Summer swings into Washington & San Jose

Alison Riske

This week, in the United States, the hardcourt tournament continue in August. It very hot outside. The players know that in the summer, the heat is on.

The 17-year-old Coco Gauff is getting better all the time. Alison Riske said that Gauff hits a lot of terrific shots, and she is very powerful, as well as potent.

“I feel like women’s American tennis – I don’t know when it was this deep. I’ve been playing on tour for 12 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Riske said. “I couldn’t say enough amazing things about Coco. She’s an amazing competitor, and she has an amazing family behind her.”

In 2021, Riske has been hurt. She has been working to came back. It has been slow as she is trying to figure out what she has to do to improve. She has now played eight tournaments, and she only won three matches. Finally, this week, she is heathy.

She reached a career high of No. 18 in 2019, and at Wimbledon, she upset Belinda Bencic, and the No. 1 Ash Barty, before losing to Serena Williams 6-3 in the third set in the quarters. Pretty good, but she will be thrilled if she reaches a Slam semi before she retires.

How about the 23-year-old Reilly Opelka? He is ranked No. 36, and he wants to have a top 32 seed at the US Open. To do it, over the next three weeks, he has to go for it. The 6-foot-11 has a fine serve and backhand, but he is working on fixing his forehand. Also, in need of improvement are his net and return games. If he wants to eventually be at the top 20, or even the top 10, he has to find a focal point. On Thursday, he lost to John Millman. Time to pick it up.

No. 26 Madison Keys was playing in San Jose, and she lost in the second round. The American did reach the final at ‘17 US Open, losing against Sloan Stephens, who is also playing in California. Keys has won Charleston, Cincinnati and Stanford. But then, she can check out. The big hitter Keys reached No. 7 six years ago, but the 26-year-old can play great, but she gets hurt a lot.

Lloyd Harris stunned Rafa Nadal 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in Washington. Nadal just returned after a long rest. So, in a couple weeks, he should look better. Harris is on fire…

Jenson Brooksby won some matches on the grass and now on the hardcourts. No doubt, the 20 -year-old will play Cincinnati, and then at the US Open.

That was a good win by Danielle Collins in San Jose when she beat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. I am just not sure when Stephens will be more composed this year. Where is she?

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.

Australian Open: Roger Federer survives, barely

Roger Federer

Roger Federer was surely out of the Australian Open, down 8-4 in a final set match tiebreak. Somehow, someway, the Swiss survived, winning the last six and pressure-packed points. The match last more than four hours.

Finally, he tacked the Aussie, John Millman, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(8). He could have lost, but he stayed there, focused, putting the balls back into the court and, when he had a chance, he went for it.

Millman played as well as he could, perhaps the best he played, ever. But he couldn’t knock the Swiss down. That is the way it goes.

“I never really felt comfortable. I felt John did a great job of keeping me on the back foot, that I couldn’t always step in,”Federer said. “Until the last shot; I went for it. He picked the wrong side.”

Federer has won 20 Grand Slams. Perhaps he can do it again, but at Melbourne, he has to play four more times to win it all. The other great players are still there, so Federer might have to face against Fabio Fognini, Milos Raonic, or Novak Djokovic in the semis. And in the final, will it be against Rafa Nadal again? For Federer, it is a very tough draw. But it is a huge challenge, and a very good one for tennis fans around the world.

Years ago, it really looked like Milos Raonic would win a Slam, and perhaps to become No. 1. But he gets injured a lot, and also, even though he hits so many winners, he can panic. But, now, he is finally playing patient and thoughtful. He just played a terrific match, upending the young player Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2).  You never know how well Raonic will play in the second week. At least he reached the 2016 Wimbledon final. But, on the hard courts, he has to win a lot more. He just has to push himself everyday, or else…The 15-year-old Cori Gauff is totally on fire. She stunned the former champ, Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-4. Osaka has played some amazing matches at the Slams. But, admittedly, she was out of it on Friday. OK, maybe she did not play at her best level, but the American is very fast, and steady and powerful. She is coming up very fast, sort of like the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, back in the day. They walked on the court, and immediately, they won so many matches. Both of them have said that it took them years to be much better. When they won their first Slams, in 1999 and 2001, they jumped on it.

