Archives for 2019

Ash Barty can win another Slam in 2020

Ash Barty, Ashleigh Barty

On Sunday, the ATP Finals will begin in London. It should be very tight, all eight of them, with Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, including with the rising Daniil Medvedev.

But in November 3, Ash Barty won the WTA Final. Now, we all knew that the Australian would finish the year at No. 1. She was pretty safe. But to actually win it, the entire thing, that was a little bit surprising. That is not because she has turned into a great player, but because she was tired, coming into the tournament.

For a player who is a runner, you mudt be fast, but to be super fast, you have to be healthy. When Barty arrived, she said she was feeling better, and when she steps on the court, she started to move just fine. The Aussie has played a lot, in the singles and the doubles, during 2019. A number of women become injured, and then they pulled out. Frequently. But not Barty, who just wants to play tennis, almost everyday. Some women and men play way too much, when they are practicing. That is why over the past 25 years — or more — dozens of people get injured, and they have to stop, for a long time.

At this point, the 23-year-old Barty can stay No. 1 in 2020 for a while, but she is not way up there. She did win Roland Garros this year, which was fantastic, but only one at the Grand Slams. She will definitely have a huge shot to win the Australian Open in January, but there is a lot of pressure in Melbourne, with all of the Aussies. An Aussie man hasn’t won it since 1972, when Mark Edmondson grabbed it. The talented Aussie woman, Chris O’Neil, won it in 1978. That is 41 years ago, which is a very long time.

It is totally different with various countries. Barty can play the hardcourts, which was obvious when she won the WTA Finals in China. She beat Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova and Elena Svitolina. All of them went down. Barty just loves the hardcourts. However, back home, she can be stressed in January. But Barty is very determined.

Now, will the other No. 1, Nadal, do the exactly same thing? He is 630 points above Djokovic, which is somewhat far, but he has to win a couple matches in London, rather than winning it all. But Nadal wants to. He always push himself. He, Djokovic and Federer always do that, which is why they have combined to win 55 Grand Slams. That people, it is mind blowing.

Nadal, Djokovic and Federer will clash at the ATP Finals

Rafael Nadal, Rafa Nadal

Rafa Nadal comes into the ATP Finals with just a week off since he withdrew from the Paris Masters semifinal with an abdominal strain, and there are a lot of questions about him physically — but not about his game.

The lefty can smash his forehand, stay very patient, and is still willing to have long rallies where he will blast it into the corners when the other player is exhausted. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has also improved his backhand — it’s deeper now — and he is tough to beat at the net, when he comes in. Though he stands way behind the baseline when he is returning, almost on the wall, he can get it back regularly and then get into the point.

While people know that he is the best player ever on clay, winning 11 times at Roland Garros, he has won on hardcourts both at the Australian Open and the US Open. So when Nadal is healthy, he can beat them all everywhere.

But the problem for Nadal at the ATP Finals has been being healthy, because he’s withdrawn or retired there six times, exhausted from a long season. This time, he says he doesn’t know what shape he will be in when he takes the court. He really wants to win it, though, badly, and certainly can if he plays like he is capable of.

Serbian Novak Djokovic has won here a lot of times before, and he might do it once again. The photos show why — when he is locked in, his eyes are very wide, and he is looking directly at the ball. He will return deep, and then he will camp on the baseline with his amazing backhand, and he will rally crosscourt until he can knock it down the line. He has won 16 Grand Slams, and this year, the Australian Open and Wimbledon. That was crazy, considering that the Spaniard and Djokovic have played each other 50 times. Most of it, it was darn close.

Djokovic just won ATP Masters Paris, and while he was a little bit injured and off during the last few months, he has been around for a long time and he knows that as long as he practices, he will eventually return playing terrific. Currently, he is very close to playing 100 percent, and he is feeling confident. He wants to become No. 1 again, and push everyone aside. Without a doubt, he is the top favorite to win it again.

Roger Federer has had a solid year. He was unable to win a Grand Slam again, but he also won four tournaments, which means that he is still alive. In July, at Wimbledon, Federer lost 13-12 in the fifth against Djokovic. Even if he lost, he is still good on the move, and he can be spectacular. Federer thinks deeply, and he can change the tactics when he has to, using his variety. At the ATP Finals, he has won a record six titles. He has beaten them all, but he has lost, too. In 2018, he went down to Alexander Zverev. In London, he has a fine chance to win it once again, standing at the net and putting away his volleys. Federer is always very competitive against the top players.

