Archives for April 2021

Surprised? Toni Nadal is working with Felix Auger-Aliassime

Toni Nadal

A couple years ago, Toni Nadal stopped coaching his nephew, Rafa Nadal. He was tired to traveling week after week and being at all the Grand Slams: the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Toni Nadal wanted to stay in Spain, helping with other people too, but he helped Rafa essentially since he was born. Toni became a brilliant coach.


Now, Tony is working with Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, a very good young player.

“I never considered before to work for someone else,” Toni said.

Rafa added: “Toni has a lot of experience. He knows a lot about this sport. He has all the knowledge that somebody needs. I am sure that (is) going to be an important help for Felix. I want the best for Toni. He’s my uncle. I am very grateful for all the things that he did for me. I am happy for Felix. It’s going to be a good support.”

Rafa is addicted on clay, winning 13 Roland Garros titles. He is the favorite, without question this year. He is set to play five events: in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.


Rafa said, “I am excited. More than for the clay court season – of course, I love to play on clay, too – but I love to be here. I love these events. Of course, will not be the same without the typical atmosphere [with few fans, on site]. I will have the chance to play in a places that I know very well, places that I have a great story with every single event. For me, that’s important, no?”

Absolutely. His forehand is so vigorous, with heavy topspin. Down the line, he can flat it out. He is very burly and fast. For his returns, he starts way back hitting near the wall. Eventually, he will move forward to bang his forehand. He is very patient. Before he snaps his first and second serves, and he really thinks which way to go. Seventeen years ago, Nadal was already very good, but his backhand would fall too short. But, he worked his two-handed backhand, and now, while it is not perfect, but it is substantially better.
That is why the 34-year-old Rafa Nadal has grabbed 20 Grand Slams, tied with Roger Federer. Those two are the best, ever. At least in 2021.

But what about Auger-Aliassime? He is ranked No. 21, but he has yet to reach the quarters at the Slams. Tony wants to make sure that Auger-Aliassime will improve his knowledge of the game and how to strategie. When you are only 21-years-olds, you have to really listen.

NOTES
Stefanos Tsitsipas was surprised that Toni is returning to coaching. “That came really unexpected. Didn’t see that coming. It’s pretty cool having a coach that has helped Rafael Nadal win so many important titles and has shaped his career in a way. It’s really good for him. I feel like he has an advantage having a coach like this.”

The longtime French veteran Benoit Paire said that now on court, with hardly no fans, and that bothers him: “I just don’t care. There’s no magic. What is the pleasure playing like this? Of course, it’s great to come [at Monte Carlo], but it’s like a practice session. If you’ve experienced the tour and you see how it is now, the only thing you want is to just go away. …There’s no pleasure in playing. The players who are there say they enjoy playing Monte-Carlo. I respect that a lot. But how sad is this for them? Normally this court is one of the most beautiful courts in the world. It seems like we are in a cemetery. Whether you win a point or miss, it’s the same. There’s no atmosphere.”

With 6-foot-6 Daniil Medvedev now has become better on the dirt, but he doesn’t like it. He gets confused and he cannot slide the right way.
“Every time I practice on clay, after when I play my match, I try to do my best, but it’s difficult for me. But honestly, there’s nothing I like on clay. There’s always bad bounces, you’re dirty after playing. I really don’t enjoy playing on clay.”

And then Tuesday, Medvedev pulled out of Monte Carlo. He has been “moved into isolation and continues to be monitored by the Tournament Physician and ATP Medical Team.” I could be weeks.

Belgian David Goffin is worried. Hopefully the vaccine will come soon, as he and many people haven’t be able to do get it.

Goffin, who bounced Alexander Zverev to reach the quarterfinals, explained, “For the vaccine, I hear many players that are not so keen about taking the vaccine. We have to see what the advantages are, if you can travel easier. It might be a positive thing. I’m not against it. I’ll try to do it as soon as I can. But for the time being, I’m not allowed to have it yet. I have to wait like everybody else.”

There are only two American men in Monte Carlo. Taylor Fritz lost in the first round and the No. 54 Tommy Paul reached the second round after his opponent retired but then lost to Roberto Bautista Agut. The No. 30 Fritz plays way too much, and maybe he should take a week off. Yes, he likes to play a lot, but it is risky.

