Sloane Stephens: ‘Who knows how much longer I will play, but there is still a lot left’

Sloane Stephens
Ron Cioffi/TR

The older they get, many people finally become more  intelligent, and what is really happening. Sloane Stephens just turned 31-years-old, and while she won the 2017 US Open, after that, she could not do it again. Other players want to do it again and again, and while she certainly made some huge efforts, it wasn’t good enough, and that is OK. However, she has had some tough times, on the court. She knows that. 

“It’s been obviously a difficult journey, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of heartbreak, a lot of strong, incredible performances on incredible stages and great trophies and just very low lows,” she said, who is playing Miami Open, after she beat Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3. “It’s definitely been a journey in itself, and I think obviously when I started playing tennis I would have never even dreamed of winning a Grand Slam or being No. 3 in the world.  I was playing because I really enjoyed it and I loved it.  Somebody asked me this the other day, like, does it matter that you were never No. 1 in the world? I’m, like, absolutely not. I maxed out what I had, I won a Grand Slam, I had a great career-high ranking, played the Olympics, done all these amazing things.”

Yes, there are some terrific memories, when they are awake, or sleeping. It is the good stuff, or bad, depending during the matches. Stephens can be so steady, with her forehand and her backhand, and when she is comfortable, then she can try to nail it into the lines. Even on the dirt, when she is skipping around on the court, then she can mix it up, a lot. She did reach at Roland Garros, in 2018, and while she didn’t win it, she was more respectable. But not all the time. Current, she is ranked No. 41, which is OK, but not wonderful. At the last six Slams, since 2022, she could not advance into the second week. Ouch. Perhaps she can do it again, but maybe she will just hang it around.

“When you start a sport, you can have a dream, obviously something that you really want to do, and if you do that, you get there, it’s always incredible, right? But when you do that and then you do so many other things on top of it, it’s just like icing on the cake,” said Stephens, who will face against the solid person, Sorano Cirstea. 

“I feel like I have done so much, but there is still a lot left. I’m 31, but who knows how much longer I will play, but there is still a lot left. Hopefully some more, like, accomplishments and fun things to come.”

Osaka win sets up clash with Svitolina
Another four time Grand Slam champion, Naomi Osaka, is starting to play well, so when she can go month after month, then eventually, she can be much more attentive. She can mash her forehand and her backhand down the line, quickly, and she can also raid, immediately. She has had some tough years, with her thoughts, and she is working on it, but in the matches, she can re-think what she is doing.  She has to face against another very good  player,  Elina Svitolina, in the second round. Both of them will hit the ball so hard.

It has to be with Frances Tiafoe this week in Florida, as the other American hasn’t gone deep this year, and even before that. In 2023 in June he won Stuttgart, Germany, but after that, he fell down. Two weeks ago at Indian Wells, he lost in the second round. He was a fine player in 2022, when he reached into the semi at the US Open, and he almost did it, but Carlos Alcaraz overcame him in the fifth set. At Miami, Tiafoe will face a solid veteran, the Aussie, Christopher O’Connell, so that should be a long contest. Backhand to backhand, whoever can press it, down the line, he will grab it.

Is Cameron Norrie is fading this year? I would say, no, not yet, as the No. 30 players all the time, and he is very steady.  However, he should blitz early. He will face versus Flavio Cobolli, who has had a solid season. 

Indian Wells: Taylor Fritz vs Holger Rune

Holger Rune

Here comes the American, again, when Taylor Fritz  will have to take out against Holger Rune, who once again, he is playing more real, on the court. He has had a decent season, this year, but he has to re-figure what he must do, and stay there, if he has to.

 On Wednesday night in at Indian Wells, he will be pumped up, but he has to think about what types of his shots, and where he will go. He did it here two years ago, when he put together for 10 days, and he became super consistent. However, after that, he won some terrific matches, but he has yet to do another ATP 1000 again,  so now, he will try to go it again.

