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

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The 2006 Australian Open


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!


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.


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.


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 volley once in a while?


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.


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.


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?


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 …


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

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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 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).

Ana Ivanovic: ‘Young girls, they’re fearless.’ To face Madison Keys

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN, DAY 4, JAN. 21, 2016 – Ana Ivanovic has been around a long time now, so long that the 28-year-old is now one of the respected statements.

Since she won her first Grand Slam – her only major title – she has been very good at times, and at other times, very bad. Now, she has reached the third round, which is pretty good, but at this point, the Serbian has to go super deep in order to satisfy herself. Once you win a major, like she did when she won the 2008 Roland Garros title and became No. 1, she wante to stay there. She wanted to win more Grand Slams at the other three. In 2007 and the first half of 2008, she was on fire, reaching the final of the Australian Open, but lost to Maria Sharapova in a hard-fought match.

But she hasn’t been able to find her way to the finals again, largely because she will panic when she is so close to the finish line.

However, Ivanovic continues to battle and changing up her tactics, and the always-happy person hasn’t given up yet.

“I think throughout your whole life, there is areas you always want to learn and improve,” she said. “In tennis, in my game, I still feel there is room for improvement. That’s my challenge every day. I really try to push myself and to try to get better. There was tough moments. I tried to improve, tried to push myself. It is also fun, you know, that’s why we are here.”

Every 10 years, the players change. Even though Serena Williams is dominating now, many of the very good veterans realize that the youngsters aren’t afraid and many of them are more effective. And they can attack early, too. On Thursday, Ivanovic beat the Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3. It was competitive. Zhang Shuai of China beat Alize Cornet 6-3 6-3; Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic bested Sabine Lisicki 6-3 2-6 6-4; and Naomi Osaka of Japan beat another youngster Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4. Who did that and how did they get so good?

“You see it through the years now, so many new players coming up,” Ivanovic said. “Their feel is they have powerful game and they are just dangerous. It’s completely different to when I started. I remember even myself would get to third, fourth round without dropping too many games. So if you had 6-4, 7-5, they were like, ‘What’s going on?’ And now every match it’s a battle, you just have to try and push yourself, because it’s all challenge. They are young girls and they’re fearless.”

Talk about very good young players, Ivanovic will face Madison Keys in the third round. The American reached the semifinals at the Aussie Open last year, and right after that, it looked like Keys would jump into the top 10. But she was spotty for the rest of the year. She played excellent ball to reach the final at Charleston, and reach the quarters at Wimbledon, but after that, she was very inconsistent. She is a huge hitter, but she can become frustrated. Perhaps this season, she will be calmer. Ivanovic will find out on Saturday.

“She’s very dangerous; big game. We played once on clay when she was just coming up and we had tough second-set tiebreak,” Ivanovic said. “She played well last year here; a big serve; a big, powerful forehand actually on both wings. It’s going to be the first shot, and I’m going to have to be composed also in my service games if I do face her. It’s not going to be easy matchup, I think, but it’s all about, trying to find your way.”


Victoria Azarenka is playing fantastic, winning Brisbane and then crushing two players at the AO. On Thursday she blew apart Danka Kovinic 6-1 6-2.

The No. 3 Garbine Muguruza played so-so but beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 6-2. The pressure is on for the young Spaniard and could struggle against Barbora Strycova. The American Varvara Lepchenko beat Lara Arruabarrena 7-6(7) 6-4 and she does have a real chance to reach the fourth round when she faces Zhang Shuai, even though the Chinese did play very well to upset Simona Halep and Cornet.


Andy Murray hit six beautiful lob winners in the first set over Sam Groth 6-0 6-4 6-1. Groth is tall and he constantly comes into the net, but even though he would try to climb way up in the sky he couldn’t touch him.  The American John Isner was pretty consistent and smart to beat Marcel Granollers 6-3 7-6(6) 7-6(2). His backhand really has improved over the past year, but now he will have to face Feliciano Lopez, who overcame Guido Pella 7-6(2) 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 6-7(8) 6-4 in a marathon.

