Archives for July 2018

Djokovic comes alive, wins Wimbledon


Remember when Novak Djokovic won everything? The No. 1 was unstoppable. But last year, his body broke. After 2017 Wimbledon, he stopped, for six months, and when he came back in the start of this year, he was way off. He was upset, nervous, and mentally constrained. 

But he kept on and at Wimbledon, his confidence was resurrected. When he was practicing, he could crush his backhand, forehand, his serve, at the net, his return, but that didn’t work on court. He would shake his head a lot. He would hesitate. However, two weeks ago, he told himself that win or lose, he would be brave.

And that is exactly what he did. The Serbian won his 13th Grand Slam by beating Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6. He clubbed him. On Sunday, after he won, he admitted that it was a tough time this year.  

“There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning if I’d get back to the desired level,” Djokovic said. “But that makes this whole journey even more special for me. …There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I could get back on [the] desired level or not,” he said. “There were turbulences – as well as moments of doubt, disappointment, frustration and anger. But it’s usually in a struggle that you get to know yourself. And get to have an opportunity to rise like a phoenix and evolve and get better.”

How about this? Just six weeks ago, at Roland Garros, he lost to Marco Cecchinato in the quarterfinals. Djokovic was so upset that in the press conference, that he might skip Wimbledon.

“I did not expect to be back in the top shape already here in Wimbledon so quickly,” Djokovic said. “If you asked me after Roland Garros, I would probably maybe doubt that. At the same time there is a part of me that always believes in my own abilities, believes in my own quality of tennis, what I possess. Whenever I come to the tournament and Grand Slam especially, I believe I can have a good opportunity to fight for the trophy.”

Oh, he battled, did he ever battle. In the semis, he was playing Rafa Nadal. In the fifth set, it looked like that he was very close to losing. But he never backed off and he won it 10-8 in the fifth. 

After that, Djokovic was going to win. On Sunday, he pulled the tall Anderson all around, and he returned whenever he wanted to.

On Monday, Djokovic will be ranked No. 5. At sometime, maybe in the fall, he can grab the No. 1 once again. After all, he is as good as Roger Federer and Nadal right now. It is all about the confident factor.

“I’m really grateful to go through these mixed emotions and turbulence mentally. I’m human and we all have to go through that,” Djokovic said. 


Angie Kerber knocks off Serena, wins Wimbledon

Last year, Angie Kerber said that she didn’t understand exactly what she was doing, losing all the time. She was frustrated and almost hopeless. 

But in 2018, she decided that she would push herself every match, everyday, looking for the confidence factor. 

At Wimbledon, she knew that she was right there. She was so, so fast, running and sprinting. This time, she would attack, hit it closer to the lines, returning deep, On her serve, she would mix it up constantly.

Kerber did and now she has won three Grand Slams, beating the famous Serena Williams 6-3 6-3 to win Wimbledon. 

“I just feel like I’m taking the steps in the right direction,” she said. “I took a giant step at Wimbledon, but my journey has just begun.”

When Kerber was just a baby, and she had just started playing tennis, the now 30-year-old German watched Steffi Graf at Wimbledon. Graf won everything, 23 Grand Slam titles, with an unbelievable forehand, her slice backhand, and a phenomenal serve. On occasion, Graf lost, but she was very calm inside and she was so focused. That is exactly what Kerber did over the past two weeks. 

“She was winning all the matches in two sets actually. I just remember that everybody was playing in white on the grass court,” Kerber said. “I think Wimbledon is something special. I think it’s traditional. To win here is forever. Nobody can take the title away from me now.”

Kerber will rise to No. 4 on Monday, and for sure, she could eventually become No. 1. She has been so much better over the past three years and without a doubt, now, she is a huge factor for years to come.
 
“I was enjoying [being No 1] but I was not expecting so many things because when you reach the top, you have no idea what you have to deal with in this moment,” she said. “What I have learned from that is that sometimes you have to say, ‘No,’ and take time for yourself, not doing every single day media or some stuff, just making a few days for yourself. When you do this, I think you can enjoy it more.”

Th men’s semis: Isner vs. Anderson, Djokovic vs. Nadal

FROM WIMBLEDON, July 13 –

ISNER VS. ANDERSON

Is it for real that the American John Isner has reached the semifinal at Wimbledon? It is real,  as he has won five matches in a row. He is 33-years-old, and he is a very tall man, and his first and second serves are gigantic. But, on certain days, he was calm and cool, and other days, he would get angry and check out.

