Archives for January 2022

Men’s first round at Australian Open

Reilly Opelka

Here are four men’s matches in the first round at the Australian Open, with the men.

Rafa Nadal vs. Marcos Giron
The Spaniard is back. In the fall, he couldn’t not play because he was injured. But last week, he won another tournament, his 89th victory. As always, he has a big first serve, his amazingly good with his heavy forehand, and at the net, he is so consistent. If he stays healthy over the next two weeks, he certainly has a shot to win another Grand Slam, as he is now the only former champion in the field with Novak Djokovic gone. That would be 21 majors, which would be a huge victory. Giron had a good 2021, and it took him years to understand how to win at this level. In order to win more matches, and to move up the ladder, he had to define what he really need to grow. Apparently, he did just that. However, to upset Nadal at a Grand Slam, the American has to play almost perfect. He will have some fine games, but to shock him, that is almost impossible.

John Isner vs. Maxime Cressy
The 36-year-old Isner says that he wants to stay this year and even more, even though he is aging. Well good for him. The big man will always throw in a huge amount of aces, and nail his hard forehand. He can be upset when he loses in close matches — especially at the Australian Open — bit when he wins, he can be super happy. Not many people know who Cressy is, but he reached the final last week, upsetting Reilly Opelka and Grigor Dimitrov, before he lost against Nadal, 7-6, 6-3. Very good. Last year, he was pretty decent, but not great. He is 24 years old, so he has lots of time to grow. But, on court at the AO, Isner will blast him in four sets.

Reilly Opelka vs. Kevin Anderson
The rising American improved a lot last year, with his huge serves and his forehand, too. He has improved his foot speed. The funny thing is when Opelka has to play against a gigantic server like Anderson, there will be few rallies. The South African — who does live in the United States — has aced so many times over the years, and believe it or, he improved his backhand and his return. He reached the Grand Slam finals twice, which is huge. Now he is aging, but he continues to push himself. The match should go into the fifth set, and the winner will be the player who returns more consistently. It looks like Opelka will do just that.

Cameron Norrie vs. Sebastian Korda
The young American Korda is rising. While he played a lot at the tournaments, he could be off, but when he is on, he can jump on the ball. At the start of 2021, he was ranked No. 119, and now he is No. 40. Clearly he was improving a lot. He does have a lot of different shots, which are all solid. So as long as he can produce, then he will continue to seriously improve. However, the Brit Norrie had a fine year. Now he is smart, on court, going for the shots, and to try to hit the lines. He has been disciplined, and stable. Korda will attempt to crack on him, but Norrie will stay there for a long time and beat him in five tough sets.

Women’s first round at Australian Open

Sloane Stephens

Here are four matches in the first round at the Australian Open within the women. The next day, the men.

Sofia Kenin vs. Madison Keys
After winning the 2020 Australian Open, Kenin looked excellent, but gradually she grew nervous and inconsistent. Currently, she is trying to be more thoughtful, and when she is on court, she is mixing it up a little bit. If she is going deep in Melbourne, she has to serve and return like a demon. Keys is finally playing better this week, because last year she was mentally and physically out of it. But when she is on, she can smoke the ball. This match is a tossup, but assuming she won’t get hurt, Keys will wear down in three terrific sets.

Emma Raducanu vs. Sloane Stephens
The young Brit was moving forward on court when she won the 2021 US Open. She was thrilled, and on court, she ran confidently, including her muscular forehand and her backhand. Raducanu likes to rally, as does another US Open winner Stephens. The now veteran American is an incredible grinder, but not recently. In fact, last year she did win some important matches, but the No. 68 lost a lot. If she wants to come back into the top 10, then she is going to totally commit. She is a darn good player, but she has to prove that she really wants to be smarter on court. Raducanu is more focused now, and she will win in straight sets.

Coco Gauff vs. Qiang Wang
The American teenager continues to grow, month after month. Clearly, she is not Serena Williams yet, but her forehand and her backhand are heavy and now she can mix it up more. She also throws in lots of spin and power. However, her serve and her return are so-so. Four years ago, Wang looked good, cracking into the top 20, beating some very good players, but over the past couple years she fell. Yes, she was injured and didn’t know which way to turn. Currently, she is ranked No. 112, so she has a lot of work to do. But, it is too big a task for Wang to take down Gauff in this tournament.

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Andrea Petkovic
In June, the Czech won Roland Garros, which was unexpected. She finally knew what she had to do. After that, her confidence rose. She can rip the ball, returning calmly. Yes, Krejcikova can still be up and down, but she is much more consistent than Petkovic. The German is very smart when she talks. However, she is aging and it is hard for her to crack balls deep enough to challenge a top 10 player. Petkovic will focus but Krejcikova is just too strong.