The ATP Finals odds have three distinct tiers, according to Sports Betting Dime. Djokovic (+120) is in a class by himself, followed by Federer (+400), Medvedev (+450) and Nadal (+500). Zverev (+1200), Tsitsipas (+1200), Thiem (+1400) and Berrettini (+2200) are the longshots. The best value among the bottom four looks to be Tsitsipas. With wins over Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, and Zverev (twice) this season, his upside is as high as Medvedev, though his consistency is lacking.

Daniil Medvedev has had an incredible year. He started back in July, when he reached six finals in a row. It took the 23-year-old Russian five years to become smarter and more thoughtful about when to go for it and when to hold back. He is tall, steady and he can rip his first serve, his forehand and his backhand. Now, he’s aiming to show the fans who he is. Recently, Medvedev said that he wants to become No. 1 soon. Yet he first has to upend the big boys — Nadal, Djokovic and Federer. He has a wonderful shot to win it all.

Dominic Thiem is no longer one of the youngsters, as he is now 26 years old. But, the Austrian still has a long career in front of him, so he can grab a major, perhaps next year. On clay, he has reached the final twice at Roland Garros, and looked very good as he has heavy strokes, deep shots, but he could not do enough to upset Nadal.

On the hardcourts, Thiem has improved a decent amount over the last couple years and his first Masters title this season was on this surface. He moves well inside the court, he can be aggressive and go for the lines, both ways, with his forehand and his backhand. Yet to win the tournament would be his best performance ever and, at the moment, he doesn’t quite look close enough.

Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas has had a very good year at times, though he can be up and down. He has played a number of long matches this season, showing he can smash his first serve, pin his forehand and he can also rally, too. He certainly needs to return better, but in the past year, the 21-year-old is very steady with his backhand. Tsitsipas is intelligent, he listens to his coach, and his goal is that one day, he will become the best player on tour.

Maybe he will, but first, in London, he has to focus every moment to upset the great veterans and he must find the corners because of the speed of the indoor court. Tsitsipas may not win it all, but he is very excited to be there for the first time, so he will give it all. To win it would be surprising. He isn’t ready yet. But, soon.

When Zverev is on, he can be very positive, but when he isn’t, he can become very angry. Problems off the court this season have sometimes left him not concentrating fully on the court. That is why from March through September, he lost early and often. Yet in the fall, he recomposed himself, and while he isn’t playing fantastic, but he is much better than he was at the US Open. He was mentally gone there, saying he had no confidence.

It was very different at the 2018 ATP Finals, which Zverev won, beating Federer and Djokovic. It looked like he was going to win a major, but he didn’t. Perhaps, some year, but currently, mentally, at the ATP Finals he is not playing at the level to win it again.

From nowhere, an Italian made into the ATP Finals and it wasn’t even Fabio Fognini. Matteo Berrettini is pretty young, and he has yet to win a big tournament. But, at the US Open, he upset Gael Monfils in the quarters, 7-6 (5) in the fifth. He was overjoyed. When he started the year, he was ranked No. 54, and in April, he took off.

Berrettini is a huge hitter with his forehand, but he can be steady, too. He is 23 years old — so he is still young — and he will have to get better all around. Yes, next year he can make an attempt to enter the top 5, but this week at the ATP Finals, he has virtually no chance to win it. He will be very nervous.

Roger Federer wins — again — in Basel

At what point will Roger Federer retire? Last week, in his hometown of Basel, the 38-year-old won it again, smoking Alex de Minaur in straight sets. That was six times in a row and a total of 10. He has racked it up, winning 103 titles, only eclipsed by Jimmy Connors’ 109. That is unimaginable, really.

A couple of days ago, he said that yes, he will play in 2020. But in 2020, after he is done at the Olympics, will he wave goodbye? Possibly not, and maybe he wants to continue to play when he is 40 years old. But the older you get, you are a little bit slower. Yes, he has won 20 Grand Slams, but the last time he won it was at the 2018 Australian Open. That has been one year and nine months. That is not a big deal, but it is important.

