Archives for August 2019

Federer goes down, but Barty rises again

The great Roger Federer went down at Cincinnati on Thursday, losing to the up-and-coming Andrey Rublev, 6-3, 6-4. Rublev is very good, when he is on.

For the most part over the last 16 years, Federer knows how to win. He may not play well, but he still mixes it up and he changes the tactics. But not this time. The powerful Rublev kept coming, he hit it hard, and he really focused. Federer, who just started playing after he lost in the final at Wimbledon, losing 13-12 in the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. So close by Federer, but no cigar.

The Swiss will go to the US Open, and he could go deep once again. But, to win it? That is a tossup, because Federer hasn’t won it since 2008. That is 10 years ago, on the hardcourts, at the US Open, which can be hot and sticky.

However, you have to give him a shot, perhaps his last time, as he is 38 years old, and to win a major again, the 20-time Grand Slam champ has to go for winners pretty early. Because if he doesn’t, during the second week, Federer could be tired and overhit.
 
NOTES
It was pretty clear that Ash Barty thinks she can beat anyone when she is so confident and steady. Plus, a few years ago, she was shaky, but now she is locked in. A few days ago, she beat the former five-time champion Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1. The American/Russian is back again, but she isn’t steady yet, and she has to find her solution. It will take her months to be 100 percent, physically. If she can continue to play, and she doesn’t gets injured again, then she will be a fantastic player. No doubt about it, but somehow she has to get healthy, period.  

Naomi Osaka is lurking. She has reached to the quarters, and while she has been mentally up and down this season, the two-time Slam champ wants to prove she can beat anyone. Yes, she is No. 1 again, but she hasn’t won an event since January in Australia. It is time for her to leap up and knock everyone down.

Osaka will face against American Sofia Kenin, who down Elina Svitolina for the second time in two weeks. Kenin is getting better all the time. She isn’t quite there yet, but she is smart and intelligent…

Venus Williams woke up this week, after she lost a lot of matches over the past few months. But, when she is confident, she can dominate with her sharp first serve and her razor backhand. She will play Madison Keys, who also is finding her past form. Venus has gone deep over the past few years, but Keys can be negative, on court. It sounds like Venus has been very positive in Ohio.

Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka – again

Serena Williams hasn’t won an event this year, but over the next five weeks she has an opportunity to raise her game, and perhaps, she can win Toronto this week.

If she does, who knows? Will the 37- year-old will be healthy or not? Will she start hitting her massive serves, her deep and hard forehand and backhand, and nail her returns.

However, it has not been a great year. She has been hurt a lot and she hasn’t won an tournament in 2019. She did reach the 2019 Wimbledon final, but Simona Halep cracked her easily.

But before that, Serena won so many events since she started playing in 1997. That is over 22 years ago. It is a very long time, but not too long for her because she just wants to play tennis. She can get angry, but she can also be peaceful. She absolutely has to.

On Thursday, Serena beats Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets. Now she has to face against the two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka on Friday. Of course, almost everyone remembers that the Japanese/American upsetting Serena 6-2, 6-4 in the 2018 US Open final. Serena went out of control, yelling, and Osaka was so lethal in the last game. Minutes later, Osaka wept during the ceremony, but Serena said some very nice words. They became friends. They probably always will.

The former No. 1 Osaka hasn’t played great, either, but she is an amazing player, when she is locked in. But this year, she can scatter. If she can win Toronto, then she walk into the US Open and push herself.

Can Osaka beat the 23-Grand Slam-champ Serena again? As Osaka said: “Every Serena match is once-in-a-lifetime.” Well, close. For both of them, they both have huge weapons and they will go for it, almost immediately. We hope there an extraordinary contest.

NOTES
Caro Wozniacki lost early again, and I am not sure why she isn’t playing well. She has been around for a long time, she did win the 2018 Australian Open, plus she has grabbed a number of big titles. Either she is still hurt, or she isn’t happy…

The Canadian Bianca Andreescu won on Thursday, and finally she feels much better on court. So many people get injured, all the time, and it was been going on for years and years. Hopefully, the young Andreescu will stay healthy.

The strong Elina Svitolina crushed Belinda Bencic, so perhaps she is feeling comfortable again and smarter? She did before … American Sofia Kenin has been a bit up and  down, but she is only 20-year-old, so pretty soon, she will proceed.

In Montreal, there should be a fun match, with Rafa Nadal against Fabio Fognini. Nadal leads 11-4, but Fognini did shock him at the 2015 US Open, and in April at Monte Carlo, the Italian won 6-4, 6-2. However, Nadal has beaten him a lot, on clay and hardcourts. They know each other very well, but Nadal is very wary.

“He’s having a great season, one of the best of his career, if not the best,” Nadal said. “I need to be playing well.” They both do.

Mr. Zverev: Will he come around again?

Remember in November, 2018? He won the ATP Final, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, two of the best players un¹ever. Then, when he started playing in January, 2019, he could actually win a Slam. But he didn’t. He fell back.

