In the Queen’s final, Tommy Paul finally likes on the grass

Tommy Paul
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Well, well, in London, Tommy Paul makes the semis on grass, unusual, and he defeated another American, Sebastian Korda  6-4, 7-6(2). He has to face the Italian, Lorenzo Musetti, who took down Jordan Thompson 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

That should be fascinating, as neither of them have been dominating on the slick grass. Maybe they became to hit the ball, at the right way. The current No. 13 Paul won a small tournament, in Dallas, on the hard courts, but the consistent player can really mix it up, and he also reached into the semis on Rome, a huge event.  He does drive, from his forehand and a his backhand, and he can stay a very long time. However, on the grass, the points will be shorter, and to bend down at the net, and put it away.

The 22-year-old Musetti has had a mediocre year, and he has lost seven first rounds, so maybe he is hitting harder, and deeper.

He play a lot, all the time, but he will be very excited when he walks into the court and to win it in England.

“It would be super nice to win here in Queen’s with so much history,” he said. “I love this sport. I’m really passionate about tennis since I was a kid. I dreamed to be a tennis player and become number one in the world.”

The other terrific Italian, the No. 1  Jannik Sinner, has reached the final in Halle, and he will have a difficult match with Hubert Hurkacz, who has had a fine year. He upset Alexander Zvereve in the semis. Hurkacz might upset Sinner, and he can smash the ball with his huge forehand. Yet Sinner can attack him, early, and also, to be more patient, if he has to.

It is not even the middle summer, and there has been a lot of injuries, including this week with Aryna Sabalenka, Elena  Rybakina, Marketa  Vondrousova, and  Ons Jabeur. Maybe next year, they should not play too many tournaments.

That was a fine match when Anna Kalinskaya beat Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-1. If Kalinskaya wins a title, that will be the first time, but it will be tough, against either Jessica Pegula or Coco Gauff.

Pegula was up 7-5, 6-6 with  Gauff, but the rain, came, and it had to stop. Talk about a very tight match, and now they will have to do it again in Berlin…

Where did the 31-year-old Ajla Tomljanovic come from, reaching the final, as she is always up and down. But not this time, as she beat teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-2. Tomljanovic has not reach the final since five years, which means that the Aussie can be pretty good, but not fantastic. However, at least she is there, in  Birmingham , and she will face Tomlajnovic versus Yulia Putintseva.

“Whenever I’ve done well, I’ve never looked ahead, and I’m not going to do it now either. I’m going to do my best to prepare, give it my all tomorrow, and when it’s over, I’ll reflect on the week, ” Tomlajnovic said.”

Andy Murray injured again, can he play Wimbledon?

Andy Murray

Andy Murray became hurt again, and he had to pull out in Cincy Championships, in London, Great Britain,  but hopefully when Wimbledon begins, he will look respectable, on the court. The Scot has won it twice, yet to win it again would be stunning, as he hasn’t gone very deep at the Slams for the past four years. It is lucky that he will retire at the end of the summer, and wave goodbye.

 The other day, he practiced with Carlos  Alcaraz, as the Spaniard just won Roland Garros. Murray just practiced with Alcaraz, and the 37-years-old was pleased.

“I was really excited to practice with him, well, because I love watching him play. [Carlos] for sure one of my favorite players to watch,” he said. “He’s obviously one of the best players in the world, so I was really pumped to go and practice with him. It’s interesting for me, having played against Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic], getting the chance, like, I practiced with [Jannik] Sinner before the Australian Open, practiced with Carlos and stuff. It’s cool for me to get a chance to play for this newer generation and see what do they do better or worse or differently to, the guys that I competed against my whole career. I really enjoyed it.”

Unfortunately, Murray pulled out of the cinch Championships, in London, as he won the first match, but he had to retire after five games due to his super sore right leg. In the past three years, it was difficult, as his injury mounted. However, he did beat a number of good players, but not over the spectacular competitors.