But on Friday, Isner will have a good chance against Kevin Anderson. The veteran Anderson have improved a good amount of the past year and a half, stunning Roger Federer in the quarters. His backhand is heavier, he returns a little bit better, and of course, his forehand, his serve and even at the net, he is totally controled.   

They know each other very well.

“There could be a little mental aspect in our match. I say that because our rivalry, goes back way before the pro tour,” Isner said. “We played each other in college probably three, four, five times. We played each other a bunch on the pro tour. We’ve been lined up against each other for about 14 years now, because he left Illinois when I left Georgia. We’ve been doing it ever since.
“For me this matchup, and I think for him as well, is especially cool. It’s a very nice spotlight on college tennis, that one of us, no matter what, is going to be playing in the Wimbledon final. We’re duking it out in the semifinals.”

While Anderson has reached the 2017 US Open, final, which is very good, but playing against Isner, he cannot figure him out. Or maybe he finally has. Isner has beaten Anderson eight times, and the South African has won only three times. In the last five matches, Isner has prevailed. In 2015 at Indian Wells, on the hardcourts Isner knocked him back 7-6, 6-2.  That is the last time they have played, so it has been more than three years. They both have changed somewhat, and this week, they are rocking. There will be short points, and I would think there will be a few tiebreaks. In the end, Isner will hit so many aces that he will reach the final in five sets.

NADAL VS. DJOKOVIC

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will clash in the semis. That will be their 52th contest. That is a record, which is mind blowing. In 2007, Nadal beat Djokovic in the semis at Wimbledon, when the Serbian retired. In 2011, Djokovic beat him in four sets in the final. That has been a long time now on grass, but still, having to skid, they are more comfortable at the net, and to know that when they return, they have to hit it deep.
         
Djokovic has won Nadal 26 times, and Rafa has beaten Novak 25 times. They are nearly even.

“Always is a big challenge face Novak. Is one of the more complex players that I ever saw on our sport.” Nadal said. “Is always a big test. You know that you can’t win against him if you don’t play very well. My goal is to try to play very well. I know in semifinals of Wimbledon you will not have an easy opponent in front. You have to accept that if you want to win important things. You will face the best players. You need to be ready.”

Since April, on clay, Nadal won just about everything. But on grass, it’s different. Now on the surface, it has been warm so the balls bounces up on the court. Also, when it is dry, you can slip and fall down. That is the way the balls bounce .

We all know that Nadal has a mammoth lefty forehand that is better than Djokovic, and the Serbian has a better sharp backhand. They are tied on with the first serves — twising balls —  and at the net, putting it away, very low, competent.

While Djokovic is surging, that doesn’t mean that he is 100 percent emotionally. Maybe he will find his fighting spirit on Friday, but Nadal is so focused. Rafa will win in five marvelous sets.

THE WOMEN

On Saturday, Serena Williams and Angie Kerber will be ready to clash. Serena is almost back, playing wise, and Kerber is driven. The last time they played, back in 2016 in the final at Wimbledon, Serena served big and consistent, and she found the lines in two sets. But it was close, and now, they have aged over the past two years. They are crafty, they are very strong, and they can smack both sides, the forehands and the backhand. Neither of them like to go to the net, but Serena’s second serve is substactially better, but Kerber is faster. Also in 2016, the German won her first Slams, beating Ms. Williams in three sets at the Australian Open. So right now, this weekend, they are almost even. Obviously, neither of them will be very nervous. They have played so many Slams, and neither of them will shake in their boots.
They will go into the third set, and Serena will hit it deeper and deeper until Kerber will fold. Serena will win in three sets. The dominator.

Women’s semis: Kerber vs Ostapenko, Serena vs Goerges


FROM WIMBLEDON — Many players are very nervous on court, but others aren’t nervous at all. When you have won a Grand Slam, that nervousness can go away.

That is why Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko will face off on Thursday. German Kerber won the ’16 US Open and ’17 Australian Open, while Latvia’s Ostapenko won ’17 Roland Garros. This season, they have been OK, for the most part. But, in the last 11 days, they were so good and so driven. Kerber has been around a long time, while Ostapenko is very young. Kerber is super steady as she is very fast, while Ostapenko crushes her forehand and backhand. 

