The two very good A’s: Alexander Zverev, Aryna Sabalenka win Madrid

Aryna Sabalenka

In the third set in the Madrid final, the rising Aryna Sabalenka was looking at a 4-4 score against No. 1 Ash Barty. Last year, in the winter, the spring and much of the summer, she was decent, but not great. But in the fall, she decided it was time to be different, smarter and control her emotions. So then, she was in control.

Sabalenka won the next two games for 6-0 3-6 6-4 victory. That was the best title ever. She is a gigantic hitter, with her hard forehand and backhand, and with her first serve, she can blast it. Her returns are very decent, too.

But listen, she has yet to win major title, but Barty has. Now they are 4 and 4, tied in their head to heads.    
Sabalenka thinks that she can win Roland Garros. She thinks that, but she has to prove it. The Madrid championship was the first time she won on clay. So, in Rome and Roland Garros, if she wants to week after week, against the excellent players, she must focus all the time.  One way or another, Sabalenka will continue to be aggressive and, right now, tough to beat.

Barty won 2019 Roland Garros, and she could win it in June. She has played excellent ball this year, mixing it up and move it all around the box. Getting another French title is very doable for her, as her confidence is beginning to make a difference.

German Alexander Zverev is so spectacular when he is confident. On Sunday, he overcame Matteo Berrettini 6-7 6-4 6-3 once again in Madrid. There have been so any times when he gets upset and irritable/ But, when he is playing well, he shows a smart and tactical game. He also likes to scramble and eventually he can whip the ball.

Zverev now has five ATP Masters: Madrid (twice) London, Rome and
Canada. Last week, also upset Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem, two Slams winners. If he continues to be healthy, it is pretty clear that Sasha will win a major. But in Roland Garros? Possibly. Good luck.

Sabalenka said: ‘I feel a little bit better on the clay, a little bit different.’ Oh yes she did…

John Isner on Andrey Rublev: “He’s the second best clay-courter in the world right now. He hits the ball so big. It’s pretty fast. He just does so many things well.” He has, over the last year…

Simone Halep, after she losing Elise Mertens: “I want to do it better, is to stop missing, because sometimes I am rushing and I do some mistakes that I normally don’t do. I have to work on that and to be more patient in the future.” The future is now …

Felix Auger-Aliassime when he lost against the rising No. 16 Casper Ruud: “He’s improved a lot. He has a great forehand, we all know that, and he did what he had to do.”

Nadal and Spain win the Davis Cup

Rafael Nadal

It is the end of the year, for the men, after almost 11 months. They are done, finally, at the end of November, and the No. 1, Rafa Nadal, has had a tremendous year. 

On Sunday, in Madrid, Spain won the title at the Davis Cup, beating Canada 2-0. 

Nadal won everything, in singles, and believe it or not, in the doubles, too. Through the year, the lefty Spaniard rarely plays doubles because he wants to make sure that if he does, he could get hurt and he would not play at all. But the 33-year-old is very careful now, with the exception of playing clay constantly, but when he is conscious of how his body is reacting, then he can just rip the ball and be aggressive.

On Sunday, in the final, he edged the young man, Denis Shapovalov, 6-3, 7-6. The Canadian Shapovalov had a fine event, in the singles and doubles, too. But, in this match, Nadal was a little more intense and he was on fire. Over the past two years, the now 20-year-old Shapovalov has gotten better, and next year, he may crack into the top 10, but currently, he get frustrated, and he knock it too long. Shapovalov looks pretty darn good, but to win the match, he had to overcome the fans who were screaming for Nadal. To stun Nadal at his home, well, Shapovalov would have to play 100 percent. That is very difficult, and while the Canadian was trying as hard as he could, he must realize that the 19-Grand Slam champion Nadal is better than he is. 

Shapovalov did upset Nadal in Montreal two years ago, but that was then, and this was now.

In the first match, the veteran Roberto Bautista Agut beat a super young player, Felix Auger-Aliassime, 7-6 6-3. Nadal was raring to go, and he did. Nadal was lethal with his big forehand, and he mixed his serve into the middle into the chest, and he touched the corners. He could swing it away, because Spain already was up a match.

Nadal won all eight matches, including five singles, and three doubles. He did not drop a set. He is the clear No. 1, winning Roland Garros, the US Open and now the Davis Cup, among others. 

Since 2000, Spain has won the Davis Cup six times. It wasn’t just about Nadal.

