Archives for April 2018

Nadal played great at Monte Carlo, but will he stay healthy?


These days, you never know how Rafa Nadal will play on court because over the past nine months, he was hurt all the time. Even in the first three months, in 2018, he could barely play. 

However, in Monte Carlo, he looked pretty healthy. But at 100 percent? It was hard to tell until he walked on the court, he was ready to play for hours, he ran fast, he crushed the ball, so heavily, and he was so confident. He must have been so happy that he was playing in the clay again. 

In Monte Carlo, he won five matches to win the title, and he did not lose a set. He won 10 sets (60 games), and he only lost 21 games. That is damn good. He blew out Dominic Thiem, he pushed Grigor Dimitrov into the ground, and out muscled Kei Nisihikori 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Nadal: the best clay courter, ever.

But will he stay healthy over the next two months? He has to, because if he gets hurt again, the 31-year-old will have to go back to the drawing board. I would think that he has to be very careful this season. In 2017, on clay, he dominated, but after he won Roland Garros for the 10th time, he went down pretty quickly. His knees where shot. He cannot beat himself again as he beats up everyone else in the spring, clay-court season. 

Nadal is playing in Barcelona this week, which he has won many times. It should be tough, though, as he could face Nishikori again, in the third round, and possibly, in the quarters. He could play against the 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or against Feliciano Lopez. They are all long-time veterans, but regardless, Nadal has always known how to be patient. Plus, now, he can move forward and attack.

Djokovic has been really struggling, even though he showed some resurgence in Monte Carlo, but he will be super consistent again. It will take a few more months, though. He won’t go away.  

Here is a good comparison, according by the ATP, of Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic:

Grand Slam titles/losses:
RF 20/72 
ND 12/52
RN 16/51

In the ATP 1000s: 
RF 27 titles
ND 30 titles 
RN 31 titles

The ATP Finals:
RF 6 titles 
ND 5 titles
RN 0 titles

Total “Big 3” titles:
RF 53
ND 47
RN 47

By the end of the year in late November for the ATP Finals at the 02 Arena on indoor hard courts, Nadal’s knees are pretty shot. Maybe in seven months, Nadal will be 100 percent, healthy wise. He hopes. 

Nadal, Djokovic: back on track in Monte Carlo


Rafa Nadal won easily in Monte Carlo, crushing Aljaz Bedene 6-1 6-3. He loves clay — he is an addict — and when he walks on the court, he is already locked in. In the last 10 years, he rarely — and I mean rarely — loses. That’s it. He is the best clay court ever, hands down, but he gets hurt a lot, so now, he is vulnerable. However, this week, if he is healthy, he is the favorite. But, there will be some close matches.  
 
Novak Djokovic finally played well, and it has taken a year — or two years — the Serbian has said. He was pretty lost at Indian Wells and Miami. In Monte Carlo, over the last three days, he is faster, comfortable, and powerful.

Will it last? I would think so, but he has to be patient because the 12-time Grand Slam champion isn’t there yet. He beat Borna Coric 7-6(2) 7-5, which was huge, because Coric has been very confident over the past two months. Coric is very steady, and the same goes with Djokovic. They played for two-and-a-quarter hours, but the Serbian reached back and nailed it.

Good for Marin Cilic, who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-6(4). Verdasco does like clay, but Cilic is up and down. However, one this day, he was calm and, when he had the opportunity, he moved forward. His first serve is massive, and his forehand is gigantic. But to win it at Monte Carlo? I cannot see that.

Way to go by Kei Nishikori, who bested Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2. Nishikori really wants to play as much as he can, but he does get hurt a lot, so he has to be careful….

That is a great win by the Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, who blew out Diego D. Schwartzman 6-2 6-1 in the second round. He has an amazing backhand. … Canadian Milos Raonic is still in there despite nagging injuries. Hopefully, his arms are better, and he won’t think about how sore it is. He is a terrific player, but he doesn’t love clay. On grass and the hardcourts, sure, he can go very deep in the summer. But in the spring, he cannot win in the big events. Including Monte Carlo.

The Davis Cup preview: USA, Italy, France, Spain, Germany & more

John Isner must be thrilled, winning Miami, his best two consecutive weeks ever. But now, it is time for Davis Cup. In Nashville, against Belgium, the Americans are a huge favorite, with teammates Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Ryan Harrison. They are playing indoors, which will probably be pretty fast on the hard court. If they play decently, the USA will win, hands down.