However, after you win a major, the so-called pressure is on in the next year. You are the champion, so do it again. Ostapenko admitted that last month that she was emotionally messed up. But not now.

“I’m not like at the French Open because I had all that pressure, now it’s gone. Finally it’s gone,” Ostapenko said. “Now it’s another tournament, another great opportunity for me. I’m just not afraid to miss. I’m just going for the shots. In general, I think my level is much better the last Grand Slam.”

Kerber has reached a number of semifinals this year, but she has yet to win tournament since she won Sydney at the start of the year. In Australia she reached the semis, and she was very close, but Simona Halep pushed her back 9-7 in the third set. Since then, Kerber has been gaining momentum. When she goes deep in an event, she will back off and lose. Perhaps on Thursday, Kerber will be substantially more aggressive and return well. She has to. Her young opponent will make Kerber step it up.

“It’s a big challenge, especially with Ostapenko where I never played against her. She won also a Grand Slam,” Kerber said. “The match starts from zero. The pressure is not always on my side. There are no favorites anymore. We are in the semis. I’m not looking left or right. I’m not looking about the others. I’m really taking care about my game.”

This is a toss-up, but in the third set, Ostapenko will hit the corners and capture it. 

Serena Williams is once again back into the Wimbledon semifinals. She is the favorite, but she still is not playing 100 percent, yet. She needed to best Camila Giorgi 6-4 in the third. Her serves were tremendously good in the last hour, but still, her forehand is a little off. Regardless, she is still so smart, her backhand is lethal, and her returns is very deep. As long as the rallies go quickly, she will be find her game.
     
Julia Goerges will go up against Serena. Goerges is relentless, and even when she gets down, she goes forward, and she finds ways to win. It has taken the 29-year-old many years to reach the pinnacle of her career. Now, she is in the semis at Wimbledon, so the folks will say, “Who is Julia?”

Well here it is, things changed: “It was almost three years ago when I decided to make a change in my team. I went completely a new way. I took a new physio, a new coach [Michael Geserer]. I changed my residence,” Georges said. “I went from the north to the south of Germany really to start everything from zero.

“I thought there is much more potential in my game and in myself to reach my goals I want to achieve, to become the best player I can be with my abilities I’m having. This work we are putting in every day, you can’t expect it happening in three months, and it’s just there. It needs a lot of time and a lot of work. I think it’s everything worth it for the season I’m playing now, that I’m sitting here right now. I’m able to play on the semifinal against Serena Williams. That’s something what a player is dreaming of.” 
 
She is correct. Last year, she won two titles, and this season, the German has beaten some very good players including Caro Wozniacki, Daria Kasatkina, Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty. She is strong. But here is what is crucial: At Roland Garros, she lost to Serena 6-3 6-4 in the third round on clay. So how is she going to attack on grass? That is risky business. Even if she does, Serena will win in straight sets.

The men
It was a heck of a day on Wednesday, very long with a couple of wonderful contests.

The famous Roger Federer went down in a spectacular fashion, losing to South African Kevin Anderson 2-6 6-7(5) 7-5 6-4 13-11. Federer had a number of chances, but Anderson stepped up to the plate, hit some huge forehands and his slamming serve. He came though, perhaps his best match, ever. Federer was a little bit shaken up.

“I was very happy that I got off to the right start, was able to take control somewhat,” Federer said. “I just don’t know exactly how I couldn’t create more opportunities once the third set came around. I had my chances, so it’s disappointing. No doubt about it. He was consistent. He was solid. He got what he needed when he had to. Credit to him for hanging around really that long.”
 
The other multiple champion, Rafa Nadal, survived in nearly five hours, beating Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4. The fifth set was a true classic, with both men returning well, going side to side, hitting hard or soft, changing everything. But in the end, Nadal was slightly more consistent, and brilliant, which is why he will have a decent shot to knock down Novak Djokovic in the semis. But first, Nadal was thrilled.  

“I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set. I think I did a lot of things well,” Nadal said. “I went to the net. In general terms, have been a positive match. Only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set. For the rest of the things, great news, semifinals of Wimbledon again. Great feelings.”

Serbian Djokovic was extremely good, as he was very focused and his backhand was spot on. In the last hour, he whipped Kei Nishikori 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2. Nishikori had some good moments, but then he totally lost his game, committing errors after errors.  

“I feel if I have to compare the game that I’ve played, the level of tennis that I’ve had those years and today, I think it’s pretty close,” Djokovic said.