The controversial Novak Djokovic

Simona Halep

The saga continues. No. 1 Novak Djokovic was currently denied to practice on court at the Australian Open, until Monday, when he was practicing with coach Goran Ivanišević

He was just sitting in a hotel for four days. Why because he has yet to be vaccinated against the vicious coronavirus. He might be healthy, but he decided not get the shots. There are consequences. So far, in the United States, some 770,000 have died from COVID-19.

Read this AP story.

Here is a portion of the story: “Regardless of how the whole ‘an unvaccinated Novak Djokovic goes to Australia’ saga concludes — and, despite a favorable court ruling, his status was still up in the air — there are plenty of key questions for the top-ranked tennis player to answer. … Of even more consequence: Such a move also could result in Djokovic being barred from Australia for three years.”

Without a doubt, that is a gigantic risk by Djokovic, if he loses against the judge this week, he will have to leave and he won’t play at the Grand Slam. Wow.

WTA player, Czech Renata Voracova is in the same hotel with Djokovic. The 38-year-old played last week in Melbourne, and all of a sudden, they came to her and said she had to go into the quarantine. Now she cannot leave, to practice or play, until she can clear it.

She said that at the hotel, there are heavy security. “There are guards everywhere, even under the window, which is quite funny. Maybe they thought I would jump out and run away,” she said. “They [the guards] really weren’t rude or vulgar. But some quarantine practices are not pleasant. You have to report in, everything’s rationed. I feel a little like I’m in prison.”

The week’s action
The Canadians won the ATP Cup with Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. That was huge, and they are lurking in the top 5 this year. They will be even more confident going into the Aussie Open.

In Adelaide, Rafa Nadal won the title, edging the American Maxime Cressy 7-6(6) 6-3. Nadal could not play during the fall due to his injury, but now he looks good again. But will he be able to sustain that level through the Aussie Open?

It was a stunner that Cressy made it into the final, but he finally has become more consistent, and he can crush the ball.

The No. 1 Ash Barty is trucking, winning the singles over Elena Rybakina.She also won the doubles with Storm Sanders.

At Melbourne 1, the former No. 1 Simona Halep won it all She was hurt last year. She still really likes to bring it and she will be a force are the Aussie Open. Another American, Amanda Anisimova grabbed the title at Melbourne 2, her first career crown. The 20-year-old can scamper.

At the age of 35 Gael Monfils also lifted the title in Adelaide. He beat Karen Khachanov in the final, when he smoked his forehand.

One last question: Where is Peng Shuai? Let us not forget her predicament. The governments should find her and make sure that she is safe.

Iga Swiatek’s talks about her new coach

Iga Swiatek

Last month, Iga Swiatek decided to try to work with the long-time coach, Tomasz Wiktorowski, a former player worked with the former No.2 Aga Radwanska.

Swiatek is in Adelaide this week, where she won the tournament last year.

The current No. 9 made it to the WTA Finals in November, in Mexico, and she won two matches and lost four. The Pole then knew that it was time to change, and she let go with the previous coach, Piotr Sierzputowski. At that point, Swiatek was frustrated. She did not know where to turn.

“I realized that I’ve been working with Piotr for five years or even more. A lot happened since we started,” she said. “I felt it’s a good time for a next step and a change to maybe, like, reset a little bit. I also feel like I wanted to work with someone who’s from Poland because I think I’m going to be ready for coaches from different countries in maybe one or two years, but now I wanted to work with someone who understands my situation. I think it’s a great decision for me. Right now we’re getting to know each other because we practiced in Poland for three weeks, so it’s not a lot. I think next few tournaments I’m just going to use for getting to know each other. We’re talking a lot about tennis, even off-court stuff. I feel like I just need some time to build that relationship.”

Some players keep coaches for years while some will go through new coaches within a few months. A player and coach can see each other almost every day, for hours when they are practicing or competing. But, when the bond is starting to break down, and the conversations are odd, then the relationship will sour. It is not just about the coaches, who are older, and maybe wiser, yet off the court, the players might not really listening. If you don’t listen, then the relationship will expire.
 
Swiatek, who won 2020 Roland Garros, said that while she knows Wiktorowski, it will take a while for him to understand how she plays, and what to do during a match.

“I can see that he’s been through a lot on tour because he’s been on tour for many years. You can see that the WTA Tour is pretty intense, so I’m sure he’s been in some situations that if I’m going to get to them, it’s going to be easier for me because I’m going to use his experience, I’m going to lean on that,” she said. “That’s for sure something that is giving me more comfort and stability. I’m pretty glad that I have somebody on my team that has been through many things.”