The big 8 players: Who is improving now?

Andy Murray

With no one playing tournaments due to the coronavirus, the question is: Are they are improving, on court and off court? The great thing is that it has been almost two-and-a-half months at home, so they can heal any injury issues. 

At this point, they feel very good with their legs, knees, arms, backs, etc. Actually tennis players are rarely 100 percent healthy because they are playing all the time. They play month after month, from January all the way into November. Basically, the entire year. 

A schedule of tournament after tournament means too much wear and tear. For the foreseeable future, this isn’t going to change on the ATP and WTA tours.

Right now, all the players have said that they want to come back ASAP, because they miss it. 

Of course they do, because the reason why they managed to reach the top 10, top 100 and top 200 was playing constantly, learning how to hit the ball properly.

But, as the top players say, they always have to improve. No one is perfect. Here are eight players who are great, but what are they currently doing to get even better? 

Novak Djokovic
The Serb can crack his backhand, forever. His serve, his returns and speed is outstanding and his forehand is much better than when he started. However, he has to flatten out his forehand and nail it down the line. Get rid of the spin.
Rafa Nadal
The Spaniard is so efficient, with his heavy and hard forehand, his deep returns, his first serve, and volleys. Plus he has lot of confidence when he gets to the net. However, his backhand is O.K. — which is much better then he started winning his first Slam in 2005 — but it can fall short, and he needs to nail it cross-court.
Roger Federer
The Swiss can do so many things: his phenomenal forehands, his tricky serves, his intelligent returns, and he bangs down so low that he can kiss the net. He has won 20 Grand Slams, which means that right now, he is the best player ever. However, while he has improved his one-handed backhand, he still needs to leap on the ball and hit it close to the lines. If he is going to upend Nadal and Djokovic, who have beaten Federer many times, the 38-year-old has to take a huge amount of risks to win one more Slam.    

Andy Murray
Yes, Brit Murray hasn’t played much over the past two years because he was seriously hurt and he almost retired. But the three-time Grand Slam champion is a darn good player. If he can become healthy again — which will be very difficult — then, at some point, he can reach into the top 10 again. The 33-year-old loves watching tennis, playing tennis and thinking about tennis. That is his life, at least or now. For him to go deep again, he cannot continually grind it out, the way he used to. He has to go for his shots pretty early or he can become wounded once again. 
Ash Barty
The Australian No. 1 Barty has won a Slam at Roland Garros. Since she returned a few years ago from a try at cricket, she became much better month after month, with confidence and more court sense. She has a tremendous variety, and she is so steady. However, she needs to improve her serves, especially her second serve. Or else, players will attack and knock her way back in the court. 

Bianca Andreescu

Serena Williams
She has the best serve, forehand and backhand, But Serena needs to come in more at the net and put the ball away. She is 39 years old and just getting older. Can she can win one more Grand Slam? When will she do it? Does she still have the mental strength to take a slam final? I have no idea, but she can do it, and finally retire with a phenomenal 24 majors.
Sofia Kenin 
At the start of this year, the American won the 2020 Australian, her first Grand  Slam. She is very strong, young, and she pushes herself forward with huge swings. She took down Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza to win it. She can be very combative, her forehand has a lot of spin, and she slaps her backhand. But she can be inpatient If she wants to become No. 1, she has to clam down. But she is already on her way there.

Bianca Andreescu 
The Canadian is young. But, last year, when she rose up quickly, she nailed so many winners that it was so clear she would reach the top 10 immediately. She did, because she was never afraid and she won the 2019 US Open, blasting everyone. She does get hurt a lot, which is not good, but hopefully she can figure it out. If she is going to improve, she needs be more consistent in the rallies.

2012 US Open: Murray’s win shows British they can be winners

Andy Murray

We started in May 2001, 20 years ago. We have posted well over 1,500 articles.

As coronavirus began to strike the tennis world, Indian Wells cancelled the tournament on March 9. Right after that, the tournaments pulled out quickly, including Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Now, the WTA and the ATP have shut down until June 7. Or even further. No one really knows.

However, if you love tennis, you can reminisce with We are resurfacing many of our best stories, written by Matthew Cronin.

There was never a guarantee that Andy Murray would win a Grand Slam singles title, as good as he was when he first arrived on tour back in 2005. Plenty of talented players have fallen short before and having to exist in an era with three all-time greats in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic made it even more difficult for the smart and creative Scot to come through on the world’s biggest stages.

