Federer, Raonic, the Americans, Kvitova, Garcia and more…

Notes on A Draw Sheet, Feb. 20, 2018

Roger Federer keeps going, and going, and going. Last Sunday, he won Rotterdam, crushing Grigor Dimitrov. The 36-year-old Federer is No. 1 again!!! He’s been at the top for a record 303 weeks and counting … and he started 14 years ago after he won Wimbledon for the first time. Last year, he won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. This year, he won the Aussie again. He has won 97 events. Ka-boom.

I cannot imagine that he won’t reach 100 victories, assuming if he stays healthy. He is trying not to play too much this year. He decided not to play in Dubai, but he will return at Indian Wells and very likely Miami. After that, he won’t on clay until very late, if at all. In 2017, he skipped the spring clay-court season, including Roland Garros. Federer says that he isn’t sure whether he will head to Paris again. That is a toss-up — a big toss up — for now …

Milos Raonic has been hurt forever, but when he is feeling good, he can beat the top almost anyone, except for the top 5. He just won his first match this year, beating Taro Daniel in Delray Beach. He has improved a lot over the past two years, especially his backhand. But, he has to figure out why his body breaks down all the time. I am sure the doctors know what he has to do, but the Canadian doesn’t know how he can fix it, and really listen what they are saying. We know this week in Florida … 

American John Isner beat Radu Albot, which is good, because in January and early February, he really wasn’t there on court. He just won his first win of the season on Tuesday, except for Davis Cup. That is pretty surprising. Hopefully, he will begin to win more regularly …
Juan Martin del Potro also won, and will face American Frances Tiafoe, a young player who can really run, but needs to be more aggressive …

Ryan Harrison had a taxing week at the inaugural NY Open. He successfully dealt with Donald Young’s accusation that Harrison had made a racial comment. The two feisty and long-time competitors got into a heated argument during their match and the chair umpire had to step between them. But, an ATP investigation did not uncover any missteps by Harrison. In Delray Beach, Harrison lost yesterday against countryman Reilly Opelka 7-6(5), 7-6(6). It may take some time for Harrison to put it all behind him …

What a triumph by the two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who won in Doha, knocking out the No. 3 Garbine Muguruza in the final. She is back in the top 10. She also beat Elina Svitolina and No. 1 Caro Wozniacki 7-5 in the third. Kvitova is so powerful, and now she isn’t giving in. She is on a roll, also winning St. Petersburg and the Fed Cup. Without a doubt, she can win a major again. At RG — yes, she did reach the semis once before — and of course at Wimbledon, and at the US Open. Bu,t she has to be healthy all the time …

Angie Kerber was not happy after she lost against Wozniacki, but still, over the past seven weeks, she has become substantially better. Last year, she couldn’t find her game. Now, she is settled and defending with her blazing speed. Watch her come back into the top 5 during March. She smoked Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-1 …

Another fine win by Anett Kontaveit, who beat Sam Stosur in three sets. She is pretty young and she is improving week to week. Caroline Garcia continues to display a blossoming game , beating Lucie Safarova. Frenchwoman Garcia realizes that she can move up to the net and put away easy shots. She does it frequently, transferring her doubles talent to singles. If she continues to do so, she will have a chance to win a major this year. Maybe at RG?

Notes on a Draw Sheet: Taylor Townsend struggling, now working with coach Donald Young Sr.

Townsend Stephens IW 15 TR MALT2180


ROLAND GARROS, DAY 3 —  The American Taylor Townsend is now working under her old/new coach Donald Young Sr (his son is Donald Jr.). Townsend – who lost in the first round at RG — grew up in Atlanta, where the senior Young taught her when she was a kid. Now, she is returning to the Peach State. Townsend was working in Florida with the USTA for a few years and now she wants to try Young once again. Townsend was also been hitting with Zina Garrison last year, who lives in Houston.

It sounds like she is trying to settle down.

In March, she had a stress reaction in her ankle and she had to wear a boot for a couple of weeks. She hadn’t played until early May as she was out for two  months.

When she was out, she was sitting around and knew she had to make some change.