Back in 2012 at the Aussie Open, Lopez beat Isner 6-3 6-7(3) 6-4 6-7(0) 6-1 in the third round. At the 2014 Wimbledon, the Spaniard beat Isner 6-7(8) 7-6(6) 7-6(3) 7-5. The lefty bothers him. But fortunately, Isner defeated Lopez 7-6(5) 6-7(9) 7-6(4) in Queens last year. Maybe he can turn the tables.

Here is another big contest on Saturday, when the Brisbane winner Milos Raonic will go up against the Sydney winner Viktor Troicki. On Thursday, Raonic beat Tommy Robredo 7-6(6) 7-6(5) 7-5, while Troicki beat Tim Smyczek 6-4 7-6(5) 7-6(4). Both are confident, but the Serbian must be a little tired.

Another American, Steve Johnson beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 6-2 6-2 and will play David Ferrer. Johnson knows they could be on court for hours and hours.

Vandeweghe would love to become No.1, but very long way to go

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WIMBLEDON – CoCo Vandeweghe is still very young, only 23 year old, but she has learned a lot over the past two years. In the second round at Wimbledon, she upset the world No. 11 Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5) 6-4.

On an excellent game for the Americans on Wednesday, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bethany Matter-Sands, John Isner and Denis Kudla all came through.

Mattel-Sands, who upended the No. 7 Ana Ivanovic in straight sets, said that the women are stronger and stronger.

“It’s great.  I think we had 16 players in the main draw this year, maybe more, including some doubles players,” Mattel-Sands said. “But, no, a few years ago, I was being asked, What happened to USA tennis, and I said, Well, it comes and goes.  I think there were a lot of younger players that coming that showed promise.  Sure enough, I think we have a really strong contingent of American players and it’s really good to see.”

The San Diego resident Vandeweghe wasn’t afraid at all against Pliskova. She went out on court, hit huge serves and was very effective. Some people thought the Czech might out hit her, but the American knew exactly where she was going. Vandeweghe dictated her terms.

“I wasn’t nervous about playing her. I had more confidence that I was the better player,” Vandeweghe said.

“Not just because of that. I think I have more weapons than her, personally. She’s definitely the higher ranked player, she’s had the results through the year, consistently but I thought off the ground I could rally her, which I did. In the return of serve games if I got a beat on her serve I would be able to break her, which I eventually did. And I thought I could serve better than her, which I did. I really think going there that I was the better player and I should win that match.”

Vandeweghe has a tremendous amount of confidence. She can go up and down at times, but she loves the grass and last year she won a tournament at the Netherlands, grabbing seven wins and the title. A few weeks ago, she went back to the Netherlands, reaching the quarterfinals. She has been ranked inside the top 40 most of this year and she wants to move forward.

This is the first time on the Slams that she has reached the third round. Vandeweghe is ambitious and she believes that some day she could grab No. 1.

“I’ve always thought to be No.1” she said. “It’s kind of similar of going into a match and thinking for me, I’m not going to win. It’s like winning a Grand Slam, winning a gold medal, those are lifelong dreams of mine. So to put it to the way side for whatever reason, I think is silly.”

Vandeweghe admitted that when she first started on the tour, she wasn’t strategic. She was still learning to play, trying to figure it out which way she should play. In 2006, she was given a wild card at a tournament in San Diego. She had a blast, but as she admitted, she could be wild.

Now, she is much smarter.

“Maturity is probably a big thing for me,” she said. “I’ve also improved a lot in the fitness department. I’ve focused a lot on that. I’ve found my game style. I have a lot of variety, a lot of different things I can do on the court. So it was kind of reigning it all in for me.
I always went and played tennis and just played. It wasn’t like game plans or if I get put in this pickle, this what’s going to happen. I’m going to serve my first serve here and I’m putting my first shot here. That was never a structure in my game till about two years ago. It was just me playing tennis.”