Will Gauff do the same thing, winning the Aussie Open right now? On Sunday, she has to face another American, the 21-year-old Sofia Kenin, who is playing terrific ball. It has to be a three setter, with some huge swings, from their forehands, especially.

Alison Riske had a nice win over Julia Goerges 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. She could have failed, but she dug in. She loves to crack the ball, and she is pretty good at the net. She has been around for a while, but it took her at least a decade to understand what she has to do. She is smarter now. However, she has yet to reach the semis at the Slams. On Sunday, she will have to go up against No. 1 Ash Barty, on Rod Laver Arena. Riske is not the favorite here because Barty has a tremendous amount of shots. But, in front of the packed crowds. Even in her home country, she has become nervous here and there. And if she does, then Riske will have an opportunity, to stun her. Pressure is more than an opportunity; it can be a killer.

Top 20 in 2019: Women, 20-16

No. 20: Angelique Kerber
This was not a great year for the German. She has won two Grand Slams, and she became to No. 1. But, this year she was darn frustrated. She didn’t win an event, and, after she reached the final in Eastbourne in late June, she did nothing the rest of the year. On court, that is. Kerber is so steady and fast moving to the left and to the right. When she is on, her strokes were deep and true. But she can get upset for many matches. If she can become confident again, then she will go deep at the big events. Really, Angie has to, because she is aging.

No. 19: Donna Vekic
The Croatian had a pretty decent year, gaining ground. Over the past couple years, she has improved, month after month, hitting very hard and snapping it. She can over-hit, and she can be disheartened, but usually, she fights to the end. If Vekic improves her serves and net play, she can crack the top 15 in 2020. But will she leap into the top 10? Right now, I would say no.

No. 18: Alison Riske
A few years ago, the American did very little on the hardcourts and on the clay. But she loved to play on the grass, crashing the ball. However, she had to change, gradually, or else. Very few people knew how good she was. In 2019, Riske started going pretty deep at the tournaments, hitting super hard. She has been around at the WTA for 10 years, and finally, she understood how she should play. In 2020, when she will be a 30-years-old, she will win a big event. A huge one.

No. 17: Elise Mertens
The 24-year-old played a lot of three-setters this year, battling to the end, which is good. Still, she lost a number of them, against the very fine competitors. Yes, she is very consistent, and she thinks out there for two sets. But, deep into the third set, she can rattle and push back. She did win Doha in February, beating Kerber and Simona Halep, which was tremendous. Then, over the next eight months, she couldn’t beat any of the top 10-ers. In 2020, Mertens has to add more to her game.

No. 16: Marketa Vondrousova
The 20-year-old has been coming up very fast. She reached the final at Roland Garros, on clay — which she loves — and in looked like she was going to be around at the critical moments in big matches. In late June she hurt her left wrist and she stopped for the rest of the year. Vondrousova will return in January, to start again. She is very young and keeps her calm during matches. After her injury, it will take her awhile to reset. If she does, she will punch herself into the top 10.

The US Open: Keep the momentum, please

In the first round, at the US Open, there have always been a number of terrific players who have lost early. On the hard courts in the hot summer, it can be difficult and keep up the momentum built during the North American swing.

Look what happened to No. 4 Dominic Thiem who lost to the Italian Thomas Fabbiano, 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2, with 48 unforced errors. Ugh.  

Then, Stefanos Tsitsipas went down, losing to another very good young players Andrey Rublev, 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (7) 7-5. It was almost four hours, but Rublev hung in there, and he battled, constantly. But, then the Greek, Tsitsipas said he does not “feel inspired.”  He should not have said that.

Another top-10 player, Karen Khachanov, went down 4-6 7-5 7-5 4-6 6-3 to Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The Russian can be erratic, while when he is healthy. Pospisil can be extremely intelligent.

Do you want another seed who was ousted on Tuesday? Why not? Tenth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut was defeated by Mikhail Kukushkin 3-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3. Bautista Agut was physically tired.

