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 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.

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

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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 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).

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

CoCo Vandeweghe BOW 12 MALT9369


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.