Last year, the Denmark  Rune had some fine matches, going deep on the hard courts, the clay (especially in Monte-Carlo and Rome) and the grass. He didn’t win it all, but it was close enough, so if he is feeling good, then the No. 7 can start beating against the top players. He can be super solid, with his backhand, and he can return, too.

But if Fritz can be immediately aggressive, then he can push him way back and put it away. He can bash his forehand and his backhand, and he can hit it down the line, and also go crosscourt.  Yes, Fritz can return pretty decent, and when he is confident, he can make an attempt to hit it very deep. The think is, though, is he is not terrific at the net, and his backhand could be so-so. But as he said: “I think both, it’s the same kind of thing,” Fritz said. “I’ve always felt confident here, even before winning. I feel like I always performed well and played well. It’s the same thing. I come here and from the first hit, kind of just feeling the courts, it feels really good for me.”

Rune is only 20-years- old, so he has to understand exactly what he has to do, when he returning, and mix it up. He is fast, running, and he can move forward, and trust it around. Rune’s  forehand can be  powerful, his backhand is somewhat solid, and he can throw it all around the box. But it is all about the week, and while he hasn’t gone deep this year, perhaps he is adding some more different shots.

Both Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev won there matches, and they will face off on Thursday. It has to be a tremendous match at nigh. A darn, good match.

NOTES
Also late at night on Wednesday, the No. 11 Daria Kasatkina will take on Yuan Yue. Kasatkina reached the finals at Abu Dhabi and Adelaide this year, and while she didn’t win it, she was threatening. Yuan has been quiet over the past few years, but now she is trying to hit the ball, harder. They all have to, at some point.

On Tuesday, the No.1 Iga Swiatek crushed Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-2. You never know when she doesn’t play well at all, but that is very rare. Caroline Wozniacki played pretty decent when she beat Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-2. They both were hurt, physically, a small amount, but they kept going. Wozniacki thinks she can go even further. Oh, really? Hmmm.

A stunner: Luca Nardi upsets Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells

Novak Djokovic

At the beginning of Indian Wells, the No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the best player. But once and a while, he can lose, especially early. He did, when the 20-year-old Luca Nardi shocked him, when he put together some amazon rallies.

Without a doubt, Djokovic was somewhat flat, in the third set, and Nardi ran so fast. He won it, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The fans could not believe it, but the intense No. 123 kept going hard, and he ran second after second. When he won, he was thrilled, whether he will last this week is a new question, but he did say that he was thinking what he had to do.

“I think that before this night no one knew me,” Nardi said. “I think it is a miracle, because I am a 20-year-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. It’s crazy.”

Yes it was, but now he has to face against the American, Tommy Paul, who beat Ugo Humbert, a very good player.  Paul has not had a great year in 2024 at the top 10 men, but he put some solid wins. It is time to play even better and  try to move up further.

“I’ve been working on playing aggressive, even at the most important times,” Paul said. “I’ve been doing better at that.”

On Wednesday night, the other American, Ben Shelton, has to over think against the Australian champ Jannik Sinner. In the Aussie Open, Shelton went into a fifth set, but the smart, veteran Adrian Mannarino chopped him down. But on Tuesday, at night, Shelton will have to play as well as he can as Sinner is on fire, week after week. He will have to snap on his arms, and go down on the lines. It should be a super intense contest.

The long time women players who have won so many terrific matches, when the champions,  Carolina Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, will play each other on Wednesday night. If you like to watch some long rallies, then sit down and gaze because it could take hours. That can go cross court, backhand to backhand, and also,  change it up, more. Will one of the players win another huge event, ever again?  Probably, yes, this year, but it is unsure. 

Speaking of which, the  American Taylor Fritz won Delray Beach, beating Paul. They know each other well and which they go. However, Fritz did win Indian Wells two years ago, so now, if he can nail it into the corners, consistently, he will have chance to go far. However, he has to knock down over Holger Rune, who is a darn good player, when he is on. He can be super solid, with his backhand, and he can return, too. But if Fritz can be immediately aggressive, then he can push him way back and put it away. Good, luck.