How about a good one today: the struggling No. 6 Alexander Zverev, who won, when he beat Radu Albot 6-1 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-2. While the big hitter Zverev, has played so many five setters at the Slams, eventually, he can go down, when he is exhausted. If he wants to reach the second week, he had to bare down. They all have to.

Stephens gets bounced
When Sloane Stephens is feeling good, she can defeat anyone. But this year, her head is in trouble. In the first round, she lost to Russian Anna Kalinskaya 6-3 6-4. Stephens won the tournament two years ago, but now she didn’t survive the first round, at least in singles. She is just so confused. Who knows what her future will bring?

The No. 1 Naomi Osaka won, beating Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-2. Good enough. … Caroline Wozniacki won and she will now play American Danielle Collins. Quiet a toss-up. … The powerful Aryna Sabalenka upended Vika Azarenka 3-6 6-3 6-4, a tight match. Where Azarenka will go from here, nobody knows. … That was a gigantic win by American Alison Riske, who beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-1 6-3. She can be really focused when she wants.

With Serena out, Wozniacki steps in Bank of the West Classic in Stanford

Wozniacki IW 13 MALT3275


FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC: The defending champion Serena Williams pulled out of the Bank of the West Classic Stanford last week, which is too bad, but there are other people who need to catch fire on the hard courts in the next four weeks. Soon, the US Open will begin and we all know that Serena is a heavy favorite to win a major against, given that she had won four Slams in a row.

No one is playing well enough to knock off the 21 Grand Slam champion. It can occur, but if Serena is playing extremely well, it is hard to figure out how you can attack her. She has a phenomenal first serve. She has a bullet of a forehand and backhand. Her returns are laser like, and she is very smart and wise. Essentially, no one can toppled Williams.

But as Aga Radwanska said the other day, Serena is almost untouchable, but on occasion, she can drop a bit, she is a little off and then someone while have slight chance to stun Serena.

There are plenty of fine players at Stanford, but every single one has to become better if they ever want a real shot to upend Williams. The top seed at the Bank of the West is Carolina Wozniacki, who is a close friend with Serena and she cheers for her when Williams wins, but at the US Open, Wozniacki wants to win a title – a very big title. As the former No. 1 Wozniacki said, at the end of this year, she would be the happiest if she snares the US Open. Last year, ‘Caro’ played very well in reaching the final in NYC, but then Serena whacked her.

At the WTA Final in the semis, Wozniacki played as well as she could and she was so close to out-run Williams, but she backed off a little bit, Serena stepped up and Wozniacki went down.

This year, the Dane has been up and down. At times, the No. 5 has been very up and down. She should have won at Stuttgart, beating Lucie Safarova, Carla Suarez and Simons Halep. But in the final, she was playing against Angie Kerber, she was ahead in the third set, but then she fell. She was nervous and if she is going to rise again, she has to find a way to win to believe in herself at crunch time.

On Thursday, she will have to face the tough veteran Varvara Lepchenko. If she out hits her, she will have to play Mona Bathel, a big hitter. If she wins there, she will have to play the likes of the new No. 10 Katerina Pliskova or maybe the rising youngster Madison Keys. Then Wozniacki will know that if she can out-stroke the up-and-comers, she has to be aggressive, because Stanford ‘s courts are fairly fast and you cannot just push the balls back in and hope.

On the other side of the draw, the 44-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm was down 4-1 in the second set and came back to stun Sabine Lisicki 1-6 7-6 (4) 6-2. Props to Date-Krumm for winning, who entered the tournament ranked No. 174, but what is Lisicki doing? She is so unpredictable… The Ukrainians went at each other between with the young Elina Svitolina overcame the new mom Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6 6-4 7-5. Svitolina has been extremely well this season and will face Alison Riske, who upended Carlos Suarez in the second round. Riske is changing around and she needs to play much more confident for the rest of the year because before that, she was confused.

Angelique Kerber will go up again the Croatian Ana Konjuh, who will be heard from very soon.