Maria Sharapova retires; wave goodbye to a great champion

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova serves at 2015 WTA Finals. Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The famous Maria Sharapova walked away from tennis a few days ago because her right shoulder was pretty much done. Many years ago, before her leg began to hurt, and she could crack the ball from both wings as well as any woman in the game.

She was always aggressive. The tall blond won five Grand Slams: at Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and twice at Roland Garros. She won a number of big tournaments, like Indian Wells, Miami, San Diego, and in Los Angeles at the WTA final, where she lived and she still does. Her house, is very close to the beach. In the great California sunshine.

When Sharapova first came into the United States, she was only seven years old. She was all ready playing tennis but she was very young. When she arrived, she couldn’t speak English, but eventually, the Russian was 100 percent American. She stayed in Florida, and she played and practiced until the sun went down.

When she was 16 years old , she began to play at the WTA Tour. One year later, when she was 17, out of nowhere, she won Wimbledon, shocking Serena Williams and the tennis world who didn’t know who she was  She hit lines, minute after minute. She was totally locked in, ace after ace, with her first serve into the corners, or onto the line. Her backhand was tremendous, and whenever she had an opportunity, she would jump on it. Her forehand was also very strong — not as good — but super hard. Her return on the second serve was vicious, and she wanted to put the ball away immediately. She must have done that, thousands of times. Even if she was playing badly, with many errors, she really would keep trying.

Maria Sharapova and dad
Maria Sharapova

The 32-year-old Sharapova would always push herself, on court and off. It took her years to understand that how to manage her game. That is the same thing with all of the players. When you are only a teenager, and in the early 20s, you just have to grow up. If you won’t, then you will not reach the top and become No. 1. Sharapova did it, as did Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Victoria Azarenka and more. These are the Slam winners, the No. 1s. At the end of their careers, they were very thoughtful and intelligent. But, in the beginning, they needed to sprout and learn.

Without a doubt, Sharapova finally learned and made her a athletic and commercial success. She could really talk, in the media room, on TV and with broadcasters. She would smile, she would joke and she would laugh. There are times when she was sad, or irritated, or a little angry, but the same thing happens to 95 percent of us.

A few years ago, after the 2016 Australian Open, Sharapova was suspended due to a failed drug test. That was very difficult for her fans,and for her. She messed up, and she admitted it. 

After 15 months, she finally came back in April 2017 in Stuttgart. In the next two-and-a-half years, she had some very good wins, but she had to stop because her shoulder was super sore and she could not compete, citing her injured forearm. That is why she decided to retire this week. She was done.

The two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said, “For me, it was a pleasure to be with her on the tour, sharing the court with her. It was always great battles when we play together. She’s a big hitter as well, so it’s been always nice to share the court with her and I do always have respect to her.”

Sharapova had so many fantastic matches, but it was time to put down the racquet. Now she is moving on. To exactly what she will do this year and next year in hard to say, but she will continue to push herself, just off court, now.

The Australia Open Final: Gabriñe Muguruza versus Sofia Kenin

Gabriñe Muguzura

There are some saying it is surprising that Garbiñe Muguruza and Sofia Kenin are in the final at the Australian Open on Saturday. But, in reality, Muguruza has already won two Grand Slams. So, her emergence can’t be too big of a surprise, not matter how poorly she has played in the last year.

While Kenin might be unknown to many fans, she has a long record of dominance in the US juniors. Plus, her focus is flawless.

Last year, Muguruza was out of it, physically and mentally. But in the off-season, she practiced all the time, she became stronger, she running quicker, and put the ball away when she has a real opportunity. In 2019, she was frustrated, she was tired about playing, and she couldn’t find a way to lock inside her brain. Over the past 12 days, she looks terrific, she grew, she was thoughtful. By the second week, she knew that she liked the sport again.

In the semis, she out-thought Simona Halep 7-6 (8), 7-5. They both have won two Slam. At this tournament on the Melbourne hard courts, Muguruza was a little more aggressive and going into the net, and putting volleys away. Halep could not.

The Spaniard Muguruza is slightly favored to win it again, and she won’t be nervous, because she won Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The pressure was there, but she pushed it aside, and she rose into the sky. Twice.

In front of thousands of fans, Kenin stunned the No. 1 Ash Barty 7-6 (6), 7-5. The 21-year- old Kenin slammed her forehand and backhand, very hard, and pretty deep. She gritted her teeth. She punched it into the corners. She kept staying in there, even when Barty kept chipping her backhand. Kenin finally nailed her shots, and she won it.

