreal. At this point, Cilic has not chance to win the USO again.

Gael Monfils

Talk about unpredictable, the Frenchmen said that he was so happy to be back on the North American hard courts, and then he lost in the first round at Montreal and Cincinnati. He said that he thinks he can reach the semis of the USO, and maybe he can, but he has to be much more consistent. Monfils must play very well at Winston-Salem next week

Winners & Losers, Toronto: Bencic beat 6 fine players to grab title

 Belinda_Bencic_Wimbledon_ProfileWINNERS

Belinda Bencic

The 18-year-old Swiss was lethal. She was not perfect, but she seemed to read the lines at every turn. She can crack her forehands and backhands, she can sit back and wait until there is an opportunity, or she attacks ferociously. To win the Toronto title, she bested six fine players, outlasting Genie Bouchard, Caro Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Simona Halep. She rarely became nervous and now the teenager is truly believing in herself and she will have a legitimate chance to win the US Open.

Simona Halep

The Romanian had to retire in the final against Bencic, losing the first set 6-7 and winning the second set 7-6, but she was sick and couldn’t continue. However, she fought hard during the week, outlasting Angie Kerber and Aga Radwanska in three sets, and then she had to work hard against the fast Sara Errani in the semis. Yes, she has to swing away at times, but after she had a difficult clay and grass season, she is pleased to be back at the hard courts.

Serena Williams

In the past year, Serena has lost against Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova and now Bencic. Clearly, Serena was upset (she called it ‘crappy’) as her fabulous serve was way off and she had hurt her left hand, but really, it’s better for her to have lost. Now there will be a little pressure – at least until the US Open, when she tries to win all four Grand Slams at the same year.

Sara Errani

The veteran Italian hasn’t played spectacularly well this season, but she “upset” Victoria Azarenka, which was a fine win.

Lesia Tsurenko

The Ukrainian reached the quarterfinals on Toronto and she has been playing outstanding ball, winning Istanbul

LOSERS

Caro Wozniacki

Yes, she was hurt, but she didn’t say anything until after she lost against Bencic. She also lost in the opening round against Varvara Lepchenko in Stanford, when she said she 100 percent – until later. If she doesn’t want to play because her leg hurt, then don’t play, but don’t pretend that you are fine, and then later, she switched her commentary. She is a very nice person, but she needs to be honest all the time

Aga Radwanska

The Polish Radwanska has been close, but oh so far, falling against Kerber and Halep 6-4 in the third in Stanford and Toronto. She has every game in the book, but she cannot panic late or she is not going to reach the top 5 again.

Carla Suarez Navarro

The No. 10 Spaniard had rested well after a poor Wimbledon and she was excited on the hard courts, but she was flat in Stanford and Toronto. The 26-year-old isn’t a baby anymore. It’s time for her to step it up immediately.

Kyrgios gets angry — again. Wins but obnoxious against Wawrinka

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In Montreal, August 12  

Late at night against Stan Wawrinka in Montreal, Nick Kyrgios grew angry in the first set, screamed at a linesperson, and after he lost the tiebreak, he screaming, he threw his rackets, yelling and saying “This is f—ing bullshit!” It was, by him, all night long.

But he continued to be play fairly well. He still irritable and during the second set he said to Wawrinka, “[Thanasi] Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend, sorry to tell you that, mate.”

That was ridiculously obnoxious.

However, he went on to win the match, as Wawrinka retired down 6-7 6-3 4-0 with a back injury.

After the match was over, Kyrgios was asked why he said that about Wawrinka. “He was getting a bit lippy with me,” he told the broadcaster Sportsnet’s Arash Madani. “Kind of in the heat of the moment. I don’t know. I just said it.”

And then, Wawrinka coach, Magnus Norman, went after Kyrgios: “That was really, really low Nick Kyrgios.” Norman tweeted. “Hope for u that u have people around that will teach u a thing or 2 about life tonight. Very bad.”

After a couple of hours, Wawrinka went online, and he was furious.

“Disappointing to see a fellow athlete and colleague be so disrespectful in a way I could never even imagine. What was said I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. To stop so low is not only unacceptable but also beyond belief…here is no need for this kind of behaviour on or off the court and I hope the governing body of this sport does not stand… for this and stands up for the integrity of this sport that we have worked so hard to build.”

Kyrgios should not have said that to Wawrinka on court, but really, so many people have disagreements about their boyfriends and girlfriends, and they will argue – it’s just off the court, not on the court.

Now, clearly he is a very good friend with Kokkinakis, so something happened with Wawrinka that upset him. Exactly why and to which girlfriend, we do not no, officially that is.

However, Nick’s mother, Nill, knows something differently, tweeting: ‘A sledge for a sledge…do your research before piping up like sheep!”