Four times he fell short in Grand Slam finals, but not on Monday at the 2012 US Open when the stars seemed to aligned for him. It had been 79 years to the day that fellow Britain Fred Perry had won his first US Championships. Murray had brought in a new coach, Ivan Lendl, who also needed five majors to win his first Slam crown.  Scotland’s most famous actor, Sean Connery came to support him, as did the famous Scottish soccer coach Sir Alex Ferguson. 

There was a palpable feeling around the US Open grounds that this was his time. Murray had declared the tournament his favorite major from the time that he won the by championships in 2004. Even though he has British mannerisms, he is a perfect fit for New York: very gritty, workmanlike and dedicated to his craft. He is resilient under fire.

After a record-tying four hours and 53 minute final, he overcame his friend and defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. He complained of having jelly legs in the third set, but kept trying to keep them churning. He matched the world’s most admired defensive player sprint for sprint, big blow for big blow, and charge for charge. 

He was the more aggressive player for the most of the match, the cagier player, the one who was willing to try and shift his strategy when the match began to slip out of his hands.

He needed six set points to win the first set tiebreaker and even though he threw in a few errors, he kept the faith and finally boomed a 117-service winner  to win it.

He let go of a 4-0 lead in the second set and lost five of the next six games but did not mentally fade and managed to scrape out the set. 

Djokovic charged extremely hard in the third and fourth sets and looked stronger then he did and more than prepared to pull off a remarkable comeback. But Murray was advantageous early on, grabbed thee breaks and while the Serbian – who had beaten him in similarly long match in Australia 7-5 in the fifth this year—began to have groin trouble, he managed not to cramp. He served bigger, returned deeper and finally wore tennis’ bionic man down. Djokovic tried for a miracle outright forehand return of serve winner on Murray’s second match point like he successfully pulled off against Roger Federer in the semifinals last year, but it was not to be.

Murray had outplayed him, so Murray finally got to raise a big trophy.

“Even during the match you’re still questioning yourself a bit and you’re still doubting yourself a little bit,” Murray said. “I just managed to stay tough enough today and get through.”

Because Murray was so obviously talented, the pressure on him to win a major was enormous. Other British players since Perry — who before Murray was the last British male to win a major in 1936 – were also targeted as guys who had Slam winning potential and underachieved, but John Lloyd, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski were clearly not as good or as accomplished as Murray, who coming into the 2012 US Open havinh already won eight prestigious Masters Series titles as well as the gold medal at the Olympic among his 23 overall crowns.  But like them, he had been unable to win a major.

He was a week older than Djokovic and looked just as good as the he did until the Serbian went on his great 2011 run when he captured three Slams and took the No. 1 ranking. At the start of this season it appeared that Murray had fallen behind. 

And when he went to close out the match on Monday evening, there were still plenty of folks around the world who thought there was still a chance that he would fail. After all, isn’t that what some many other British players had done?

“When I was serving for the match, there’s a sense of how, how big a moment that is in British tennis history really,” Murray said. “So that obviously adds to it.  I know more than most British players, I have been asked about it many times when I got close to winning Grand Slams before.  I get asked about it more and more even after I won the Olympics.  I still got asked, ‘When are you going to win a Grand Slam? So it’s great to have finally done it, and I hope now it inspires some kids to play tennis and also takes away the notion that British tennis players choke or don’t win or it’s not a good sport.”

This is the first time since 2003 that four different men have raised Grand Slam trophies and they are all familiar names: Djokovic (Australia), Nadal (Roland Garros), Federer (Wimbledon) and Murray (US Open). Before Monday, there was constant debate as to whether Murray belonged in tennis’ so-called “Big 4,” or whether or not it was really just a “Big 3,” since he hadn’t won a Slam. That debate has noe been muted. Big 4 it is.

“I proved that I can win the Grand Slams,” Murray said. “I proved that I could last four-and-a-half hours and come out on top against one of the strongest guys physically that tennis had probably seen especially on this surface. But [I learned] to not doubt myself physically and mentally from now on. I’m sure that would have a positive impact in the future.”

A frustrated, injured Andy Murray says he might retire very soon

Andy Murray, Australian Open
Andy Murray, Wimbledon

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN — It was a very tough day for Andy Murray. In a press conference, he cried and teared up. Why? He said, he cannot make the pain go away. He’s dealt with it for almost two years. He has tried as much as possible, but he isn’t fast anymore, cannot sprint, and cannot bend down due to his chronic hip. He limps, he yanks it, shakes it, but still, his head explodes.