The Floridian is thrilled. But, in the final, she has to pretend that no one else is there and it is all about her.

“I’ve dreamed about this moment since I was five years old. I just feel like I’ve always believed in myself,” she said. “I’ve worked hard. I’ve pictured so many times being in the final, all the emotions, how it’s going to lead up into the final. I feel like I’m doing good keeping my emotions. I feel like everything is just paying off. I see all the hard work I’ve been putting is really showing now.”

She could be right. So many U.S. women have won the Australian Open since the 1980s: Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Sharapova is another winner who came over from Russia when she was just 7 years old. And she still lives in Los Angeles.

Kenin’s parents are also from Russia, but Kenin came over to the United States just when she was very young. She started playing when she was only 3+ years old. She never stopped. Both she and Sharapova wanted to battle, all the time.

At the Australian Open on Saturday, if Kenin jumps on the ball immediately, and knows exactly what to do, she can win it. Sharapova won her first Slam when she was only 19 years old. If Kenin can go after everything, right then and there, she will win it in Melbourne. But if she begins to make errors, then Muguruza will seize the day. Hopefully, it will be a tremendous three-setter. Everyone will like that.

Federer goes down, but Barty rises again

The great Roger Federer went down at Cincinnati on Thursday, losing to the up-and-coming Andrey Rublev, 6-3, 6-4. Rublev is very good, when he is on.

For the most part over the last 16 years, Federer knows how to win. He may not play well, but he still mixes it up and he changes the tactics. But not this time. The powerful Rublev kept coming, he hit it hard, and he really focused. Federer, who just started playing after he lost in the final at Wimbledon, losing 13-12 in the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. So close by Federer, but no cigar.

The Swiss will go to the US Open, and he could go deep once again. But, to win it? That is a tossup, because Federer hasn’t won it since 2008. That is 10 years ago, on the hardcourts, at the US Open, which can be hot and sticky.

However, you have to give him a shot, perhaps his last time, as he is 38 years old, and to win a major again, the 20-time Grand Slam champ has to go for winners pretty early. Because if he doesn’t, during the second week, Federer could be tired and overhit.
It was pretty clear that Ash Barty thinks she can beat anyone when she is so confident and steady. Plus, a few years ago, she was shaky, but now she is locked in. A few days ago, she beat the former five-time champion Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1. The American/Russian is back again, but she isn’t steady yet, and she has to find her solution. It will take her months to be 100 percent, physically. If she can continue to play, and she doesn’t gets injured again, then she will be a fantastic player. No doubt about it, but somehow she has to get healthy, period.  

Naomi Osaka is lurking. She has reached to the quarters, and while she has been mentally up and down this season, the two-time Slam champ wants to prove she can beat anyone. Yes, she is No. 1 again, but she hasn’t won an event since January in Australia. It is time for her to leap up and knock everyone down.

Osaka will face against American Sofia Kenin, who down Elina Svitolina for the second time in two weeks. Kenin is getting better all the time. She isn’t quite there yet, but she is smart and intelligent…

Venus Williams woke up this week, after she lost a lot of matches over the past few months. But, when she is confident, she can dominate with her sharp first serve and her razor backhand. She will play Madison Keys, who also is finding her past form. Venus has gone deep over the past few years, but Keys can be negative, on court. It sounds like Venus has been very positive in Ohio.

Sharapova wins easily, but for how long?

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Day 1: Maria Sharapova won today, very quickly, crushing Harriet Dart 6-0, 6-0. That was a blow out, and the Russian/American played as well as she has over the past year, because she was injured, a lot. While she isn’t 100 percent, at least she can still crack the ball from both sides.

Her forehand and backhand are lethal, but her serve is spotty — more than spotty — because her right shoulder and arm are almost dead. She has tried to fix it for many years, but it hasn’t worked. I asked her whether it will get better this year, or will she fix it. She doubts that.

“That’s a good question. I have asked Dr. Altchek that many times,” Sharapova said. “I saw him beginning of December, and he says it’s a day-by-day pain management situation.”

She has won five Grand Slams, wonderful matches. Can she do it again? Right now, during the next two weeks, I would doubt that. It’s one thing to beat the mediocre players, but to take down the excellent players, she has to be spot-on. She could face AO champion Caro Wozniacki in the third round. Sharapova has to play extremely well to knock her off. She must be forceful, patient and creative. If she doesn’t, Wozniacki will gradually where her down.   

