Archives for July 2018

Monday magic in the rounds of 16


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


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.

After Slam final, Stephens falls again

FROM WIMBLEDON — Wimbledon has finally started, and on day one there were some fantastic wins, and some sad defeats.

Let’s start with the No. 4 Sloane Stephens went down to Donna Vecic 6-1, 6-3. The Croat jumped on the ball quickly, and she moved around nimbly and precisely, while the American could not find her feet. She made too many errors, she lost the rhythm. She did try at the end, but she could not work enough points to make a competitive match. It was pretty surprising.

Stephens won the 2017 US Open, and she reached the 2018 Roland Garros final, so the No. 4 has played some fine contests. But not this time. She was a little upset. Maybe a lot.

Her performance here was reminiscent of her tumble after her US Open victory when she failed to win a match in the fall tournaments.

“I wish I could have played better. I would have made some more balls. I could have pushed her a little bit more,” Stephens said. “It just wasn’t working. … It’s unfortunate. The same thing I said to my coach: ‘Man, that was unfortunate.’ She played well. It was not too much you can do. I’m not going to go cry, bang my racquet.”

So she will work even harder, back to the United States. Whatever she says, there will be pressure, a lot of pressure. She is the defending champion of the US Open. Now, when she rose up during the last year, a huge amount of fans took notice. During the rest of this summer, they will pay attention. And perhaps, so will Sloane.  

It was going to be, sooner or later. That is Stan Wawrinka, the three-time Slam champion, who chopped down Grigor Dimitrov 1-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4. After the first set, it looked like the Swiss was going nowhere. But in the second set, he clammed down, his head was in the right place, he mixed it up, and when he had an opportunity, he hit it in the corners. Finally, the recently injured player was back. At least on Monday. 

“Was tough. But to lose that 6-1, I still think at that moment that I wasn’t playing that bad. I was missing few things,” Wawrinka said. “The set went quick. I’ve been practicing so hard last few weeks on grass to get my level there, to be ready for big match, to know that I can count on my game. I had to put myself together again, to try to fight, try to find solution. I also knew before the match that it’s tough for Grigor to play against me in the first round, he didn’t win so many big matches recently. I was trying to stay with him, try to find my rhythm, try to make it tougher for him, try to make him think a bit more.”

That he did. Dimitrov has had a terrific 2017, winning the ATP Finals, and he rose up to No. 3. But this year, the Bulgarian has struggled, especially at the Slams. Unfortunately, he was unable to go to go very deep, which can be brutal. At the Aussie Open, he actually reached the quarters, but he lost in four sets against the improved Kyle Edmund. At Roland Garros, he won an amazing match against the young American Jared Donaldson, 10-8 in the fifth, but two days later, he was tired and he lost pretty easily to Fernando Verdasco. Now, at Wimbledon in the first round, he was confused. But he won’t give in. 
“You kind of have to stay positive, simple as that. You can’t just go down on yourself. Yeah, it’s been a rough road so far,” Dimitrov said. 

On Monday, both Wawrinka and Vecic scored a huge victories. Mr. Stan and Donna have been dating for a while. They watch each other playing whenever they can. They did it in the bright sun. 

“I think it was a good day for us at the office, that’s for sure. Was great match from [Donna]. I watched it from home before coming back for my match,” Wawrinka said. “It was a big win for her. She’s playing well on grass. It’s been good for us today.”