Vandeweghe knows Serena very well – they all do. Vandeweghe and Serena once played against each other in 2012, when Williams bested CoCo in the final. The tall and strong woman played very well then, and she has watched a close eye on the legend.

Vandeweghe respects Serena greatly and Williams leads by her example.

“I’ve faced Serena a couple of different times and it’s when you’re down a break point or you feel that momentum switch at 4-3 in the games, where most momentum changes happen in a match – I think Serena is very high up there. She definitely makes it about Serena in any match that she plays. For me, I think that’s also her own way of doing things and that’s her own killer instinct. Where she’s going to take upon herself to beat you – you’re not going to beat her. So that’s just a different mind frame.”


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.

The Pick, May 14: Nadal faces Isner in Rome, where both feel confident


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Rafa Nadal vs. John Isner, Round of 16, Rome, May 14

Remember way back when in 2011 when Isner was still rising and in the first round against Nadal, they faced off at Roland Garros and nearly stunned him, but the Spaniard overcame the American 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4. Nadal made a deep breath and went on to win the tournament.

Isner lost, but he was pleased overall because he showed the world that on clay, he had potential. Since then, the now 30-year-old Isner has had some good wins on clay, most notable against Roger Federer at Davis Cup, wiping the Swiss. Last year in Paris he upset Tommy Robredo in the third round in four sets before losing to Tomas Berdych.

He hasn’t gone deep at the biggest clay tournaments and he has had a couple brutal losses. In 2012 in the first round at Roland Garros, he fell to Paul-Henri Mathieu 18-16 in the fifth set. He was so exhausted that he could barely walk. The next year in 2013 he was right there against Tommy Robredo, but he couldn’t grasp it and lost 10-8 in the fifth. He was disgusted.

But even though he can get down on himself, he will keep trying. This year, he started slow but after kicking himself after losing against Great Britain at the Davis Cup, by March he was moving faster and he was more composed. He looked pretty good at Indian Wells and Miami and with the exception of Houston, he was been fairly consistent on the clay, beating Steve Johnson and Victor Troicki in Monte Carlo before going down to Nadal. In Madrid, he won three matches, including beating the rising Nick Kyrgios before losing to Tomas Berdych.

Here in Italy, he has already won two matches, besting Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (6) 6-4 on Wednesday. While Nadal is 5-0 against him, Isner has hung around, such as in Monte Carlo last month, which was fairly close.

But can Isner actually beat him? Yes he has a real shot but he must play as well as he can and somehow, someway, when he is returning, he has to attack the second servers extremely deep or on the lines. He knows that Nadal can dig out everything and if he is on and he is feeling good he will dare his foes, running as fast as he can and retrieve massive shots in the corners. He can be super-steady and chase down anything, That is very difficult for Isner but he can boom aces and easily hold him.

Coming into this week, Isner’s service games won are at 96%, which is fantastic, but on the other side at the return games won, it’s 9%. Ouch.

As long as the points go on and on and Nadal will be quiet pleased. Nadal can torch Isner’s backhands and pulls him way out wide. The American has a gigantic forehand and is confident enough to dance to his left wide and dictate with his forehand. However, if he isn’t nailing it and Nadal is in control, he will change up his shots and frustrate him.

Nadal did not look great at all in losing in the final of Madrid against Andy Murray. However, he says that last week, overall he played better and he has been more mentally confident at anytime this season. If that’s the case, then he is ready to charge at the final at Rome again. Isner will bring Nadal deep into the third set, but in the end, the Spaniard will come through and grab it in the final tiebreak.

Notes on a Draw Sheet: Murray smokes Nadal to win Madrid; Kvitova won, on to Rome. Djokovic favored, but is Serena?

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MAY 10 – Props to Andy Murray, who won his first gigantic tournament on clay by beating Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2 at Madrid. For the first time against the Spaniard on dirt, he never panicked, he wasn’t afraid, he was very impressive and he actually believed that he could out hit with his phenomenal backhand. Years ago, he stayed way back behind the baseline and frequently push the ball with his forehand, but not anymore. Now he believes that he can crack his forehand when moving forward and he would dictate as fast as he can.