“Just mentally, physically, just everything was just trying to get healthy,” she said. “I was just trying to get back to basic things. It’s very rare that you can have someone that’s willing to coach you again who basically built your game up. [Donald] taught me how to play tennis, so he knows my game like the back of my hand. He knows my strokes and everything, the way I’m supposed to be playing. He knows the best way that I can play. He’s seen me when I was at my best, playing the game that I know I can play. So I just wanted to get back to that and just go back to basics. Get back with my family and just try to build a strong foundation, base, and just get back grounded again.”

Currently ranked No. 130, Taylor is only 19 years old … so she has a long way to go. She is very strong and has a lot of variety, but at times she isn’t sure which way she is going.

Last year, Townsend reached the third round at Roland Garros when she stunned the Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. She was only 18 years old and it appeared that she was ready to climb.

During last summer she qualified at Washington and Cincinnati, but, in the US Open, she had to face Serena Williams in the first round and she was crushed 6-3, 6-1. After that she lost her touch.

This year, she hasn’t won much at all, falling to Caroline Wozniacki twice and against Sam Stosur.  Her long-term goals is, “Top 10, Top 5 and win all the Grand Slams several times.” That is ambitious, but the 2012 Australian junior champion has a long way to go. She wasn’t progressing, so now she is hoping that she will be better, and soon.

“I was variety and what makes me special, using my slice and coming into the net and just trying to incorporate something that’s not the same,” she said. “I wasn’t doing that a lot. I was coming to net and being aggressive, but I wasn’t using everything that I know I have. My coach saw that, and we immediately jumped on that. Just trying to get me back to doing thing that I know works for me and just using variety and being creative out there.”


The US Open champion Marin Cilic says he is finally hitting the ball well again. The Croatian has been hurt since last October and he just started back on court. He won his first match at RG. A number of people have forgotten that he is even here.

When I’m at the court I’m feeling confident; I feel that I’m playing good,” he said. “Just it’s sometimes that things don’t set up themselves like when you are confident. I mean, for example, like when you have a lot of matches, wins, things like that, you’re going to bring the best shots on some crucial moments. I think that’s what helps you the most.”

Caroline Wozniacki says that the courts at RG have changed, at least a little bit. She likes the colors on court.

I think there are much more clay on the courts in general,” she said. “I think there are more bad bounces because of that. I think in previous years it’s been much less clay, been faster to play on. The color of the clay, I think we’re used to it by now and getting our socks and shoes dirty. The orange clay on it it’s still going to look good. I’m wearing yellow these weeks, so I think that contrasts well on to the clay. It kind of brightens it all up, even when it’s a gray day out there, I’m still shining bright (smiling).”

Madison Keys says that her main coach Lindsay Davenport is here, as is her husband Jon Leach, but the player/coach Lisa Raymond is not here at RG. … Eugenie Bouchard, who lost in the first round, says she is hoping to play a lot grass. … Richard Gasquet has been hurt a ton this year but he says. “I’m ready for this fight.”… Novak Djokovic knows Rafa Nadal so well at RG. After all, the Spaniard has won nine titles here. “He loves playing on clay, especially here in Paris. Best of five, as well, something that is playing in his favor, because there are not many players who can compete physically with him. To accept the fact that you’re going to have to play a lot of long rallies, you’re going to have to win the points, he’s not going to give you, he’s one of the best defenders ever to play the game. So he plays with a lot of heavy topspin. You spend a lot of energy to win one set and you have to win three. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so successful here.”

7 US Men on clay: All have tough matches in first round at Roland Garros, Day 1


In 2006, the last great U.S. player Andre Agassi retired and there were no competitors left who still loved the clay. Agassi won Roland Garros in 1999, and the other fantastic males had grown up together on the hard courts and very quickly, they learned how to play on the clay. Michael Chang won Roland Garros when he was just 17 years old, shocking the world in 1989. Jim Courier pounded his forehand into the corner and he won two straight titles in 1991 and 1992. His best players, the 14 Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras never reached the final on clay in Paris but at least he reached the semifinal in 1996.

But when the American’s Big 4 retired, only Andy Roddick had won a major, winning the 2003 US Open, so it looked like he would change it up and go deep in Roland Garros. But he could not manage to reach a quarterfinal. Two of the top 10, James Blake and Mardy Fish, couldn’t do it either.