American John Isner finally reached his first Grand Slam semis ever, beating Milos Raonic 6-7(5) 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3. In the second set in the tiebreak, it looked Raonic was going to grab it and go up 2-0, but Isner kept strong and snared it. After that, he was on cruse control. 

“Pure elation right now. With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot,” Isner said. “I think I can keep doing damage here. This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy.”

They winners are all happy. Not so much for the those eliminated in a glorious day of tennis.

Who’s closing in on the men’s semis?

FROM WIMBLEDON — In first glance, it looked like Milos Raonic is the favorite versus John Isner. But uh, uh. The American has beaten the Canadian three times, in Canada, in Cincinnati and Miami — all on hardcourt. In 2016, Raonic finally beat him, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) again at  Cincy. Both of them have huge serves, both of them can smoke their forehands, both of them have improved there backhands — slightly. When they come in, and if you have to bend low, then that is trouble because they are very tall and it is hard to put it away.
 
But this is about the grass, and while Isner is playing better in the  fortnight, he is going to have to move up very quickly, because Raonic is feeling it. Yes, the Canadian gets injured all the time, but at least when he is healthy — and that it pretty rare — he can move it around, with a lot of spin. Also, the ace-master Isner can actually scramble. Whomever gets a chance, he has to grab it now

“The keys is going to come down to one, two, three points here and there. That’s pretty much it,” Raonic said. “I don’t think we’re going to have many consecutive opportunities on each other’s serves. It’s going to be coming down to those moments about being sharp in the right moments, who is going to be able to step up, to dictate, putting more pressure on the other guy. It’s going to be decided by small margins.”

It was warm and sunny in the past nine days, but on Tuesday, it was cooler. However, it hasn’t rained. Because of that, the balls comes up higher. Raonic seems to like it, on court, that is.

“It gives you more things to sort of hit down on, hit through the court on. You’re not bending over as much,” he said. “Obviously that’s going to help him. I like to use the slice to come in. I like both conditions when it comes to being on grass. I think it’s definitely been the warmest I’ve ever played here. It definitely is a factor when it’s a living court. It’s the only live surface we play on.”

Raonic certainly loves grass, but he just can’t shake Isner. The American will bomb his big serves and his forehand. Isner will win on five sets.
    
Rafa Nadal will face Juan Martin Del Potro, which is a very tight match. The Argentine will attack him anytime he can, and he will certainly risk his serves. He can’t allow Nadal to yank him around.  Del Potro will push him early, and try to bother him, but Nadal  will pound him on his backhand and throw in some sweet passing shots. Nadal will win in four sets.

Roger Federer is the favorite everyday, so while Kevin Anderson is so mentally sound now, the South African has never beat the Swiss. Over the past year, he has improved a lot, but still, Federer is quicker, faster and conscious. ‘The Fed’ will win in four sets.

Novak Djokovic is churning. Day after day, he is more comfortable, and the 12-time Grand Slam champion is oozing. He has to face Kei Nishikori, who is right in there, but two days ago, he said that his elbow was hurting him, but he got through  Now Nishikori  has to find away to unearth him. The Japanese says: “This is a fresh start.’ Is it really? We will find out.

“I don’t know if we never played on grass. I think it’s going to be new game for us,” Nishikori said. “But he’s always like big war for me. I always enjoy playing against him. It’s always big challenge. Maybe I don’t have good result, good record with him, but I always enjoy playing him. He’s one of the best player on the tour.”

And so is Nishikori, in a smaller degree. For a few hours, Nishikori will handle him, rallying side to side. But in the fourth set, Djokovic will start to dominating his backhand and his serves. The Serbian will win in four sets, and after that, here comes playing Nadal — 52 times. That is a lot.

Serena Williams is getting better all the time

FROM WIMBLEDON —

Is Serena getting better with each match? She sure is, which is why she has reached the quarters.

Is that a big deal? Yes and no. She has won seven Grand Slams at Wimbledon. Two years ago, when she was No. 1, she dominated with her huge serves, her sweet backhand and a gigantic forehand.

Then she became a mother. She came back, in March, she was pretty slow — admittedly — and it has taken her four months to get in shape. She is not perfect yet, but she is more comfortable and driven. 

On Monday, she smacked Evgeniya Rodina, even though there were some fine rallies. Williams took it to her. Now, she is closer and closer to being ready to take the title.

