The Davis Cup preview: USA, Italy, France, Spain, Germany & more

John Isner must be thrilled, winning Miami, his best two consecutive weeks ever. But now, it is time for Davis Cup. In Nashville, against Belgium, the Americans are a huge favorite, with teammates Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Ryan Harrison. They are playing indoors, which will probably be pretty fast on the hard court. If they play decently, the USA will win, hands down.

Any of the five guys can win it in the singles, given that Belgium are pretty slim. The very good David Goffin isn’t playing because he is still hurt. The two singles player, Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore, will play, and they will have a small chance to win. Bemelmans is very decent, but he is not that great.

American captain Jim Courier has chosen Isner and Querrey for singles. On Friday, Isner will face De Loore, and Querrey versus. Bemelmans. On Saturday, it will be Sock and Harrison in doubles against a pair of unknown Belgium players.

Courier is darn smart, so if the players listen to what he says, they will move on, quickly.

In Spain, Rafa Nadal will be playing in Valencia against the Germans. On Wednesday, the No. 1 Nadal hadn’t decided whether he would play on Friday, but he decided to. He will face off against Philipp Kohlschreiber. He appears to be very excited, which is great, but over the past three months, he has been hurt, significantly. Hopefully, he won’t pull out again. As the fans say, ‘Pray.’

Before that, it looked like Pablo Carreno Busta was going to play, but he became injured. (Everyone gets injured, right?) He pulled out, so David Ferrer has brought him in, and will play the flashy No. 4, Alexander Zverev. The one-time Roland Garros finalist Ferrer loves to grind, and while Zverev likes to chase the balls and whack-em, he cannot get lose his cool, just like he did when he lost in the Indian Wells final against Isner. He must focus. Zverev and Kohlschreiber need to be on fire and enthusiastic. It should be a great contest.

Here is another terrific tie: home team Italy versus France on clay, in Genoa. Fabio Fognini is certainly playing in singles, and the captain Corrado Barazzutti chose Andreas Seppi. It will be a very tight match, either way. The French captain Yannick Noah choose the No. 11 Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy, who played pretty well in the past month. Teu have to chop it around and mix it up anywhere you want to. A toss up overall?  You bet.

Croatia is a serious favorite against Kazakhstan, with Marin Cilic and Borna Coric leading the pack. Coric is playing much better than he did last year.

MORE NOTES
Charleston, South Carolina is a terrific area, near the great water. On court at the Volvo Car Open on green hardcourts, they slide a lot, and on occasion, they fall down. But they get back up, wipe up your towels, and run. Some of the top players don’t come much anymore, but still, there are some very good players, like the US Open finalist Madison Keys, who has struggled this season, but she is trying. She beat Lara Arruabarrena and then on Thursday, she beat the some-times good Camila Giorgi. Not bad. She needs to win a lot this week, because very soon, here comes the European clay. There, she has to hustle a lot…
Brit Jo Konta is really struggling and she lost against Fanny Stollar 6-3 6-4. She is 7-6 this season and now she is ranked No. 22. She has to get back on track…
The ‘other’ Kristyna Pliskova shocked the No. 10 Petra Kvitova 1-6, 6-1, 6-3. The next day, she upset Elena Vesnina. On fire, huh?

Kvitova can look great, or she can fold. She needs to rest for a while. At least a few weeks. … One more good win: American Bernarda Pera upset Sara Errani. Another American is on the rise.

Miami final: John Isner can bounce Alexander Zverev

Here goes John Isner, playing fantastic again. The same goes with Alexander Zverev, who was reeling during the first three months, but now the No. 3 is calmer and he is hitting it close to the lines.

Isner was totally locked in against Juan Martin del Potro is the semis. As always, his first serve is massive, and his forehand is big and gutsy. His backhand is still medicore, but he can nail it down the line when he wants. Also, he is 6 foot 10 and he isn’t that fast, but he is sharp at the net.

The German Zverev won two ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, snagging Rome and Canada in 2017. He also has a huge first serve, is pretty quick, and can go crosscourt, down the line and put in a few good dropshots. He has beaten Isner three times, in 2016 in Shanghai, and last year, in Miami (7-6 in the third) and Rome. The 20-year-old has had a solid event in during the past 10 days, beating David Ferrer, Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and Pablo Carreno Busta, without dropping a set. He could be a little bit cocky, but over the past six months, he has learned that he cannot play perfect all the time. He had to push it back and figure it out. 

