US Open preview: Is this Pliskova’s opportunity?

Almost everyone wants to read about Novak Djokovic, who has a chance to win four Grand Slams this year. He is so consistent, and rarely strings together many errors. Once in a while, he does, but he is powerful, and he has a wide-ranging variety. He can smash his serves, he can return from the baseline and at the net. He is the top dog.

However, Djokovic is not the only person in New York. There are more than a few who want to reach the second week, or even further, such as Kei Nishikori, Alex de Minaur, Matteo Berrettini, Jenson Brooksby, Jannik Sinner, Denis Shapovalov and Reilly Opelka. But, the big challenge could be in the semis when Djokovic has to face Alexander Zverev. The German is flying high, he finally likes to be move and to smash it down the lines. He can go cross-court, and he can shatter it into the middle which can be very deep. He has finally matured a good amount. He hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, but he was very close in the US Open last year. So in the fifth set, he can lock it in and then he can snag it, finally.

The No. 1 Ash Barty has only won ‘just’ two Grand Slams. This year, the Aussie has played fantastic, with her variety from her forehand and her backhand to take Wimbledon. It is hard to know where she is going, which is why she has beaten lots of excellent players. But can she win another Slam, this time in Flushing Meadows? She has grown a lot, and she is more intelligent. Without a doubt, she can push down almost everyone.

But, there are a number of players who think that when they are playing excellent, they have a shot to upset Barty.

In the first and second quarters, it could be Karolina Muchova, Jennifer Brady, Belinda Bencic, Jessica Pegula, Iga Swiatek, Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari and Bianca Andreescu.

Plus, Karolina Pliskova wants to try to win the US Open for the first time. She has reached the final once, but could not pull it off. It’s all about her will. Pliskova thought it about it and she responded, “The next Grand Slam, I’m going to try to play like I was playing here from the first round to the last one.”

Hopefully, not early. Later.

Angie Kerber: ‘I fought my way through’

Angela Kerber

At times, the former No.1 Angie Kerber has been rock solid. The German would run to the net when she really had to. But what she really liked was to stay in the backcourt and knock it back forever. Her legs were super strong, she can spin it, or flatten it out. She would battle, and she wouldn’t give up.

When she was No. 1, she had an incredible confidence. However, that cannot stay forever. That is very rare for everyone.

A few years ago, Kerber fled mentally. She won three Grand Slams, winning the 2016 Australian Open and the US Open, and also 2018 Wimbledon. She was clearly the No. 1 player on the planet. But then, she began to slide.

Yes, here and there, she was slightly injured, but not much. She just couldn’t think anymore. She was very frustrated.

Not any more. She  woke up in Cinncinnati, took down Jelena Ostapenko 4-6 6-2 7-5 in the round of 16 and edged Elena Svitolina, 7-5 2-6 6-4 on Wednesday. All of sudden, she realized that she can come back and beat every player.

“That means a lot to me, she’s such a great player. She played great,” said Kerber about Svitolina: “I fought my way through, it was important to stay in the match after the second set and play point by point.”

She won Bad Homburg this year. Then the 33-year-old reached the semis at Wimbledon, beating two very young and excellent players, Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova.

Maybe she can win it this week, in Ohio, or even the US Open. She wants it, especially to get the trophy in Flushing Meadow. But really, it is all about being more aggressive, here and there. She can be steady, but when she sees a real chance, she can leap on the ball and crush it.

Why is Svitolina so frustrated? After she lost, she smashed her racket. Ouch…

It has been a difficult year for Naomi Osaka, who has not been happy at all. She has said that she can be depressed. A lot of people throughout the world are depressed. So, if you can, battle. She did that on court on Wednesday when she edged Gauff, 4-6 6-3 6-4. When she won, on the match point, she nailed it with an ace. She is so darn good when she is on.
How about Karolina Muchova who beat the No.7 seed Bianca Andreescu 6-4, 6-2? True enough, it is the Czech’s fifth victory over a Top-10 player, including Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty. On Monday, Muchova beat Johanna Konta, and early in February, Muchova reached the Australian Open semifinals beating Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty  before going down to Jennifer Brady. Yes, Muchova can be very good, but she can also check out. But, the older she gets, she has become more serene. 2020 yearend review: top 30-26 women

Alison Riske`
Alison Riske

30. Amanda Anisimova
The American is very young, and she needs to improve a lot. Yes, in 2019, she was impressive, but in 2020, she did not go very far. She is powerful, and she goes for winners, but she has to be more selective. In 2021, the 19-year-old should be a little more mature. If she can hit with more variety, her chances to succeed will soar.
29. Dayana Yastremska
Another young player, who is on 20-years-old, the Ukranian started very strong and reached the final in Adelaide, upsetting against Aryna Sabalenka and then losing to the No. 1 Ash Barty. But, then she was spotty; over the next nine months, she was at a middle of the road. Two years ago, she started to lock in and she was confident and fearless. But, during the summer and the fall, she wasn’t moving quickly enough and she hesitated. Another young player who will inprove, but she has to work on her serve and shots at the net in 2021.

28. Yulia Putintseva
The Kazakhstan had a decent year, reaching the quarters at the US Open, knocking off Petra Martic before she lost to Jennifer Brady. Two years ago, she played Roland Garros and she scratched into the quarters, shocking Jo Konta. In the second week, she fell to Madison Keys. She can crack with her very strong forehand and move well.

27. Karolina Muchova
The Czech is coming fast. At the start of the year, she was ranked No. 109, and now hit No. 27. She will rush into the top 20 pretty soon. She beat Venus Williams at the US Open early. In the round 16, she fell to Vika Azarenka, losing in the third set 6-4. Three years ago, she was good, but not damn good. She might be, as long as she uses her wordbook.

26.Alison Riske
Years ago, the American loved on the grass. In the last 10 years, she has found her way on the hard courts and clay. But eventually, practicing has improved her play on those surfaces. She has always been powerful.Yes, in 2019, she won a lot of terrific matches. But this year, she went 6-8. Injuries played a part earlier but she seemed to be 100 percent physically. In 2021, Riske may find her form again and find her path into the top 20 or higher.