top 32 women: No. 25-21

Elina Svitolina

25 Elina Svitolina
The Ukrainian had a very good year, reaching into the semis at Wimbledon, edging  Victoria Azarenka 7-6 in the third and she almost stunning the current No. 1 Iga Swiatek. She did lose in the semis, but she can be so consistent and can really grind it, hard. Over the years, she looked excellent, but also, mentally, when she was young, she would panic. Now she appears to be more stable. If she wants to win a Slam for the first time, she has to improve her return, and at the net. Also, she can throw in a few, cool shots.

24 Magda Linette
She has been playing for many years, and she has won some good players, but at the Slams, she didn’t  do much, until she became more fitting, and more powerful. She plays all the time, almost each week, unless she gets hurt, but at least she stays in there, and chuck it in some aloof shots.  Yes, she really wants to get into the top 10, for the first time, but if she wants to do that, then she must changed a few critical tactics, or she won’t.

23 Donna Vekic
In the first half of the year, that was solid by the  Croatia, winning Monterey, Mexico, and then in June, she reached in Berlin, upsetting Elena Rybakina  and Maria Sakkari. She said, “Every player’s goal is to win a Grand Slam title, but the difference now is that I truly believe that I can do it, for the first time in my life.” Then she has a lot of work to doing, given that in the last four months, she did very little. Perhaps she was hurt, physically, but her strokes were not deep enough, so if she wants to mix it up more, than she should feed in more variety.

22 Victoria Azarenka
It is almost impossible to see when she is playing, in a tournament, and if she is  playing great, early, or later, will she miss so many errors? Yes, she has won two Grand Slams at the Australian Open, over 10 years ago. Then, she was so rational, ripping her forehand and her backhand, down the line and crosscourt. However, even though she has been very good, she couldn’t stay there as the No. 1 for a long time. Her good friend, Serena Williams, beat Azarenka so many times, as she has certainly better when they serve and return. Maybe she can win a tournament next year, as in 2023, she didn’t, but she did reach into the semis at the Australian Open, before she lost against Elena Rybakina. Another opportunity?  Who, knows?

21 Ekaterina Alexandrova

She has not been very good  at the Slams, yet the Russian won the ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands in June, on the grass. That was jolly, as her forehand is huge, and she also really likes to play on the hard courts. Her backhand can be solid, and she is feeling very good, she can return into the corners. However, she has never reached into the quarters at the Slams, so next year, she will have to blend it up more, and hit her backhand in the middle, very deep on the lines.

Time wasn’t on Nadal’s side, but overcomes Nishikori anyway

Nadal USO 13 TR MALT7648

Rafa doesn’t think time violations should be called at crucial moments

MELBOURNE – Rafael Nadal was upset that he was called for multiple time violations in his 7-6 (3) 7-5 7-6 (3) fourth-round win over Kei Nishikori but he’s been a serial offender of the rule, even if he is one of the tour’s greatest and most exciting competitors. He takes a lot of times between every point and consistently pushes the Grand Slams’ 20-second rule.

Nishikori played perhaps the best Grand Slam match of his life at the Aussie Open as he whaled away against Nadal all day long, but could not capture enough big points to even win a set.

With the third set tied at 4-4 and deuce, chair umpire Eva Asderaki gave Nadal his second time violation and he had to forfeit his first serve. The Spaniard rarely shows anger on court, but he was infuriated on that occasion and threw a ball in disgust. Nishikori took the next two points to break, but Nadal would break back, recompose himself and eventually win the contest.

But that did not cool his jets as he felt like Asderaki should have shown more flexibility given how tough the points were in the game and because of the stage of the match. Umpires are told to call the violations when they occur regardless of what stage the match is in, although they can be flexible if they choose to if the prior point is extremely long. But, if Asderaki  has chosen not to call the violation on Nadal at that juncture (and he really did violate the rule), is that is fair to his opponent and would it open the door to even more violations?

It should be noted that it appears that the umpires have been tougher during this fortnight than they have been at any other Grand Slam, even warning some of the women players, which they rarely do. Jelena Jankovic received a warning come off a changeover on Monday in her three-set loss to Simona Halep.

Nadal was not pleased, although he said he would try to quicken his pace.

“The negative thing in my opinion is not the warning,” Nadal said. “The negative thing is the moment, 4‑All, deuce.  You can choose another moment to do it, not that one.  Another thing is she didn’t advise me before the second warning that I was still going slow.  So normal thing, if the referee is say, ‘Rafa, you are going too slow.’  So I try to go quicker, before the second warning.  But she didn’t make it. The rule says you can do it.  But, in my opinion, that goes against the show.  But that’s fine.  If she wants to do it that way, she did.  She did, and that’s why we are talking.”

What is unclear is whether Nadal knows how experienced Asderaki is. She may call matches slightly differently than other umpires, but she has overseen thousands of them, including Grand Slam finals. He does not seem to be too impressed, even though she is a real pro.

“I going to try to go quicker for the future,” he said. “But is important to have people on the chair that really understand the game and people who manage this sport who understand the game, and that’s it.  Because, if not, every time with Hawk‑Eye, the referee just start watching the watch, 25 seconds, then warning, so then we don’t need any more referees.  We only need lines.  That’s fine. Because if not, the referees don’t need to do all the rules.  That is my feeling.  We are making the referees worse than before with all the things that we are making for them easier.”

Next up: Dimitrov

Nadal will face the 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals, who bested Spain’s Roberto Bautista  6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4. Dimitrov is in the final eight for the first time and is playing more patiently than he did last season, which helps him overall because, even though he is an impressive shot-maker, he does have the tendency to become sloppy. At a Grand Slam in three out of five set matches, players don’t get away with that over the long haul. Dimitrov does not appear to fear the match-up, but he will be the underdog for sure.

“We all know that he has won tons of Slams,” Dimitrov said.  “He’s been a tremendous competitor.  He’s Rafa.  We all know him.  But that’s what I’m playing for, to put myself in position to play those guys.  I had tough battles with him in the past.  Played a couple times on clay.  There were always little things missing.  But I’m quite happy with the way I’m performing so far.  So I like my chances.”

WTA roundup

Serena Williams and Maria  Sharapova are both out of the tournament now, Sharapova to Dominika Cibulkova on Monday in a great effort by the Slovakian, but not two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka who took a very impressive 6-3 6-2 victory over Sloane Stephens. The 20-year-old American contested a very decent first set but not win enough of the big points, was slightly out steadied and didn’t take enough risks. Azarenka was better off the ground and more ambitious. She’s the highest seed left in the event. She will play the winner of the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza. Halep reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and will play  Cibulkova.

“I don’t consider anybody as the favorite, I just go out there and play my best,” said Azarenka. “We’ve seen over the last couple of days that somebody can bring their best game on any given day. You have to stay alert.”

Sony Ericsson Open/Miami Draw Breakdown

Nalbandian shows a resurgence. Photos: Mal Taam/MALTphoto


Novak Djokovic’s path to the Miami semis looks fine; he could face the mercurial Marcos Bagdhatis in R2 (who says he can beat him but really can