Any of the five guys can win it in the singles, given that Belgium are pretty slim. The very good David Goffin isn’t playing because he is still hurt. The two singles player, Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore, will play, and they will have a small chance to win. Bemelmans is very decent, but he is not that great.

American captain Jim Courier has chosen Isner and Querrey for singles. On Friday, Isner will face De Loore, and Querrey versus. Bemelmans. On Saturday, it will be Sock and Harrison in doubles against a pair of unknown Belgium players.

Courier is darn smart, so if the players listen to what he says, they will move on, quickly.

In Spain, Rafa Nadal will be playing in Valencia against the Germans. On Wednesday, the No. 1 Nadal hadn’t decided whether he would play on Friday, but he decided to. He will face off against Philipp Kohlschreiber. He appears to be very excited, which is great, but over the past three months, he has been hurt, significantly. Hopefully, he won’t pull out again. As the fans say, ‘Pray.’

Before that, it looked like Pablo Carreno Busta was going to play, but he became injured. (Everyone gets injured, right?) He pulled out, so David Ferrer has brought him in, and will play the flashy No. 4, Alexander Zverev. The one-time Roland Garros finalist Ferrer loves to grind, and while Zverev likes to chase the balls and whack-em, he cannot get lose his cool, just like he did when he lost in the Indian Wells final against Isner. He must focus. Zverev and Kohlschreiber need to be on fire and enthusiastic. It should be a great contest.

Here is another terrific tie: home team Italy versus France on clay, in Genoa. Fabio Fognini is certainly playing in singles, and the captain Corrado Barazzutti chose Andreas Seppi. It will be a very tight match, either way. The French captain Yannick Noah choose the No. 11 Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy, who played pretty well in the past month. Teu have to chop it around and mix it up anywhere you want to. A toss up overall?  You bet.

Croatia is a serious favorite against Kazakhstan, with Marin Cilic and Borna Coric leading the pack. Coric is playing much better than he did last year.

MORE NOTES
Charleston, South Carolina is a terrific area, near the great water. On court at the Volvo Car Open on green hardcourts, they slide a lot, and on occasion, they fall down. But they get back up, wipe up your towels, and run. Some of the top players don’t come much anymore, but still, there are some very good players, like the US Open finalist Madison Keys, who has struggled this season, but she is trying. She beat Lara Arruabarrena and then on Thursday, she beat the some-times good Camila Giorgi. Not bad. She needs to win a lot this week, because very soon, here comes the European clay. There, she has to hustle a lot…
Brit Jo Konta is really struggling and she lost against Fanny Stollar 6-3 6-4. She is 7-6 this season and now she is ranked No. 22. She has to get back on track…
The ‘other’ Kristyna Pliskova shocked the No. 10 Petra Kvitova 1-6, 6-1, 6-3. The next day, she upset Elena Vesnina. On fire, huh?

Kvitova can look great, or she can fold. She needs to rest for a while. At least a few weeks. … One more good win: American Bernarda Pera upset Sara Errani. Another American is on the rise.

Miami final: John Isner can bounce Alexander Zverev

Here goes John Isner, playing fantastic again. The same goes with Alexander Zverev, who was reeling during the first three months, but now the No. 3 is calmer and he is hitting it close to the lines.

Isner was totally locked in against Juan Martin del Potro is the semis. As always, his first serve is massive, and his forehand is big and gutsy. His backhand is still medicore, but he can nail it down the line when he wants. Also, he is 6 foot 10 and he isn’t that fast, but he is sharp at the net.

The German Zverev won two ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, snagging Rome and Canada in 2017. He also has a huge first serve, is pretty quick, and can go crosscourt, down the line and put in a few good dropshots. He has beaten Isner three times, in 2016 in Shanghai, and last year, in Miami (7-6 in the third) and Rome. The 20-year-old has had a solid event in during the past 10 days, beating David Ferrer, Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and Pablo Carreno Busta, without dropping a set. He could be a little bit cocky, but over the past six months, he has learned that he cannot play perfect all the time. He had to push it back and figure it out. 

Over the past few days, Zverev was very good, sprinting side to side and when he was way off the court, he can nail it for a winner. He was totally pumped up.

Isner not only defeated the red-hot del Potro, he also jumped over Marin Cilic and  Hyeon Chung. The American has never won an ATP 1000, but he has come close. He is 32-years-old and I am sure he will continue in the next four years. But, when you are in the final at the ATP 100s and/or the Grand Slams and have such a rare opportunity, you have to grab it. 

While Zverev is a better player than Isner, he will drop down a bittoday and Isner will win it in three tough sets.