Over the past few days, Zverev was very good, sprinting side to side and when he was way off the court, he can nail it for a winner. He was totally pumped up.

Isner not only defeated the red-hot del Potro, he also jumped over Marin Cilic and  Hyeon Chung. The American has never won an ATP 1000, but he has come close. He is 32-years-old and I am sure he will continue in the next four years. But, when you are in the final at the ATP 100s and/or the Grand Slams and have such a rare opportunity, you have to grab it. 

While Zverev is a better player than Isner, he will drop down a bittoday and Isner will win it in three tough sets.

John Isner vs. Juan Martin del Potro: Coming down to the wire?

Finally, John Isner is back again. I mean, in the last nine days, he woke up in Miami. Prior to that during the past two and a half months, he was sadly down. He only won two matches, and he lost time and time again. Very early.

But after he played Indian Wells, he talked to his coach, and his friends, and they said, ‘C’mon, you are better than that. Don’t be so nervous and be  so depressed on court. When you get start the match, make sure to shake it off, even if you whiff. This is your life. You are 32-years-old now so it is time to believe in yourself, because in another five years, you might retire. So go to it.’”
He did and in the last three days, he played extremely well, knocking out the  No. 3 Marin Cilic, and the young rising Hyeon Chung in straight sets.

Isner and Cilic have been around for a very long time. Cilic has played pretty well in 2018, but he has not been terrific. So Isner hit some huge serves, his big forehand, and he was very patient. When he beat Chung fairly easily, he returned pretty decently, which is surprising, because over the past decade, Isner  rarely broke. But he did on Wednesday.

So now he will face Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine won Indian Wells, and when he arrived in Miami, he said he was very tired and he wasn’t sure whether he can last. But he has, overcoming Milos Raonic in three very long set, 7-6 in the third.  The Canadian Raonic was right there, but he hesitated, or he just missed it. As Delpo said, I can go for my shots, anytime I want,  because I am riding the waves. He sure is.

They will play on Friday with Isner against Del Potro. Last year, they played each other twice, in Canada,  with Juan winning 7-5 7-5, and in Paris Bercy,  John won 6-4 6-7 6-4.

All of those contests were on hardcourts, and they will do it again in Florida. Obviously, del Potro is favored, as he has won the 2009 US Open, and almost two weeks ago, he won his first ATP 1000 in California. He is simply cracking the ball.

If Isner can crush it when DelPo hits a second serve, he might have a chance to break him. However, if he doesn’t, then he will go down in straights set. But if he does, he can go into the third set and then, who knows?   Obviously, Del Potro is favored, as he has won the 2009 US Open, and almost two weeks ago, he won his first ATP 1000 in California. He is simply cracking the ball.

If Isner can crush it when DelPo hits a second serve, he might have a chance to break him. However, if he doesn’t, then the American will go down in straights set. But if he does, he can go into the third set and then, who knows?

Stephens knocks down Azarenka, rising again?

INDIAN WELLS – American Sloane Stephens finally looked very good, turning around a nasty stretch of losses following her 2017 US Open victory. Over the past six months, she was out of it, physically and mentally. But finally, her body feels OK, and a little bit more confident. She beat Vika Azarenka 6-1, 7-5, which is very good, given that Belarusian had knocked Stephens out of the Aussie Open three times without dropping a set. But this time, Stephens was not only consistent, but lethal.

She says that this year, she won’t push herself because in 2016, she became seriously injured and she was out for almost an entire year.  Stephens doesn’t want to do that again.

“I’m going to listen to my body and make sure that I can do everything possible not to get injured again and make sure that I take care of myself mentally and physically the best way I know how,” she said. “Whatever schedule I play is what I play.

Obviously nothing’s ever set in stone. You can say, ‘Oh, I want to play here,’ and then not get enough matches and you want to play a different tournament. It’s kind of up in the air. My main priority is just making sure that I’m good and just staying happy.”