Roger Federer was not going to participate in Rome, but then he lost early against Nick Kyrgios at Madrid and he changed his mind. He played fairly well in winning Istanbul, but he played against the lower-ranked guys. If he is going to go very deep at Roland Garros, he has to beat the better competitors and if he manages to face the other Big 4 (Djokovic, Nadal and Murray) he must be very close. If he does he will become more confident. Kyrgios could play against his fellow Aussie, Bernard Tomic. They are super close and respectful of each other but Tomic doesn’t want the younger kids beating him yet – or ever. However, Nick has to play Feliciano Lopez in the opening round … first things first.

The No. 1 Novak Djokovic decided not to play in Madrid because he was exhausted. So now he will be super fresh. Obviously he is the favorite on clay because Nadal is panicking. Could the Serbian lose? I doubt it, but he will face the former No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, who is very fast and can run around for a long time. Maybe he will go up against Kei Nishikori in the quarters which could be a terrific match if the Japanese keeps forward, and should he face Murray in the semis, well, we know that the Brit is on fire now. He hasn’t beat him in a long time, though.

John Isner has improved since March and now he has a solid draw, playing Joao Sousa in the first round. If he wins there he would face Leonardo Mayer. Rome is slower than Madrid. Isner will have to work very hard, but assuming he scores both wins then it is very likely that he will face Nadal. He has been close of beating him before and given that Rafa is shaky mentally, Isner would have a legitimate. Currently ranked No. 33, the young American Jack Sock could be seeded at Roland Garros. He will have a very tough task against Gilles Simon who, when he is happy and feeling right, can be excellent. You never know when Simon shows up. Oh my, Alexandr Dolgopolov has fallen to No. 73, but good for him for qualifying. We would assume that the former No. 13 is now back on track.


Petra Kvitova crushed Svetlana Kuznetsova to win Madrid. She looks faster; she was under control and torching both wings. If she plays as well she did in smoking Serena Williams and Kuznetsova, then she will be a huge threat to win Roland Garros for the first time. But as good as she can be, she rarely has been able to be excellent over a month or so. She can get tired and she can get upset with herself. At Rome, even if she loses, she has to move on. She beat Serena for the first time ever, which was huge because now she finally believes she can beat the best players. If she is feeling good mentally and she is healthy, perhaps the two-time Wimbledon champion can show the world that she has learned how exactly to play the right way at the French Open.

I wouldn’t be concerned about Serena finally losing. It’s impossible to win every time out and on clay over the years. Now the 33-year-old has taken some great wins and some bad losses. She is the favorite at Italy and at Roland Garros, but it won’t be easy. At Rome, she might have to face the former US Open champ Sam Stosur in the second round, which could be a marathon. Check out the potential fourth round: Ana Ivanovic, Belinda Bencic, Daria Gavrilova, Kateryna Pliskova or (gulp) Sloane Stephens. Brutal and extremely tough, who ever it is.

Maria Sharapova played pretty well in Madrid until playing Svetlana Kuznetsova and then she stopped. Now she needs to step it up in Rome. She could play Caroline Garcia in the third round (a match that was very close in Madrid) or against Madison Keys, who is dangerous but who didn’t play well in Spain…Here is the biggest match in the second round: Caroline Wozniacki could face Victoria Azarenka, who has beaten the Dane twice this year. The Belarussian is the favorite so it is up to Wozniacki to figure it out and go for her. She can’t back off all the time if she is going to have a real chance…Here is a shocker: Wozniacki hooks up with the former No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario as her coach a few weeks ago, the Spaniard looked pretty good at Madrid and all of sudden Sanchez=Vicario bails out as she says that she cannot be able to travel toRome and Paris. Where did that come from? Why would the three-time RG champion have agreed to help Caro and then wave good buy already? There is something very fishy. Such is Sanchez-Vicario’s strange life.