Murray has won three Grand Slams, and he has won a bunch of other titles. When he was healthy, he was so steady, he was powerful and creative. But, once your body starts to crack, there is not much you can do. You can wait for a while, rest and change it up. If you work on it every day for many hours,  you can fail. In one leg, his two bones are destroyed and they won’t come back.

 He can try to fix it, to re-generate on court, when he is running, left, right, forward, backwards, and pounding it, there is no chance. For a few hours, he feels OK, but then the leg starts aching, the pain returns, and it just doesn’t want to hear it.
Murray knows that, or maybe as the frequently injured Juan Martin del Potro said, don’t leave yet, it is possible that eventually you can come back. It took DelPo seven years or so to get healthy again. However, with Murray, he is already 31 years old. If he wants to win a major again, seven years is way too long. If it takes a couple years, then maybe — given that the science improves every year — Murray can win some important wins. But he is very frustrated and in the next few months, he could wave goodbye, soon. Like maybe next week.    

“I’m not feeling great,” Murray said. “Been struggling for a long time, I’ve been in a lot of pain for probably about 20 months. I’ve pretty much done everything I could get my hip feeling better. I’m in a better place than I was six months ago but I’m still in a lot of pain. It’s been tough. The pain is too much really. I don’t want to continue playing that way. I think there is a chance this is my last tournament. There’s a chance for sure. I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months.”

2017 top players: men’s 16-20 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 16: Andy Murray
The Brit was on fire during the second half of 2016. He was winning everything, he was confident, and he never tired. But in 2017, his body began to betray him. Murray played way too much, and finally, he had to come home. He stopped playing for the rest of the year. Obviously, he loves tennis, watching it, paying attention to it, talking and learning. But it 2018, Andy has to stop going from tournament to tournament. This time, he has to rest and be concise. And then if he does, he can win another Grand Slam, probably a few.

No. 17: John Isner
The American had a so-so year, winning a couple small titles. At the Slams, he was mentally out of it. He really improved his backhand, and he has gotten better when he is at the net. But still, it is so hard for him to break serve, while obviously, he wins his own huge serve very frequently. Tiebreaker coming — again. However, if Isner wants to reach the semis at a Slam, he has to change something, or the 32-year-old will never be able to win a Slam. That would be sad. 

No. 18: Lucas Pouille
This was a good year by the 23-year-old Frenchmen. After all, the so-called youngsters are good, but they have yet to win a Slam yet. In order to do so, they have to push themselves hard. Pouille recently won Vienna over Jo Tsonga and Stuttgart over Feliciano Lopez. Pretty good. However, he played too much and lost in the early rounds too many, many times. He needs to be more patient and efficient. He can reach the top 10 next year, if he continues to grow. 

No. 19: Tomas Berdych
The Czech has been very consistent over the past 10 years. He is tall, strong, and he crushes his forehand and his backhand. But the reason why he hasn’t won a major yet is because he is a little slow when he is running and he can get pretty nervous at the end of the match. He did manage to reach the final at Wimbledon, and he has beaten a number of the top competitors — once in a while. But, in 2018, he has re-tool his game or he will drop even further.

No. 20: Roberto Bautista Agut
The Spanish veteran has finally woke up, smelled the roses, and now, he isn’t just playing on the clay courts. He is moving forward, and when he has an opportunity, he can crack the ball on the lines. Still, he is consistent, but the lack of a big weapon has kept him from winning a big event. Can he win a Slam or the ATP Masters 1000? I doubt it.

Pro tennis: too many male players are injured


Fix it, please.

Who knew that they could snag a Grand Slam again, considering that they were aging, and the chances to dominate was very slim.   

But somehow, someway, they had improved their strokes and when they came on court, they were better and smarter. Federer won the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, and Nadal won Roland Garros and the US Open. They were back, and much better. 

Unfortunately, “everybody” is injured. Federer decided not to play on clay, because he though that if he did, he could get hurt again and once he came on grass, he could be very tired or very sore. Nadal played about as well he did on clay — once again, he won Roland Garros, 10 times — and the same thing on the hard courts in the end of the summer in New York. 

But three weeks ago, Nadal’s knees started to get extremely tender, and two days ago, he pulled out at the ATP Finals.