The two-time major champ Angie Kerber wore down Ekaterina Makarova, and on Monday, she will face defending champ Elena Vesnina. Kerber is the fav, but the Russian Vesnina has improved a lot in the past two years. … The 22-year-old Maria Sakkari upset Coco Vandeweghe, a great win by Greek, but a sloppy day by the American…
Karolina Pliskova dug deep to win in three sets over Shuai Zhang, who was seeded 32. The Czech stood strong, even though they went into a brutal third set. Can she go deep? Impossible to know with her, but if she does, watch out. …  20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko is skidding, losing against to the vet Petra Martic is straight sets. Maybe the Roland Garros champion need to relax once in a while.

The Men
Novak Djokovic showed up and did little more than that. He walked on the court against Taro Daniel and made so many errors, try 62. He lost and as he says he is mentally all over the place. However, he just started playing again, so give him some time, like a few more months. Then we will know how good he can really be again. … Gael Monfils took down John Isner. When the Frenchman is playing well, the fans will love watching him play. Isner has only won one match this year and seven losses and lost his confidence. … Brit Kyle Edmund returned after five weeks off due to injury, and he lost Dudi Sela. Still, Edmund should continue to improve. … Another difficult turn of events when Kei Nishikori pulled out. He is hurt all time. “I’m still not strong enough to go play a match. I’m very sorry as I love this tournament,” he said. Will he try to play Miami? Maybe not.

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?

2017 top players: men’s 16-20

TennisReporters.net 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.

American men have to step up now

The young American men are coming up fairly fast, but it is hard to know when the boys will win some major tournaments.

Players like Jared Donaldson, Frances Tiafoe, Ernesto Escobedo and Taylor Fritz show great promise but they have a ways to go before advancing from the top 90 to 130 range into the impact player group

Forget about the Grand Slams right now — it is very early. Nobody knows if they are good enough to beat spectacular players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.  

Let’s look the veteran Americans, who are pretty good, but not good enough.

Way back when, the Americans dominated: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. After they all retired, Andy Roddick was darn good, too. But that was the last one. In 2003, Roddick won the US Open. Since then, no Americans won it again.

Now, it is 2017, almost 15 years gone dry.

Currently, the American guys – John Isner, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Donald Young – have not reached the semifinals at the Grand Slam. Ever. Even though he’s only 24, Jack Sock may be the U.S. man at No. 17, but he has also not shown the promise of rising Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios.

In fact, they haven’t won an ATP 1000.

Time to change?

On Sunday at Miami, the very young American Donaldson will face against the huge-hitter Canadian Milos Raonic. Sock, who reached the semis at Indian Wells. He is coming up, better and better, and will play Jiri Vesely

On Monday, John Isner will face the boy-wonder Zverev. Will the German show why he’s ranked the spots higher than the American?

Querrey has a legitimate shot against Roberto Bautista Abut.
The American vets do like Miami, so perhaps they can go very deep and possibly win it all?
Maybe, but they have to prove it.

NOTES
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is playing well again and she has a fine shot against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, but given that Lucic-Baroni played incredibly well by stunning Aga Radwanska, it will be a very intense contest.

Also on Sunday, Venus Williams and the 19-year-old Taylor Townsend will play against different foes and may face off in the fourth round. Venus is the favorite in that potential clash.

Tough one for Shelby Rogers, who has to play against No. 1 Angie Kerber.

Isner overcomes slow start to nail 2-0 lead

 

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Maybe what John Inser needed was a match within native South to find his big serve and groundstrokes.

Isner overcame a first-set loss and months of underachieving to defeat Henri Laaksonen in the second rubber of the US vs. Switzerland tie.

Isner returned is personal nirvana – the tiebreak – to dispatch Laaksonen in the fourth set. Isner found his stride with a 46 62 62 76 (1) victory.

The 6’10” American backed up an earlier victory by Jack Sook to give the US and expected early lead in the first-round World Group Davis Cup tie.

Even though he had no aces in the tiebreak, Isner cracked two service winners and watched as Laaksonen double faulted match point.

As usual, Isner’s biggest weapon is his serve and he put away 28 access, surpassing 500 in his Davis Cup career. As he turned around the match after a mediocre first set, the American had four aces in the last game of the second set.