The Pick: Kei Nishikori vs. John Isner. Can Isner take down the rising No 5 Kei

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Maybe John Isner has come to life again. On Tuesday, he was almost gone against Milos Raonic in the second set in the tiebreak and even though he was mad, he maintained composed and grabbed it. In the final tiebreak in the third set, he didn’t shake his head or be depressed and kept on chugging, playing more forceful on the baseline.

Running and racing on the ground, Kei Nishikori is much faster than Isner is, so the American has to keep the points quickly. Nishikori isn’t as good as the Big 4 when it comes to the returns, he has improved a large amount in the last year and a half, so Isner has to fool him with his first and second serves.

Clearly, Isner has one of the biggest serves out there and it is very hard to break him, but the Japan can poke the balls back and get ready to rally. He will yank the balls side to side that the 6-foot-10 will be gasping for air.

Nishikori can smoke his forehand and backhand, he has developed a larger first serve that he can move it around, and he can also rush to the net and put away some hard passing shots.

Isner can blast his forehand and here and there, he can hit the lines off his backhand. He only does it occasionally, but on some nights he takes a risk.

Yes, Isner can put away his volleys but he has to be on the net because if he has to bend low he is usually in trouble.

Since last year and most of this year, Nishikori was much more courageous and believes that he could topple the Big 4, as well as the rest of the top 10. He has not yet to win a Slam, but he came close to reach the 2014 US Open final, even though he was tired and looked a little scared in front of the bright lights.

But on Miami, he spent years of training and he knows exactly how to play. Isner will serve and make the match close, but in the end, Kei will break early in the third set and hold on.


Who is up, who is down? Murray & Tomic happy, but not Italy

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Bernard Tomic carries Australia over the Czech Republic.




The Scotsman was thrilled to be at home taking down Donald Young and John Isner and led Great Britain over the USA in the Davis Cup. Essentially, he sounds like one of the coaches, and he loves putting together his X’s and O’s. Without question, some day he will retire and he will be the captain. But can the GB actually win the title one day? Hmmm.


The Aussie won two matches over the Czech and they have advanced to meet Kazakhstan. For the past couple of years, Tomic disappeared for months on end. This year, he is really trying every week. If he doesn’t get hurt, he will reach the top 10 after Wimbledon, or darn close.


Yes, the Canadian Pospisil lost to Kei Nishikori on the first day against Japan, but he and Nestor won the doubles in five sets and at 2-2 on Sunday, he came through, winning in three sets to grab the title. He has had a tough year, but now maybe he can turn it around.


Who do you like, the captain Arnaud Clement, or Giles Simons, Gael Monfils, Julian Benneteau or Nicolas Mahut? They all won over Germany and they all looked were strategic and thoughtful. They appear to like each other off the court, as well as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, who are hurt. They are a true team and should be able to win it all this year – if they maintain their focus in each round.


Novak Djokovic says that his team can win the title again and perhaps they will, IF the world No. 1 is healthy this season. He actually won the singles and doubles this week, when they romped over Croatia. If Novak plays the dubs again and is willing to play three matches in three days, he could eventually meet Andy Murray in the Davis Cup. That would be a treat.


Credit must go to Mikhail Kukushkin by winning two matches at home against Italians Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi. And then totally out of nowhere on the decider at 2-2, the No. 130 Aleksandr Nedovyesov over Fabio Fognini 7-5 in the fifth set to grab it 3-2. Few knew who he was, now Nedovyesov  is here to stay.


Yes, the Swiss lost to Belgium 3-2,, with David Goffin winning the deciding match. But the Swiss No. 130 Henri Laaksonen won two singles matches. Had either Stan Wawrinka or Roger Federer played, they likely would have won the Davis Cup. Props must be given to the captain, Severin Luthi.


Even though she did not play any of the top 20 players, Caro really needed a title and she got it, beating Alexandra Dulgheru in Malaysian for the crown. Wozniacki now has 23 WTA titles, which is fine, but she hasn’t won a Premier Event since 2012. Indian Wells is waiting for you.



