Archives for August 2017

Zverev’s Amazing Year Continues in Montreal

Source: Coupe Rogers presented by Banque Nationale via Facebook.

Alexander Zverev has stormed up to a career-high No. 6 ranking after defeating Roger Federer in the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Federer was struggling with fitness, but this takes nothing away from a dominating 6-3 6-4 victory by the young German who had saved match point in the second round against Richard Gasquet. This mental fortitude highlights the credentials of a player who has long been tipped to win a Grand Slam.

This trajectory seemed predestined for Zverev as soon as he emerged on the ATP World Tour, heralded as a future Slam champion in a short space of time. Zverev has continued along this trajectory without any major hiccups to change the popular opinion formulated when he burst onto the scene. In fact, the fitness troubles of the sport’s top players could accelerate Zverev’s journey to a Grand Slam title.

Zverev’s meteoric rise is reflected in the tennis betting at bet365, where the young German can be found at odds of +1200 to claim the US Open in September. This places him as fourth favourite in the current standings, and that situation may well change over the next couple of weeks. Andy Murray’s fitness is currently unproven, while the degree of Federer’s physical discomfort in Montreal is yet to be established. That would leave Rafael Nadal as favourite, and the Spaniard is never the same proposition on hard courts as he is on the clay. 

Federer’s defeat to Zverev was only his third loss of the year. Source: Coupe Rogers presentee par Banque Nationale via Facebook.

With expectation comes pressure, and perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over Zverev’s potential is that he is yet to prove himself in the high-pressure situation of a Grand Slam. There were high hopes of the German at Roland Garros, given his propensity to handle all surfaces with aplomb, but he fell to the sporadically dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the first round. Zverev fared better at Wimbledon, delivering his strongest Slam performance in a round-of-sixteen defeat to Milos Raonic.

Zverev should probably have prevailed in that match but was defeated over five sets. If Zverev can deliver his peak level across a best-of-five match, then there is little to suggest that he is not on the pathway to Slam success. Previous US Open winner Marin Cilic will be dangerous at the US Open if fully fit, but otherwise, the tournament promises to be extremely open.

The young German is undeniably the form player and therefore has to be considered a worthy contender. A look at the six ATP Masters 1000 tournaments so far in this calendar year substantiates that claim. Federer triumphed in Indian Wells and Miami before Nadal excelled on the clay of Monte Carlo and Madrid. The clay tournament in Rome was won by Zverev, a stunning victory that has now been joined by the aforementioned glory at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. 

That victory in Rome came after Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final in straight sets, and Zverev doled out the same treatment to Federer. Some talented players lack the armoury to take down the best and therefore lurk in the lower position of the top ten for much of their career. Zverev has all the weapons to take down the best, and the US Open may be coming at the perfect time for a player in terrific form. 


Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Elina Svitolina wins Toronto, smacks Wozniacki

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SUNDAY, AUGUST 13: Now Elina Svitolina is the top of the charts.

The 22-year-old blasted Carolina Wozniacki 6-4, 6-0 to win Toronto. Admittedly, she was tired, because day after day, she has to run back and forth, side to side, forward and back. She is very strong and determined. She barely slept last night, maybe three to four hours, which is incredible. She was showing the effects of beating three strong players: Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.

During the first set, Svitolina was up and down. Her forehand and backhand were pretty good, but she was a little late. Her serve was decent, but she could not kiss the lines. She was terrific at the net, bending very low and going the other way. At 4-4, Wozniacki looked pretty tired, too, while Svitolina kept pushing. She broke taking won the first set,

In the second set, the Ukrainian was almost perfect. She woke up, her legs returned, she attacked quickly against the Dane. She rarely hit an unforced error, while Wozniacki was super frustrated. She wasn’t going anywhere, and she was totally gone.

The former No. 1 Wozniacki has reached six finals this season — which is fantastic — but lost them all. She doesn’t know why she can read her opponents’ strokes. Overall, she isn’t aggressive enough and she freezes.

Svitolina has won five titles this year and thinks she can win the US Open. She hasn’t been close, but now, she knows that if she really believes that if she can play 100 percent, then she can knock down anyone.

Incredibly, the No. 1 ranking will be up for grabs by five women, according to TV commentators. Besides the Toronto finalists, current No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber and the almost-there-but-can’t-convert Simona Halep could all be the top woman by Sept. 11.

She wants to sleep soon, but she is so, so happy.     

“I was very, very tired after the first game of first set. And I knew that I need to give everything because Caroline doesn’t miss much,” she said. “You have to work really hard to get unforced error from her. I just decided I’m going to just play every ball and just leave everything on court. And that’s why, emotionally I was relieved when I won the first set, and then was playing better and better in the second. I really couldn’t believe that it all finished and I’m holding the trophy.”