As the first set fell away, the possibility of Isner less than stellar recent play must have crossed his and coach Jim Courier’s mind. Isner has only won two matches this year, exiting from the Australian Open in the second round. Except for an appearance in the Paris final in the fall, Isner has had less than spectacular results in the last half of 2016. During that time, he lost his standing as America’s top male player, which he had held for numerous years.

“I felt energized by this crowd,” he said during a post-match interview, citing the pro-American spectators who used a large drum and chanting to back their team.


Sock downs Ciudinelli in first rubber

The most trouble Jack Sock had in taking down Marco Chiudinelli in the first rubber of the US vs. Switzerland Davis Cup tie was grabbing a first-set break. It took the American six tries to seal the set.

The rest was smooth sailing.

Sock cruised with a 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory in the World Group first round. Dominating with his usual brand of punishing forehands and big serves, Sock battered the Swiss in the last two sets, repeating the pattern he has used to move into the Top 20.

In a turn of events, Sock has moved past long-time top-dog American John Isner. Now Sock played the No. 1 position in this tie, as his last six months has shown improvement while Isner seems to be slowly losing the edge in his vaunted power-serving game.

Of course, Chiudinelli’s place in the world of Swiss tennis has long been No. 3, slipping now down to No. 146. That makes  Henri Laaksonen, at No. 127, the top Swiss player here. But, hey, this is the Swiss B team with the last two men’s Grand Slam winners – countrymen Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka – being no-shows.

Sock clamped down on Chiudinelli beginning in the last game of the first set. At 0-30 Chiudinelli’s second serve bounced off the tape and barely missed the line, giving Sock three set points. Then the Swiss rattled off three straight service winners. Chiudinelli throws in another double but he bangs a punishing overhead to get back to deuce. It wasn’t until Sock placed a dying drop shot on the sixth break point that he grabbed the first set.

The American was off and flying, taking the first three games of the second set, breaking on his only break chance of the set. In the second game, Chiudinelli had to face a Sock service winner. He followed it up with a sloppy ground stroke. Sock easily took control of the game. Bolstered by the early break, Sock started feeling his game.

“I think I was a little hesitant at the beginning; maybe too conservative playing when obviously my game is to kind of play big and hit big forehands and be aggressive. … Then, when I was able to get the break it kind of made me able to play my game.,” Sock said. He agreed that he built some real momentum in the second set.

Asked about his success with drop shots, he added, “I think I hit them at the right time except for the 3-all game. I tried to hit it at deuce, which was idiotic.”

The Swiss complimented Sock, saying, “(I) struggle a bit with his heavy serve. Yeah, he had good serves at a lot of those moments. When I managed to get the ball back, he followed up with some good second shots.”

Sock sets the stage for what is predicted to be relatively easy first round. If the US wins here, it would face the winner of the Czech Republic/Australia tie. The Aussies took a 2-0 lead today as Jordan Thompson shocked Jiri Vesely and Nick Kyrgios was also a straight-set winner over Jari Satral.

The men’s grade, from AO: Djokovic was way up, Rafa way down

Nishikori IW 15 TR MALT2903

The 2006 Australian Open

A-plus

Novak Djokovic

The No. 1 came in as a heavy favorite at the AO and with the exception against Gilles Simon in the fourth round, when he needed to push in the fifth set, he absolutely nailed against three fine folks: Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. There are no holes. He is relentless, he can smack side-to-side and the minute he can go forward, he puts it away.

He owns 11 Grand Slams now, and given that he has won four out of the last five majors, in 2016, he will be seriously driven to win his first crown at Roland Garros. If he manages that, he will have a legitimate shot to win all four Slams. If he does, he’d be tied with Pete Sampras with 14 Slams. Wow!


A

Milos Raonic

The Canadian has improved so much in the past month: his backhand, his return, his aggression and his volley. Given that his huge serve and massive forehands, he was very close of reaching the final. He out-punched Stan Wawrinka, he smoked Gael Monfils and in the semis against Andy Murray, he was up two sets to one, but he hurt himself and then he dropped significantly, losing in five sets. Before the year started the 25-year-old said he will win a major this year. I bet he is right.