TennisReporters.net top 32 men: 5-1

Novak Djokovic

5 Andrey Rublev
He is very powerful, when he is on, and he can smile in the ball, to both sides. When he is feeling very good, the Russian can go for it, early, or if he is feeling patient, he can mix it up from the backcourt. However, he has yet to win a Grand Slam, and while he can be right there, but then, his other spectacular player rarely become nervous. He does, on occasion. Unfortunatly, he has yet to reach the semis at the Grand Slams, as the 26-year-old has backed up when it was close. He did win Monte Carlo, and Bastad, Sweden, and also, when he reached the final at Shanghai, China in October . That was very solid, but Novak Djokovic beat him time and time again, so if he wants to upset him, next year, he has to improve his volley, and also, closer at the net.  He might be able to win a Slam in 2024, then he is going to be a real show.

4 Jannik Sinner
Here is another one who can eventually grab to win a Slam. The Italian had a terrific week in the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy,, beating Daniil Medvedev, upsetting Djokovic early on, but then in the final, the Serbian rose, while Sinner looked pretty tired, or maybe he was  collapsing. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter, as in the fall, he played fantastic, winning Beijing and Vienne, beating  Daniil Medvedev, twice. He stood toe-to-toe, grinding him down, and with some his massive strokes, with his backhand or his forehand. He even won the ATP Masters in Toronto in August, revolting so high. However, he can mess it up, depending which week, whether he is playing great, or mediocre. He is tall, and he can put it into the corner, but next year, if he can win Slam for the first time. To do it though,  he has to return better and deeper, and meld it up, even more.  He has to be more true , and really pay attention before he gets on the court. It is almost mandatory.

3 Daniil Medvedev
The other Russian had a up and down year, winning a bunch of matches, but also, when he looked darn good at the U.S. Open against Djokovic in the final, he looked like he had a real chance to win it, but in the second set tiebreaker, he was right there. then he missed some unpaired error. He does really like to rally, very flat, and he will to wear down the opponents, but at times, he doesn’t like to come into the net enough, so his decisions could be questionable. He has a little bit with the spin, now,  and his first serve is flat, to different areas. The man can look startling, and this year, he won Rotterdam, Netherlands,  Doha, Qatar ,  Dubai, Miami and Rome. In the fall, he was very decent, but not fantastic. He is quite caring, and he looks to think, when he is talking, which is awesome, but in the court, if he wants to win another Slams, he must change a few things, especially when he can go down really low, and put it away.

2 Carlos Alcaraz
He has become darn fast,  sprinting to the right and to the left, mixing it up, and he can win it into the corners for a winner. The Spaniard is very young, and he still has a decent amount to improve, but he already can change his tactics. His forehand and his backhand are jolly sturdy, and he can also touch it on the net and put it away. However, after he won Wimbledon, and he played wonderful ball, after that, he could not win another title. Of course he was hurt, bodily, once and a while, and perhaps he was mentally shake, yet next year, he will learn how he will approach it. In the first half, he also won Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, and London/Queens, and of course, Wimbledon, in the clay, the hardcourts, and the grass. That was almost flawless, but then   he wasn’t after that. At the end at the ATP Finals, Djokovic beat Alcaraz in straight sets, out hitting him, backhand versus backhand.  Maybe at the Australian Open, he can win the title, that is if his second serve and his return can be upwords.