This current US males group would love to reach the second week in Paris, but they have to play extremely well from the    outset because everyone they are facing are either ranked in the top 32, nearly ranked or coming soon.

Here at the 7 US men:

No. 16 John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi: Isner is favored but Seppi stunned Roger Federer at the Aussie Open. Dangerous.

Jack Sock vs. No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov: The Bulgarian Dimitrov hasn’t played well at all this year but of he is on, Sock is going to have to be very patient to win it.

 Sam Querrey vs. Borna Coric: Querrey is super aggressive, but so can the 18 year old Croation also be able to bomb away.

Donald Young vs. Santiago Giraldo: The Columbian cracked the top 30 last year and while he has slipped this year, Young will hang in there for hours to best Giraldo.

Steve Johnson vs. No. 27 Guillermo Garcia Lopez: Johnson has improved over the past two years on clay, but if he can upend the Spaniard he will have to play very aggressive.

Tim Smyczek vs. No. 15 Kevin Andersons: The tall South African doesn’t love the clay but he is consistent on every surface, which means that Smyczek has to run him as much as possible.

Frances Tiafoe vs. Martin Klizan: Another teen, Tiafoe, has potential and he looked pretty good on the hard courts, but in order to best the No. 35 Klizan he must return very well to take him down.

Australian Open picks for Thursday, January 21

Rod Laver Arena / Day

6- Agnieszka Radwanska v Johanna Larsson
The Polish ‘Aga’ went up to world No. 2, and make it all the way to the final Wimbledon, but she has yet to win a Slam. She came close last year, playing terrific back until she reaches the semifinal Aussie Open, but then she was too tired and was wiped out by Domi Cibulkova. She was upset and mad. Now she is being coached by Martina Navratilova, who knows her game inside and out, but they just started together so she will likely take some time. Nonetheless, she is too smart for Larsson and will win it in straight sets.

Vera punched out Ana |

Vera is back and in form.

1-Serena Williams v Vera Zvonareva
Remember Zvonareva who once pushed up to No. 2, reaching two Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open against Serena in 2010? Serena destroyed the Russian in both sets.  Zvonareva has been seriously hurt and she has been pretty darn good in the Aussie, reaching the semis in 2009 and 2011. Hopefully she will eventually come back at 100 percent, but not yet. Williams will easily push past year in two sets.

1-Novak Djokovic v Andrey Kuznetsova 
The Serbian has been sick over the past two weeks but he played reasonably well in the first round and is feeling much better. Kuznetsova has improved over the past year or so, but he isnt strong enough or smart enough to battle the big boy. Djokovic in three sets.

Rod Laver Arena / Night

Lleyton Hewitt v Benjamin Becker
Hewitt was inconsistent at best on Tuesday night but, once he got over, he struck with the ball for more purpose. Hewitt is super at anticipating where his opponent is going, but he does not hit as strong as the younger players overall. However, he and Becker are around the same age and he knows that he can fool his foe with the help of a raucous pro-Aussie crowd. Hewitt will win in four sets.

20-Sam Stosur v CoCo Vandeweghe
The Aussie Stosur was very pleased to take her first match – actually any win at the Aussie Open – but this is different. Now she will be on the tournament’s biggest stage in front of a packed house. American Vandeweghe is finally coming her own. Vandeweghe has a gigantic serve – just like Stosur does – and can smoke the forehands that bounce up high. If Stosur plays as well as she can, she will take it in front of fans screaming for her. But she consistently becomes nervous in her homeland’s Slam and will again. Take Vandeweghe in three.

Margaret Court Arena

18-Venus Williams v Lauren Davis
Williams has gone on and on. She began the AO back in 1998, reaching the quarters as a baby. Now she is 35 years old and still playing well, looking like she still has a threat. Maybe that is possible, but you never know depending on whom she has to play. We know is that she is very smart, which will help her against younger foes. Davis runs forever and never gives up. But Williams has the tools. Venus will win in two long sets.