Now, the 20-year-old Kyrgios just simply cannot stop yelling and talking, but he is already a terrific player and if he can stay healthy and continue to improve, he could crack the top 10 by next year – or faster. However, he has to be much more mature or the fans are going to rip him on court every single day.

Without a doubt, his new ‘coach’ Lleyton Hewitt will talk to Kyrgios and explain to him that he cannot embarrass the top players during matches. Hewitt knows that, given that Lleyton could swear on court regularly when he was young. Kyrgios will listen, and maybe he will try, but when he is playing against the very good players, his mind has become extremely intense and all he could think about is winning his way – anyway, anytime, anywhere, against anyone.

Wawrinka confronted Kyrgios in the locker room but nothing occurred – yet. Both men have a fair amount of friends and both have a lot to say. Even if they both disagree the one thing that everyone knows is that Kyrgios has to be more respectful on court. If he doesn’t, he will have to a hard time finding the fans who cheer for him when the match is going on very long and very difficult and he won’t know where to turn. Right there, an angry man could be losing, rather than winning.

The top 5 last weeK: Angie Kerber kept on winning

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Angie Kerber

The German is incredibly fast, she is so steady and bends down so low, but last year she kept panickedin the final. This year, she has turned it around, winning four titles, knocking out Aga Radwanska, Elina Svitolina and Katarina Pliskova to win the crown at the Bank of the West at Stanford. Pliskova was pretty close in the third set, but Kerber was aggressive and smarter. Now it’s time for Angie to reach a Grand Slam final and see whether or not she is good enough to knock off everyone – including Serena Williams.

Sloane Stephens

In 2012-2013 it looked like Stephens was coming very hard and ready to make the top 5. The young player reached a series of second weeks at the Grand Slam and it appeared that as she got older, she would be more secure and wasn’t very emotional. But last year, she was out of it, as she was upset frequently and she wasn’t self-assured about her game. Finally, she won a tournament, grabbing Washington over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

No, she didn’t have to best the top players, but she badly needed a title and now she has her first. She is amazingly quick, she can go down the line with either her forehand or backhand, and she has a very decent serve. Currently ranked No. 29, if she is confident again, watch out at Toronto, Cincy and the US Open.

Katarina Pliskova

When she is on, Pliskova is incredibly powerful, but she is still learning. She has one of the biggest serves on tour, but she was way off in the final against Kerber. Had she nailed a number of aces, she would have won. She is only 22 years old and the Czech is very ambitious, but she gets impatient and needs to calm down in the important moments. If Pliskova can make that change, she’ll crack the top 5 and perhaps maybe she’ll win a Slam next year. She is that good.

Elina Svitolina

The Ukrainian is the youngest player in the top 15, which means that even though she isn’t very tall and doesn’t always smoke her forehand and backhand, she is pretty smart already and she hustles. She still has a lot of work ahead, but if she keeps moving forward, she should enter the top 10 next year.

Varvara Lepchenko

The American has had a very tough year, having pneumonia at the end of January and she pretty much wrecked her until last month, when she began to feel much better. She reached the semis at Stanford, upsetting Caro Wozniacki. Now, she is confident again and the No. 45 will be a threat against anyone.

 

In Canada: Tomic raises his head, Azarenka thumps Kvitova easily

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In Montreal, August 12  

Given that Bernard Tomic has been struggling mentally with the Aussie Open bosses, but he did concentrate a great deal and he upended Marin Cilic 6-3 6-4. Interestingly, not only has the former two-time champ Lleyton Hewitt is now helping Nick Kyrgios, but he has hit with Tomic this year. Tomic has said that he really respects Hewitt, so perhaps he will be helping with both of them? Tomic could really use his council.  The US Open champ Cilic looked pretty decent in Washington, but in order to have a chance in NYC, he is going to have to be much more consistent.

How about the Belgian David Goffin blew out Steve Johnson and then he was comfortable when he beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4? Does Goffin really have the goods on hard courts? It’s time.

Gael Monfils was saying that he was very happy to be back on North America, but then he went down against Gilles Muller, losing 6-3 3-6 7-6(4). Monfils believes he can really go far at the USO and maybe he can, but he needs to push hard at the Cincy so he is feeling very comfortable.

Jack Sock grabbed a marathon in the first round, and then he out lasts Grigor Dimitrov 5-7 7-6(5) 7-5. The 22 year old has improved a lot this year, but while he has shown that he can reach the top 10 next year, is he ready to shock No. 1 Novak Djokovic? He will have to play his best match ever.

Here is a surprise of the day: the so-called “veteran” Donald Young upset Tomas Berdych 7-6(5) 6-3. The newly wed Berdych is still on his honeymoon, or has Young realized that if he does not play aggressive all the time that he won’t ever reach the top-20.