In the final, at the Slams, it is an emotional trip. Federer was so close at Wimbledon with two match points against Novak Djokovic. But the Serbian edged him, 13-12 in the fifth set. It was right there, but Djokovic was very capable. After the match, Federer was extremely hurt, but he stood up and he talked a lot.

Soon, at the ATP Finals, the Swiss will re-charge. Federer just pulled out of Paris. It doesn’t look like he was hurt, but playing week-after-week can be tiring. He couldn’t risk the wear on his body. In many ways, that’s a smart move.  

He likes London and he has won it six times, a record. But, Rafa Nadal will be there, and Djokovic, too. Another terrific player, Daniil Medvedev will also be there, as will Dominic Theim, who just won Vienna. All of them will be very close playing indoors. The last time that Federer won the ATP Finals was in 2011, when he beat Jo Tsonga in three sets. Since he lost three finals to Djokovic. In 2018, he lost to Alexandra Zverev in the semifinals.

Maybe Federer will get a chance to be very solid, extremely powerful and deep. While he has be a master of the indoor tournaments, the question is can he win another ATP Final title?

WTA Finals
The 2019 WTA Finals is going on in Shenzhen, China. Already, there were some wonderful matches. Over the past two days, there were three matches that was very vivid. Naomi Osaka edged Petra Kvitova but then withdrew, Simona Halep barely beat the young Canadian Bianca Andreescu, and Elina Svitolina. — who won the tournament last year — knocked down Karolina Pliskova. There was another three-setter, but in the third set, and Belinda Bencic went down fast to Ash Barty. On Tuesday Barty fell to Kiki Bertens, who subbed in for Osaka.

It is too early to pick the winner, or even to reach the final, but Svitolina really wants to win it again. No. 1 Barty wants the title, badly, for the first time, but needs to get to 2-1 to have a chance to advance.

WTA Finals: Eight great players, but who will win?

Karolina Pliskova

Over the past 25 years — or even longer — it usually looked like the No. 1, or the No. 2 were serious favorites at the WTA Finals. But this week coming up, in the eight-player, round-robin event in Shenzhen, China, almost all of the competitors will have a shot to win. That is almost unheard of. There will be a bunch of three-setters, surprises and complicated group calculations. Whoever wins the event, she has to step up and produce top-level tennis.

In the Red Group, it will be Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.

In the Purple Group, it will be Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.

The odds
Although Barty, Andreescu, and Osaka all share the same odds going into the Finals, I believe that perhaps that Pliskova has a decent chance.”

Red Group
Will Barty stay at No. 1? Probably, because she has a big lead in points. But while the rankings are important, the Australian still wants to win the event. She has improved a tremendous amount this year, staying patient, and she really mixed it up a lot. But, at times, she should become more aggressive.

Yes, Barty won Roland Garros, her first victory at a Grand Slam. In the final, she showed no fear. Then at the US Open, she exited in the fourth round against Qiang Wang and couldn’t hit it into the corners often enough.

She reached the semis of Wuhan and at the Beijing final, so she enters the event in good shape. But, in her group is the player who won Beijing, Osaka, who beat Barty in three sets. Osaka usually goes for it as soon as she can and Barty likes to work her way into the points. So if the Aussie wants to win it, she has to go for her shots, immediately.

In the fall, Osaka turned around her play. She had won the Australian Open, but then slumped, on clay, grass, and the US Open. She is a terrific hitter, but the pressure affected her mentally and she wasn’t focused. Now she comes in with wins at Osaka and Beijing, and if she can find her rhythm, she’s another one who can win it for the first time.

Talking about being up and down, there’s also Kvitova. The Czech can be fantastic, jumping on balls with her massive forehand and cracking first serve. She can scramble, she can re-set, and she can be very competitive until the final ball. But, the two-time Grand Slam champion can also unravel mentally when she can’t get her game going. So does the 29-year-old, one of the most popular and friendly players off the court, really want to win the tournament badly? To do it, she must be totally focused, day after day.