At what point will Alexander Zverev rise again? He has not had a good year at all, but I would think that he can come around.

The 22-year-old reached the final at Acapulco in March, but he lost to Nick Kyrgios. And then, the now No. 7 lost fairly early for the next five months.

On Tuesday in Montreal, Zverev  beat Cameron Norrie 7-6, 6-4. That was pretty decent, but now has to play against Nikoloz Basilashvili
who is ranked No. 17. Basilashvili beat him 7-6 in the third at Hamburg, two week ago. Now they will clash, on hardcourts, so it is faster and he has to attack early. He has to jump on the lines. His first serve is huge, if he gets in, that is.
Last year in Canada, Zverev lost in the third round against 
Stefanos Tsitsipas, a guy who is very good. But then he lost early in Cincy and the US Open.

It is just impossible to know how poorly the German is thinking on the court. We will find out ASAP as the North American hardcourt season proceeds.

NOTES

In Montreal, The veteran Milos Raonic beat Lucas Pouille, a good win, but now he will have face Felix Auger-Aliassime, the excellent 18-year-old. Both of them live in Canada. Auger-Aliassime is rising up, quickly, but Raonic wants to frustrate him. It should be a terrific match, forehand versus forehand.

Roberto Bautista Agut destroyed Bernard Tomic. The good thing is that the Aussie qualified, but he needs to work out more, and not travel all the time. Tomic is ranked in the top 100, and I would think he will qualify for the US Open, but it is hard to tell. He is up and down mentally all the time — still.

 The women in Toronto

Was this a surprise? Anettt Kontaveit took down Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Kontaveit can play excellent balls, or she can lose her temper. Over the last couple years, Sharapova has been hurt all the time, but she is still trying. Hopefully, over the rest of the year, she won’t get hurt, or here and there, because for many years, her right shoulder is sore all the time. She just has to deal with it, and she knows that.

“I’m still building the confidence and my form, and that’s something that’s just going to come with time and with match play,” Sharapova said. “Unfortunately, I just haven’t had that yet, so will just hopefully try to build on it. There’s never the perfect scenario. … So it will just take time to build that confidence again, because I have struggled with it for a long time.”

Another good Czech, Marie Bouzkova, upset Sloane Stephens. The American cannot get going. It is in her head…

The other Canadian, Bianca Andreescu, has returned after being injured for months. Recall though, she won Indian Wells, which was a shocker. But not anymore. The 19-year-old is a worthy player. If she stays healthy, she will make the top 10 by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, Andreescu beat Genie Bouchard 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. Years ago, Bouchard won so many matches. Now, she is not even in the top 100. Will she come back? I just don’t think so.

Re-think the game: Hardcourts are back

Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The hardcourts have begun again. Since in early April, the natural-surface people started to play on clay, and then, on the grass. Now at the end of July, the all competitors leap back on the hardcourts.

This week, in the United States, San Jose, and Washington have begun. None of the top players are playing yet. Next week, it is Toronto and Montreal. Most of all of them have to compete. So, they have to pay attention — big time.

In San Jose, the very young and aggressive Aryna Sabalenka is there. Last year, she was very, very good. She was incredible at times, but this season, she has been struggling. Once in a while, over the decades, there have been some fantastic players, when they rarely lost month after months, such as Serena Williams and Steffi Graf. Of course, they have missed some huge matches, but week after week, they think, they remember, and they build upon their success.

In 2018, the now 21-year-old Sabalenka rose quickly and she won Wuhan, a huge event. She was flying. When she started in 2019, she won a small event in January, Shenzhen. But after that, she skidded, and she has lost early during the past six months. Sabalenka is a tremendous talent, but she has to think on court. If she doesn’t, she won’t be able to crack the top 5.

At the Australian Open, believe it to not, she went down against the Amanda Anisimova, a super young player. Anisimova will face Zheng Shuai. That could be a blast, assuming that they both are on fire.

NOTES
The San Diego player CoCo Vandeweghe finally returned, as she was off for months due to a major injury. Now she feels better, but it will take her a while to raise up her game. On Wednesday, she lost to Sabalenka. Elina Svitolina is the top seed, and she is ranked No. 7. Look, she is a darn good player, and she has won some important tournaments, as she is quick and mighty, but she can get nervous and shaky. She has to keep her focus.

In Washington, Jack Sock returned. He’s another person who was hurt for months. Last week, in Atlanta, he lost in the first round. The same thing happened on Tuesday, when he lost against Jordan Thompson in Washington.

Sock is ranked 173, but a few years ago, he made it to the ATP Finals, in singles and doubles. Can he come back into the top 10 again? That is a long road back. In doubles, he is a terrific player, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Finals with Mike Bryan in 2018. Yet in singles, he looks rushed. Then, he can collapse. If he wants to show the world how good he is, he has to re-think his game. Or else.