In Toronto, August 12

Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova hadn’t played since 2011, when Azarenka had grabbed their first two contests. The Czech won four wins in a row, their last meeting in October in Istanbul at the WTA Final, with Kvitova out-hitting Azarenka in a tremendous contest.

For whatever reason, they kept missing each other. They are around the same age, and both have won two majors (two Aussies for Azarenka and two Wimbledon for Kvitova). They have changed quite a bit since then, but on Wednesday night, it was hard to tell who was doing what. Azarenka, who has been struggling with her serve during the past year and half, looked terrific, while Kvitova looked pretty slow and erratic. Azarenka won the match 6-3 6-2.

Kvitova had mono starting in the spring and she just found out after Wimbledon, which is very good that she now what she is dealing with, and bad

that she isn’t close to 100 percent. If Kvitova won the US Open, it would be a miracle.

Azarenka has played fairly well at times this year, but she has not been consistent. Maybe her door will soon come open.

Credit to Belinda Bencic, who beat Genie Bouchard in three sets on Tuesday night and then late in the afternoon on Wednesday, she knocked Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 7-5. The 18-year-old Bencic is improving day after day and without a doubt, if she keeps her head on straight, she could reach the top 8 by the end of the year and be able to play at the WTA Finals in Singapore. She would be thrilled.

Wozniacki is slightly hurt, she lost in her first match in Stanford and now she did the same thing in Rogers Cup. She said last week that she has a chance to win the US Open. Really? Well if she has any chance she has to turn it around very quickly.

A number of the young players went out immediately, such as Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, the Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza lost to Lesia Tsurenko 7-5, 6-1. Maybe the Spaniard will wake up immediately and compete in Cincy. If she wants to be a great player, she has to lock in every single time.

Sabine Lisicki looked extremely forceful in beating Venus Williams on Monday, and then she overcame Barbora Strycova 7-6(3) 6-4. The big-server Lisicki will face Bencic, who attacks every moment.

Angie Kerber has won seven matches in a row and now she will face Simona Halep, who is back after a long rest. Halep hasn’t played very well in the past couple months, but she is happy to be back on the hard courts. Plus, Kerber has to be tired. However, the German is more confident now and she will fight her to the end.

Here was a good one when Daria Gavrilova stunned Lucie Safarova 4-6 7-5 7-5. The 5-foot-5 Russian-Australian hustles around all the time.

Photos from Stanford Bank of the West

Photos by Mal Taam/MALTphoto

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With Serena out, Wozniacki steps in Bank of the West Classic in Stanford

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FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC: The defending champion Serena Williams pulled out of the Bank of the West Classic Stanford last week, which is too bad, but there are other people who need to catch fire on the hard courts in the next four weeks. Soon, the US Open will begin and we all know that Serena is a heavy favorite to win a major against, given that she had won four Slams in a row.

No one is playing well enough to knock off the 21 Grand Slam champion. It can occur, but if Serena is playing extremely well, it is hard to figure out how you can attack her. She has a phenomenal first serve. She has a bullet of a forehand and backhand. Her returns are laser like, and she is very smart and wise. Essentially, no one can toppled Williams.

But as Aga Radwanska said the other day, Serena is almost untouchable, but on occasion, she can drop a bit, she is a little off and then someone while have slight chance to stun Serena.

There are plenty of fine players at Stanford, but every single one has to become better if they ever want a real shot to upend Williams. The top seed at the Bank of the West is Carolina Wozniacki, who is a close friend with Serena and she cheers for her when Williams wins, but at the US Open, Wozniacki wants to win a title – a very big title. As the former No. 1 Wozniacki said, at the end of this year, she would be the happiest if she snares the US Open. Last year, ‘Caro’ played very well in reaching the final in NYC, but then Serena whacked her.

At the WTA Final in the semis, Wozniacki played as well as she could and she was so close to out-run Williams, but she backed off a little bit, Serena stepped up and Wozniacki went down.

This year, the Dane has been up and down. At times, the No. 5 has been very up and down. She should have won at Stuttgart, beating Lucie Safarova, Carla Suarez and Simons Halep. But in the final, she was playing against Angie Kerber, she was ahead in the third set, but then she fell. She was nervous and if she is going to rise again, she has to find a way to win to believe in herself at crunch time.

On Thursday, she will have to face the tough veteran Varvara Lepchenko. If she out hits her, she will have to play Mona Bathel, a big hitter. If she wins there, she will have to play the likes of the new No. 10 Katerina Pliskova or maybe the rising youngster Madison Keys. Then Wozniacki will know that if she can out-stroke the up-and-comers, she has to be aggressive, because Stanford ‘s courts are fairly fast and you cannot just push the balls back in and hope.

On the other side of the draw, the 44-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm was down 4-1 in the second set and came back to stun Sabine Lisicki 1-6 7-6 (4) 6-2. Props to Date-Krumm for winning, who entered the tournament ranked No. 174, but what is Lisicki doing? She is so unpredictable… The Ukrainians went at each other between with the young Elina Svitolina overcame the new mom Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6 6-4 7-5. Svitolina has been extremely well this season and will face Alison Riske, who upended Carlos Suarez in the second round. Riske is changing around and she needs to play much more confident for the rest of the year because before that, she was confused.

Angelique Kerber will go up again the Croatian Ana Konjuh, who will be heard from very soon.

 

The Picks: Murray vs Federer, can Andy stop the great Rog at Wimbledon?

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2- Roger Federer vs. 3-Andy Murray

This will be hell of a match. The last time at Wimbledon was in 2012 in the final, when the Swiss took Murray in four sets. That was Federer’s last Grand Slam, but really, it doesn’t matter too much, because the 33 year old is still brilliant on grass. Yes, he might be a little slower when running around, but his volleys have improved over the past two years (thanks, Stefan Edberg) and his one-handed backhand has also become better when going down the line. Here at the 2015 Wimbledon during the past 11 days, he has been clinical, trouncing five partners.

With all that said, it is Murray’s time. The world has it that the Britain’s has a sore shoulder, which isn’t great, but he did not win two majors and a Olympic gold because he was bombing aces. He won because he has a lot of different shots and likes to play long points.

If Murray is going to win the match, he has three critical things:

1: He has improvement his forehand over the past five years, but he was to push forward, swing hard and believe that he can stroke the lines. He cannot just throw it up deep and soft. He has to crack it.

2: His first serve isn’t massive, but it is pretty darn good and he mixed it well. It’s his second serve that is problematic: he cannot just push it down the middle. He has to make sure that he shows depth.

3: Murray’s volleys are exquisite. He doesn’t have to charge the net all the time, just enough to bother Federer, because he knows that the Swiss would love to take it over the net, and if he does, Federer will win the contests hands down.

Murray will do all the three things and win it in five glorious sets.

1-Novak Djokovic v 21-Richard Gasquet

This is quite surprising, considering it looked like the Roland Garros Wawrinka champion was going to dispatch Gasquet and get ready to face Djokovic again. But the Frenchman showed a lot of guts and won in five terrific sets.

But does Gasquet have a legit chance to upset No. 1 Djokovic on grass? Probably not, considering that the Serbian is 11-1 on head-to-head. But they have never played on grass before and Gasquet did reach the semis at 2007 Wimbledon, so he can attack the ball and dig in. Let’s say that Gasquet one a set, but the defending champion Djokovic will be super-steady and win it in four sets.

Wimbledon: Serena clocks Sharapova, young Muguruza stops Radwanska

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Wimbledon: Serena knocks down Vika again, Maria stops CoCo

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WIMBLEDON, JULY 7, DAY 8

1-Serena Williams d 23-Victoria Azarenka 3-6 6-2 6-3

Azarenka came out firing, blasting her returns, nailing close to the lines and running like a wind. However, Williams knew that she wasn’t quite ready yet, especially with her serves and once she started clubbing, she began to wore her down. Yes, Azarenka kept trying, she kept deep, but she could not break Serena down, as Williams nailed 17 aces and won 80 percent of her first serve, 39 for 49. According to the stats, Williams had 46 winner and only 12 unforced errors, which might be a bit off, but still, she was darn good. When the 20 Grand Slam is on, she is impossible to beat her.

4-Maria Sharapova beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 6-7(3) 6-2

I am not sure why Vandeweghe was upset that Sharapova had a ‘unsporting behavior,’ because regardless, the Russian/US out hit her in the third set. Yes, Vandeweghe has grown up a lot during the past nine day, upsetting four fine players such as Lucie Safarova, but on Centre Court, she was extremely powerful, but she was up and down and needed to be more calm in the big moments. The five-time champion was sloppy in the second set, but in the third set, Sharapova moved forward and was lethal. Sharapova will face Serena; the only time she has ever beaten her at a major, at 2004 Wimbledon. That was a long, long time ago.

13-Aga Radwanska beat 21-Madison Keys 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3

About three weeks ago, Radwanska was finally feeling good again after four months when she was in a panic. But now she knows exactly which way she is going and when she is prepared to go for it. For the smallish Radwanska, her first serve was excellent and she did a terrific job down the middle and extremely very deep. The 20-year-old Keys is getting better and better and she will be heard at the rest of the US Open summer series.

20-Garbine Muguruza beat 15-Timea Bacsinszky 7-5 6-3

In 1997, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario reached the semis (and final) and that was the only other Spaniard to go deep on grass. But the super-aggressive and fast learner Muguruza overcame the talented Bacsinszky in straight sets. Muguruza hiccupped at the French Open, but this time, she has been touching the line. Radwanska is favored, but the Spaniard moves extremely well and if she isn’t nervous, she can upend the Pole.