“Yes, absolutely. I’m getting there. Yeah, I don’t think I’m there yet. I feel like it takes time to get there,” Serena said.

On Tuesday, she has to face Italian, Camila Giorgi. Obviously, Serena is the favorite here because, while Giorgi can attack quickly, she cannot hit big serves. That is when Serena will pounce. They have played each other three times, on clay and hard, and Giorgi hasn’t won a set yet, but it has been reasonably close. The Italian has never gone very deep at the Slams, but she is only 25 years old and she still has time to grow. But when she wakes up in the morning, she knows she has a big task ahead. Perhaps she can bring it into the third set. But I doubt that, because Serena is focused. 

Before Serena and Giorgi will play on Centre Court, the renewed Angie Kerber will play Daria Kasatkina. Kerber is the favorite, but Kasatkina is rising every day. She is so darn good.

Speaking of which, the 21-year-old Jelena Ostapenko is playing fantastic ball. When she doesn’t get too upset — and she does, frequently — she can outhit just about anyone, including Dominika Cibulkova. 

I expected Julia Goerges to get through, which she did, but I wasn’t sure about Kiki Bertens versus Katarina Pliskova. Another day, another women’s seed dismissed. Bertens found the lines and jumped on the ball. She will face Goerges, which is a very tight match. The German will win in three close sets.

 

Monday’s matches open 2nd week

 
FROM WIMBLEDON –
MEN
 
Rafa Nadal vs Jiri Vesely
The Spaniard is playing amazing, on the grass, as he is healthy and dynamic. Vesely is fairly competent, he is powerful and directed. However, it is hot outside again, so Nadal will be sweating, right in the corners. He will win in three sets, with some huge forehands.Kei Nishikori vs Ernests Gulbis
The Japanese is playing so well now, running forward, slapping the balls, returning consistently. Gulbis came out of nowhere. He cracked the top 10 in 2014, and then he went down hard, out of the top 100, even still. But when he is happy, he is very solid.

 

However, Nishikori will move the ball around and when he gets a chance, he will swing away. Nishikori will win in four sets.

Juan Martin del Potro vs Gilles Simon
In some way, Del Potro is a big favorite, but as the Argentine said, Simon may be very old, but he is so, so smart. The Frenchman likes to chip and slice, and he also hits it very hard when he had to. However, Del Potro has brought back his two handed backhand, and he has a tremendous serve.  Assuming that Del Potro continues to be healthy, he really has a chance to go even deeper. Del Potro will win in three sets.

Novak Djokovic vs Karen Khachanov
The Serbian played excellent ball through the first week. Day by day, Djokovic’s mine will be sharp and concentrated. Khachanov is coming up, gradually. He is very tall and the Russian can smack it. However, Djokovic knows how to return, and be thoughtful. He will win in four sets.

WOMEN

Hsieh Su-Wei vs Dominika Cibulkova
That was a great win by Su-Wei, who moves the balls all around, and she really hustles, upsetting Simona Halep. Cibulkova, who reached the Aussie Open a couple years ago, is really hustling. She is so quick and she returns very deep. This will go for a three setter,  and they will put together some high quality rallies. Cibulkova won’t back off and win it 12-10.
    
Angie Kerber vs Belina Bencic
Now here is an astounding match, with the German and the Swiss women facing off. Kerber says she is super steady, but here, she pushes herself and she wants to crack the winners. Bencic is finally back, healthy and raring to go. Once again, there will be three sets, and Bencic will find the lines and grab it.   

Daria Kasatkina vs Alison van Uytvanck
Kasatkina gets better all the time, on the hardcourts, clay and now on the grass. Van Uytvanck has been there for a while, and she hasn’t gone deep at the Slams, until now. She has chanced her tactics and she breaths. Kasatkina will be forceful and out hit her in straight sets.

Jelena Ostapenko vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich
The 2017 RG champ Ostapenko is on fire, on grass, that is. She is the biggest hitter on the planet. The Belarusian Sasnovich has become a little bit more solid, reaching the final at Brisbane in January.  Ostapenko can get angry when she makes a lot of errors, but still, she keeps going and going. She will in straight sets.