At the start of the year, Bencic didn’t look like she’d be among the top eight at China. A few years ago, she cracked the top 10 and beat a lot of top players with her variety and tactical ability. But, she had a few injuries, and took at least a year-an- a-half to become good again. Right now, she is patient or aggressive as she needs to, and is winning against the biggest names again. To win the tournament this week, though, will be difficult with all the quality opposition.

Purple Group
Pliskova can play fantastic ball. Her first serve is massive, she can go down the line with her forehand and backhand, and she is pretty good when she goes up into the net. But, she has yet to win a Grand Slam. She has been at the top for years, and she has got fairly close, darn close. But, in important moments, she backs off, mentally. Also, the Czech is not very fast, and opponents can break her down. If she immediately starts to roll, she can bash the ball, put together a ton of winners and win the WTA Finals. The No. 2, though, is not the favorite; there are very solid players in the field who can run her around.

Where did the Canadian Andreescu come from? Yes, the teenager looked very good in the juniors. But, to join the WTA and then almost immediately win a few huge events, such as Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open, was a shocker. Of course, Andreescu is very young, but she already knows the right way to play. While she isn’t very tall, she is super agile, has a huge amount of shots, and she can move forward regularly. She can surely win a Grand Slam again, assuming that she stays healthy, and she can become No. 1. But she hasn’t played before at the WTA Finals, and many of her opponents haven’t played that much against Andreescu, nor she has played against them. They will have to adjust. One way or another, she’s one of the favorites to win the WTA Finals.

You never know with Halep, a true grinder who now competes hard. In 2018, the Romanian won a major for the first time at Roland Garros, which took a lot of pressure off her. The 27-year-old she stopped being so nervous and she dug deep.

Halep is one of the best returners and, she can run side-to-side forever. Plus, she is pretty good tactically, so in the final at Wimbledon, she locked in and only missed a couple of shots. It was possibly her best match ever, crushing Serena Williams in the final. But since, she hasn’t done much at all. Halep was frequently hurt in the run up to this week, and to win the Finals, she would have to hit the lines constantly. Right now, though, she might just want to go back home.

Svitolina is also in question. Having won the WTA Finals in 2018, she looked like she had a real chance to next win a major. She did improve a bit, reaching a pair of semifinals, but she has yet to reach a final at the Slams. 

She is a very strong player, running back and forth, and side to side. Physically, when she is healthy, she can beat everyone, but Svitolina can be frustrated on court. Winning a second straight title will be tough.

Medvedev is on a roll

Daniil Medevdev

Every week, now, the Russian Daniil Medvedev is rising very quickly. Last week, he won Shanghai, beating everyone, including No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev. Not only is he very powerful, and pretty steady, but he can change his direction when he has to.

He is very tall, he is fast, he can smack his forehand and with some fine spin. Finally, he is aggressive, most of the time, and he gets bolder every week.

Medvedev is young, but he is a little more mature, and he is definitely fearless. Over the past two-and-a-half months, he has reached the finals six times in a row, winning two of the ATP 1000 Masters Series, Cincy and Shanghai.

He is 6’6”, and now he has 58 wins. What a year — so far. Yes, he has played extremely well since August. But he has yet to win a Grand Slam, which is three out of five sets, not two out of three. He will need more the legs, brainpower and breath to win a major.

In the next month, Medvedev can continue to win, in Paris and the ATP Finals in London. But, can he take out Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer in one week? Maybe, but now they all know how he plays. The Big 3 know how to combat their opponents and Medvedev will be in their sights.

Will Medvedev reach another fina, or will he eventually fold? It happens to everyone. Even though he has progressed a lot, fortunes can change. Right now, he is on a roll. Can anyone catch him?

With back-to-back wins: Naomi Osaka rises once again

Naomi Osaka

On the clay or grass, Naomi Osaka can under perform. But on hard courts, when she is very focus and positive, the Japanese/American can be driven. On Sunday, Osaka beat the No. 1 Ash Barty in three sets in Beijing. The Aussie Barty likely will stay at No. 1 at the end of the year if she plays decent at the WTA Finals. Osaka is currently No. 3 and has a chance to move up.

The Beijing victory follows Osaka’s win in Osaka, her “home city.”