Now, it’s the middle of November. While there are some terrific matches at the ATP Finals played by Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev, four multiple Grand Slam champs who are not there: Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. Those four have combined to win 33 majors; but they aren’t in London town. For the fans, that hurts.

It is not just them. Three excellent competitors also became substantially injured this season: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios. 

The 36-year-old Federer says that now, you can play longer and you don’t have to retire so early, such as Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf. Perhaps so, but one of the problems is the length of the year; they have to start at the beginning of January and continue until the middle of November. Essentially, in pro tennis, you have to play the entire year. 

Yes, they can relax for a week or two. Players begin to practice in December. Within a second or two, it is time to get back on court, and play the matches. 

This has been going for many years now. If it was up to me, I would reduce the schedule. I know it’s all about the money, making more and more money all the time, but what I see — and this is totally true — lots of people stop watching tennis in the fall. It is too much, too many tournaments, too many days, and eventually, the fans get bored. So they stop.
That is why pro tennis is still struggling.

Hopefully, in 2018, they will fix it, at least a little bit. 


Phenomenal Federer crushes Raonic, to face Berdych in semis

Wimbledon, Day 11 — Roger Federer keeps on cook’n. The Swiss essentially destroyed Milos Raonic 6-4 6-2 7-6(4). Going into the match, Raonic thought he could beat him into his own game, but Federer out-thought him; he was so precise, his serve was excellent, he could mix it around or hammer it. Spin, slice, drop shots, essentially, anything he wanted to.

Once again, the 36-year-old Federer is already the clear favorite to win Wimbledon. If he wins on Sunday, he will have 19 Grand Slams. That is beyond phenomenal.

“I can’t believe it’s 100 matches. It’s a lot but I’m very happy my body has kept me going all these years,” said Federer about playing in his 100th Wimbledon match. “You have to make sure you average is as high as possible every day and I think I’m doing a great job this week.”

Raonic, who reached the final last year at SW19, said that he tried, but he couldn’t shake him.

“He kept a very high gear the whole entire time without giving many real glimpses. I think that was the most defeating thing,” the Canadian said.

On Friday in the semis, Federer has to play Tomas Berdych, who moved on after Novak Djokovic retired in the second set with an arm injury. That is a tough blow for Djokovic, who can’t find out exactly what he needs to do, and why? His body hurts, and he isn’t sure which way he should hit the ball. He has to sit down and really think about how he should approach it. Win or lose, he has to take a deep breath and think…

Good for Berdych, who was pretty slow early this year, but he is getting better and better. He did reach the final here before, so maybe the Czech has a chance to upended Federer. Yes, Berdych has beaten him few times, but not a lot (18-6 for the Swiss, 1-1 at Wimbledon). So Tomas has to change a few tactics and jump on the Swiss as fast as he can.

I am not shocked that Andy Murray lost, going down against the American, Sam Querrey, 3-6 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1 6-1. Look, we all knew that Murray was out of it this season. He has been OK, but not great, and clearly, his hip is very sore and he cannot run as he used to. If he can rest, and be patient, and feel 100 percent, then yes, eventually, he can win a Grand Slam again. But if he wants to play all the time, and he isn’t 100 percent because his body is a little bit messed up, then maybe he cannot win some huge events for a long time.

It is up to Murray.

He loves tennis, and he loves competing, but when you get older, you have to stop once in a while. Then, when you return, you can be healthy. Just like Federer…

That is a huge win by Querrey. It took him 10 years to reach a Grand Slam semi. Finally, he has improved his speed and his backhand. Plus, when he gets up to the net, he can put it away. He is a happy-go-lucky boy/man, and he smiles a lot, but tonight, he is thinking that if he can play as well as he can, he can actually reach the final.

Really, he can, because of Friday he will go up against Marin Cilic, who also is playing fantastic ball. But, the former US Open champion can go way down and fast. Querrey has to be patient and look for openings.

Cilic is the favorite because this year, he has played smart and intelligent. With these two, it’s all about who serves into the corners, and nail forehands on the lines. It’ll be smash ball tennis.

Andy Murray: the pressure is on


Plus: Federer, Nadal, Ostapenko, Brengle and more

Andy Murray has not played up to par this year, but he is competing at Wimbledon now, and possibly, the Brit will rise and he could grab SW19 once again.
However, he has a lot of work ahead. He has to face Fabio Fognini in the third round, and while the Italian has improved a lot this year, but his prospects sre totally different on grass. You have to go for winners immediately. You cannot sit back and wait.
As Murray said: “I think against Fabio … it’s maybe easier to come up with a game plan because there will be a bit more structure and strategy in the match rather than reacting and kind of instinctive points.”