Svitolina: ‘The mental part is also a very stable’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SATURDAY, AUGUST 11: Elina Svitolina is already pretty close to winning a major. But first, she has to really believe in herself. The Ukrainian has been darn good this season, she is already No. 5, winning Rome, Istanbul, Dubai and Taipei City. In Dubai, she took out Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Guess what? They will clash on Sunday, an extremely important event here at the Canadian Open.

In this event, Svitolina has beaten two terrific players here, who had great Wimbledon results: Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams.  On Saturday, Svitolina crushed Simona Halep 6-1 6-1. She was strong, and Halep was exhausted.

At Roland Garros, Svitolina thought she could go very deep and actually win it. She won the quarterfinal first set against Halep, thought she could nail it during the second set and move ahead, but she stopped, and Halep out-though her, winning 3-6 7-6(6) 6-0. She cried then. But, on Saturday, she locked in, showed her power and was ready to be patient.

“In Paris it was very difficult to have that loss, but I think it also was the experience,” Svitolina said. “So that’s why, from the first point today ‘til the last point, I was very focused and I was just 100 percent on every ball. I just learned. I learned from that experience that you need to play until the last point and, you know, just one point at a time. There will be nerves, but that’s how you need to try to manage them and to put them in the right direction. You know, to don’t push the ball, go for the shots and move your feet quickly. Because every player is different, but you need to know what happens with you when you are very stressed. So I try to learn this from the experience.”

Svitolina is very rugged, has a fast but varied serve. She can mix it up and bash it. Last year, she was pretty decent, but the 22-year-old needed to change a couple things and become substantial better. Her forehand, her backhand and the lob are forceful.  

“I’m more consistent with my game. With the mental part is also a very stable,” she said. “Yeah, it’s just the small things. I’m 22 years old, so I’m always changing. And I see some things differently than, one year ago, two years ago.So just something clicked together and it’s working.”

The same goes for Wozniacki, who has now reached six final tournaments this season. Without a doubt, she has been super consistent, but when she reaches the final, she gets nervous, and then she panics. Is she the favorite here on Sunday? It is hard to say. Svitolina beat her in February, but the 27-year-old Wozniacki has been on the WTA Tour for 10 years. That is a very long time. She knows all the other players, she knows exactly what she has to do, but in the finals, she becomes too conservative.

This time, she cannot, or Svitolina can blast her and destroy her forehand. Caro is so quick, she knocks it back all the time. Her backhand is so consistent, especially crosscourt. His first serve is much better now, and occasionally, she puts away the volleys.

At the press conference, a journalist asked: “It’s your sixth final of the year and you’re still looking for your first win. Does that weigh on your mind at all?”

Caro said, “No, not unless I get asked about it (with a laughter.) So I put myself in great positions and I’m going to try and make the most of it.”

Sloane Stephens: ‘Everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, THURSDAY, AUGUST 10 — Sloane Stephens is coming back strong, upsetting Petra Kvitova and Angie Kerber in Toronto. While she was off for almost a year, she increased her practicing and got better.

American Stephens was hurt last year and had foot surgery. She stopped playing in August 2016. She returned to play on the WTA Tour at the end of last June.

“It’s kind of like I’m just starting my season and everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing. I feel good,” said Stephens. “Obviously I haven’t’ played, so I’m really looking forward to getting on the court every time I step on the court and just happy to be out there. And not that the other girls aren’t happy, but they’ve already had a really long season, and it’s been tough for them. So maybe that’s a little bit of an advantage.”

The 24-year-old reached the semis at the 2014 Australian Open, upsetting Serena Williams before losing against Vika Azarenka, who won the event. She cracked the top 10 that year. She didn’t do much in 2015, but in 2016, she won Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston before her injury stopped her stellar progress.

She said that before she came back at the tour, she practiced a lot and she is trying to improve.

“There was a lot of things I needed to improve. I was on a peg leg for, like, 15 weeks, so I couldn’t do anything,” Stephens said. “I was walking on that stupid thing. And then when I first started actually hitting on the court again, like, I couldn’t run full on. I couldn’t do anything.

“So, it was just like a lot of slow feeling and working on stuff. So, I had a lot of time to work on a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to work on. I had time to improve, keep playing and you have really good results.”

She will face against Lucie Safarova, who has already beaten Dominika Cibilkova and Ekaterina Makarova, on Friday.

Karolina Pliskova: ‘Maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, WEDNEDAY, AUGUST 9: Karolina Pliskova is now No. 1. But she hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, the monkey also on the back Caroline Wozniacki who went years with that notorious distinction.