The 31-year old will not retire soon. For sure, she wants to play great tennis, and win some more events at the Slams, the Premier Mandatories, the little ones. As she says, even when she is ticked off, or tired, or frustrated, it doesn’t matter, because she walks on court to practice because she really loves it.

“That I still really have the passion for this. I enjoy it, seeing the effort that I’m able to put in, and I think that hard work will always ultimately come to the surface, not necessarily in maybe the specific, say, it’s tennis or something else. But I do feel that it’s really shaped the way that my career has been in and my life has been. If I put an effort into a certain category, sometimes it doesn’t come overnight, doesn’t come in a year, and sometimes it comes maybe in very unrelative things in your life, and I believe in that,” she said. “The way I handle my career today is the way I’ll handle my life in 10, 20 years, and that’s extremely important to me.”

Top 30s in 2018: Women 30-26

Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

No. 30: Aliaksandra Sasnovich
The 24-year-old Belarussian didn’t play great at the Grand Slams, but she did reach the final of Brisbane, and at Wimbledon she upset Petra Kvitova and Daria Gavrilova before falling to Jelena Ostapenko. She can be forceful, and at times, she can be powerful, but at the US Open, she was double-bagled by champion Naomi Osaka. Ouch! Still, Sasnovich moved up, so in 2019, maybe she will be calmer on court and crack the top 20.

No. 29: Maria Sharapova
The five-time Grand Slam champion had a so-so year. When she was healthy, she looked pretty good — and very good at times — but once again, she was hurt a lot. Mentally, on court, she is up and down, being confident or confused. Hopefully, in 2019, Sharapova will be healthy, patient and a little bit faster. And how about this? Maybe she will come in more at the net and actually put away a few volleys. That would make her extremely happy, because over the past 17 years, she has backed off at the net. One way or another, when she is feeling good, she can beat just about everybody.

No. 28 : Su-Wei Hsieh
Another long-time veteran, the 32-years-old has won a number of big contests in doubles, but in singles, she was hesitant. Now, in singles, she is finally aggressive and steady. In September, she won Hiroshima, but without facing the best players. At the start of the year, she was ranked No. 103. She upended Garbine Muguruza and Aga Radwanska at the Aussie Open before losing to Angie Kerber. Perhaps Hsieh can reach the top 15 in singles? Hmmm.

No. 27: Lesia Tsurenko
There are so many veterans who keep trying to move up — way up. At the US Open, during an extremely hot day, in the fourth round, the Ukranian was collapsing. She could barely move. She was almost puking. Somehow, she stayed in there and, in the middle of the second set, she started feeling better. The 29-year-old won it, beating Marketa Vondrousova 6-7, 7-5, 6-2. “You need to survive,” she said. She sure did. However, Tsurenko did nothing during the fall; so next year, she has to be more solid.

No. 26: Camila Giorgi
The Italian did improve a good amount this year. She won 38 matches, and she lost 20. For her, that is pretty darn good. She won Linz, at the end of the fall, saying that, “I think it’s very important for the future.”  Giorgi had a terrific and tough match against the great Serena Williams at Wimbledon, losing 6-4 in the third. The same thing occurred at Roland Garros; she was so confident in nearly upsetting Sloane Stephens, very deep in the third, but she went down 8-6. Close, but no cigar. Giorgi has always been super aggressive, but now, she is a little bit more patient, which is a good thing. In 2019, she has to go even further.

Sharapova ousts Ostapenko; the picks, US Open, day 7

Jelena Ostapenko
FROM THE US OPEN – Maria Sharapova went on the court and she knew that she had to focus all the time, or she would lose. She didn’t, and she was very smart, beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2.

It appeared this could be a close contest. In fact, it should have been, because in Madrid in May, Sharapova outlasted her 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-5. Both of them are huge hitters, from the forehand and the backhand, down the line, deep, and right on the lines. They are incredibly powerful, but this year, both of them have produced a lot of errors. On Saturday, Ostapenko had a ton of errors, and that is why she lost. She lost her concentration, and she sunk.
Believe it or not, Sharapova has won the night sessions at the US Open, 22-0, and counting. She has only won the title just once, in 2006, defeating Justin Henin. Since then, she has had a few chances, but she didn’t convert.