Monday magic in the rounds of 16

FROM WIMBLEDON —

John Isner vs Stefanos Tsisipas
We are talking about John Isner, still here at Wimbledon. As he has said, he has lost many so long, very close matches over the years, all in the fifth sets, going down against Marin Cilic, Jo Tsonga, Alejandro Falla and Dudi Sela. But finally, this week, he pushed himself, he served huge, and for him — which is very unusual — he actually returned very well.
The 19-year-old Tsisipas is very young, and apparently, he is pretty good. He is 6 foot 4, and he has already cracked the top 30. He can get frustrated, but he is a big, healthy hitter. Isner has to get on top of him early. The American will in four sets.

Karolina Pliskova vs Kiki Bertens
This should be a doozy. Pliskova has finally reached in the second week at Wimbledon. She has done deep at the US Open, Roland Garros and the Aussie Open. But, on the grass, she checked out. Not anymore. Bertens is also knocking on the door. She is strong and agile. They played in Stuttgart, and in the first round, Kvitova crushed her. However, Bertens kept chucking along. She won Charleston, on the hard courts, and reached the final in Madrid on clay. Now, on grass, the Dutch player has a more positive attitude. While Bertens can push the Czech, Pliskova will out serve her in two long sets.

Roger Federer vs Adrian Mannarino
Federer is just moving along, side to side, front and back, so casually. Mannarino has been smart at times; he can chop it, and whack the ball. Once again, Federer has all the tools, especially when he is playing extremely well. He likes to be creative, and he is very happy when he is bombing serves. Federer will win in three sets.

Serena Williams vs Evgeniya Rodina
During the first week, even though she was struggling, Serena was totally in control. That is why she has moved into the second week — many, many times. Serena might be a little off, but her first serve is gigantic, she can hustle, and she can blast her forehand. 

Rodina has been around a long time. She is almost 30 years old. While the Russian has never been great, this week, she kept fighting and battling. She stunned Madison Keys. But that’s different, because as Keys said, she was looking ahead, which was a bad move. Rodina will push her again, but Serena is substantially better than she is, so the American will win in an easy contest.

Julia Goerges vs Donna Vekic
German Goerges has become so much more dependable than she used to be. The Croatian is more consistent, she really loves the grass, and she can hit it very hard from both sides. Goerges has finally reached the top 10, and she really thinks — finally — that she belongs there. While Vekic is hungry, but so is Goerges, who wants to move up. She will win in two sets.

Kevin Anderson vs Gael Monfils
This should be a terrific contest between the two vets. Anderson is quicker, his backhand has improved, and he is thoughtful. When Monfils is healthy, he is so much fun to watch him. His backhand has gotten been a little bit stronger, and at the net, he loves to dive and put it away.

I am somewhat surprised that Anderson finally understands how to play at Wimbledon. It took him awhile but now he is right there. There will be few rallies, but Anderson will survive in four sets.

Milos Raonic vs Mackenzie McDonald
I have see Raonic many, many times, but I haven’t seen McDonald much. He has now cracked the top 100, which is better than nothing, but after he left UCLA when they won the 2016 NCAA Championships, it was time to move up. He has worked and worked, and now, he is hitting harder with depth.

However, Raonic is much older, he knows grass, and he is very smart when he is serving, as well whacking his forehand. The Canadian is pretty calm against the younger players, so he will win in straight sets.

Camila Giorgi vs Ekaterina Makarova
Is this a tossup? Possibly. The Italian scrambles and then she leaps in the air and puts it away. The Russian is a natural strong person, and while last year she was out of it mentally, now she is much more composed.

While Giorgi likes to run, she cannot crush the serves like Makarova can. This will go three. The Russian will raise her game and win it, but it will be very close. Super close.

Kerber vs Osaka, Djokovic vs Edmund, Kyrgois vs Nishikori

FROM WIMBLEDON —

Angie Kerber vs Naomi Osaka
This should be a very tight match. Kerber loves to grind, and she runs to and fro, while Osaka immediately hits into the corners and tries to put everything away. Over the six months, the German has looked very good, and at other times, she looks mediocre and sad.

Osaka can rip the ball, and hit the lines, just liked when she won Miami. However, on clay, she was all over the place mentally. Kerber knows she has to dig in, and when she has a chance, she must go for it, rather than just pushing the balls around. In the third set, Kerber took a deep breath and she invaded her. She will grab the victory.

Novak Djokovic vs Kyle Edmund
The Serbian is getting better and better as he is much more comfortable when he is on the court. The Brit has improved a lot during the past year, and now he can sit back and play calmly and forcefully.