B-plus

Andy Murray

Even though Murray has lost four times against Djokovic in the Aussie Open finals, still, he fought hard and there were times when he looked pretty close. Still, his serve has improved a little bit and he is very comfortable at the net. He can use tactics to his advantage and he understands what he has to do. However, Djokovic is flat-out better than he is, especially with his forehand and maybe his famous backhand, too. Murray has to realize that.

Roger Federer

The all-time great (well, very close, at least) played beautiful tennis until he faced Djokovic, who destroyed him for the first two sets, battled in the third set, and in the fourth set he couldn’t figure it out. In some ways the 34-year-old has improved in the last couple of years, but otherwise he is declining physical. It happens to every one eventually.

Gilles Simon

When the Frenchman is locked in, he is incredibly consistent and smart, dragging Djokovic into their fifth set. He played terrific, until the end, when he backed off.


B

Tomas Berdych

The Czech scored two significant wins over Nick Kyrgios and Robert Bautista Agut and he looked very driven, but against Federer, he didn’t know which way to go. If he is ever going to reach a Grand Slam final again, he must find some more strengths and reduced mistakes.

Kei Nishikori

Yes, Nishikori played fairly well until he reached quarters, smacking Jo Tsonga. But, against Djokovic, it was very clear that he has a lot of work to do if he ever is going to wins a major title some day.

Bernard Tomic

The Aussie was very controlled in the first three matches, and he was somewhat close against Murray, but he lost in three sets. He has always played pretty well in Australia, but for the rest of the year? Hmmm. He has to prove it.

David Goffin

The Belgian danced around when he bested the rising Dominic Thiem in four sets. However, Federer tore him apart.

Robert Bautista Agut

Nice to see the veteran Spaniard to reach the fourth round for the first time. Does he actually like the hard courts now?

Jo Tsonga

Jo appears ready to go once again as he was hurt during the fall. He reached the fourth round before Nishikori dusted him, but at least he can reach the top 5 again. However, the clock is ticking.

Gael Monfils

Like Tsonga, he is always hurt, but at least he reached the quarters, beating the Russian Andrey Kuznetov before Raonic hit the heck out of him.

David Ferrer

Good for the Spaniard, who reached the quarter once again, needing three hours before he fell against Murray. He always tries, but maybe the 33-year-old can serve and http://www.cialispharmaciefr24.com/prix-vrai-cialis/ volley once in a while?


B-minus

Stan Wawrinka

Coming in, it was Stan the Man who had a legitimate chance to win the tournament again. However, he was a bit sick and, against Raonic, he was a little off. Next year.

Nick Kyrgios

The 20-year-old won a couple matches and, at times, he was very flashy and skillful when he fell in four sets versus Berdych. Give him more time.

Grigor Dimitrov

Some think that the Bulgarian didn’t play well in Australia, but that is wrong as he almost won Sydney. But, he lost in Brisbane and the AO against Federer, in two fairly tight matches. Good enough for now.

John Isner

Big John scored a huge win over Feliciano Lopez who has always gave him a lot of trouble, but he could not figure out what to do when he faced Ferrer in the fourth round. Ranked No. 11, he has to continue to improve significantly if he is ever going to reach the top 5.


C-plus

Steve Johnson

The USC standout has improved every year and reached the third round, so maybe soon he can reach the second week this season.


C

Fernando Verdasco

There is no doubt that Verdasco played amazingly well to upset Rafa Nadal in five sets in the first round. However, he lost in the next round, which mean he was unable to go deep at all.

Jack Sock

The rising Sock came through in the first round against the very good 18-year-old Taylor Fritz in five sets, but then he went down against Lukas Rosol in the second round. Yes, he had been sick, but he had a really chance to go deep. Next time?

C-minus

Marin Cilic

The 2014 US Open champion have said that he can reach the top 5 in 2016. He didn’t reach in the second week. I am waiting …


D

Rafael Nadal

It is impossible to know why he lost in the first round against Verdasco, given since October he had beat everyone with the exception of Djokovic. He wasn’t aggressive enough. He simply cannot do that anymore or he will never win another Slam.