Obviously, this situation can be awkward, because she has come close to winning the major, like last year at the US Open, when she lost against Angie Kerber, 6-4 in the third. She didn’t choke, but she hesitated, and she got a little bit nervous, and she backed off.

Pliskova is so much more consistent now. Three years ago, when she wasn’t playing well, she would check in and out. Now, she is composed and can keep her flat shots in the court. Her consistency has increased and she can mix it up, deep and very short, and on the lines.

“I feel more experienced now,” she said.

This season, she has been pretty good, but not great. She won Brisbane, but then she lost in the quarters against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Aussie Open. She won Doha, beating Wozniacki. At Roland Garros, she reached the semis, but then she went down to Simona Halep in three sets. On grass, she won Eastbourne, taking down Wozniacki. At Wimbledon, in the second round, she lost to Magdalena Rybarikova. Bye-bye.

“Everything still the same,” Pliskova asked about being No. 1. “Still going out for practices and still want to win every match. So, maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger, but that’s normal, you know. So, just counting with that and nothing has changed.”

She will play against Naomi Osaka on Thursday.

MORE FROM THE ROGERS CUP

Wozniacki and her close friend Aga Radwanska will face off on Thursday. They have played each other 16 times, with the Danish being a little bit better, up 10-6. In 2016, Wozniacki beat her in Tokyo, 6-4 in the third. In Wuhan and Beijing, Radwanska was the victor. In 2017 in February, Caro beat Aga in Doha. Last year, they were both pretty hurt but are in much better shape now. We say it’s 50-50 between there fantastic friends on Thursday.

Venus Williams will go up against Elina Svitolina tomorrow night. Venus came pretty close to winning Wimbledon again, but she is getting slower. While her first serve and backhand are phenomenal, her problematic forehand is still up and down. She is better than Svitolina. Maybe Venus is looking to grab the No. 5 spot from Svitolina. … Garbiñe Muguruza was so-so last week, but she is incredibly confident. She can still get too frustrated. Can she win Toronto and the US Open? Maybe, but first off, she has to face Australian Ashleigh Barty who is getting better and better. … Sloane Stephens is back, upsetting Kvitova 76 36 62. She was out for nine months but returned at Wimby and now showing constituency and strength again.

Aga Radwanska: ‘I’m fresh, so I’m also happy’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, TUESDAY, AUGUST 8 – Aga Radwanska has been a WTA mainstay for many, many years. In 2007, 10 years ago,  she shocked Maria Sharapova in the US Open, which was stunning because the American/Russian was winning all the time. But Radwanska was very young, super thin and she wasn’t powerful enough to dominate a Top 10 player.

Radwanska strengthens are in her legs; she is very fast and bends down so low. Also she can deposit her backhand deep in the court and can mix it up all day.

But she has yet to win at a Grand Slam. She did reach to No. 2 in 2012. At Wimbledon, she reached the final, knocking off Maria Kirilenko and then Angelique Kerber in the semis, finally losing against to the great Serena Williams in three fun sets.

At the Aussie Open in 2014, Radwanska was very consistent, her forehand was stronger and she was confident at the net. She reached the semis, and she was ready to grab the trophy. But she backed off her shots and lost to Dominika Cibulkova. In the ’06 Australian Open, Serena crushed her in the semis. The only way to upset S. Williams would be to jump on the ball immediately, rather than waiting, which she did not do, and the American blew her out.

These are also great times personally for the Pole as she just wed her longtime boyfirend and hitting partner Dawid Celt.

When Radwanska is very happy, and she was feeling very good, she can push herself. Or she can get better, especially with her weak second serve, and to continue improve her forehand, which is decent, but she has to smash the ball crosscourt.

On Tuesday in Toronto, Radwanska  beat CoCo Vandweghe is straight sets.  She is health again, and she moved inside the courts all the time. But over the last year, she was injured, all the time, but she won’t stop, at least for a couple weeks. This season, she should have pulled out for a long time, but she couldn’t.

“Playing all the time with no breaks — you want to keep going, it’s hard to make the decision that you want to stop and have a break. I didn’t, I just keep going, I didn’t want to not play anything just pushing yourself, and you’re doing injections, you can’t play, you’re skipping those weeks that you’re at home so you’re not practicing at all. Especially the Grand Slams, I didn’t want to not play Paris, Wimbledon. I had a really bad virus, before grass — I was even thinking not play Wimbledon, but I was like, there’s no chance I’m not going to play [a] Grand Slam. You’re pushing yourself, but every day you’re feeling better and better, and I was able to play great matches. And then, there was the foot again, and more injections, and I didn’t play for two weeks. … But I’m fresh, so I’m also happy that I’m playing good tennis with little preparation.”