Can the 31-year-old do it again? Perhaps, but this year, I would be pretty surprised if she grabbed it. She has been hurt a lot this year and, while there are days when she looks very good, but there are also events when her serves are surprisingly weak, with many double faults. But she was fairly clean on Saturday night. She can nail her forehand and backhand, but she still can be erratic, and a little bit slow. 
Sharapova always practices; she loves the sport; she wants to add to her game. Maybe she will, but her right shoulder is sore. It has been for years, and she cannot use a lot of spin when she is serving. But once the rallies begin, she can rake it.

Ostapenko swings away, blasting her strokes, crosscourt, extremely hard, and down the line. The Latvian has won one at a Slam, at the 2017 Roland Garros, but now the 21-year-old makes so too errors and she insults herself. Eventually, though she can calm down and she can return to the top 5 very soon. 

Sharapova was pleased after she won and now she will face Carla Suárez Navarro<, who topped Caroline Garcia 7-6 in the third. The Spainard has lots of topspin with her heavy, one-handed backhand. However, Sharapova can hit threw her, and knock her onto the wall. Sharapova will win in two sets. 

More picks
American Madison Keys rose up when she had to, and she jumped over Aleksandra Krunic in three sets. Last year, she reached the final. Keys has not played extremely well this season, but now, she is forceful. She will face Domi Cibulkova, who overcame Angie Kerber. That’s a toss-up, but I think that Keys will take a breath in the third and win it.  

On Sunday there are two tight matches: Ash Barty versus Karolina Pliskova, and Sloane Stephens against Elise Mertens. Pliskova is totally unpredictable, but she can hit a little hard against the Aussie. However, Barty can grind her, but Pliskova will out together a number of huge first serves and win in two sets.  

Mertens is very steady, but Stephens rarely misses the ball, that is why she won the US Open last year. She will pound Mertens into the ground.

Here are two fine contests: Kevin Anderson vs. Dominic Thiem, and John Isner versus Milos Raonic. The tall Anderson is mentally stronger now, all the time. Thiem is battling, trying and push himself forward, but I am not sure that he can return frequently. Anderson will win in four sets.

Do you want a fifth setter? Well, here it is, with Raonic versus Isner. Neither of them return well, but they can serve hard and smoke their forehands. Isner will pull it off, 7-6(7) in the fifth.   

The Picks, US Open, Day 1


FROM THE US OPEN — On Monday, on the US Open radio (listen to Matt), we talked about everything, who is playing, why, when and how?  We talked about Rafa Nadal, the favorite, in my opinion; Andy Murray (who won today)[ Stan Wawrinka (who beat Grigor Dimitrov); Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic, and another two favorites: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. All of them have won championships.However, Federer and Djokovic could face each other in the quarters. The Serbian beat the Swiss in Cincinnati, in straight sets, on the hard courts. While millions of people love Federer, they have to realize that Djokovic is getting better every week. He was hurt for months, he rose up at Wimbledon, which he won, and now he is definitely one of the favorites. Don’t forget that he beat Nadal 10-8 in the fifth in the semis at Wimbledon. Here in New York, he wants to do again.

If Federer and Djokovic are not playing well this week, someone else can seriously push them. Assuming he is healthy enough, Nick Kygious could reach the third round to play against Federer and that should be a terrific contest. But first, they have to get there. Yes, Kyrgios and Federer can out dance them, but the Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Benoit Paire can threaten them, too.

Djokovic is pretty safe. Of course, either Lucas Pouille or Pablo Carreno Busta, (who reached the semis last year at the US O;en) can threaten or frustrated him, but the 13-time Grand Slam champion will hang in there. A few months ago, he couldn’t. Now he can.
Both Federer (against Yoshihito Nishioka in the 1st round) and Djokovic (versus Martin Fussovics in the first match) will move into the second round. And then?

Guess who is playing tomorrow? The 5-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova against the former top-10 er Patty Schnyder. Over the past year and a half, Sharapova has been hurt frequently. When she feels healthy, she is still pretty good. She is not great yet, but she always tries very hard, and soon enough, she will rise again. However, with all that said, she has to find a way to feel just fine. That includes her sore body.

Schnyder retired in 2011, she was done, but four year slater, she decided to play again. However, she can’t escape the years and now, she is 39 years old. The older you get, the harder it is to sprint. You just can’t be super fast, running and stringing. However, you can mix it up and be very patient. That is why she qualified at the US Open, beating three players. A very smart cookie. 

Can she out-hit Sharapova? I doubt it. They played eight times, from 2004-2008, and Maria won seven times. They had a classic contest at Roland Garros in 2007 and Sharapova won 9-7 in the third. Maria smiled, and Patty cried for a long time.  

They have played six, three-setters, which has been darn close. So, it should last for a solid two hours. The Russian always figures it out and will attack the Swiss, again and again. I would think that Ms. Maria will win in three fun sets. 

Feliciano Lopez break Slam streak: ‘Just to challenge these animals’

FROM WIMBLEDON – Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who broke Roger Federer’s consecutive major record, stepped out at Wimbledon on Tuesday for his 66th Grand Slam in a row.

The 36-year-old Lopez says that over the years, he rarely became injured. His body is very fluid, and he keeps away from long rallies. 

Well, that doesn’t work well on clay, and sometimes on the hard courts. But, on the slick grass, yes, shorter is better.

“My technique … I play quite easy, so I don’t make a huge effort in every single shot that I play,” Lopez said. “I haven’t suffered any big injuries in my career. This is the most important thing. And also mentally I have the strength enough to be playing so many years.”

Lopez never stops. Once in a while, he can rest at home in Spain. But, not for very long. He plays and he plays, and he travels from east to west. A number of players get hurt and then they have to stop. Look at Andy Murray, who pulled out just before Wimbledon. During the last year, he could not play tournaments for 11 months. And now he is on the sidelines again. The same goes with Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka; they both were hurt for a long time. 
But not the creative Lopez, who has had a respectable career. He sees what has happened to the top guys. 

“Probably the two-handed backhand guys have more injuries in the last years. This is something that I realize,” Lopez said. “I don’t know why. But it is true that the two-handed backhand guys have been struggling with injuries lately more than one-handed backhand guys. Also, the stress that these guys they have every single day they compete, because they have to win every day. Also, the mental part is so important that it might be affected, on your body when you step in the court.

“These guys can suffer. And then they can have a big injury like Andy. He had last year, not this year, the hip surgery. Novak in the arm. Roger in the past, also in the back. Rafa [Nadal], his whole career he’s been suffering injuries. They have a lot of stress.”

Look at Lopez on court – running, bending down, sliding, swinging – he has stayed in there, playing the Slams 66 times in a row. That has been 16 years and a third. That is huge.
“Of course it means a lot to me. It’s not about reaching this number of the most consecutive Grand Slams played. It’s about playing at the top level,” Lopez said. “For me, to challenge the best players in the world. This is what I thought at this stage of my career was the most important thing, to stay healthy and to be able to compete against these monsters. But, after the 30s it was so important for me to stay fresh and healthy, just to challenge these animals”

Sharapova keeps stalling
Maria Sharapova lost again, going down to Vitalia Diatchenko 6-7(3) 7-6(3) 6-4. Once again, the five-time major champion couldn’t pull it of. She was so close to winning, but as she says, she needs to be more patient. When the errors mount, then she over-thinks. She says she is not panicking, but she gets shaky.

“I think it’s always a different type of pressure. When you’re young, it’s a pressure of the unknown. You don’t know,” Sharapova said. “It’s the pressure of the inexperience, how you’re going to deliver under circumstances that are presented at you that are very new and challenging. When you’re older, you have those experiences, which is sometimes very helpful. You have been in that position, and sometimes you pulled through and did extremely well, and others you haven’t.nAll those are still memories in your mind, but I think that’s what makes tennis great, you have to create new ones.”

She sure does. No. 22 Sharapova said that gradually she is getting better, which is reflected in her hike up the rankings. But, she has a tremendous work to do. She will never gives up, and she will always battle, but she has to improve. Very soon.

“I think the fight, the motivation. Obviously the health,” she said. “That’s crucial, to be able to keep putting the work in. In a matter of a couple points, maybe the situation could have been different. I would have been here saying, I didn’t play my best tennis. I’m giving myself another chance.

Sharapova has lost a number of matches this year. In some she has played OK; in others, she has been off. She was crushed by Angie Kerber at the Australian Open. She upended Karolina Pliskova at Roland Garros, but then Garbine Muguruza destroyed her. Overall over the past six months, Sharapova has had some fine wins, like beating Jelena Ostapenko and Daria Gavrilova. However, beating the top players has been a gigantic challenge.

“You always want to deliver in those moments. But I’ve never really shied away from that. I hope that I don’t continue to,” Sharapova continued. “I hope that I keep putting myself on the line for those moments. … You could work through all those formulas. But, at the end of the day, if I wake up and I want to go out and I want to put the work in, I think that speaks for itself. Doesn’t need to speak to anyone else. Just needs to speak for me, which is the most important thing.”

Four picks for Wednesday

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Lucie Safarova
I could be wrong, but Aga will continue to get better, given that she barely lost on Monday. This will be three sets, but in the end, Radwanska will confuse her.
Andreas Seppi vs Kevin Anderson
The huge-serveing Anderson can’t bent down, and he can slip of the grass. So, the Italian Seppi will edge him in five sets. 

Marin Cilic vs Guido Pella
The Croatian is getting better every week. He has a chanced to win the trophy and he will easily beat Pella in three sets.

John Isner vs Ruben Bemelmans
The American finally said that he likes grass. It has taken him a long time, but he is feeling enthusiastic. Bemelmans has improved a lot, but it is almost impossible to return against Isner, who will win in four sets.

Wimbledon seeds Serena at 25

March 08, 2018: Serena Williams (USA) hits a backhand in her match against Zarina Diyas (KAZ) at the BNP Paribas Open played at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. ©Mal Taam/TennisClix/CSM

Well, look at Wimbledon, as they decide to allow Serena Williams into the top 32 seeds. 

The great player has won 23 Grand Slam titles. She had her first child last year, so she stopped playing for 13 months. She was thrilled and happy. However, when she returned in March, she needed to adjust, to take time, to be patient. As she has said, she needs to be keep steady and not think about losing.

Here and there, over the past five months, she has been frustrated, but eventually, the 36-year-old will get better, month after month.

However, Williams has not played a lot this season and right now, she is ranked No. 183. But the decision by Wimbledon to allow her higher — much higher — seeding. When they announced the seedings, Serena is ranked No. 25.

I can live with that. 

In many respects, it is better than just handing out wild cards, as the tournament say ‘yes, no problem, come on in.’ A lot of tournament directors and/or owners do it all the time. Like for Maria Sharapova, for instance. Over the past year, Sharapova received a ton of wild cards at various tournaments, but she wasn’t given seeds until she cracked the top 30. Now she is seeded, No. 24 at Wimbledon.  

The fact is that on grass, in England, at Wimbledon, people pay attention. Serena has won that tournament seven times. I repeat: seven huge titles. Are we going to say that: “Hey, when you come back, you have to start again at zero. Nothing.”

But Serena is not nothing. If Wimbledon is going to rank the top 32, let them go to it. It is not like she is coming back from nowhere.

Whether to not Serena wins again, at least a number of people will go out to watch her on court. After all, she was the dominator, and she could be dominate on grass once again next week. Don’t complain about her, just watch her.

The fast hitters: Halep to face Muguruza in semis

FROM ROLAND GARROS — Simona Halep plays fantastic when she is driving and feeling very smart. Then, when she is close to winning a Grand Slam, she can get nervous and back off. The great thing on Wednesday, in the second and third set, she pushed herself from the backcourt, swinging away and bashing the ball. She beat Angie Kerber 6-7 6-3 6-2 and advanced into the semis. She will face Garbinw Muguruza, who powered past Maria Sharapova 61, 6-2.

Halep is so quick, so fast, so steady. She hits with a lot of spin, and she can flatten it out, too, from both sides. She moves around her serves, and her first serve can touch the corners. At the net, when she stops and focuses, she reacts, quickly, then touch the ball converts winners. At times, it is very difficult for her. Other times, it is simple. 

Today, the two-time Grand Slam champion  Kerber wasn’t crushing it, because allegedly, she was hurt. So all Halep had to do was to react, simple stuff, and win it. She did happily.

Now she has to face Muguruza, who brutalized Sharapova. The Spaniard jumped on the Russian/American almost immediately. She was moving extremely well, blasting her first serve, whipping her forehand and flipping her backhand. Inside, she realized that four years ago, she wasn’t ready yet to threaten Sharapova, but now she thinks the she can run faster, hit harder and push her back. Sharapova will continue to get better this year, but still, she cannot try to attack her shots every time. Today, that was a big mistake.

On Thursday, Muguruza will clash with Halep. Muscle time for both of them.

Here is some good quotes by Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys from a story I wrote for They like each other a lot, but as she said, when they walk on the court, it’s all focusing, rather than talking.