Benoit Paire

The Frenchman had a fine 2015, but then he was totally shocked against the young American Noah Rubin.

Top men still winning, Nishikori to face Tsonga in classic match

Nishikori IW 15 TR MALT3006

AUSTRALIAN OPEN, JAN. 23, 2016 – In a flash amongst the men, most of the young males were gone. At the WTA, a number of top competitors left quickly, but on Friday, the elder ATP folks look very good, and very intelligent.

The somewhat unbeatable Novak Djokovic dusted Andreas Seppi. 6-1 7-5 7-6(6) and he will face the savvy Gilles Simon who crushed Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-2 6-1. These two have faced off 10 times, with the Frenchman winning the first time they played, in 2008 Marseille, but after that, the Serbian got better and better and gained experience. Simon can be fast, he can be powerful and he can cagey, but is he strong enough to out-him? That is doubtful, given that the No. 1 may not be having a great day, and still, he’s winning just about every single set.

“You try to keep it very simple. When the tough gets going, you try to dig out what’s in you,” Djokovic said.

It looked like Kei Nishikori was hurt again – and really, he gets hurt all the time – but he turned it around. He didn’t think his sore wrist was bothering him and he looked terrific to win it 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4 over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Now he has to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga,who beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 7-6(7) 7-6(4). That will be a huge match, considering that Tsonga overcame Nishikori in five sets in the quarters at the 2015 Roland Garros. The Japanese journos are still talking about it because Kei was right there. He freezed up. Now he has another gigantic chance. If he doesn’t immediately attack, then the Frenchman will climb on top and beat him down. It’s time for the 25-year-old to step up and not hesitate.

In a sense it was too bad that Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t manage to claw into the fifth sildenafil 100 mg set against the great Roger Federer. But it wasn’t to be. Over the past three weeks, Dimitrov has played a little better, but not enough, as the Swiss is much more consistent, his serve is superior and on court he is smarter, too. Federer took it 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 and later said that the younger players aren’t patient enough. Dimitrov is 24 years old now so his time is now, but as Federer said, the teenagers have a long way to go.

“Talent takes you only so far. But the rest of it is you have to teach it to yourself and learn it, get it right,” Federer said. “You got to be patient. Can’t expect to win Slams at 16, 17, 18 any more these days, skyrocket through the rankings, unless you’re out of this world.”

Federer will go up against David Goffin, who skipped around and bested Dominic Thiem in four sets. Goffin will have a great time running around and try to mix up his attack, but he isn’t strong enough to topple the creative Federer.

It sure looks like Federer will reach to the semis, assuming he’s shocked by the Belgium, but it’s likely that he will go up against the well-known Tomas Berdych. The tall Czech played very well and he was composed to beat Nick Kyrgios 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-4. The 20-year-old was disappointing because he really thought he was ready to go far at the Slam, but he didn’t. Kyrgios is tall, athletic and he is reasonably intelligent, but he still has to be more on top of the ball. He can belt his first serves, but his second serve can be so-so and his return can be spotty. But if he continues to work Kyrgios will get better and better. Look at the 30-year-old Berdych now: he is not just blasting away, but he will be patient until he can set up the right way and then blast it. That is exactly what the Aussie needs to do.

Berdych didn’t have a terrific 2015, but maybe he is ready to finally win a major. He will face the red-hot Roberto Bautista Agut, who upset Marin Cilic 6-4 7-6(5) 7-5.

On Saturday in the bottom half, all the bigger seeds won, including Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, David Ferrer, John Isner, Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils. Wawrinka will face Raonic, with the Swiss having beaten him all four times they have played. Ferrer has beaten Isner six out of seven times. Clearly, they are both the underdogs, but at this point they need to win right now. Ferrer has been around forever as he is still very good and never backs off. Wawrinka, who has now won two Slams, has been substantially better over the past three years. If either Isner or Raonic don’t change it up, they will lose. If they give them a few tricks, then maybe they can unearth them.

Monfils has been out hurt seemingly forever, but now the Frenchman is back and when he is happy and feeling good. When healthy, he can be phenomenal. He will face the Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, who looked driven and beat Dudi Sela 7-5 3-6 6-1 7-6(4).