Does it really matter who is No. 1, given that both Osaka and Barty have won 2019 Slams? Yes, it is. When they play each other, then they know they must make their mark against the best. That is very important. You have to show up, lift up your chin, open your eyes, and then you have to latch it in. You have to be locked in. You have to whip your powerful forehands and jump on the returns. Go to the net, put it away, and swing hard into the corners from both sides. In the third set, Osaka did that, by being aggressive and brainy.

Both of them will show up at the new venue, Shenzhen, in the WTA Finals. It is possible that they will play each other again.That could be a spectacular match.

Also in Beijing, Dominic Thiem won the tournament, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets. When Thiem started playing, he was already very good on the clay, but on the hardcourts, he was so-so. However, over the past two years, he practiced a lot, he listened and he willed himself to move himself forward and into the court. Also, he can go for it and when it is close, he can be combative. Not only did Thiem beat the young Tsitsipas, he beat the three Grand Slam champ Andy Murray and No. 9 Karen Khachanov. That was a great week by the Austrian.

Speaking of, Khachanov has a good shot to join the ATP Finals. The No. 8 Kei Nishikori is hurt and who isn’t playing, so the Russian should pass him in a couple weeks. Maybe even this week in Shanghai.

There are a few other players to have a chance to advance into the top eight competitors in London in November: Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Matteo Berrettini.

Young American men: Can they get close to the top?

Taylor Fritz

We are still waiting to see if the young U.S. men can reach into the top 10 at some point. How about in the top 15, instead?

The older American, John Isner, is still there, ranked No. 16 in the Race to London. Can he reach the top 8 towards the end of the year and play the ATP Finals in November? Possibly, but he will have to go very deep, week after week. The 34-year-old Isner has been there before, but maybe his legs are sore.
It appears that the young Americans look pretty good, but are they great and fantastic? Not yet.

At least they are pushing hard. Reilly Opelka just beat Taylor Fritz in Japan. That was a big win for him. The 6-foot-11 Opelka has a huge serve, and if he can stay in close near the baseline, he can slam it. However, when he has to run very fast, he can get tripped up. Opelka will never be speedy, but he can gradually improve. He is ranked No. 53, which is OK. But next year, he has to reach the top 20 at some point. Then we will know that he is getting better gradually.

Another young American, Fritz, has had a good year, but will the No. 31 move up towards the top? He will want to, but he has to think about how he is hitting about the ball, returning, and being more logical with his decisions.

There is only one more American in the top 50 — Frances Tiafoe at No. 46. He looked good during the winter and spring, but since then he has lost a lot. He fell to Alexander Zverev in straight sets, easy stuff. Tiafoe can grind it down, but it looks like he is confused. He was ranked No. 29 early this year. It is time to re-switch.


Outside of the U.S., there are some fascinating youngsters, such as Andrey Rublev, who just bounced Grigor Dimitrov in Japan.

In Cincinnati in August, Rublev upset Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. Maybe he plays too much, but when he focuses and drives the ball, he is dangerous.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost at the US Open, when he retired. But in July, he won Wimbledon. He was injured in New York, but he now he feels good enough to play. Because the US Open champ Rafa Nadal won’t play for the next month, Djokovic will stay at No. 1. I would think that the Serbian will end the year ranked No. 1, but he still has work to do against the top players.

Injuried: Nadal, Kyrgios and Halep

Here we are in the fall, and a lot of people are taking a break. It is the injury factor. In the past 10 days, many good players have retired or pulled out. I could name 10 people who are hurt — which is a lot — but I will just name a couple people, the most important people, Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios and Simona Halep.

Nadal won the US Open and he did play a little bit at the Laver Cup last week, but he stopped playing on Sunday. He was hurt, so he will not play for the next four weeks, or even longer. The No. 2 is hoping that he can play at the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals. He hopes to, because he is really aware that if he gets significantly hurt, then maybe he won’t have a very good chance to win the 2020 Australian Open, which would give him 20 Grand Slams, tied with Roger Federer. Now that would be fascinating.

After Kyrgios lost easily at Zhuhai, he said that he is pretty much done. He may not play the rest of the season, because he has a hampered with his shoulder. He cannot serve huge or crush his forehand and backhand. Kyrgios l has happened so many times. He has to get it fixed. Go to the doctors in Australia, and have them really look at it. If he has to deal with his surgery, then so be it. If he wants to win a Grand Slam, that is the only choice.