“Although the last few years might have seemed okay, it’s been hard, it’s been really hard on the body. Physically it’s been tough,” he said. “A lot of days where it’s not been that much fun to train and practice and everything. But, yeah, obviously I have tried to work through it and find ways to get on the court and compete at this level. But tennis is a really, really hard sport.”

That is for sure, because usually, after 35, your body is starting to break down. It is possible to have a terrific couple weeks, but then, the pain will come again. Eventually, you have to retire, pretty soon.

Regardless, he has now 1000 matches, which is amazing. The former No. 1 has played some tremendous matches winning the 2012 US Open, and the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon. He would yell a lot, on the court, but he was so darn consistent, both sides.  Mentally, if his body was hurt, he didn’t really care, and to stay in there. That is why he has won 46 titles.  

“There’s the kind of mental side of things on the court, the way that you’re dealing with,  stressful situations,  in the matches and everything. There’s sort of like a performance state you want to get into, and then also how you deal with the highs and lows of the wins and losses, and also the day-in, day-out kind of training and traveling and being away from friends and family and things that, you obviously need to take care of as well,” Murray said.

He will have to, and last year at Wimbledon, in the second round, he lost against Stefanos Tsitsipas in five dramatic setters. Maybe he can do it, or maybe not.

He did speak with Alcaraz, off the court, and the 21-year-old really listened to what he said. He knew that, and now he has won three Slams, too. A great comment.

“Every time that I talk to him, we had a conversation, I was really focused,” Alcaraz said. “Every word I’m hearing from him, it is amazing for me,” he said. “He watched a lot of my matches. Yesterday when I practiced with him, he congratulated me about the French Open, that it was an amazing stuff. He’s a legend.”

Alcaraz is playing in cinch Championships, but lost in straight sets to Jack Draper in the round of 16.

“I love watching him play. I mean, his style, it’s really amazing to watch. He’s really aggressive. I love these kind of players.”

Four Slam champions were given wild cards into Wimbledon: Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Emma Raducanu and Caroline Wozniacki.

There was a fine match on Thursday with Jessica Pegula taking out Donna Vekic 6-4, 7-5.

Both Taylor Fritz and Sebastian Korda won, so maybe if they can really understand on the difficult grass, they will even further, just like Pete Sampras did.

Sebastian Korda is rising, almost the top 20

Sebastian Korda
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Sebastian Korda has reached into the final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, and the American has played very well this week. However, the 23-year-old is still up and down, but that is why that he will reached into the top 20 for the first time. He might reach into the top 10, at some point, as long as he can stay the course, and understand whether if he has to hit harder, or be more patient. He plays a lot, not only in the United States, but also in Europe. He has been doing it for a very long time, as he lives in Florida, and his father, Petr Korda, also played, and he won the 1998 Australian Open. 

He talks with his son, but Petr also has to watch his daughters, Jessica and Nelly, who are pro golfers on LPGA Tour. At the top. Wow.

However, Sebastian Korda not only his dad, but another coach is Radek Stepanek. The Czech reached No. 8, and he won five titles, but he never was able to go to super deep at the Slams. Maybe Sebastian Korda will try to do so, but he does want to go much better.

“Radek, we’ve been around each other for basically my whole life. My dad coached him for 15 or so years, so he’s family,” Sebastian Korda said. “He knows me better than anyone else out there. We’ve put in a lot of great, hard work. It’s been unfortunate that I had a wrist injury for so long [in 2023], so you can’t really do too much. Now hopefully that’s passed us, and we can put in some good work.  We’re definitely trending the right way. We’re playing some better tennis now and putting a lot more work on the tennis court, which is great. Hopefully we can have some better results in the near future.”

Last year, he did get an injury, and he stopped for three months. He was barely so-so, so gradually, he got a little better. This week on the grass, he beat  Tommy Paul in the quarters,   which was huge, but he has yet to beat a top 10 in 2024. Very good luck in the final, because he has to face against the No. 9 Alex de Minaur. Korda will have to play excellent, as he hasn’t beaten anyone in the top 10 since a year ago. Plus  de Minaur beat him in Rotterdam. Is Korda  really rising?