1 Novak Djokovic

Way back when, when he won his first Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, he was so swift, and his backhand was already phenomenal, but his forehand was good, but not great. His return was so sensible, and he could play stroke after stroke, and he rarely became tired. However, he knew, year after year, that he had to get much better so he could not only beat everyone, but to win the titles, he had to be more muscular, in the matches. Now, he has won 23 Grand Slams, a record, and here and there, he could miss some strange errors, but he will always try to hang in there, and re-do it.    He won three Slams this season, and next year, he might be able to do it again. He has won 98 Slams, and he is third behind Jimmy Connors (109 titles) and Roger Federer [103 titles.) In 2024, Djokovic could pass Federer, and eventually, maybe next year, he can tie Connors. Either way, he is the dominates.

TennisReporters.net, the top 32 women: No. 5-1

Aryna Sabalenka
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

5 Jessica Pegula
If she is totally on fire, she can hit it, stroke after stroke. Her backhand is so consistent, hitting it crosscourt, in the middle, deep, and whaling it down the line. Her forehand can also be very solid, and she can also put it away at the net. However, she did have a very good year, but not spectacular. Yes, she beat a number of excellent players, but she lost in more than a few critical matches. Yes, she has been here for a long time, and two years ago, she started to play much better, but currently, while she is very, very good, but she has yet to reach into the Grand Slams final. She really has to, one way or another. Next year, if she finally wins a Slam, she has to serve harder, and also, with her forehand. It really will be a huge critical challenge.

4 Elena Rybakina

When she is really on, she can crush the ball, all over the place.She is quick, she is very fast, and she can read where  she is going. However, she plays a lot, and  in the first six months, she looked terrific, almost grabbing the Australia Open,  and then, she won Indian Wells and Rome. But after that, she began to slip. She did win a few fine wins, like when she beat with Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, but she lost in some far, close matches to both of them. She is a solitary person, when she is hitting the ball, where she is going, and not deciding the right way. She did win the 2022 Wimbledon, and she was the outlaw, so if she can add with her second serve, and at the net, she can win another Slam, eventually, perhaps in 2024.

3 Coco Gauff
Last year, her forehand was upgrading, and her return was decent, but not great, yet. But in 2023, she began to climb, as her backhand was already phenomenal, but she had to change her forehand, and then, she really did. Now, she is not flawless yet, but she did win the 2023 US Open, snaring the third sets, when she had to, and she was just so rapt. She is still very young, and  off-court, she is very thoughtful. Some people have said that eventually, soon, she will become No. 1, and then she can win another more Slams. She might,  and maybe she will, but the realty is that Serena Williams have won 23 Grand Slams, and Venus — who is still playing — has won seven Grand Slams. Gauff has put together more than a few wins, and next year, she will be continue to her rising forehand.

2 Aryna Sabalenka

She did win the 2023 Australian Open, and she hit some colossal winners, with her husky forehand and her backhand, She can also attack, right after she returns, and she will  flat it out, down the line, or cross-court. She can last for a longtime, but other times, she loses what she is achievement.  But look, her serve is still decent, but not great, yet, when she is feeling it, then she can win so many matches, like when she won Madrid. The reality, though, that while she would go deep a lot, but she still cannot see where and when the bounce ball are going. Yes, she can win another Grand Slam next year, but currently, Iga Swiatek is better than she is, with her intense strokes. Plus, Sabalenka is still working with her serves, which she still can throw in a lot of double faulty. However, she is a hoot good, so she will adjust, and improve, even more.  

1 Iga Swiatek
She had another tremendous years, winning Roland Garros  and she grabbed Doha, Stuttgart,  Warsaw, Beijing, and the WTA Finals. She is not husky, but without a doubt, she is clearly the No. 1 right now. Her forehand and her backhand are strong, and her first serve is quite hard, and she can return with a number of winners. Since Ash Barty retired, two years ago, the Polish person waxed very fast, winning now four Grand Slams,  inclusion the 2022 U.S. Open. She totally values on the clay, being very patient, if she needs to, and also on the hardcourts, when she can slap the ball, until she wheres them down. The 23 Grand Slam champ Serena Williams, who is now retired, she knew all surfaces, winning on the hardcourts, on the clay, and also, on the grass.  She won so many Slams, but Swiatek has yet to win at the Aussie Open and Wimbledon.  Now it is time for her to do it, at least one of them. How about to start very early at Melbourne? She may not, but she will be checked in, peering, and intense. As she said: “Mental toughness is probably most important thing in tennis right now because everybody can play on the highest level. But the ones that are tough and that can handle the pressure are the biggest ones.”

TennisReporters.net top 32 women: No. 10-6

Ons Jabeur
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

10 Barbora Krejcikova
She is one of the best doubles players, in front of almost everyone, but in the singles, she can be super steady. Yet then, she can fall  off. Her backhand can be flat, and also, she can spin, it. However, it could be to short, yet her forehand is strong, but not huge, all of the time. Yet the Czech can begin to be a real threat, winning Roland Garros in 2021. Then, she was locked in, but this year, she was pretty good, when she won  Dubai and San Diego, but not phenomenal, month after month. In 2024, though, she will have a chance to win a couple Grand Slams, in the doubles, and maybe, with the singles, if she can improve her forehand.

9 Maria Sakkari
She had a decent year, winning Guadalajara in September,  but after that, she began to slip, again. She  really loves to run, back and forth, and she can also mix it up, too, but her serve is not that mighty enough, and she does not crack the ball enough. Yes, the Greek can look intense, and she also can be badly consistent, but her returns are so-so. She will push herself again, and she really wants to reach into the finals at the Slams, for the first time, but to do so, she has to think about how to enrich, once again, and then be more reacting.

8 Karolina Muchova

She has gone very deep with all four Grand Slams, and while she has not done yet, she is just so phenomenal when she is totally locked in. She almost won Roland Garros in June, and she lost against Iga Swiatek in three, dramatic sets. She was close, but she hesitated. At the 2024 Australian Open, she must close the deal, ASAP.

7 Marketa Vondrousova
Another Czech can play amazing ball, winning the 2023 Wimbledon, and also, reaching the 2019 Roland Garros. The odd thing is that she is a capable person, yet she has only won two titles, and while she can go very vast, but she can also lose her head. In London, on the grass, she rose up quickly, and she nailed so many winners, beating Jessica Pegula, and Elina Svitolina, and in the final, she out-hit Ons Jabeur to win it all.  Without a doubt, this two weeks were her best, ever.  Her forehand and her backhand was incredibly limitless, and with a tremendous diversity. However, she can lose herself, mentally. In the fall, she looked very tired, and she lost a good amount. She is a darn good player, but if she wants to win more titles, then next year, she should not play week after week. The 24-year-old has to be more calm, and practice less, and sit down and think about how she should play.

6 Ons Jabeur
All year, it looked like she would finally win a Slam, but she hesitated at the 2023 Wimbledon in the final, and now, she still hasn’t done it, yet. She has so much likeness, with her terrific drop shots, even when she is way back on the court. She took down Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka at Wimbledon, and she was playing bending down, and she would put it away. However, Vondrousova was not nervous, while Jabeur backed up, and she lost 6-4, 6-4. She really cried, hard. Other than that, she had some good weeks, winning in Charleston, and in Ningbo, in China. Yet in the fall, she did not play very well, with a lot of errors. The Tunisian will try to improve her serve, and her return, more aggressively. If she does, she will have another chance to win a Grand Slam, but she has to be more stable. As she said: “Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure, feeling a lot of stress. … For me, I always believed in mental, in working on it. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past years since I was maybe 10 years old because I know if you are not ready physically, mentally you can always win.”

TennisReporters.net top 32 women: No. 15-11

Madison Keys
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

15 Qinwen Zheng

She is only 21-years old so with our a doubt, she is rising, quickly. In October, she won Zhengzhou, China, taking down  against Maria Sakkari and  Barbora Krejcikova. Her forehand and her backhand can be so consistent, and she can be thriving. She grabbed it and she won Palermo, and at the end of the year, she reached at the final at the sort-of-new at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. She had won three matches, but finally, Beatriz Haddad Maia out hit her. Gradually, Zheng  is pushing herself harder, and she knows that her forehand is better than she thinks it is. Also, she has to play more doubles so she can really learn at the net. Apparently, she will listen to almost everyone.

14 Petra Kvitova

It might be possible that the Czech can win another Grand Slam, but it won’t be easy, as the former two-time Wimbledon champ is slowing down. She can bash the balls, with her forehand and her backhand, crosscourt or down the line, yet she isn’t fast, when she is running, so she can put in some multiple errors. When she is feeling right, and super confident,  after she nails a winner, you could here her scream, in delight. But if her serve and her return goes away, then she will shake her head. This year, even though she lost a lot of matches, but she did win Miami and Berlin. Then she was great. However, at the Slams, in the last three years, she has not gone into the second week. That is a bit shocking, so in 2024, she has to more ability.  

13 Jelena Ostapenko

All year, or many years, it looked like that when she is smashing the ball, from the backcourt, and she is on fire, she should have a chance to win another Grand Slam. But she hasn’t yet, as she won the 2017 Roland Garros, and she was so phenomenal, but after that, even though she has gone deep, but she could not make it back into the finals. This year, she did win Birmingham in June, and at the Australian Open, in the fourth round, she beat Coco Gauff before she lost against Elena Rybakina. On the day, she can play marvelous, almost stunning against the current No. 1, Iga Swiatek at the U.S. Open. After that, though, Gauff overwhelmed her. Ostapenko did not much after that, so next year,if she can be more consonant, and amend at the net, she will win another title. How many more, though, who knows?

12 Madison Keys

Since she came into the WTA, she was already so good, with her massive forehand and her backhand, as well as her first serve. She knew that in order to beat the best players, she had to attack, early, when she returns, and demolish into the corners. She has gone very deep at the Slams, at the 2017 U.S. Open, when she reached into the final, and she was playing astounding, but she froze, and she lost easily to Sloane Stephens.

This year she was vertical, losing early, but at some  tournaments, she can look darn good, when she won Eastbourne on the grass. Obviously, though, she likes the hardcourts, and at the 2023 U.S. Open, she began to catch the wildfire, going into the semis against the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. She had so many chances to win the match, but Sabalenka hung in there, and in the third set in a tiebreak, she fell down. She cried. That happens with everyone, so if the 28-year-old Keys won’t get hurt next year — and she does it a lot — then she should return better, and be more patient.  As she said: “Setting a goal, accomplishing it, and feeling good about yourself can help build confidence and perseverance.”

11 Beatriz Haddad Maia

Right at the end of the year, she won the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, beating Zheng and Keys in the final. That was one of her biggest title, ever. She can be up and down, beating some fine players, but also, she will back up. She did upset Elena Rybakina,and she did reach into the semis at Roland Garros,  beating Ons Jabeur, before  she lost against Swiatek 6-2, 7-6. That was decent enough, and one of the reasons why is because she plays a lot in the doubles, too, which is helpful. She is very good when she returns, and she can meld it up, from the backcourts, but in order to win some major events, she needs to grow, on the court. She seems like a nice person, so next year, she will be additionally satisfied, in the matches.

TennisReporters.net top 32 men: No. 15-11

Casper Ruud

15 Karen Khachanov
The big Russian started very strong, reaching the semis at the Aussie Open, smashing the ball, and finally losing against Stefanos Tsitsipas. He has a huge forehand, and his first serve is massive, but he isn’t that fast when he is running, and he doesn’t like to come into the net, often. At Miami, he did upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16, which means that he can lock in, at times, but in the semis, the other Russian,  Daniil Medvedev, wore him down. He had a up and down year, winning a few more terrific wins, but in the fall, he did very little. He did win the ATP 1000 Paris, five years ago, so if he wants to do it again, he must slice it more, and attack when he is returning.