16 top American women in 2021

There are 16 American women who are in the WTA top 100. That is a lot, compared to going back all the way into the 1970

Sofia Kenin

Now, there are many players who come from Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. Because of that, it is harder to beat many mediocre players, as their forehands have become so much better, including with first serves, net game and returns. The field is now much taller and superfast.

Right now, the Americans are in Charleston but not many from Europe. Here is a 2021 roundup after three months, one week and counting, starting from the top:

Sofia Kenin
She has won the Aussie Open. But, she is a little bit hurt now. When she is healthy, she can smash the ball and win another Slam

Serena Williams
The great players like Serena have great weapons: serves, forehands, backhands and returns. But she is aging, and she knows that she is a slowing down.

Jennifer Brady
In the last two Grand Slams, she reached the semis at the 2020 US Open and the final at the 2021 Australian Open, which means that she is locked in.

Madison Keys
When she is on, she can blast the ball. Still, she always gets injured and now, she cannot move well and is producing a lot of errors.

Alison Riske
She has come a long way into the top 30. She started loving the grass, but now she is addicted on the hardcourts.

Jessica Pegula
She has had a terrific season, showing tremendous confidence. She is gaining every week and can reach the top 20.

Amanda Anisimova
The 19-year-old is gaining ground. By the end of the season, she can be in the top 10, if she shows more maturity.

Cori Gauff
She is super young, and already, she is darn good. But, she has to be develop more strategy on the court.

Danielle Collins
She is 27 years old, and she knows what is going on. As long as she can exploit her fierce competitiveness, she could go into the top 20 this year, a career high.

Shelby Rogers
She had a wonderful second-round victoryagainst Anisimova in Charleston, 7-5 in the third. Next week, she might be in the top 45, a career high.
 
Sloane Stephens
Is the 2017 US Open winner ready to dance again? During the past two years, she was totally out of it.

Ann Li
She is only 20, and she really runs very well, but she needs more power and depth.

Bernarda Pera
There are some good wins, but in the past year, she barely won, so she has to change tactics.

Lauren Davis
She is a huge fighter, and she likes long rallies, but she does not have a hard serve. She needs to go for the lines, very quickly.
 
Christina McHale
She has been around for 12 years, and she will continue to play, because she loves tennis. But now, she must find a way to win more matches.

Venus Williams
She came into the WTA in 1997 and built a Hall of Fame career many times over. Now, she is 40 years old and looks like she will retire pretty soon.

The Miami final: Ash Barty versus Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu

Australian No. 1 Ash Barty can be very steady, and she can mix it up, with her fabulous one-handed backhand.

Canadian Bianca Andreescu can really hustle, she can sprint, and she can rip it on the lines.

On Saturday, in Miami, they will face off in the final, and head-to-head, they really are even. Barty won Roland Garros, and Andreescu won the US Open. That is legitimate, with the some of the best players who can raise the game, period.

However, they are not perfect, and over the past three years, they were learning about how to really play: serving, returning, and being patient. Now in 2021, they are mentally more mature.
 
In January, Barty won the Yarra Valley Classic, beating Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza, two Slam winners. At the Aussie Open, she lost in the semis against Karolina Muchova. In Miami, she took down Vika Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elina Svitolina, three very potent players.

Barty can be very steady, and she can pivot, with her one-handed backhand. She really likes the hard courts, and then she can blend it whenever she wants to.

“I enjoy these courts. I enjoy the balls and how they are responsive to spin. A lot of different elements,” Barty said.

The 20-year old Andreescu survived way past midnight, winning 7-6(7) 3-6 7-6(4) over Maria Sakkari. It ended at 3 a.m. She didn’t play for 14 months due to an injury, and at the start of the year, she was a little bit raw. Three months later, the basher was locked in and with a tremendous confidence again.

“I have a lot of experience in these tough three-setters and digging through and finding a way. Sometimes I literally feel like I’m an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs,” Andreescu said. “It’s insane. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I get to some shots. But, it’s that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up.”

Andreescu cannot wait to play against Barty. She knows that the Aussie is darn good, but she will be right there to give it all throughout the match.
 
“Her being No. 1 and her doing really, really well. Her game style, as well,” Andreescu said. “It’s something I have never really experienced. I love a challenge, and I know she’s going to challenge me.”