Rafa Nadal is totally locked in. Now he is super confident again. It has taken him three years to become comfortable, which he has. Nadal has won two times  at Wimbledon. Believe it or not, he is the favorite, except for Roger Federer, who is going for a record eighth crown. Plus, Federer has beaten Nadal three times this season: at the Aussie Open,  Indian Wells and Miami. However, that’s on hard courts, not in grass. Totally different. But that’s for later. .. Nadal has to play against Karen Khachanov, the 21 year old. It could be fun. Or not, it’s all about Khachanov, who has to play 100 percent or his is gone, quickly…

Here is fine matchup: the former US Open champ Marin Cilic versus the American Steve Johnson. Cilic has a gigantic serve, and Johnson is very steady. Maybe five sets.


Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko overcame the Canadian Francoise Abanda 4-6 7-6(4) 6-3. Funny comment from Ostapenko: “I wasn’t very happy with the way I played but I’m happy.” Oh, yes, happy.
The 20-year-old Ostapenko will face Camila Giorgi, who out hit Madison Keys. Those two will face off on Friday. Huge backhands coming up. I have absolutely no idea where the American Keys is going. She has had a tough year. Be patient, please…How about Madison Brengle, who upset Petra Kvitova? Now she will face Garcia. Believe it or not, Brengle is the favorite. 

Vika Azarenka played very well on Wednesday, taking out last year’s semifinalist Elena Vesnina. Within a few weeks, she is back, ready to play tennis again. Azarenka has a new baby and she was off for one year. That takes a while, but when you have been hitting since you were very young, and you are playing everyday for hours, even if you stop playing on the WTA for a while, still, even if you are pregnant, you can go on court and hit the ball With conviction. Look it what Serena Williams is doing? She is very pregnant, but she still hits the ball with conviction. She is, how do you say, addicted?:} We all are, tennis people, that is. ..
Azarenka will go up against Heather Watson. She has not played well at all this season. However, Watson loves London so maybe she will lock in and push Vika into a third set. And then?
Jo Konta won a marathon to beat Donna Vekic in three increadable sets. Is Konta injured now? Can she knock out the 21-year-old Maria Sakkari? We would think so, but Konta has never gone deep at Wimbledon before, so on a big court, the pressure will on the UK’s top player. 

Who to reach the semis: Murray? Federer? Nadal? Djokovic? Wawrinka? Raonic? Kyrgios?


Andy Murray is the top seed, but clearly, he has not been playing great this year. Yes, he definitely knows how to win Wimbledon, but he is struggling and he can be mentally confused. Can he actually grab it again? I doubt it, but the No. 1 always tries as hard as he can. 

He should reach the third round, but then he will likely face Fabio Fognini, who has played very well, but he does not love grass, and Murray will hurt him.

In the fourth round, he will have to go up against either Nick Kyrgios or Lucas Pouille. That is almost a toss-up. Pouille is getting better and better, but we all know that when the Aussie is totally on, he can blast it into the corners. Yes, Kyrgios is up and down and he gets hurt frequently, but when he is into it, he can crush it.  

Kyrgios and Murray like each other, and the Brit knows how to compose himself. However, the Aussie will hit ace after ace and stun Andy.

Who will reach the semis here? Maybe Stan Wawrinka, who just reached the final at Roland Garros, but the Swiss has never gone very deep at Wimby. Yet this time, he realizes that he has to move in, rather than going back. Wawrinka will reach the quarters, but in the fourth round, he will have to take down Jo Tsonga or Sam Querrey. It’s all about aces between those two, but this time, Wawrinka will out rally him.

Rafa Nadal hasn’t played since Roland Garros, when he won in his tenth title. He is back — finally — and his backhand has gotten substantially better. However, clay versus grass is much different and for the Spaniard to win Wimbledon, he must be quicker and shorten the points. Over the years, Nadal’s body was exhausted after clay. But he looks pretty healthy again, so during the first week in England, he should win pretty easily. However, in the second week on Monday, he will have to face either Ivo Karlovic or Gilles Muller. Both are huge servers, and both love coming into the net. However, they can be a little bit slow, and they don’t move well enough, which is why they have not won a major before. Rafa has — 15 times, in fact. 