Djokovic knows that pretty soon,he will stop being so skittish, and concentrate. Edmund is smarter now, he moves all around, and he attacks when he sees opportunties. While Edmund is excited about playing in front of the sold-out Centre Court, that doesn’t mean that he can convert. Djokovic can be frustrated at times, but he does believe that he can outhit him. Novak wins in four sets.     

Nick Kyrgois vs Kei Nishikori
This is a true bang-up match. When he is healthy, the Aussie is powerful and sointense. The Japanese reached the 2014 US Open final, and it looked like that sometime he would become No. 1, but he has not. However, Nishikori is still strong, he really wants to go far. While over the years, the 28-year-old didn’t quite get it on grass, but inside his head, he knows that if he stays healthy, he can push the opponents way back in the court. However, Kyrgois can blend his often powerful strokes, and he will find a way to deliver them. That will be a five=setter, and Nishikori really wants to grab it, but Nick will break him early and hold on.

Ash Barty vs Daria Kasatkina
The other Aussie, Barty, is finally showing her bold style. A few years ago, when she quit tennis and then returned, she was incredibly nervous. Now, she is cool as a cucumber.  The ambitious Kasatkina is very headstrong, and on court, she is very fierce. There will be a lot of rallies, from side to side, and back and forth. Both of them like to spin, and jump on the returns.  If Barty continues to progress, she will enter the top 10 pretty soon, or even the top 5 at the end of the year. Kasatkina is still very young, and she will rise soon enough, but Barty will beat her in two tough sets.

The cool vets: American Querrey to face Frenchman Monfils

FROM WIMBLEDON — Sam Querrey is lurking. The big hitter will have to face the other good — or at times, great — Gael Monfils. The American has a gigantic serve and forehand, and now, he is pretty decent at the net. That is why he is currently No. 11. He is a happy, go-lucky person.

The same goes with the Frenchman, who doesn’t lover grass. When he is mentally sound, he can throw in his massive first serve, whale on his forehand, and he is so, so fast, running up and back. There will be some short points. Whomever can read the other’s strengths and weaknesses will win, in five tough sets. It will be Querrey.

Serena Williams is rising, slowly but surely. On Friday, she will go up against Kristina Mladenovic, which could be a fun match. The Parisian hasn’t played very well during the last year. She loves to crack the ball, and she can rush the net a lot, but she is erratic, and she is not too quick. But she is really looking forward to challenging Williams.

“Well, I expect a very difficult match. Even if [Serena] on her way back, I definitely think she’s a favorite of our match. If she plays her best, she’s, for me, the best in our sport. And, first of all, it’s great to see her back even after giving birth. It’s great for tennis. It’s a very big privilege to play her, especially at this stage. We kind of both earned two matches to get to the third round, so will be a very nice challenge. I’m not getting too excited. I just would like to be able to produce my game and what I have been working on for some weeks now.”

I would think that Serena will win in straight sets, but maybe Mladenovic will shock her. She has to attack quickly and often.

Thursday Picks

Alexandra Zverev vs Taylor Fritz
No. 4 Zverev is incredibly powerful, with his first serve, with his forehand and backhand, down the line or crosscourt. Over the past two years, he has improved by becoming much more consistent. The San Diego native Fritz is also young and is pretty bright. He is also powerful, and he likes to go for it. Neither of them totally understand how to play at Wimbledon yet, but Zverev will win in four sets.

Jelena Ostapenko vs Kirsten Flipkens
The Belgian Flipkens has been around forever. She has gone deep at Wimby, as she loves to mix it up, to spin it, to whack it. The former 2017 RG champ Ostapenko is still learning, as she is very young and while she can blast the balls everywhere, still, she makes a lot of mistakes. Flipkens will fool her, and take her out in three sets.

Feliciano Lopez break Slam streak: ‘Just to challenge these animals’


FROM WIMBLEDON – Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who broke Roger Federer’s consecutive major record, stepped out at Wimbledon on Tuesday for his 66th Grand Slam in a row.

The 36-year-old Lopez says that over the years, he rarely became injured. His body is very fluid, and he keeps away from long rallies. 

Well, that doesn’t work well on clay, and sometimes on the hard courts. But, on the slick grass, yes, shorter is better.

“My technique … I play quite easy, so I don’t make a huge effort in every single shot that I play,” Lopez said. “I haven’t suffered any big injuries in my career. This is the most important thing. And also mentally I have the strength enough to be playing so many years.”