Next January, Nadal will be thinking about winning the Australian Open. If he does that, he will tie with Roger Federer at 20 Slams. Of course, he can wait until Roland Garros, which he has won 12 times in June on clay, but perhaps Nadal wants to celebrate on the hard courts in Melbourne. He never brags, but for everyone, they have to here the voices when you are sleeping. You cannot take it away. Or perhaps, the dreams will hide you, but for Nadal, when you are awake, then you will think about it and believe he can still beat everyone. Just like he did at Madrid.

Ole Madrid: Who can take on Nadal?

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Rafa Nadal loves clay. The Spaniard has won it everything, at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. But, over the last couple weeks, he lost to Fabio Fognini in the semis in France, and then he went down in Spain against Dominic Thiem.

In mid-March, at Indian Wells on hardcourts, he pulled out in the semis because his right knee felt pain, and he was injured — again. On April 17, he was ready to play again, Nadal said: “I can’t pretend that I don’t have pain at all, because I never thought about that. It’s a long time ago that professional players play normally with pain, because that’s part of the sport at the highest level.”

Well, then, he will find out pretty quickly, because at the 2018 Madrid, Nadal actually lost to Thiem again in Madrid. After he lost in Barcelona, Nadal said, “After this week, my confidence is back.”

Really? But he lost twice in a row on his favorite surface. He has been dominating over 13 years, but perhaps he is getting older, so maybe he knows that he cannot win too often, or maybe he is thinking that his legs aren’t that solid.

But, remember back at 2018, Nadal won Rome over Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev, and then at RG, the Spaniard flipped Thiem in the final 6-4 6-3 6-2. Nadal knows exactly what he wants to in France, which is why he has won 11 Roland Garros titles.

The reason why is because he, Roger Federer (20 majors) and Djokovic (15 majors) are in great shape and super smart. Most importantly, they really like playing 3 of the 5 sets, rather than just 2 out of 3. In the fifth, they won’t become too tired, while others — who have yet to win a Slam —  will. The 25-year-old Thiem knows he can win a major, but he really has to dig very deep.

Three guys are missing and hurt: John Isner, Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic. Will the tall men play at RG? Up in the air, because all of them like grass over clay. It’s about foot speed on clay and huge serves on grass.

Federer and Thiem could face off in the quarters. Nadal could go up against Kei Nishikori in the quarters, which could be a blast to watch. The frequency injured Juan Martin del Potro is finally back and will play in Madrid.

Stefanos Tsitsipas just won Estoril and now he is ranked No. 9.  On hard courts, the young man looks terrific, but on clay, he is figuring how to construct points. That was a good week in Estoril, but now he has to beat a number of excellent players. In the next month, we will see how darn good Tsitsipas will be.

Zverev grabs Madrid; Nadal hopes to rebound in Rome

What an incredible week for Alexandra Zverev, who won Madrid, hands down. In the final, he out hit Dominic Thiem in straight sets. In the past two weeks, he has been not only more patient, but he had a good idea of where the balls are coming from and is setting up his replies better. Everything was working in Spain, as he smacked his first serves and he leapt on top of his forehand and backhand. He kept is focus and then went for big shots.

Zverev has won three ATP 1000 Masters Series crowns. That means that he is right there to become No. 1 pretty soon. Not immediately, but soon enough, assuming that he stays healthy and he continues to improve.

Last year, Zverev won Rome. This week, he will be there again. Can he actually grab it once again? Possibly, but remember that last week, Rafa Nadal actually lost, going down against Thiem. Nadal was riding a record 50-set winning streak on the dirt. But eventually, he played against another excellent player — like Thiem — and he was off a little bit. That’s all it took.

The good thing for Nadal is that he had a few days to rest. He won Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and then he went to Madrid. That is a lot of matches. We would imagine that he isn’t injured, so when he comes to Rome, he will be itching to dominate again. Nadal has won Rome seven times. That is a tremendous amount. Because of that, even though Zverev just won Madrid, Nadal is the favorite. However, with Zverev rising quickly, once again, the Spaniard Nadal has to show him that he can contain him. 

On Sunday in Rome, three Americans won: Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson, who beat Stan Wawrinka. That’s a fine win by Johnson.

Wawrinka just returned from a run of limited play, competing in only his fifth tournament this year. It is admirable that the three-time major champion Wawrinka didn’t retire, because he pulled out a few times this season because he wanted to play so badly, but his body has failed. Hopefully, he feels 100 percent. Just wait until he gets to Roland Garros, he loves that tournament.

Arrivederci Roberta!
Among the women, played her last WTA match in her country’s capital, Rome. She fell to Aleksandra Krunic in the first round  The Italian has always fought, she liked to mix it up and spin it. The 35-year-old did reach a Grand Slam final, at the US Open, and she had a fantastic career. She won’t go very far this week, but still, she will show them off.