In the quarters, he will have to go up against either Marin Cilic or Kei Nishikori. Cilic is pretty consistent this year, and the Japanese is intelligent, but he cannot contain himself. Cilic will try to paint the lines against Nadal, but his shots be called “out” game after game.
Rafa will reach the semis.

Roger Federer has won Wimbledon so many times it will make your head spin. He badly wants to go super deep at Wimbledon, and given that he just won Halle, he is ready to climb the mountain. 

However, in the first round, he will have to play against the tricky Alex Dolgopolov, who has tremendous variety, but deep in the fifth set, he can become nervous and fall down, which he will.

In order to reaching the semis, Federer might have to pass two very good competitors: Grigor Dimitrov, who has reached the semis at Wimbledon, and Milos Raonic, who reached the final last year. Yes, the 20-year-old Alex Zverev will win the tournament someday, but he still need to improve quite a bit. However, he is already a fine player. 

In the fourth round, Federer will face Dimitrov, which should be a classic. It will be five sets, and at the end, the 18-time champ Federer will out-think him. 

In the quarters, Fed will confront Raonic, who was so close to be winning this event last year. But he could not. Now, the Canadian will hit him as hard as he can. Raonic will jump up and down and reach the semis once again.     

Novak Djokovic is concerned that he isn’t playing as well as he can, but at least on Saturday, he won Eastbourne, which is better than nothing. As he said, now, finally, he is getting a little bit better so when he walks on to Wimbledon, he will be smiling, rather than smirking. 

If the 12-time Grand Slam Djokovic can reach the semis, then he will raise up high. But first in the third round, he will likely face Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine knows how to play him, and at the Olympics, he bested against the Serbian with some gigantic shots. But, this is grass. While it is critical to hit big first serves, del Potro cannot hit his backhand with enough authority, while Djokovic’s backhand is incredibly well.

That’s why he will reach the semis, unless Dominic Thiem learns how to play on grass (he did thrash Djokovic at RG on clay) and/or Tomas Berdych wakes up. (The Czech reached the final here in 2010.) Either way, Djokovic will get to the semis. And then, is the question.  

Halep vs Ostapenko in final: ’It’s very fast court, so it really fits me’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 13 — How good is Simona Halep? Is she great? Fantastic? Nearly great? Over hyped? Up and down?

We will find out tomorrow as she returns to a final in Paris.

The same questions can be posed about the 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, even though her career is ahead of her.

We all know that Ostapenko is incredibly aggressive, that she can crack the ball from both sides, and she can come into the net when needed. But even though she has had a very good year overall, she is still learning. She can nail the corners for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, slap it way wide. But as she said yesterday, she needs to be a calm, composed, driven.

On the clay, she reached the final at Charleston, upsetting Caro Wozniacki and Mirjana Lucic. In the final, she quickly lost against Daria Kasakina. So, so many errors, but at least she got there.

She qualified in Stuttgart and Rome. In Paris, she was ready go play ball.    

“I’m playing pretty well on clay. But here I think it’s very special, said Ostapenko. “It’s very fast court so it really fits me. … Since I probably
started to play tennis, I had a possibility to play aggressive. So, I was always trying to play aggressive and that’s my game style.”

Halep says that everyone knows that she is right there to grab No. 1 for the first time. But she has never played against Ostapenko, and she’s a little worried. She has to decide: Can she just stand and wait for the ball, or does she need to attack the Latvian immediately?

“It’s tough to know what to expect against Ostapenko. She’s hitting very strong the balls,” Halep said. “It’s going to be the same plan. But I will focus more on myself. I’m not focusing on herself too much. I just want to do my game, to be there, focused, to move well.  It’s going to be a big match, tough match. I know that she can play her best tennis. She has nothing to lose. So, I’m going there and I will be ready.”

The guys

What an amazing match by Stan Wawrinka, who overcomes Andy Murray 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1 in the semis.  The Swiss won the tournament two years ago. He believes that if he plays great, he could stun Rafa Nadal.

Wawrinka and Murray ran side-to-side, up and down, back and forth. It was all about the backhands, and Wawrinka won, going very deep and super heavy. He rarely looked tired.

“There are two ways of seeing things and I chose to be positive, knowing that I was dominating,” said Wawrinka.

The No. 1 Murray looked a little bit better over the past two weeks, but he has struggled this year, at least for a No. 1. Will it go away this year? It’s hard to say, but we do know that he will always push himself. Very hard, or too hard.