8-Caroline Wozniacki v Victoria Azarenka
Without a question, Wozniacki has played much better since last August. She is more aggressive, her forehand in stronger, her first serve can kiss the lines and will move forward to attack her returns. But, you’ve got to wonder if she is feeling comfortable against Azarenka, who pretty much disappeared last year and wasn’t as motivated as she once did for years. Perhaps, but what we know is the two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka is ready to challenge the rest of the best and she is very close to racing up the tops. Azarenka is as fit as she was here in 2012 and 2013 when she won the titles. While she is not as fast as before, she can smoke the balls side to side. Vika will win in three tremendous three sets.

Other matches

8-Milos Raonic will take out the American Donald Young in four sets, because the Canadian is crushing his forehand, which is as powerful as any on tour.

4-Petra Kvitova thinks that he is ready to win the tournament, which means that she has to lock in quickly. She will defeat Mona Bartels in three sets, even though the German is a big swinger, too.

17-Gael Monfils almost went out against a French kid in five sets, but he hung in there and now he will do it again. He will survive the big hitter Jerzy Janowicz in a marathon.

Aussie Open Day 4: Sharapova survives marathon in heat, Azarenka settles down


While rehabilitating from a shoulder injury last season Maria Sharapova spent five months getting into tip-top shape, and it more than paid off on Thursday when the Russian outlasted Karin Knapp 6-3 4-6 10-8 at Rod Laver Arena. MORE HERE


Victoria Azarenka prefers a straight-ahead attack, but she had no choice to adjust her strategy against the wily and creative Barbora Zahlavova Strycova MORE HERE


Donald Young is somewhat of a mystery man. He’s had such and up and down career since he first came on tour in 2007 that how he is going to perform during any given week is unpredictable.  MORE HERE


Out of sight, out of mind

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Donald has won more matches in the past 6 weeks than he won in all of 2012.

Matches twist and turn on dozen of types of shots, some hair-raising, many eye-popping, others sleight of hand. The role of luck in tennis is often debated and when balls find the funniest places at the most critical moments, there is reason to pause and consider the role of fortune.

That was the case in Michael Russell

Murray, Young to clash for Bangkok title

Young has come a long way this season.

Donald Young and Andy Murray will meet for the third time this season but for the first time, it will be in a final when they face off at the PTT Thailand Open.

Young advanced to his first ATP World Tour final by topping Gael Monfils in a 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) thriller, just another indication that his heart is in the right place, his game has solidified and that his fitness is gradually improving. He

Banner day for US teens

McHale leads a trio of ambitious US teens.

FROM THE MERCURY INSURANCE OPEN IN SAN DIEGO – Thursday at the La Costa resort is going to be big day in the development of US women’s tennis. Not the largest one we have seen in the past couple of decades, maybe not even the most critical one in the past year, but it will certainly be worth paying attention to when teens CoCo Vandeweghe, Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens take the court in third round matches.

It is certainly the first time this year that three American teens have reached the third round of a WTA Premier level event and it would take a fair amount of digging to find out the last time that happened. All scored wins on Wednesday with McHale advancing when Alla Kudryavtseva retired down 6-2, 3-1, Vandeweghe playing sloppy but tough to overcome Olga Savchuk 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, and the enthusiastic Stephens knocking out the slumping world No. 20 Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5.

McHale has been making fine progress all year, while fellow 19-year-old Vandeweghe has largely been running in place, and Stephens has been up and down. No analyst or coach of note will say that any of them are surefire top-20 players, but I would venture to say that in good health and with stable mindsets that they all have at least top 50 potential, which isn’t a figure that most US fans will get too excited about, but one that will put them in the WTA mix week in and week out for the next decade. McHale is already ranked No. 66 and is almost assured to crack the top 60 by next week so she’s a near lock. The athletic Vandeweghe is No. 102 and ambitious, and the also athletic and bold Stephens is No. 131. No other country at the tour’s sole WTA event this week can claim to have three teens in the round of 16, so at least on Thursday, the USTA will have something to crow about. In fact, McHale is the youngest member of the top 70 and Stephens is the youngest player in the top 135 and soon to be in the top 120. I am sure there are some folks out there who like the upside of the next highest ranked 18-year-old, No. 160 Caroline Garcia of France, more than Stephens, but consider this: the talented Garcia actually lost to Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros, while Stephens actually beat Georges in San Diego. That’s what some folks call “scoreboard” and winning matches – not just showing flashes of brilliance – still means a whole hell of a lot in pro tennis.