Speaking of which, Coco Gauff  is No. 2, and that is terrific, but in the semis at Roland Garros, she could not play consistently, and she lost against Iga Swiatek. She wasn’t hitting the ball, cleanly, and she went to make way too errors, a lot. She is still young, but she has been around for four years. Yes, she has improved her forehand, and with her serve, too, and it is still good, but not great, yet. She has won one Grand Slam, and eventually, she will grab it again, but  exactly when? Maybe at Wimbledon, coming up?  Perhaps, as Gauff will rush the net a lot, on the grass, and to attack. Swiatek has now won four Slam in Paris. She is just so darn good, with her forehand, her backhand, and returning. The No. 1 Swiatek hasn’t won Wimbledon either, so that will be a huge challenge. The same goes with Gauff, who hasn’t won it either, so  there has to be eight players to go very deep  in the second week. But which one?  

“If you’re playing against anybody in I would say the top 10, I feel like the margins are smaller. Even against Ons [Jabeur]  I felt like my margins were smaller,” she said. “And that’s just when you play higher-ranked players, you know that some mistakes that you make aren’t going to — when you’re playing somebody who maybe isn’t as experienced or just not as talented maybe, you know that eventually you’re going to get back some of the mistakes.  When you’re playing anybody, honestly, in the top 10 at this point, you know that you can’t give anybody free points. I feel like against her and against any top player you do feel like your margins are smaller because you know they’re probably not going to give that back to you. If they do, it’s not maybe at a scale of somebody who’s less experienced.”

That is correct, when you are playing, you almost have to play well and win it. If someone is sick, and slow, or kick it out, then you could win, almost easily. However, if she is playing terrific, then you have to play almost perfect.  

 Gauff said that while she lost against Swiatek, she wasn’t horrible. However, she has to be calm, and accurate.

 “I think it was the execution that I didn’t do well on. I had a couple of break points early in the first set to break back,” who will play in  Berlin, next week.   “I made errors, a lot of short ball errors. I feel like I wasn’t always, hit off the court today. Now if I want to transcend to the next level, there’s a different way to play. Not that I can’t play defense, not passive, but making them work for the point, but I also know if I want to win more and stay at the top, then I have to be aggressive in certain moments and especially against [Iga].”

On grass, a new shot at Wimbledon for Swiatek

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo

It is pretty obvious that Iga Swiatek won Roland Garros four times, and in the next few weeks, now she will try to win Wimbledon for the first time. Last year, she lost against the tough competitor, Elina Svitolina. Maybe they can face off again, or maybe not, but the No. 1 Swiatek wants to really try to change in up, on the slick grass. It depends on the day, when it can rain, a lot, or warm and sunny. No one really knows until it started.  

Swiatek is on the roll, winning Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. She played fantastic, almost each match, but now she has to take a breath, and breath, and think about it.

She might have to, as Naomi Osaka almost beat her in the second round, but she came through, 7-5 in the third. However, she rose up, and the former No. 1 Osaka was a little erratic, but already, she is darn good. She has won four Grand Slams, but the Japanese has never gone into the third round at Wimbledon. She must do it ASAP, as on the court, she can be brilliant. But she has to play more consistent. 

This week, she is playing at the Libema Open, and she defeating versus Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-4. Impressive.

 “I’m kind of taking it as if this is my first year on grass,” Osaka said. “I think even now, this is my first time at this tournament so in some ways I feel like a newbie all over again. I’ve been in Europe since April, so this is a lot of commitment for me. I’m really happy that I’m doing this.”

She is ranking No. 125, so if she can win a few matches, then she will be  at Wimbledon, and she won’t have to qualify, unless they will give her a wild card. Either way.

In England, at the Rothesay Open, there are some interesting  matches. Almost everyone is there from Britain, such as the No. 30 Katie Boulter, who won it in San Diego on the hardcourts, and that has her best tournament, ever.  But after that, she began to struggle, so to go deep in Nottingham, she will drive hard, early. Two of the top seeds are Ons Jabeur and Marta Kostyuk.

The Americans really have a chance to win Wimbledon, with Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys, and Emma Navarro. None of them have reached into the final, but it is possible, as Serena and Venus Williams did it so many times. Both of them will nail the ball, with there first serves, there backhands, and there returns. Even Serena could also split her forehand, into the corners. The current players have watched her a ton, so then they must have seen them, on the court. Then try to do a new thing. Last year, Marketa Vondrousova won it, beating, believe it or not, Jabeur, in the final. Both of them could go very deep, this time.

The No. 5 Pegula just returned to play in the Netherlands of the Libema Open.The American had not played  since April when she got a rib injury. Now she feels much better, and she knows that she will have to play a lot now, on the grass, and the hard courts, and then in Paris on clay in July.  Good, luck.

“It’s just such a crazy year with the Olympics squeezed in. With my game, I’d rather be ready for grass and the rest of the hardcourt season and grind out the rest of the year, than try and push it for clay and it doesn’t feel well,” Pegula said.” That’s why we played it safe.”

She says that when she watched during Roland Garros, she thought that the No. 1 is stunning. 

“Iga dominated the clay season, what else is new,” Pegula said. “Now we go into grass and I’m sure the grass-court players will do well. I feel like I’m walking back into the same kind of thing. That’s good.”

Carlos Alcaraz: three-time Slam winner

Carlos Alcaraz
Courtesy of Babolat

In the Roland Garros final fifth set, Carlos Alcaraz was locked in. He knew that if he could crack the ball, everywhere, then he could win another Grand Slam. He certainly did, when he defeated Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

That was stunning. However, in the last two sets, he became to hit it very hard, and he attacked, whenever he had to. He had played for hours, but he believed that he could still smash the ball, and throw in some incredible shots.

“I know that when I’m playing a fifth set, you have to give everything and you have to give your heart,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, in those moments, it’s where the top players give their best tennis.”

He has now won three Grand Slams, winning Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. He is only 21-years-old, and if the No. 2 continues to be healthy, he can certainly win many more Slams. He is content and he is getting better each month.

“Different tournaments, different aura, but I’m going to say: same feeling. I mean, winning a Grand Slam is always special,” he said.

No. 4 Zverev had a fine event, but in his last two sets, he collapsed, and he looked tired. Maybe in the final of a Slam, he could be be more forceful, or try to rush the net more.

But not with Alcaraz, who is so much smarter. In the semis, the Spaniard edged Jannik Sinner in five, tough sets. Once again, he hammered his forehand and his backhand.

“Last year I clearly failed that exam, but this time we’d done our homework,” said the Spaniard. “This year I managed to do much better. I think I passed the exam, but not with flying colors. It’s something I have to keep improving and as the years go by, I’ll feel even better.”

The Italian Sinner became No. 1, for the first time, and while he couldn’t win at Roland Garros, at least he won the Australian Open, the  ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami, and he reached the semis at Indian Wells, Monte Carlo and RG. He was disappointed in Paris, but now he is thrilled.  That was a gigantic achievement.

“It represents a great result of work ethic. It was one of my goals for myself and my team this year,” he said. “The most important goal is always to improve as a player and as a person, surrounding myself with great people. In the last period I’ve played some really good tennis. I’m very happy to be in this position.”

Here comes the grass
Will Alcatraz, Sinner or Zverev grab the Wimbledon title? Maybe, but it is totally different on the lawn. Perhaps a few of the American men will go deep there, such as Taylor Fritz, Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Frances Tiafoe.

Fritz is not playing this week, but the rest are, in Netherlands and Germany. Even the current No. 12 Fritz lost super early at last year’s Wimbledon, so is it possible that maybe one American can reach into the second week? That would be good, as the US guys won it at Wimbledon, such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Sampras won it seven times, and Agassi did it once in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Will the young players push it and learn from it?