Another Italian is going to retire this year as Francesca Schiavone is 37 years old and it is time to wave goodbye. She said he’s aiming for the end of the year. But for sure, she put together some fantastic matches over the past 20 years, especially at Roland Garros eight years ago, when she won it. She played lights out.

Sloane Stephens will play at night. She didn’t play great last week. It is time to dig down and commit to playing tough. … The same goes with CoCo Vandeweghe, who came very close to winning Stuttgart, but she couldn’t do it. Now she will attempt to do shine in Rome. She has to face Anett Kontaveit, who is pretty young, but she is very talented. Another toss up. … American Danielle Collins qualified, and she will face Camila Giorgi in the first round on Monday. I still cannot believe that she is the top 50 now. Last year, she was out of the top 100. She is very committed.

Bang it up: Pliskova vs Kvitova, and Isner vs A. Zverev

It’s all about the quarters in Madrid. Eight matches, women and men, so if you get to go and watch, leave early, very early, and stay late, because if you want to catch all of them. You will see at least two terrific matches. Or all of them.  

In Madrid on Friday, there are two fascinating contests, Karolina Pliskova versus Petra Kvitova, and John Isner versus Alexander Zverev. The WTA women will start first, and Pliskova and Kvitova have been playing extremely well over the past two weeks. They are both big hitters, forehands and backhands, and they hustle. They are very strong physically, but even though they are faster than they used to be, but they aren’t exactly speedy. However, Pliskova has a massive first serve, and Kvitová’s is pretty good, too, with her speedy first serve and a good kicker. 

Kvitova is determined to win another Grand Slam. She has two, at Wimbledon, but not at Roland Garros. Pliskova has yet to win a major, but she has come close. But on clay? Both of them have put together some great wins, on the hardcourts and the grass. Maybe they are finally changing their clay court games and figuring out better tactics. 

On Thursday, Pliskova ended No. 1 Simona Halep run with a 6-4 6-3 win. That was extremely impressive. Listen to this: “My forehand was working. I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life,” Pliskova said. 

The two Czechs are good friends so they know each other up and down. Is it a tossup, on clay? Possibly, but Pliskova is a slight favorite to win.

It’s a rematch between Isner versus Zverev. At the beginning of April, Isner beat Zverev 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 for the Miami title on a hardcourt. It was the best tournament, ever for John. The very tall man is older, and Zverev is 12 years younger.

But now, everyone is playing on clay. Zverev has won three clay courts, in Munich (twice) and at the ATP Masters 1000 Rome last year. That was huge, because almost a year ago, in Italy, he beat Isner in the semis and Novak Djokovic in the final. He was saying afterwards that he had a legitimate chance to win Roland Garros. But in the first round, Zverev was very frustrated, a little bit nervous, and he could not contain himself, losing in four sets to Fernando Verdasco. He was ticked off.

But the 21-year-old keeps on churning. This month, and next month, he has to be stoical, in Madrid, Rome and RG. Look at Rafa Nadal. On clay, he always grinds, he rarely gets mad when he is a little off. He changes, he mixes it up, he doesn’t just wail away when he cannot keep the ball inside the lines. The German Zverev is ranked No. 3, his forehand and backhand are immense, but his returns are marginal. I am sure they will get better, gradually, but it will take time. 

When he faces Isner again, at least he can return on clay, at least during the second serves. The same goes with the American Isner, who has slightly improved his returns over the past 10 years. Isner has improved his backhand, which is stronger and harder. Of course, he has a huge first serve, delivering ace after ace, to compliment his monumental forehand. When he gets to the net, and he is right on top of it, he can put it away.

Isner has won just one clay court tournament, in Houston, in 2013. Good for him, but the ATP Masters bring all the best players. To win it here, that would be surprising. However, he is much more confident now than he was a couple months ago. He is into it again. Still, Zverev is the favorite, if he doesn’t smash his racket and throw it out of the stadium. 

Pick ’em, Madrid, May 10: Nadal vs. Murray in the final, both are on fire, but the Scot will play better than ever to stun the Spaniard


Nadal IW 15 TR MALT0432

Andy Murray is very confident now, so confident that he has a real chance to upset Rafael Nadal in the final. Yes, he has never beaten him on clay and he will be the underdog, but if he is being aggressive off both sides, he can crunch his serves and when he comes into the net, he will know exactly where he is going. He simply cannot hope that he can out-run him, but he can go side to side for a couple of hours and when he’s not very far behind the baseline or way outside with his long legs, he can swing his racket as hard as he can.