If she wants to win a major, she will have to change the tactics, like going more to the net often, and immediately go for her shots against the excellent competitors, or she will loses in the final rounds of the majors.

She won her round of 16 match by crushing Timea Babos 6-0, 6-1. However, this week, she has to be patient and not be maudlin. 

Bouchard: ‘Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it’

FROM THE ROGERS CUP, TORONTO — Genie Bouchard is up and down this year. When she is into it, she can move from corner to corner and be effective. But, when she is mentally out of it, she can spray the ball. Hopefully, in the next five weeks, she will play great on the court and she will start belting the ball.

In the court, that is.

Three years ago, Bouchard was coming fast. She went deep at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She didn’t win, but she was right there. She was young and fresh. She was ranked No. 5. But at the end of that year, she began to slip. She fell, way down. She has yet to comeback. Somedays, she looks pretty good. Other days, she collapses.

Let’s look at the good news: If Bouchard becomes more consistent and confident, then she can return to the top 10. But she has a long way to go. She is currently ranked No. 70, which is not great, but at least she has put together two good tournaments: she reached the semis at Sydney, upending Dominica Cibulkova, and she reached the quarters in Madrid, surprising Maria Sharapova.

Those were two good wins, but other than that, she can get extremely nervous.

“Well, look, Serena still says she feels nervous before matches. So I don’t think it’s ever something that any athlete completely masters. I think it’s more about how well you deal with it,” Bouchard said. “And it’s just an ongoing battle, really. Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it than others. I’ve learned more and been able to maybe detach it a little bit and really make it. ‘Okay, this is my job and it’s not, so personal.’ But it’s an ongoing process. It’s something I’ll always have to deal with for the rest of my career.”

NOTES
Sloane Stephens took out Yulia Putintseva in three sets. Stephens is just coming back. Slowly, slowly. … Petra Kvitova didn’t play very well in California, but she looked aggressive and consistent on Monday in Canada. I would think that very soon, she will come back into the Top 10. … Domi Cibulkova has had a very tough year. She is straining. … Barbora Strycova wiped out Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman looked spry in May and June, but now she is backing off. … What a great win by the 31-year-old Varvara Lepchenko, who upset the RG champ Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 in the third. Lepchenko has been playing at the WTA for 16 years, which is a very long time. But without a doubt, she plays as much as she can and if she locks in, she could push herself extremely deep at the end of the summer.

Grand Slam season culminates in US Open

After another spectacular Wimbledon tournament moves into the history books, we can’t help but start to get excited about the US Open just around the corner. The incredible Rodger Federer won his record-extending 19th major Open title after overcoming Marin Cilic in straight sets on Center Court. It was another phenomenal accomplishment for the 35-year old, as he finished the tournament without dropping a single set, becoming only the second player to do so in the Open era.

However, we now look forward to the last of the four major events that comprise the Grand Slam, the highly anticipated US Open. It’s always a terrific competition and the last chance in the calendar year for tennis lovers to get their fix and see the best of the best in action. The magnificent spectacle takes place in New York and will kick off on Aug. 28 and come to a close on Sept. 10, ending another thrilling Grand Slam season.

With Federer winning Wimbledon he will undoubtedly be heading into the tournament as one of the favorites and the latest tennis odds price him up at +150 to win his sixth US Open. The last time Rodger won the event was back in 2008 after defeating Great Britain’s Andy Murray in straight sets.

His form recently suggests that Federer has no intention of slowing down as he gets older, and some could even argue that he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career. His display at Wimbledon was nothing short of remarkable and he played with a hunger that has been lacking in recent times.

The 2016 champion Stanislas Wawrinka, or Stan as he’s more commonly known, defeated Novak Djokovic in four sets that year after coming back from one set down to deny the Serbian consecutive US Open crowns. But, injuries have plagues the Swiss and he has dropped out of the US Open, along with Montreal and Cincinnait.

The major omission from the list of competitors this year is, of course, the hugely successful Novak Djokovic. He has recently announced that he will not be playing any competitive tennis for the rest of 2017, after an elbow injury forced him to retire from his quarterfinal matchup with Tomas Berdych. He has met with several specialists and it appears that he has sustained a “bruised bone due to excessive playing.” His physicians have recommended that he rest for a period of at least 12 weeks, which means his run of 51 consecutive Grand Slam appearances will unfortunately come to an end.

Two-time US Open winner Rafael Nadal will also be plying his trade at the championship. He is definitely a player to watch and always plays with that gritty determination that has made him such a consistent performer over the years.

Andy Murray will hopefully be there, too, but the Brit is racing against the clock to be fit after receiving a troublesome hip injury. His doctors are confident that it won’t be a problem, though, and Murray will be ready to play before the tournament begins.


Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Everybody hurts, sometimes

It is August now, which is wonderful, because in the United States, it can be very sunny and warm. Almost everyone loves the summer. Who wouldn’t?

However, the players have played on court for six months. They have played on the hard courts, on clay, on grass. It’s taking a toll on some of the marquee players, who are resting their legs, arms, stomach, back and eyes. If you are very tired, then why not stop for a month? Many players, men and women, will continue to practice almost every day. For the entire year. That is very risky. 

The top men are pretty darn hurt. Stan Wawrinka announced he would not play Montreal, Cincinnati and defend his US Open title, due to a knee injury. The former No. 1 Novak Djokovic is done for the year. Andy Murray withdrew from the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The same goes with Marin Cilic. Only Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will play Montreal, which is great, because they are the best two players ever. But, can they be healthy when the US Open begins in a month?

At Stanford, Maria Sharapova won a match, but the next day, her left arm was super sore, so she had to leave. She won’t play at Toronto, or maybe not in Cincy. She returned in April, and she really wanted to play again. On court, she looks pretty good. But immediately, her body froze and she couldn’t play on grass.

Her arm has to be 100 percent to play, or she will get hurt again and she won’t be able to win another Grand Slam. She is a great player, but Sharapova has figure out what is wrong with her health.

The two-time Slam champ Garbine Muguruza says she can be consistent and super powerful this summer on the hard courts. At this point, she’s the favorite at the USO. 

In Washington, Nick Kyrgios retired with a shoulder injury. He retires all the time. He is great to watch — when he is on — but he doesn’t take advice.

Milos Raonic versus Jack Sock should be a terrific contest. … Kevin Anderson is playing extremely well as he upset Dominic Thiem 7-6(7) in the 3rd. … Some pretty decent players are in Los Cabos, with Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey.

CoCo Vandeweghe once reached the final in Stanford. Can she do it again? As long as she concentrates … We would assume that Petra Kvitova can win the tournament, but it will take a few weeks until she locks in again. 

Cilic to bounce back from Wimbledon tears

Photos source: Marin Cilic via Facebook.

As Marin Cilic tried, but failed, to hold back the tears on court during the Wimbledon final, most of the viewers sympathised with his plight. The meeting with Roger Federer marked one of the biggest moments of the Croat’s career, and his inability to deliver his best game because of injury was devastating on both a personal and sporting level. Yet the drama of the tears should not divert attention from what was a terrific tournament for Cilic.

Cilic was at the top of his game for most of the tournament, carrying on the form that took him to the final at Queen’s a couple of weeks previously. He battled past Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Gilles Muller, and powered past Andy Murray’s tormentor Sam Querrey. In the final, conditions conspired against Cilic and he was unable to add a Wimbledon trophy to his US Open title from 2014. However, he will be emboldened by the knowledge that his top level is as good as anyone else’s on tour currently.

Cilic is available at odds of around 15/1 across bookmakers, marked as the leader of the pack behind the big five players. That five could become four with Novak Djokovic sparking rumours of missing the US Open due to injury, but nevertheless, the prices available suggest that a likely winner will come from the usual suspects of Murray, Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Federer. Therefore bettors could be advised to treat the longer shot of Cilic as a risk-free punt by utilising the free bet no deposit offers detailed by Oddschecker. Yet it looks the stranglehold of the fantastic five on the sport is loosening its grip.

Whilst Federer has had an unprecedented resurgence to the peak of his game, his fitness will inevitably catch up with him soon. Nadal is a different proposition on clay courts compared to other surfaces, such as the hard courts of the US Open. Djokovic has his aforementioned physical worries, and Murray appears to be suffering from similar fatigue. As for Wawrinka, on his day he is unbeatable but his days are few and far between. Therefore the stage is set for an outsider such as Cilic to surge to glory.

Cilic has the benefit of being a Grand Slam winner already, an honour only shared by Juan Martin Del Potro outside of the game’s elite. Del Potro is a magnificent player but his fitness is always a concern. Meanwhile, the younger prospects like Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Lucas Pouille seem to be slightly short of the mental fortitude required to triumph at a slam. Their time may well come, but for now it looks like there is an opportunity for Cilic to add to his Grand Slam collection. If he were to meet Federer in the final at the US Open, then Cilic will not be intimidated. Federer at Wimbledon is almost legendary, but Cilic will back himself to take down any opposition at the US Open if he can turn up in top form.


Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.