Roland Garros final: Carlos Alcaraz versus Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev

Eight years ago,  Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic won the title at Roland Garros. Finally, a couple “new” people have the chance to finally win it in Paris. The fast Carlos Alcaraz beat Jannik Sinner in five tough sets, at the semis, and then, Alexander Zverev pounded Casper Ruud in four sets.

Both of them certainly knows that if he is play great, most of the time, he would nail it in the corners, and win it. But it is complicated, as both Alcaraz and Zverev can be patient, and wait until he has a chance to strike it with a winner. Both of them can slap his forehand, low, and with his backhand, it could be  wicked, and deep. Sometimes in the second serve, they will step closer, but in the first serve, they are way back, near the fence, even with the Spaniard. On court, they know that if he can be proficient, then he can control him.

This will be the 10th time with Zverev leads 5-4.  That is very close.

“We had very tough battles in the past,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a difficult match. It is a Grand Slam final. If you’re in a Grand Slam final, you deserve to be there. That goes for both of us. I think both of is are expecting a tough battle.”

Alcaraz  has won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, but he has yet to win Roland Garros. But now he is ready to make some incredible shot. He can miss some odd shots, but then, he can change it up, and throw in some amazing shots. He does think that his opponent can hit some huge  hits, super deep. Zverev can be very intense.

“Sascha, he’s playing great tennis on clay,” Alcaraz said. “Big serve, big shots, really solid. It’s going to be a really interesting final.”

In there four matches, Zverev beat Alcaraz at the Aussie Open in the quarters, in four difficult sets, but in 2023, the Spaniard won it at Madrid and the U.S. Open. Then the German grabbed it at the ATP Finals. Essentially, it is tied, but Zverev will finally win a Grand Slam, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5, 7-5. He will finally make it.

Can Coco Gauff  upset Iga Swiatek in the semis?

Coco Gauff
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Is it possible that Coco Gauff will beat against Iga Swiatek for the second time? Maybe, but the Polish person has beaten the American 10 times, and Gauff beat her just one time, in Cincinnati, on the hardcourts. At Roland Garros on Thursday, Gauff is going to have to chance a few tactics, and make sure that she can try to crush her forehand, as Swiatek knows that she is more solid, and deeper, too. Last year at RG in the quarters, Swiatek  beat Gauff 6-4,  6-2, with some amazing shots. 

Yes, Gauff has a terrific backhand, and she is very quick, when she is running. Also, she loves the net, but Swiatek has a better serve, and she is not only can immediately attacks, but also, she can jump on the lines. Eventually, Gauff will beat her again, but exactly, when and where on the clay? Swiatek has won four Grand Slams — three at the French Open — and one at the 2022 U.S. Open. Gauff has won just one at a Slam, at the 2023 U.S. Open. Gauff has improved a lot of the past two years, yet she was unable to win a tournament since January, which is OK, yet Swiatek just won Madrid and Rome. She is on fire, beating  Gauff 6-4, 6-3 in Rome. 

“I remember last year was really stressful for me, so every match was kind of like a relief,” Swiatek said. “Now I’m enjoying it more, and I have more satisfaction from just playing my game. Two years ago, I would say in my mind it felt pretty similar, because I just felt like I had already a great season, and now I can just go for it.”

Iga Swiatek will win it 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the third set.

All of a sudden, the 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva rose up, super high.  In the third set, she was comfortable, while Aryna Sabalenka threw in some unusually bad shots, and she lost  6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4.

Andreeva went for it a lot, down the lines, and closer  into the corners. Her serve isn’t great yet, but her forehand and her backhand was huge.  She has to face against the Italian, the  Jasmine Paolini, who stunned Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4,  her first time at the Grand Slam semis. Over the past 10 days, she has been very impressive, pushing herself, trying to hit it harder and harder, rather then just putting it back in. She also scrambled, and managed to confuse with Rybakina, who almost won, but she missed some wild, out, shots. 

So now, both Paolini and Andreeva have reached the semis at a Slam, so clearly, when they come on the court, they will be nervous, but when they start, one of them will lock it in. They will have some cool rallies, and some tremendous shots, but in the end, the veteran Paolini will win it 4-6, 7-6, 6-3. 

Tough matches, but Djokovic keeps winning

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Given that Novak Djokovic played for four and a half hour, and when he finished,   it was 3:00 a.m. at Roland Garros. It had rained a lot in Paris, but he stayed there, and he beat Lorenzo Musetti  7-5 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. He finally looked very good, but Musetti collapsed. The No. 1 Djokovic has been struggling this year, but each match, he could play very well, and more confident. His backhand is amazing, and he can return deep, close to the lines. Now he has to face against Francisco Cerundolo, who has had a so-so year, but the Argentine can rise up. He will have to, as Djokovic will push him into the fence. The Serbian will win it in four, tight, sets

Alexander Zverev is still playing darn good, while he almost lost in a marathon, but he managed to survive, but now he has to face versus Holger Rune, who really likes on the clay.  Zverev can crush the ball, on the hardcourts, but the German can become impatient,with his forehand and his backhand, and he will rush it. Zverev has yet to win a Grand Slam yet, but he has come close, at the U.S. Open, yet in France, he has been up and down. “I kind of had this conversation with myself and I realized that you know I don’t do any good to myself and especially to people and kids watching so, I’m glad it’s working out,” he said. “I mean, I worked on myself quite a lot uh in that department.”

However, in the past month, Zverev was very smart, on the court, winning Rome. His confidence is there, but Rune is trying to reach the semis at the Slams for the first time. He can be steady, and he did have a fine year in 2023, and at Rome, he reached the final, beating Casper Ruud before  he lost against  Daniil Medvedev. Pretty good. Ruud knows that to beat Zverev, he must be super patient, and really mix it up. Unfortunately, Zverev will gringe him, in five, fun sets.

Taylor Fritz is the only American men are left, so to beat Ruud, he is going to play lights out. Ruud reached the final at Roland Garros, and recently, he won Barcelona and Switzerland. He is so confident when he can chuck it on to the lines, and he can be very creative. Toe to toe, he can also change his tactics. That should be a wild five setter, and Fritz will really be very aggressive, but Ruud will grab it 6-4.

On Saturday, the American Emma Navarro will face versus the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. Gradually, Navarro is trying to add some new shots, and also, to be thoughtful.

“It allows for some unique tennis, which is what I like,” Navarro told WTA Insider. “I like problem-solving, I like figuring things out. I like that I can be creative.  I like to play with some style. That’s what I enjoy about tennis and the clay allows for that, a little bit more than hardcourts.”

At Indian Wells in March,  Navarro upset Sabalenka 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. That was one of the best day, ever. She did lose in the next round, but she seems to be better with her forehand, and her  second serve.  However, Sabalenka is much more close to the lines, hitting as hard as she can. Yes, Navarro will try to rallied her, but Sabalenka  will take it, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Roland Garros: Tommy Paul looks very comfortable

Tommy Paul

Are the American men climbing, or are they sitting there, knowing that eventually, they will lose at Roland Garros? At least a few good men put together some terrific matches. 

Tommy Paul crushed Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-0, 6-2, as the veteran player looked very old, as his forehand and his backhand was short, in the middle.  Paul improved a lot last year, and he pushed himself, going for it, closer to the lines. Over the years, he did not go deep on the clay, but now he knows how to do it, winner or lose. At least he won’t go back, next to the fence.

“For me, it’s kind of just having more experience on the clay,” said Paul. “I’ve had a lot of seasons over here.  I’m feeling more comfortable than I probably ever have. I actually grew up playing on clay. That was all I played on, even before going to play hard court tournaments. “I mean, I’m comfortable on it. I’m really enjoying my time on it right now.”

Taylor Fritz looks more than solid, as he beat Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. His patience is there, and he can chuck it around, side to side. He is just fine to hit it during the rallies, and he can also mix it up. He can become frustrated, but he knows that if he wants to stay there, he has to forget it with the errors.  

Ben Shelton is rolling along, beating the former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, who retired. Years ago, Nishikori beat almost anyone, who was so steady and powerful, but he became hurt, all the time, so even to play again, maybe he should just retire. But he will not.

Shelton is still very young, and he can play wonderful, but then he can throw in some wild, mediocre shots. He is growing, so he will be more intelligent.  

Sebastian Korda looked very good in the first two sets — sort of —  but then in the third set, he was disappointed, and then he was gone. Carlos Alcaraz beat him 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3.  At 5-5, he was right there, and his forehand went down into the net, and then the Spaniard nailed it into the corners. The two time champion Alcaraz will keep trucking, while Korda can crash. He has to be smarter, on the court.

So many good Italians are rising, such as Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who beat Liudmila Samsonova
7-6(4), 6-2. She has been around for a while, but her forehand has certainly been improved, month after month. Clara Tauson beat the American Sofia Kenin, and she was likely upset, but at least this week, she looked OK. Now Kenin has to be more consistent, on the grass, coming up. … Here was a dramatic match when Holger Rune edged Flavio Cobolli 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 7-6(7). Another young player Cobolli was up 5-0 in the final tiebreaker, but then  Rune rose up immediately with a lot of winners, and the Italian Cobolli became nervous. Goodbye, but he will learn about it. Here is another five setter, when Casper Ruud beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. It is all about the survival.

Rafa Nadal loses to Alexander Zverev, but will continue

Rafael Nadal

Yes, Rafa Nadal lost in the first round against Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3.

Nadal missed some key points and his backhand fell too short. The Spaniard has won 14 Grand Slams in Paris, and he was the dominate. But now, his body is super sore when he is running and he has slowed down. The reality means that eventually he must retire. Nadal knows that his career is ticking.

When will say goodbye? Not yet. He isn’t sure whether he can play at Wimbledon — which is doubtful —  or the US Open, but he really wants to play the Olympics.  

Maybe the 37-year-old Nadal will rise up for a few more months. However, he doesn’t really know whether he can smash his brilliant forehand, hour after hour.

“My body has been a jungle for two years and you don’t know what to expect. I wake up one day and I found a snake biting me; another day, a tiger,” Nadal said, who has won 22 Grand Slam with Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. “It’s been a big fight with all of the things I went through, but the dynamic is positive the last few weeks. I felt ready. I need to clear my ideas now and see what the new calendar is for me to be ready for the 2024 Olympics [in Paris]. I need to prepare myself the proper way: to try to arrive here healthy and well prepared – and then let’s see.”

Zverev looked almost excellent, recently winning Rome. Clearly, he has a legitimate chance to win the tournament, but it is early.

The same thing goes with Novak Djokovic, who was not happy when he lost in Rome. The No.1 can look amazing, with his steady forehand and his backhand, but he can be inpatient at times. He beat Pierre Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-4. At least now, he is feeling better.

“He gave me a lot of trouble on his serve, serve and volleying, but from my side I’m pleased with the performance,” Djokovic said.

Taylor Fritz continues to play much more aggressively, beating Fererico Coria  2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. He would really like to reach the second week on the dirt. Fritz looked pretty good on the clay, but he has to succeed versus the other very good players. He has to be more patient.

Swiatek versus Osaka
On Wednesday, the No. 1 Iga Swiatek will face another four-time Grand Slam champion, Naomi Osaka. Swiatek has won Roland Garros three times, as well as winning the US Open, while Osaka has never gone deep into the second week in Paris. But she won the Aussie Open and the US Open twice, on the hard courts. The Polish Swiatek  can beat everyone, as she just won Rome, hitting some wonderful shots. She can get frustrated, but then she can immediate focused it, into the corners. However, she did say that Osaka is a phenomenal striker.

“She’s a great person, and her game style is pretty fun to watch as well,” Swiatek said.

Osaka just game came back this year, so she still is working with her legs. However, she is very strong, and she can try to nail it with the ball. She will try that, but on clay, she won’t like to sit there and just try to grind it. Swiatek will do everything, and she win it in two hard sets.