The American lost both matches against the Great Britain, falling to James Ward and Andy Murray.  After taking the first two sets over Ward, he lost six straight in the two matches. Isner is very upset, saying that he threw it all away. Obviously, he has had a difficult season this year. Can he turn it around soon? Perhaps, but he absolutely has to change his returns.


The Italians looked very good with Simone Bolelli, Fognini and Seppi at the Davis Cup. They all looked very flashy during the first two months entering against Kazakhstan, but on Sunday, Seppi and Fognini imploded and fell 3-2. Back to there drawing board.


Without question, Carolina Garcia is rising and she bouced the defending champion Ana Ivanovic. InMonterrey, Ana was there for the taking. The world No. 6 Ivanovic wants to win a Slam again, but first of all, she has to be much more consistent.


The young Borna Coric played fairly well in losing to Viktor Troicki,, but Djokovic crushed the other two who aren’t ready for prime time. Croatia’s top man, Marin Cilic, has to come back very soon. And why isn’t Ivo Karlovic playing at all? The Davis Cup sure could use them.

Pick me, March 8: On Davis Cup, does Isner a chance vs Murray; will Raonic defeat Nishikori



France and Serbia played excellent ball, already winning the ties 3-0 with the German’s couldn’t handle Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils Julien Benneteau/Nicolas Mahut, and Croatia needs a much stronger team with Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic, which nailing it down on Saturday. The rest of six vs. six teams will go on each other on Sunday at the Davis Cup. Who will win overall? It will be fairly close, but coming back 1-2 if very difficult.


The US’s Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan over came Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-7(8) 9-7. Now the captain Jim Courier will tell John Isner exactly what he will do against Andy Murray. However, Isner admits that he is shaky this year and Andy will stay way back in the court so he could yank the tall man back and forth until he can’t run the balls down. The GB will win in four sets and move on to face France in the quarters.


The Aussie looked in great shape up 2-0, but then out of nowhere, the Czechs lifted their chins up and upset the foes when Adam Pavlasek/Jiri Vesely beat Samuel Groth/Lleyton Hewitt 1-6 7-6(2) 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2/

Can the Czech Lukas Rosol put down Bernard Tomic on Sunday morning? Perhaps, but Tomic wants to show the world that he is most important these days, not the teenagers-yet. However, if Tomic falls – which is down full– the young Aussie Thanasi might be a little tired, but he will out stroke Jiri Vesely to win it in five sets.


Mikhail Kukushkin played very well at home to beat Simone Bolelli in the first match, but Bolelli and Fabio Fognini won the dubs. Kukushkin will wants to take down Andreas Seppi, but Seppi has been much better this year and he will win it by smoking his forehands by kissing the lines.


Argentina is playing home and is down 2-1? Really? Joao Souza overcame Carlos Berlocq and then the excellent doubles team, Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares, wasted Berlocq/Diego Sebastian Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 6-4. So let’s assume that Leonardo Mayer, who won on Friday, will beat Souza, but it seems like Argentina is anxious and this time Thomaz Bellucci won’t become extremely nervous (which he has all the time). Brazil will grab the 3-2 when Berlocq loses three matches in a row. Ouch.

CANADA leads JAPAN 2-1

The Canada’s Daniel Nestor/Vasek Pospisil edged Go Soeda/Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-5 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 but it is wide open with all the players. Milos Raonic is playing Kei Nishikori a ‘pick-em’ and they know each other very well. Yes, the Japanese Nishikori has been slightly better in the past year, but Vancouver is very fast and Milos is more confident at home. It will go five sets, but Raonic will serve huge when it matters the most and win it 3-1.


Everyone in Belgium was stunned that the Swiss Henri Laaksonen beat Ruben Bemelmans in five sets, but then Steve Darcis was extremely concentrated and Bemelmans/Niels Desein won the doubles pretty convincing. One would think that Darcis will grab the tie 3-1 when he mixes up his pace and beats Laaksonen in three sets.