Unfortunately, Murray has not been able to get very close against Nadal on clay. Last year, Rafa smoked him 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 at Roland Garros. Clearly, Murray was tired after winning a very long match when he bested Gael Monfils in five sets, but that is the way it goes on clay. If you are going to win a massive tournament on dirt, you cannot be slow against the speedy Nadal.

Yes, the Spaniard has said all week that he was not quite there yet, but he is now: in the 7-6 6-1 win over Tomas Berdych, you could tell that he could hit as hard as he can and believed that he would deliver line after line, which he did. Here is what he said:

“Today I played again at a very good level. I did yesterday; today I played at a very, very high level. Let’s see tomorrow if I am able to continue with that positive feeling. This week has been fantastic for me. This is a very important result, and that’s confidence, that’s positive energy. That’s calm, too.”

Playing at home at Madrid, Nadal is very comfortable on the stadium court. He isn’t nervous there and he is very forceful. When Murray beat Kei Nishikori in straight sets, he said that he was “dictated a lot of the points, especially when he was serving, and it worked well.” If Murray wants to be close, he will have to be because if the Spaniard is dictating all the time he will win easy.

Murray has been unable to beat the other three men in the Big 4 since 2013, and he has to be able to knock out Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer at least one time this year because he has been very consistent this year. He will raise a trophy at one of the ATP Masters Series this season, but not yet, as Nadal is charging again and will win in two delicious sets.


The Picks, Madrid, May 8: Maria Sharapova vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova

Sharapova IW 15 TR MALT6619


Who is more tired? Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova? Serena won a marathon 7-6 in the third set over Victoria Azarenka and then crushed the rising Spaniard Carla Suarez. Sharapova outlasted

Caroline Garcia 7-5 in the third and then outhit Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 in the third. Kuznetsova won three matches that went on and on, as the former two-time Slam champion overcame Garbine Muguruza 7-5 in third, survived over Sam Stosur 7-6 also in the third, and then got through over Lucie Safarova 7-6 in the third. The Czech Kvitova bested Olga Govortsova 6-4 in the third and then she beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 in the third.

So who will have her rubbery legs?

Perhaps against Kuznetsova, who has fought so hard and really mixed it up and also pounded her forehands into both corners, but eventually, you cannot run forever day after day and if she goes more than an hour and a half, she will grow very tired, very fast. Over the past two year she has been up and down, partially because she wasn’t playing the right way and she was an emotional mess. But she has rediscovered her ship and she is happy again. She seems to know her right strategies.

But Kuznetsova cannot jump on the balls super early and knock her socks off. Sharapova can though and she looks pretty darn good again. She was hurt in Miami, now saying that she should not have played at all, but her bum leg feels better and here, she has been moving quite well. She loves clay these days, actually likes to slide even though she is tall and can tangle up, and she likes to set up her shots and when she is ready, she will rip it. Sharapova will kiss the lines and win in straight sets.

Kvitova has yet to beat Serena in five matches – surprise, surprise — and perhaps one day, she will, like on grass when she has won two Grand Slams at Wimbledon. The lefty does have a huge first serve swinging out wide, and she smoke her forehand and backhand, but she can get in trouble when she can pull her out way wide and get caught.

Serena is better overall, with her serves and her strokes. Yes, Azarenka can stay in there against Serena, but Kvitova has yet to prove that she can return super hard and stick in there, both in front and behind. Kvitova wants to eventually become No. 1, but she has months ahead to go and if she ever manages to do it she has to improve everywhere. She cannot go into a walk-about against the other top opponents. She will play tough and it will be close in the first set, but Serena will edge her and run past her in the second set.

Serena vs. Maria again? Excited on clay? Why yes.


Sharapova vs Serena again, this time in Madrid final

Mutua Madrid Open 2013

Maria will try and stop a long losing streak to Serena.

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will both try and reach a round number on Sunday when they face off for the 15th time, on this occasion in the final of Madrid.

Williams will be going for the 50th title, while Sharapova will go for No. 30. They have clearly been the WTA

John Tomic arrested for assaulting Bernie’s hitting partner


John Tomic, the father and coach of Bernard Tomic, was allegedly arrested three days ago prior to the Madrid tournament for allegedly head butting and breaking the nose of his son

Ole Madrid: Quarter by quarter picks as Masters Series kicks off


Pavlyuchenkova wins Estoril, Ferrer vs Stan in men’s final. Rafa won’t get seeding bump at RG

By Matt Cronin

Coach Martina Hingis (which still sounds odd ) deserves a lot of credit for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova