And Simona Halep had a dream…Another lost at the majors

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ROLAND GARROS, DAY 4: Two years ago, Simona Halep wasn’t much at all. She was out of the top 60, she wasn’t able to beat the best players and it appeared that she would stay middle of the road. But after she lost early in 2013 Roland Garros, she perked up, changed her tactics, she was willing to take risks. She no longer just pushed the ball around and she was willing to try and hit the lines.

The Romanian decided that right now she was going to be consistent – left, right, down the middle– anywhere. For the most part, she gave it all, winning week after week at the small tournaments, but she was gaining and by 2014, she was already there. She reached the final of Roland Garros, nearly beating Maria Sharapova, but she lost 6-4 in the third when the Russian flew away, grabbing the last eight points. However, the world began to know who she was and now it looked like that the 23 year old had a real chance to win at the major. But unfortunately, she has stopped at the Grand Slams. She has looked lights out at a number of WTA tournaments, like winning Bucharest, reaching the WTA Final, winning Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells.

But at the Grand Slam, she has been so-so. She looked pretty good at 2014 Wimbledon, reaching the semifinal and she had a legitimate show to reach the final, but she was out-stroked against  Genie Bouchard. Then at the US Open, the veteran Mirjana Lucic, who has rarely gotten deep, stunned her.

In 2015, she thought she was ready to charge at the Australian Open, but as she admitted later, she didn’t feel right mentally and she loss to Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-0.

On Tuesday in the second round of the Roland Garros, Lucic beat him again, in straight sets, where she wasn’t feeling the ball. As she said, she needs to fix things, but she doesn’t really understand why she isn’t playing cool and precise at the Grand Slams. But outside the court, she will think about it deeply. Because if she doesn’t, she will never win a Grand Slam.

I still dream for many things in this life and in this career, because I have many years to go, and so if I lost today, it doesn’t mean that I cannot play anymore or I don’t win any more matches,” she said. “I just want to take the decision to see what I did wrong, what I have to do better, to be better, and to speak with my team, because together we have to decide some things. You know, I feel okay. Emotions, no, I don’t feel anymore emotions. They are gone. Maybe I had pressure, as well, but, you know, I feel more relaxed now than before the match. So this is a good point, because now I relax myself and I can smile, look forward to go to the next tournament. I have nothing to do now. Everything is lost here.”




Notes on a Draw Sheet: Taylor Townsend struggling, now working with coach Donald Young Sr.

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ROLAND GARROS, DAY 3 —  The American Taylor Townsend is now working under her old/new coach Donald Young Sr (his son is Donald Jr.). Townsend – who lost in the first round at RG — grew up in Atlanta, where the senior Young taught her when she was a kid. Now, she is returning to the Peach State. Townsend was working in Florida with the USTA for a few years and now she wants to try Young once again. Townsend was also been hitting with Zina Garrison last year, who lives in Houston.

It sounds like she is trying to settle down.

In March, she had a stress reaction in her ankle and she had to wear a boot for a couple of weeks. She hadn’t played until early May as she was out for two  months.

When she was out, she was sitting around and knew she had to make some change.

“Just mentally, physically, just everything was just trying to get healthy,” she said. “I was just trying to get back to basic things. It’s very rare that you can have someone that’s willing to coach you again who basically built your game up. [Donald] taught me how to play tennis, so he knows my game like the back of my hand. He knows my strokes and everything, the way I’m supposed to be playing. He knows the best way that I can play. He’s seen me when I was at my best, playing the game that I know I can play. So I just wanted to get back to that and just go back to basics. Get back with my family and just try to build a strong foundation, base, and just get back grounded again.”

Currently ranked No. 130, Taylor is only 19 years old … so she has a long way to go. She is very strong and has a lot of variety, but at times she isn’t sure which way she is going.

Last year, Townsend reached the third round at Roland Garros when she stunned the Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. She was only 18 years old and it appeared that she was ready to climb.

During last summer she qualified at Washington and Cincinnati, but, in the US Open, she had to face Serena Williams in the first round and she was crushed 6-3, 6-1. After that she lost her touch.

This year, she hasn’t won much at all, falling to Caroline Wozniacki twice and against Sam Stosur.  Her long-term goals is, “Top 10, Top 5 and win all the Grand Slams several times.” That is ambitious, but the 2012 Australian junior champion has a long way to go. She wasn’t progressing, so now she is hoping that she will be better, and soon.

“I was variety and what makes me special, using my slice and coming into the net and just trying to incorporate something that’s not the same,” she said. “I wasn’t doing that a lot. I was coming to net and being aggressive, but I wasn’t using everything that I know I have. My coach saw that, and we immediately jumped on that. Just trying to get me back to doing thing that I know works for me and just using variety and being creative out there.”


The US Open champion Marin Cilic says he is finally hitting the ball well again. The Croatian has been hurt since last October and he just started back on court. He won his first match at RG. A number of people have forgotten that he is even here.

When I’m at the court I’m feeling confident; I feel that I’m playing good,” he said. “Just it’s sometimes that things don’t set up themselves like when you are confident. I mean, for example, like when you have a lot of matches, wins, things like that, you’re going to bring the best shots on some crucial moments. I think that’s what helps you the most.”

Caroline Wozniacki says that the courts at RG have changed, at least a little bit. She likes the colors on court.

I think there are much more clay on the courts in general,” she said. “I think there are more bad bounces because of that. I think in previous years it’s been much less clay, been faster to play on. The color of the clay, I think we’re used to it by now and getting our socks and shoes dirty. The orange clay on it it’s still going to look good. I’m wearing yellow these weeks, so I think that contrasts well on to the clay. It kind of brightens it all up, even when it’s a gray day out there, I’m still shining bright (smiling).”

Madison Keys says that her main coach Lindsay Davenport is here, as is her husband Jon Leach, but the player/coach Lisa Raymond is not here at RG. … Eugenie Bouchard, who lost in the first round, says she is hoping to play a lot grass. … Richard Gasquet has been hurt a ton this year but he says. “I’m ready for this fight.”… Novak Djokovic knows Rafa Nadal so well at RG. After all, the Spaniard has won nine titles here. “He loves playing on clay, especially here in Paris. Best of five, as well, something that is playing in his favor, because there are not many players who can compete physically with him. To accept the fact that you’re going to have to play a lot of long rallies, you’re going to have to win the points, he’s not going to give you, he’s one of the best defenders ever to play the game. So he plays with a lot of heavy topspin. You spend a lot of energy to win one set and you have to win three. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so successful here.”

The Pick, Miami final: Djokovic has owned Murray in nearly two years, but is Andy ready to beat him?

The injured Andy played on.

Andy hasn’t beaten Novak on hardcourts since 2013


Once again they face off and this time Murray is a bit nervous off court as he and his soon-to-be wife, Kim Sears, will be wed next Saturday and the last thing he wants his friends to pat his backside and say ‘Andy I am sorry but you will best Djokovic someday I’m sure.’

Instead, if he upends Novak on Sunday at Miami, people in Scotland will come up to him, shake him with two hands, say he is sounding great with a large smile, go grab a thick beer, and raise a glass or two. They will merely say ‘Cheers Andy!’ while they wink-wink, with everyone thinking that Murray has returned by winning a major tournaments again.

At this point, if Murray wins, it will be huge for Andy, because he hasn’t beaten Djokovic since 2013 Wimbledon and that has been a long time. The Serbian has beaten him six times in a row, wasting him at Indian Wells in the semifinals. During the first three sets against Djokovic in the final of Australian Open, Murray had it right there, but then in the fourth set, the world No. 1 turned on the gas while the world No. 4 looked like he was asleep and was blasted 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0. Murray simply didn’t believe in himself.

Fortunately, Murray has played Miami extremely well, so much so because he owns a house there and works out during November and December. He practices in Key Biscayne regularly and he knows how hot the weather is, whether it’s stick and muggy or have it just right. He has put together some tremendous tournaments, but here is the problem: Djokovic has been better overall.

In 2007, when the now 27-year-old Murray was an up-and-comer at Miami, he reached the semifinal, but he faced the now 27-year-old Djokovic in the semis and the new Aussie Open champ smoked Andy 6-1 6-0.

However, in 2009, Murray played as well as he ever did, playing Djokovic and out thought him 6-2 7-5 to win the final. But in 2012, the two faced off in the final again and this time Novak out punched Murray 6-1 7-6. In 2013, Murray won the Miami title, blasting David Ferrer in the final.

But last year when he and Djokovic went at it, the Serbian won 7-5 6-3 over Andy. Clearly, Murray loves the area, but Djokovic has been better on hard courts, at Miami and elsewhere, owning a 17-8 edge over Murray overall.

Murray and Djokovic have known each other since they were young teenagers so they know each other’s ups and downs. There are no tricks to be had. Yes, they can change tactics here and there, but it’s all about who plays better and who does not. Djokovic owns eight Grand Slams, while Murray owns two. That is enough to say that the Serbian has be better than Andy, but Murray can eventually catch him, if, and I mean if, he stops being conservative and let it all hang out.

After he fell to Murray in the semifinals, Tomas Berdych said that Andy played more aggressively that he usually does so think if exactly what Andy has to against Djokovic. He knows that he can go stroke-to-stroke with his backhand, but he has to go often and early, not waiting to see if Novak will try and crush a winner immediately. The same goes here with his forehand: Murray cannot hit his forehand against Djokovic, but he can move inside the box early and try to get him way out wide. Obviously, he must move his first serves around and, with his second servers, he cannot push the ball in, which has been his weakness for years. Perhaps most importantly, Murray has to come into the net more often, because he has beautiful hands and it’s to his advantage to shorten points.

Djokovic has been extremely solid since the start of the year. He is so confident that even when he isn’t playing great he’d figure it out and race away. Murray looked pretty good this year overall and he certainly has looked better than last year, when he was coming back due to a serious back injury. Eventually, Murray will get there and beat Djokovic somewhere, someday, but until he actually stuns Novak, I can’t see Andy full of bravo.

Djokovic will win in three sets.

Nonetheless, regardless of his win or loss, Murray will go back home to Scotland and have a great time next Saturday for his wedding. It’s not always about the tennis, it’s about pride. Regardless, he will be back. ‘Cheers Andy and Kim’

The Pick, Miami: Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep. Is the Romanian ready to upset the near perfect American?

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1-Serena Williams vs. 3-Simona Halep

This is a gigantic match because Halep wants to show the world that she is good enough for anyone, which includes the world No. 1, Serena Williams. The Romanian has said that she wants to win a Slam and become No.1 but in order to do so, she has to knock off the queen, assuming that Serena stays healthy.

At the age of 33 years old, Williams can’t be at No. 1 forever, but right now, she is the best player by a long shot and there is no one, and I mean no one, has proven that they have beaten Serena if she is playing 100 percent.

With that said, Halep has been more consistent over the past two years and on the hard courts, she seems exactly what to do. Of course she hasn’t won every tournament and yes Maria Sharapova has troubled her, but she hasn’t taken one loss, become extremely emotional and disappear. Now she is calm and after a loss, wake up the next day, lift her chin up and moved on. That’s why she has won 14-matches in a row at Doha, at Indian Wells and now in Miami.

Unfortunately, Williams pulled out of Indian Wells prior to their semifinal and Halep was unable to take her gloves off and seize the day. Two weeks later, the 24 year old will have another chance with even more confidence.

Interestingly, the last time they played was in the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore. Halep was on fire and super consistent and Serena had not woken up yet. Simona crushed her 6-0 6-2 in the Round Robin. Serena was very upset, saying that her serve was so bad that she was worse than the 10-and-unders. Then she locked in and by the time for the final against Halep, she was ready to nail the lines everywhere and got her right back, smoking Simona 6-3 6-0. Mentally, Halep wasn’t there, as she knew that Serena was going to play very well and she was nervous at the first ball.

That was in late October and now it is April 2. Serena hasn’t lost a match since then and outside of the Australian Open quarterfinal against Makarova and at Fed Cup when she went down to Muguruza, Halep has been very smart. She hasn’t played great every match but she has imposed herself, winning seven matches in three sets, which means that she isnt panicking.

The 19-Grand-Slam Serena rarely panics, so if Halep can win the match she has to fight all the way from the finish line. Williams is a much better serve, as she can boom the ball, ace after ace. Halep’s first serve has improved and can kiss the lines, but if she has to hit her second serves frequently, she has to take her chance because if she just pops it into the middle Serena will crush her returns where Halep cannot even touch them.

Halep can run all day and she is super fast, so if she can start the points 50-50 she will be right there, but she cannot push the ball and merely hope. She has to attack almost immediately and go for her favorite combo – her backhand crosscourt sharp and her foe is stretched to her left and then hammer her backhand down the other side and on the line – and any time Serena is out of position she has to move forward.

Serena is more powerful and can certainly out slug her with her forehand, which is heavier and deeper. If Williams is feeling well, then she will charge the net and end the points quickly.

Really, if Serena plays great she will win the match, even if Halep plays a terrific contest. Serena is still just better than she is. However, even though Serena has dominated Miami over the years, she is due to lose this year – right?

Serena won’t play fantastic, Halep will and grab it in three tremendous sets.


2001 Indian Wells: Serena Soars Amidst Scandal

Editor’s Note: For most observers in the world of tennis, the story of Serena Williams’ emotional rejection of the Indian Wells tournament is a faint and distant memory. However, our coverage of the last 14 years of pro tennis is unrivaled in the world of online news.

Matt Cronin of was there.

With the return of Serena Williams to Indian Wells, we are re-running Matt’s story written from the tournament that appeared on this site. Matt’s coverage of the event originally appeared in Inside Tennis. 

020415-TENNIS-Serena-Williams-Kim-Clijsters-SS-PI.vadapt.620.high_.0INDIAN WELLS — Meet cheerful and cheeky Serena Williams, four days into the Tennis Master Series Wells after a casual second-round victory where she wowed fans with blazing groundstrokes and her new hot pink dress. “Hot pink for a hot girl,” said Williams of her color of choice. “Attractive, a very attractive girl.”

Revisit Serena, 10 minutes after her sister, Venus, had caused the biggest hullabaloo the desert had seen since the discovery of the hot springs by pulling out of the sisters’ highly anticipated semi with a sore knee.

When informed that few people believed that Venus was too injured to play and that Elena Dementieva had stated the day before that it would be Richard’s decision as to who would win the sisters’ match, Serena wowed no one with her casual indignation and less than emphatic denials.

“People have freedom of speech,” she said. “They can say whatever they want. It’s going to happen. Obviously we’re sisters, we’re very close. People often speculate things like that. People are always just going to speculate things.”

God bless America, let the speculation ring.

Over the next few days, newspapers, wire services, TV, radio and the Internet were filled with more tennis-related stories than the sport has seen in a non-Grand Slam week during the Open era. Unfortunately, the stories were of the “Are the Williamses rigging matches?” veriety.

That Serena was able to fight off the most hostile crowd in California history and subdue hard-hitting Belgian Kim Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 for the title is a minor miracle, if you consider that the debate that raged for four days over the Williams’ family affairs had ruinous implications for the sport. Serena and Venus rarely read the press and appear sheltered enough that they don’t yet comprehend what even the suspicion of matches being fixed can do to a sport — like the Black Sox scandal did to baseball.

If the Williamses did get this, then they might not have kept shrugging off questions for the two days leading up to the final and would have emphatically denied the accusations when they occurred. Instead, tennis was bloodied from the moment Dementieva let loose on Wednesday evening and didn’t come off the mat until Sunday morning, when the last newspaper hit the sidewalk with Serena’s denials. Without question, the Williamses are partly to blame for the scandal.

Who else is to blame? The players who speculated that the sisters’ matches have been fixed with no evidence save for how badly they usually play against each other. Senior Sanex WTA Tour officials, who ignored the significance of Dementieva’s comments until it was too late; and who have little or no personal connection to the Williams’ family despite the fact that the family has been on the tour for five years now. As a result, the situation got so out of control that the tour gave itself a gigantic black eye, one that may take years to repair. Why didn’t they act more quickly? Some claim that officials feel that any press is good press and that the players should be viewed more as entertainers than athletes — the integrity of the sport be dammed.
So why the meltdown here and why the first two weeks of March, rather than in some other month at some other tournament? Could it be because it was the emotionally volatile Richard who accompanied the girls to the desert, rather than their more mellow mother, Oracene, who is now separated from Richard?

Williams observers say that Venus and Serena are much more skittish when Pop is around and, given the numerous problems that have occurred between Richard and Oracene over the past six months, it’s no wonder that both Venus and Serena have played sparingly since last October. At Indian Wells, both the Williamses played reasonably well, but off court, they were as cagey and as defensive as they’ve been at any time during their careers.

Coming into Indian Wells, Serena had played in only three tournaments since being bounced out of the 2000 UAP C01 RICHARD 26 S TEN USA CA.S. Open quarters by Lindsay Davenport. She won Tokyo at the end of September, but took time off to go to school and suffered a stress fracture in her foot. She didn’t reappear on tour until early January in Sydney, where she lost to Martina Hingis in straight sets. At the Australian Open, Hingis took her down again, this time in three marathon sets.
Serena, who ended last year ranked No. 6 but failed to win a Slam title, wouldn’t let on to what her goals are this year.

“My dad and I already went over my goals and that’s where I’m really going to work harder,” said Serena, who crushed defending champion Davenport in the quarters. “My goal this year is to reach my goals…. But I like to keep them to myself so I don’t put too much pressure on myself or other people.”

Venus, who dominated the tour for five months last year, has yet to win an event this year and is playing nowhere near up to her capabilities. Yet in the quarters she slugged tough-talking Dementieva into the pavement in a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

That’s when the trouble began — KGB style.

When asked what the outcome of the semi between Venus and Serena would be, Dementieva said, “I don’t know what Richard thinks about it,” Dementieva said. “He’ll decide who’s going to win tomorrow.” Dementieva said she suspected foul play when she watched the sisters’ ‘99 Lipton final, which Venus won 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. “I remember when they played,” said Dementieva. “If you saw the match, it was so funny.”

The sisters have played five times, with Venus owning a 4-1 edge. Serena’s won once — in a fairly inconsequential ’99 Grand Slam Cup final.
This wasn’t the first time that players have questioned whether the outcome of the Williams matches are decided by Richard. Hingis has repeatedly said that the outcome of their matches is a “family affair.”

At 2000 Wimbledon, Serena came into their semi red hot, losing only 13 games in five matches and was favored by many to win it. But Serena fell apart and Venus won 6-2, 7-6(3). “I thought Venus was going to win,” Davenport said in the desert. “I just thought that Serena had won a Grand Slam title, whether it was on purpose or subconsciously or whatever, Venus was going to win the match. That was my opinion.”

The Williams family chose not to respond to Dementieva’s comments during the day on Thursday and it wasn’t until after Venus’ withdrawal four minutes before her semi against Serena that they discussed it. But now the situation had been compounded, because most observers believed that Venus should have at least tried to play, despite patellar tendonitis in her right knee. WTA Primary Health Care Provider Michelle Gebrian did back up Venus’ claim, saying that Venus was unable to pass basic functional testing.

Pete Sampras rolled his eyes when questioned about Venus’ knee. “I guess it flared up, the tendonitis,” Sampras said, adding that he would have played if he had a similar problem. “Yeah,” he said. “There’s always something you’re feeling. Every morning you wake up, it’s a little stiff here, your arm is sore from serving. I don’t think any player on tour really walks out there feeling great.”

Because the match was canceled until most people had already taken their seats, fans reacted in anger, raining a loud chorus on to the court when it was announced that Venus was pulling out. A handful of fans went to ticket windows and demanded their money back. “I did everything I could do to be able to play tonight,” said Venus.

When asked about her peers’ suspicions, Serena said,
“We always go out to compete and that’s how it’s been,” said Serena. “I think if my dad would decide, then maybe Venus wouldn’t be up 4-1 [in their matches], maybe it would be 3-3 by now. So I don’t think so.”

Venus added, “It’s not a true opinion at all. Everyone makes their own comments. That’s how rumors get started. I guess rumors are more exciting than the truth.”

But neither Williams yelled, “No,” at the top of their lungs, even when they were specifically asked to do so.

The next day, the National Enquirer published a cover story that alleged that Richard had rigged their 2000 Wimbledon match. When approached by IT the day before the final, Richard said, “I don’t want to open my mouth anymore. Every time I do, all that’s printed is lies. I’m scared. I’ll never talk again. It’s all lies. I don’t speak English anymore.”

At the final, Serena faced Kim Clijsters. First the crowd raged at Serena when she walked on court, then booed and hissed at Richard and Venus Williams as they walked down the stair to the Friends Box. The crowd continued to hoot and holler with a vein-popping intensity throughout Serena’s three-set win.

So it wasn’t until after Serena’s ragged victory over Clijsters in the final that the issue was somewhat sorted out. But not before Serena was subjected a two-hour symphony of booing. Serena felt hurt. “I wasn’t happy,” said Serena, who nervously went down 3-0 in the first set. “I won here before. I don’t think I was mentally ready for that. But eventually you get over it and start playing.”

In her acceptance speech, Serena told the crowd, “You guys were a little tough on me today. I want to thank everybody who supported and everyone who didn’t. I love you anyway.”

For the past 18 months, Serena hadn’t shown the mental fortitude that she displayed in winning the ‘99 U.S. Open, frequently skipping tournaments and folding in big matches. But in the desert, she dug within herself and rediscovered the it’s-me-against-the-world mental toughness that made her the Queen of New York.

“I won a big battle today mentally, more than anything,” Serena said.

Serena then (finally) took the Enquirer’s Wimbledon claim head on.

“C’mon, it the National Enquirer,” Serena said. “Next thing you know, I’m going to be pregnant by some Martian. It’s just not true. It’s really kind of hurtful because it’s just lies, just scandalous lies…..Besides, I was really trying to make the singles competition in the Olympics, so I was really disappointed about that. I didn’t make the singles when I lost. That was heartbreaking for me.”

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



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


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


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

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


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


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

CANADA leads JAPAN 2-1

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


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


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These two have played each other 36 matches, with Federer winning 19 matches and Djokovic having won 17 matches. It has been very, very close and while the 33-year-old Federer has slipped a tiny bit, in two out of three sets he is incredibly impressive.

Last year, Federer bested the Serbian 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semis in Dubai, so why not do it again? Well, he might, but Djokovic was clearly not happy and some how, some way, Djokovic out toughs him at Indian Wells 7-6 in the third to win the crown.

However, Federer beat Djokovic on clay at Monte Carlo in the final. A few months later, Djokovic overcame Federer 7-5 in the fifth set at Wimbledon, perhaps the last chance for the Swiss. But he keeps trying, overcoming Djokovic at Shanghai.

It really doesn’t matter whether they are on clay, grass and hard outdoors and indoors: they are so close and capable that they can win or lose, be good or bad during the day.

Look what occurred in 2011 at the US Open semifinal between Federer against Djokovic. That year, Djokovic overcame “Rog” 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. Finally, he was much more confident and much more mature. He never gave up.

Before the semifinal match, here is what I wrote on the USTA:

“When Federer bested Djokovic in the 2007 US Open final and in the 2008 and 2009 semis, Djokovic did not have the same strong and consistent serve that he has today, his forehand was not has accurate or hard, he wasn’t as confident at the net, and frankly, he didn’t believe in himself as much.

“Now he does and as his result, he’s won all but two tournaments he’s entered this year, he’s smiling all the time and is making many players outside of the top 10 look like rookies.

“Federer…is beautifully mixing up his deliveries. He seems more confident coming to the net and shortening points, and he is taking his backhand earlier.

“But what I don’t see in this match if the Serbian plays well is how Federer can open the court enough and crack winners because Djokovic is so fast and hits so deep that he squeezes the margins of the box to the point where his foes feel like they have no room to breath.

“Rather than blasting away with Djokovic from inside the baseline, Federer would be better serving to mix it up and take the Serbian out of his rhythm. But know this: Djokovic has revenge on his mind from his Roland Garros defeat and this time, he wont be caught sliding the wrong way as he will have his feet firmly planted on the cement. Since he won the 2004 US Open, Federer has only dropped two five setters, and one was to Djokovic in the 2010 semis. This time around, as hard as he tries and however much he has the crowd in his pocket, the Swiss won’t get that far as Djokovic will advance to his third US Open final in four sets.”

In 2015, things have changed a bit though now. Both have improved there volleys, Federer is more aggressive with his one-handed backhand and Djokovic is much more comfortable moving towards his left and whacking his forehand inside-out.

Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what their coaches say because the two players know each other like they are twins. It is all about who plays better. While Federer was not pleased that he was stunned by Seppi in Australia and badly wants a title, Djokovic won the Aussie because he is more comfortable. Novak will win the Dubai title in three sets.

Untouchable: Djokovic wins 5th Slam in Aussie Open

djokovic 2013 Aussie opwon winFROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Novak Djokovic is now the best Australian Open men’s player ever, as he wins his 5th Grand Slam there.

Sure, the Serbian has been frustrated at other Slams; he’s been darn good and very consistent. On Sunday, Djokovic looked sore and injured but he kept getting up after falling down, he sprinted to and fro until Murray collapsed.

Djokovic is remarkably steady. He is almost impossible to out hit him. The Brit floundered again, as he began to get tired, lost his rhythm and his momentum. Djokovic took firm control in the last two sets, winning 7-6 6-7 6-3 6-0.

Murray has lost four finals in the Aussie Open, which is good because he actually made it there, but he has yet to come very close.  He is very smart, has a terrific backhand, can mix it and can boom his first serve. But, when he goes up against the rest of the Big 4, and he can go backwards at times. His forehand can go up and down, his second serve can be horrific and, while he is very impressive when he charges the net, he doesn’t come in often enough.

On the other hand, when Djokovic is feeling right, he can be terrific. He can belt forehands and backhands, run side to side so low and fast that it is almost impossible to nail a winner against him. Yes, Djokovic can he had when he isn’t feeling right, but for the most part, the No. 1 is almost always there.

In Australia, he has been the best since the beginning of the Open Era in 1969. A few fantastic players have won four Aussie Open Slams such as Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Ken Rosewall and others, but only Djokovic has nailed five Slams. That is pretty darn good. The 27-year-old Serbian may not be able to catch the all-time 17 major Federer, but you have to give him the rest of them. Rafael Nadal has 14 Slams (and predictable more to come), as does Pete Sampras. Roy Emerson has 12, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver have 11 and Bill Tilden has 10.

And guess who has tied 8 majors?  Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and now Djokovic.

How much further can he go? He has owned Murray since last year and the start of this year. Federer looks OK, but he still must be stunned that Andreas Seppi shocked him.  Nadal is still not recovered yet. So until the younger players move ahead and quickly, Djokovic will be the favorite, everywhere until he is knocked off.

Australian Open final pick for Saturday, January 31

1-Serena Williams vs. 2-Maria Sharapova

Can anyone, much less Maria, stop Serena?Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Can anyone, much less Maria, stop Serena?
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

This is almost impossible, isn’t it? Maria Sharapova is 2-16 against Serena Williams?

Clearly, Williams has been better since Sharapova won 46 62 64 at the 2004 WTA Tour Championships and the match before, Maria’s first Slam crown at that year’s Wimbledon. But Williams fought off a couple amazing points, grabbed the semis and won the 2005 Australian Open. After that, Serena knew that she could out hit her. Sharapova wasn’t sure how she overpowered Williams in those early matches. From then on, she could not, losing in all sorts of places.

One cold fact: Sharapova lost her confidence when playing Williams. She has not been consistent against Serena, who does not like Maria very much and she wants to beat her pants off every time out.

The Russian/LA player has to play as well she can, and even better. Serena has a substantial first serve, and even her second serve is dangerous. She is a little faster and is more accurate her volley, too.

But Sharapova is right there with her forehands and backhands, as she hits just as hard as she can. When she is on fire, she might be a bit better smoking the down the line.

But, in order to get there, Sharapova is going to have to lock in immediately. She has to hold serve time after time and not panic. Once she is in her rallies, she is fine, but if she cannot return better and serve well herself, she is in deep trouble.

Someday, Sharapova will upset her and grab a win. But Maria is 27 years old and Serena is 33 and they both are thinking about how long they will continue. Beyond the 2016 Olympics, they may wave goodbye.

Whatever the case, Sharapova and Williams are in the final at the Australian Open. This time, Maria will play better; she won’t go nutty early on and allow Serena to push her to the wall.

But in the end, Serena will win again, this time in three dramatic sets. The evening will be terrific final and maybe, just maybe, they can give each other a big hug.

Perhaps not, but at least they can give each a big cheer. After all, they are great champions who are proud, right?

Picking the semis: Djokovic v Wawrinka

Rod Laver Arena / Night

1-Novak Djokovic v 4-Stan Wawrinka

It is pretty unusual to watch two of the big guns go out against each other and play two Aussie Open match-ups in a row and put together two fantastic five-setters. Djokovic won it in 2013 who went on to the title. Wawrinka did the exact same thing and won the crown last year. Now they will face each other again in Rod Laver but this time it will be in the semis

Both men are playing beautifully, smartly and ambitiously. Their serves have been strong and creative; their forehands can find the lines; their backhands are artful; they aren’t afraid to go anywhere they want. They can mix it up, spin it or flatten it. They can slice or chuck in some drop shots. It’s is all there, for both of them.

What we do know is that the Slam champion Djokovic owns seven Slams and Wawrinka has one. The Serbian is much more consistent, because he rarely loses his head, while Stan has done it many times.

But Wawrinka can get on rolls and he will be into it. Stan has been terrific during the past 12 days, but he will have doubts. They may only be small ones, but those matter. Let’s say they will go into the fifth again. In 2013, Djokovic won 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10. In 2014, Wawrinka pulled out 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.

This time, they will grind away, deep into four hours. and. Let’s say Djokovic 14-12 in the fifth. Won’t that be sweet?