“I’m serving usually somewhere around the 230 kilometers an hour mark and I wasn’t even able to crack about 180,” he said. “There’s no point for me to play if I can’t really serve, because serving is my strength, my favorite shot, my whole game is based around it and that’s where I’ve had my success this year when I’ve been serving my best. I’m probably not going to bother playing until I can get it right again.” Kyrgios did say, however, he does want to play the Davis Cup in a couple months. That is possible, but he cannot be so risky. Or he can retire again.

Like everyone, he just wants to go home to Australia. That is a very good idea.

“Man, I haven’t been home in almost seven months. So, at any rate I’m not even too sure what I’m going to do moving forward with the rest of my season,” Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios got off easy when the ATP gave him six months of probation after investigating his out-of-control behavior in Cincinnati. He can avoid a 16-week suspension and $25,000 fine if behaves over the six-month period.

Halep sidelined

Halep pulled out at Wuhan because she was injured. A couple days ago, the Romanian said that she is more relaxed but she is motivated, and as always, she works hard. Guess what? On court she has to deal with a herniated disc. That injury happened a year ago, in Beijing, and she retired in the first round. She stopped playing the rest of the year.

Hopefully, the two-time Grand Slam champion will recover quickly. Whether she can or cannot, she up and down in 2019. At least she won Wimbledon in July, and that will stay with her forever.

Here is one positive: Andy Murray won a match at Zhuhai. He bounced Tennys Sandgren, winning his first singles match. It took him eight months to do it. Murray dug deep to take Alex de Minaur to a third set but lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. The three-time Slam champ is improving.

Laver Cup event: Will the top players come back in 2020?

It will be a very interesting to see in the Laver Cup survive. Oh yes, this weekend, there is a ton of terrific players, but that doesn’t mean that next year, right after the US Open, they will play another time.

Many of them want to rest after the summer, when they had to play three of the Grand Slams: Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. The summer season starts late in May, and then it ends in the beginning of September. It is three and a half months, a real grind. Especially with the very good players, because they always go deep at the tournaments, most of the time. That is why their bodies can be very sore, or extremely hurt.

At the Laver Cup, the players are competing for Team Europe, and, for all other continents, Team World.

Yes, it was a dramatic end. They were all there: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Fabio Fognini and Nick Kyrgios, among others, and more.

In Sunday, the last match, Zverev beat Raonic 6-4 3-6 10-4 and Europe won cemented the win. Earlier, in the doubles, two Americans, Jack Sock and John Isner, overcame Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Then, another young American, Taylor Fritz, upset Dominic Thiem 7-5 6-7(3) 10-5. Then, Federer turned it around in singles by beating Isner 6-4, 7-6. Zverev has not had a great year, but he played much better this week in the Laver Cup
There were three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Was it very serious, or just having fun? That’s a toss-up.

Believe it or not, in singles, early on, Sock beat Fabio Fognini 6-1 7-6(3). Sock hadn’t beat anyone this year, in singles. That is a shocker, because in the fall of 2017, he reached No. 8, in singles at the ATP Finals. Yes, last year and this year, he was hurt, but he tried in singles and doubles. Clearly, now, he loves doubles, as he won a could majors with Mike Bryan. But, in singles, Sock has so much work to do, certainly in his head and beyond.

With the third Laver Cup in the books, I would think that many people had a fine time and attendance is strong. But again, outside of the Slams, it is not easy to sell it, year after year. My suggestion is a reevaluation and make some changes.
But the way, Kyrgios and Sock are good friends. They are controversial, and maybe, during the fall, they can win a lot of singles matches in Asia.

Here is a good quote from Zverev: “I had two great coaches [Federer], one on the court and one [Nadal] on the sidelines. I could just shut off my brain and do whatever they told me to do.”

In St. Petersburg, there are some good players last week. No. 4 Daniil Medvedev was there, and without a doubt, the fans were cheering for him. A year ago, not many people knew who he was. Now they do, after he reached the final at the US Open. And then, he beat Borna Coric 6-3, 6-1 to win on Sunday, He is a huge hitter, and he hustles…
Croatian Coric is ranked No. 14. Five years ago, he looked very good, and many thought he would go very far. But he has sort of stopped. Yes, he can win matches, but can he take down the best players? He is a true grinder, which is good, but he needs to be more aggressive and thoughtful.