With that said, all three American youngsters will be underdogs on Thursday: McHale against the crafty Aga Radwanska, Stephens against Tamira Paszek and Vandeweghe against Sabine Lisicki. Radwanska and Lisicki are major steps up from the foes that McHale and Vandeweghe faced on Wednesday and Paszek has been playing very well of late and can crush the ball. Interestingly, all those players are around the ages of 20-21. All broke out fairly early, slid a bit due to variety of factors (although Radwanska has been fairly steady) and now are decent sized factors everywhere they go. The US teens cannot say that yet, but who is to say that one of them could not pull off an upset on Thursday and make a bigger name for herself and sometimes in the next two years, that they won’t be the favorites against another group of teens? I’m not ready to cast them off as a bound-to-be mediocre group yet.

If I was to pick one of them to get through I would have to go with McHale because she is patient, can grind and hopefully will be told not to try and hit through Radwanska quickly, who is very crafty but is still struggling in closing out matches. Stephens will have to be spot on the ball because Paszek can rock the yellow pill. San Diego’s CoCo will play the night match against the streaking Lisicki and unless the German has an off serving day its hard to see how the American is going break her more than twice — if that.

Outside of the US circles, there are also some potential bang up matches with Virginie Razzano playing Andrea Petkovic, Daniela Hantuchova against Jie Zheng, Shuai Peng against Sara Errani and Alberta Brianti against Ana Ivanovic, who said after she came back from 0-5 in the second set to beat Ayumi Morita 6-1 7-6 (5) that she is trying to stop chasing her service toss, but won’t catch bad tosses because she feels it is unsportsmanlike….Elena Vesnina has an injured hand and retired from the doubles with Sania Mirza. India’s top player told me that she’s playing straight through the US Open and that she and Vesnina are going to try very hard to qualify for the year-end WTA Championships AND despite reports in India that her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, is now beating her in mini or regular tennis, thatss simply not the case. He’s been kidding her about the one when they played three points in mini tennis and he won two, but that was the extent of it. Fun stuff for the cross-border celebrity newlyweds. Mirza also says that she believes she played 161 matches between Birmingham of last year and this tournament, which may be a record. Recall that she played both the Asian and Commonwealth Games. I can’t even imagine after reading that anyone will ever say that she does not put a huge effort into her tennis…Maria Kirilenko also pulled out with an injury. My the ailments are starting to pile up. ..Speaking of players who are going to attempt to play through the US Open, count Melanie Oudin in. The struggling teenager is thinking that this time when she arrives in New York, the pressure will be less on her because she’s not defending quarterfinal points like she did in 2010. Here’s hoping she pulls herself out of her slump because she really is a terrific competitor when she’s confident.

Some of you have cracked me for not covering the men over the past 10 days but frankly, when I’m at WTA tournaments and have zero chance to watch the men or talk to the men, there is no reason for me to get deeply into issues and matches I do not have a good handle on. It’s a much better use of my energy and your reading time to focus on people I can actually talk to in person and matches I can see. After San Diego ends, I’ll laser in on the men in Montreal and Cincy. And I do promise to call and write up something on the newly turned pro Jack Sock in the next two days or so.

Washington does have some interesting players though and on Wednesday, Donald Young, Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko, Mike Russell and Radek Stepanek scored wins.


Answers for Young no longer blowing in wind

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE, FEB 8- Donald Young is back in a ranking place he doesn

Rallying for Relief & Relevance

Before getting into the bouncing balls and those who strike them, I want to say that one of the great things about the tennis community is when it comes together and authentically raises money for charity, in this instance, the Rally for Relief, which raised a substantial funs to help the victims of the Queensland floods. Tennis is of the few sports with truly global appeal and where people of rival nations come together and develop friendships, and on tour, and also in the pressroom, there is a real love for the various nations that host tournaments and Australia is without question the tops of many folks’ list, including mine.

As Sam Stosur, who was just one of a ton of stars to participate including Federer, Nadal, Murray, Roddick, Ivanovic, Clijsters and Azarenka said: