Also: Nadal, Goffin, Konya and more
Maria Sharapova is back—finally. It has been 15 months since she was suspended for testing positive for meldonium.
But, it is over. While there are some people who never want her to walk on the court again, she stayed away, she didn’t yell, or get very angry. She just practiced and made sure that she was eating the right stuff.
The five-time Grand Slam champion has a tremendous amount of work to do, physically as well as emotionally. She has no ranking. A number of players don’t like her, and some of them want her to fail. If, however, she decides that it is important to become friends with her fellow WTA players, then perhaps they will learn to like her and they will stop ripping her. Believe it or not, when you get to know her, she is very nice, fun and extremely intelligent.
Maria to change this time around. She has always been very good, or great, depending on the day. She practices like a maniac, and usually, she pays attention to the little details in her game. She never gives up — we know that —and over the past 15 years, she has improved tremendously.
Clearly, she can crush her backhand and forehand, and her first serve. But, to win another major, she has to improve her second serve and actually come to the net once in a while and stick with it. If she does, here comes another Grand Slam winner, No. 6. Whether she does it this year or next year, there are loads of fans who want to see her, in the morning, in the afternoon, or very late in the night, watching her, saying ‘Maria C’mon, C’mon, Come ONNN!’
Sharapova is playing in Stuttgart and has won two matches already over Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova. Next up: qualifier Anett Kontaveit.
Rafa Nadal is on fire once again, largely because he’s playing on clay now, and he absolutely loves it. On the hard courts, his legs hurt him a lot, but on clay, it is softer and he can just slide around and dig it out. He won Monte-Carlo (his 10th time) and this week, he is competing on Barcelona. He has won countless times in both places, let alone at Roland Garros. It is coming pretty fast.
However, before that, his confidence must go high to the sky, such as beating Andy Murray, who is also at Barcelona. Rafa has beaten Murray many times on clay, but now, the Scot is No. 1, he has improved a tremendous amount and, while he has been hurt over the past month or so, he has to show that he can push Nadal way back on the baseline. If they play this week in the final — we hope so and they hope so — it would be very interesting for Murray to face Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters. He is super steady these days…
David Goffin is in Barcelona and while the top-10-er has been more consistent over the past year, there are just a couple negative things that hurt him. He has yet to win a big tournament — ever and just lost against the 20-year-old Karen Khachanov. The Russian is rising.
Some interesting wins in Stuttgart: Anastasija Sevastova took down Johanna Konta 6-3 7-5, the good veteran Carla Suarez Navarro over Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-4, and the German Laura Siegemund upset Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-3. Konta is terrific on hardcourt, but on clay … eh.