Lopez never stops. Once in a while, he can rest at home in Spain. But, not for very long. He plays and he plays, and he travels from east to west. A number of players get hurt and then they have to stop. Look at Andy Murray, who pulled out just before Wimbledon. During the last year, he could not play tournaments for 11 months. And now he is on the sidelines again. The same goes with Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka; they both were hurt for a long time. 
But not the creative Lopez, who has had a respectable career. He sees what has happened to the top guys. 

“Probably the two-handed backhand guys have more injuries in the last years. This is something that I realize,” Lopez said. “I don’t know why. But it is true that the two-handed backhand guys have been struggling with injuries lately more than one-handed backhand guys. Also, the stress that these guys they have every single day they compete, because they have to win every day. Also, the mental part is so important that it might be affected, on your body when you step in the court.

“These guys can suffer. And then they can have a big injury like Andy. He had last year, not this year, the hip surgery. Novak in the arm. Roger in the past, also in the back. Rafa [Nadal], his whole career he’s been suffering injuries. They have a lot of stress.”

Look at Lopez on court – running, bending down, sliding, swinging – he has stayed in there, playing the Slams 66 times in a row. That has been 16 years and a third. That is huge.
 
“Of course it means a lot to me. It’s not about reaching this number of the most consecutive Grand Slams played. It’s about playing at the top level,” Lopez said. “For me, to challenge the best players in the world. This is what I thought at this stage of my career was the most important thing, to stay healthy and to be able to compete against these monsters. But, after the 30s it was so important for me to stay fresh and healthy, just to challenge these animals”

Sharapova keeps stalling
Maria Sharapova lost again, going down to Vitalia Diatchenko 6-7(3) 7-6(3) 6-4. Once again, the five-time major champion couldn’t pull it of. She was so close to winning, but as she says, she needs to be more patient. When the errors mount, then she over-thinks. She says she is not panicking, but she gets shaky.

“I think it’s always a different type of pressure. When you’re young, it’s a pressure of the unknown. You don’t know,” Sharapova said. “It’s the pressure of the inexperience, how you’re going to deliver under circumstances that are presented at you that are very new and challenging. When you’re older, you have those experiences, which is sometimes very helpful. You have been in that position, and sometimes you pulled through and did extremely well, and others you haven’t.nAll those are still memories in your mind, but I think that’s what makes tennis great, you have to create new ones.”

She sure does. No. 22 Sharapova said that gradually she is getting better, which is reflected in her hike up the rankings. But, she has a tremendous work to do. She will never gives up, and she will always battle, but she has to improve. Very soon.

“I think the fight, the motivation. Obviously the health,” she said. “That’s crucial, to be able to keep putting the work in. In a matter of a couple points, maybe the situation could have been different. I would have been here saying, I didn’t play my best tennis. I’m giving myself another chance.

Sharapova has lost a number of matches this year. In some she has played OK; in others, she has been off. She was crushed by Angie Kerber at the Australian Open. She upended Karolina Pliskova at Roland Garros, but then Garbine Muguruza destroyed her. Overall over the past six months, Sharapova has had some fine wins, like beating Jelena Ostapenko and Daria Gavrilova. However, beating the top players has been a gigantic challenge.

“You always want to deliver in those moments. But I’ve never really shied away from that. I hope that I don’t continue to,” Sharapova continued. “I hope that I keep putting myself on the line for those moments. … You could work through all those formulas. But, at the end of the day, if I wake up and I want to go out and I want to put the work in, I think that speaks for itself. Doesn’t need to speak to anyone else. Just needs to speak for me, which is the most important thing.”

Four picks for Wednesday

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Lucie Safarova
I could be wrong, but Aga will continue to get better, given that she barely lost on Monday. This will be three sets, but in the end, Radwanska will confuse her.
 
Andreas Seppi vs Kevin Anderson
The huge-serveing Anderson can’t bent down, and he can slip of the grass. So, the Italian Seppi will edge him in five sets. 

Marin Cilic vs Guido Pella
The Croatian is getting better every week. He has a chanced to win the trophy and he will easily beat Pella in three sets.

John Isner vs Ruben Bemelmans
The American finally said that he likes grass. It has taken him a long time, but he is feeling enthusiastic. Bemelmans has improved a lot, but it is almost impossible to return against Isner, who will win in four sets.