Another top 10-er, Karen Khachanov, lost in the first round. He is slipping a little bit…

In Metz, France, the veteran Jo Tsonga won the title, beating Aljaz Bedene. In his long career Tsonga has been somewhat close to winning a Slam, but he hasn’t. I have said this so many times, that certain people become injured all the time. It is hard to stop it. But at least Tsonga keeps trying, and he can focus. He goes have a terrific forehand and his first serve, too. Now he is back in the top 40. He has won a bunch of events, winning 18 trophies. Yes, he was won two ATP 1000s, in Paris and Canada. But, can he win a Grand Slam for the first time next year? He is a nice, terrific person, but can he grab his first major when he is 34 years old? That is extremely difficult, but he can push, hard.

Sloane Stephens is hard to read

©Mal Taam/TennisClix/CSM

Last year, it really appeared that Sloane Stephens would win another Grand Slam, plus win more huge tournaments and eventually become No. 1. But this year, she went backward, and her conviction went away.

Now she is ranked No. 14, and she does have a shot to play at the WTA Finals at the end of the year. But, that would be surprising, because over the years, she simply doesn’t love the fall. She can get tired, and she wants to go home, away from Asia and back to the United States.

Maybe Stephens will really like it in Japan and China, have fun, be comfortable, and then push herself. She has won six titles, four of them in the United States (including the 2017 US Open), one in Mexico (Acapulco) and one in Auckland, Australia.

But, in the fall, it is almost zero.

The good news is at the end of the 2018 WTA Finals, she reached the final in Singapore, beating Naomi Osaka, Kiki Bertens, Angie Kerber and Karolina Pliskova. Then, she lost against Elina Svitolina in three sets. That was pretty good on an indoor hardcourt.

Two months later in 2019, she wasn’t mentally there. For four months, Stephens lost early again and again. Maybe she was upset, or checked out or was a little bit afraid on court. When she was on, winning the 2017 U.S. Open, she was nearly perfect; she almost never missed the ball, being patient, and hitting very hard. She played strong, fast, smacking her forehand, backhand and return.

That’s why Stephens is hard to read.

She did wake up on clay for a few weeks, reaching the semis of Madrid, and the quarters of Roland Garros, beating Garbine Muguruza before losing to Jo Konta.

And that was it.

At Wimbledon, she went down against Konta again, in the third round.

Back on the hardcourts in the USA, Stephens played four events, and she won just one match. Yes, just four. At the US Open, she was stunned, losing against the young Russian player Anna Kalinskaya.

How good she will be over the next month? She has to recover, even when she isn’t stringing the ball and hitting the corners.

Stephens is a great player when she is on. But, she focuses on her off-court persona, pretending that people don’t like her. Many people do like her. That is reality, but you cannot be perfect. It is impossible. For everyone.

Hopefully, doing the fall, Stephens can re-change her game, little by little.
This week, on Wednesday, she  played in Tokyo,  at the Pan Pacific Open. But, on Wednesday in Osaka, she was crushed 6-0, 6-3 by Camila Giorgi — a blow out.  Stephens could be checking out once again.

Let’s not forget that Ash Barty is still very young, and as long as she doesn’t play all the time, she could stay No. 1 at the end of the year. In 2018, she played three events in Asia and she reached the semis at Wuhan — a big tournament — and she won a small tournament, Zhuhai. So next week in Wuhan, if she wins it, she will stay No. 1. But if she doesn’t and No. 2 Pliskova wins it, the Czech will be No. 1. That will be fun all the way to the end.

No. 1 Osaka just announced that she and her coach, Jermaine Jenkins, have parted ways. Who will be the next one? Someone who will really likes her, on court and off?

Simona Halep will reuniting with the coach/TV broadcaster Darren Cahill, after a year apart. Halep is extremely happy, given that she was up and down in 2019. Next year, Cahill will calm her down.

Will Serena Williams continue to play in Asia this fall? She hasn’t done it a lot over the past 22 years. Maybe a tournament or two in September or October? I doubt it.