“Maybe the lack of matches has hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match,” Murray said. “A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, over four, four and a-half hours, that can catch up a little bit. … Physically I didn’t feel my best at the end.”

Wawrinka has won the three major finals he has played. Here is the most important thing: If Wawrinka wins, he will own four Grand Slams titles. Murray has three majors. If the Swiss passes the Scot, does that mean that Wawrinka is better than Murray? Day to day, over the past 10 years, Murray has been better than Wawrinka, more consistent, but over the past three years, Wawrinka has risen.

When they retire, then we can find out exactly who was better.

Nadal destroyed Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 6-0 in the semis. Clearly, Nadal is the favorite. His lefty forehand is phenomenal, and he has actually improved his backhand, finally hitting it deep. If Nadal wins, he will have 15 Grand Slams. Then, possibly, Roger Federer’s 18 will be in his sights.

Murray: ’It’s about finding a way to get the win.’ to battle Wawrinka

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 12 — Andy Murray has won three Grand Slams, twice at Wimbledon and once at the US Open. He has won a ton of titles, at the ATP 1000s, the 500s and then 250s.

He reached the final at Roland Garros last year, and he tried very hard, but Novak Djokovic was much more consistent and his forehand was harder and deeper.

However, at least Murray was enthusiastic, knocking off Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the semis. Now they will clash again, on Friday, in Paris.

Both have played extremely well in the past 11 days. Wawrinka has been locked in, but Murray has been a little off. However, the 30-year-old Scot exactly knows when it’s time to run, and change it up, and hit it as hard as you can.

Over the years, Murray has changed his movement and strokes. His forehand has improved greatly, his first serve is tremendous and he almost never gets tired, going left and right, hour after hour.

These two have played each other 17 times, with Murray ahead 10-7. Their head-to-head shows they have had on-and-off streaks, with Murray taking the last two meetings in 2016 while Wawrinka gad three in a row from 2013-15. They are both veterans, so the nerves aren’t an issue, but it is possible to get angry, or very happy. One way or another, it will be extremely close.

“I don’t know how Stan is going to play on Friday. I don’t know how I’m going to play,” Murray said. “Last year, I feel like I played some really good tennis and managed to win the match, but you have no idea. You don’t know what the conditions will be. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to win the match. It’s not always about how well that you play or, the level that you play at. It’s about finding a way to get the win, and that’s what I will try to do. In an ideal world you play great tennis, and play a really good match. That unfortunately can’t be the case always. Don’t know how either of us are going to play, but with the right attitude, right game plan, right tactics, you can still win matches.”

Nadal/Thiem faceoff in semis
Will Rafa Nadal cruise against Dominic Thiem? Nadal is playing as well as he can now, blitzing the opponents. However, Thiem did beat him in Rome, but the Spaniard was pretty tired after winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

No excuses, however. It’s all about Nadal’s massive forehand, and Thiem’s impressive one-handed backhand. Plus, the serves matter a lot, as do their ability to come to the net and put it away some volies. It should be a blast — we hope.

Halep sneaks past Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova was as aggressive as she could be, but Simona Halep was so consistent, so fast, totally locked in, winning 6-4 3-6 6-3 to reach the final. Pliskova was close, but she made a few too many errors at the end, which really caused her.

Now Halep has a legitimate shot to become No. 1, if she manages to take down 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, who just moved from a teen to a 20-year-old today. The Latvian is so aggressive, off both sides, forehand, backhand and her big serve. In beating Timea Bacsinszky 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 she hit 50 winners. Totally on the ball. Ostapenko, still a relative newcomer, has never reached the final at a Grand Slam, and maybe she will be super nervous. If she can focus, she definitely has an opportunity. She believes that someday, she will become No. 1. It will take time, but she’s pretty close all ready.

Halep has been No. 2 before, but she has not been able to snag No. 1, which she can if she takes the title. Over the past two months, she has refocused and has found a way to smack the ball deeper, and make her serve game smarter.

The two haven’t played before. Halep said that she hasn’t seen Ostapenko much, so she will have to look at tape. She will attempt to grind her, but if she cannot, then she must push her very early.

“My first Grand Slam and No. 1 in the world. It’s a big challenge. I think I have the game. I have the mentality to win, but it’s gonna be tough,” Halep said. “I expect her to give everything she has, to hit all the balls, to play with confidence. But I’m confident, as well. It’s a big thing. If it’s
gonna happen, it’s gonna happen, two things in the same time.”