14 Grigor Dimitrov
In 2017, the Bulgarian won four events, especially at the ATP Finals in London, beating a variety of players, against David Goffin. He has a tremendous variety, especially with his cool one-handed backhand. He is peach  good at in the net, and his forehand can a lot of spin. However, he is 32- years-old, which is OK, but he has to change something that is new. He knows that, he lost against Alexander Zverev beat him three times in a row, at the end of the summer.  The positive thing is that while he can get dejected, during the matches, but he will continue on, and decide to whither to go. In November, he refreshed, and he reached the final in Paris, indoors. He beat two prime players, with Daniil Medvedev and Tsitsipas. He looked uncanny, but in the final, Djokovic once again banged him. He could win another title,a big one, but he must capital the moment.

13 Tommy Paul
The American improved a lot, this year, as when he started in 2021, he was OK, but his forehand and his backhand wasn’t rugged enough. However, last year and this year, he began to change, with his first serve, when he found the corners, and his return was more efficient. He reached the semis at the Aussie Open, beating Ben Shelton, but then Djokovic pounded him. Each week, he was really trying, being core, but also,  he would forget which way to go. The positive is that he reached the final in Acapulco, beating Taylor Fritz, and the in the semis in Toronto, when he almost shocked against Carlos Alcaraz in the quarters.  Yet after that, he started to miss some cheap shots, and he lost against Shelton twice, especially at the U.S. Open. Paul is more satisfied, but he knows that if he wants to get into the top 5 next year, he has to shove himself closer to the net, and also, to hit it, early. As he said going into at the 2024 Aussie Open: “I’m really excited,” said Paul. “It’s like every person’s dream when they start playing tennis to play the big matches at the Slams.It’s important to me. Since I was young, that’s all we’ve been hearing, since like 14 years old. The coaches have been telling us, ‘We need new Americans. It’s kind of engraved in my head.” Then go do it.

12 Alex de Minaur
The Aussie had some terrific matches, as he plays a lot, taking down against some ultrafine players, but also, he did lost when he tripped it up, when Djokovic bullied him at the Aussie Open. Yet in Acapulco, in March, he won it, beating Holger Rune and Paul. That was a immense jump. He did very little on the clay, but on the grass, his backhand returned, and his forehand was merciless. He reached the final in London/Queen’s, and belief it or not, he beat Rune again. Then in the final, against Carlos Alcaraz, the Spaniard served into the corners, and also, he has more multifariousness. With de Minaur, you don’t really know if he can be so intense, but he did for some weeks in the summer, when he looked fantastic in Los Cabos, and Toronto, reaching both finals, upsetting with Taylor Fritz and Daniil Medvedev.  And then, in the U.S. Open, there,  Medvedev turned the tables and beat the Aussie in four, easy sets. De Minaur is pretty young, and he educated  a lot this year, but in the  fall, he did not do that much. Next year,  he wants to get into the top 5, then he has to clean it up, each month.

11 Casper Ruud
Another 24-year-old had an sole year, as the Norway was ranked No. 3, and in the first three months, he won very few matches. Finally, he started to be much more proper, and thoughtful, when he won Estoril, Portugal. That is not a huge event, but he had to beat anyone, so he did. He was finally satisfied, and to watch him, he can meld it into the corners, or in the middle, eye-full. He reached the final at Roland Garros, and he was much more suitable, beating Rune and Zverev. In the final, he hit some daydreamer shots, and it was somewhat close, but once again, the No. 1 Djokovic  has a better backhand, and returning, too.  After that, he began to bust, and clearly, in the final, his legs must been tired.  He really is a first-rate player, and if you recall it, in 2022, he reached four grand events in Miami, Roland Garros, the U.S. Open, and the ATP Finals. He is right again, so in January, he will be refreshed, and then he has to be a couple new shots, with his athletic first serve, and at the top of the net.

TennisReporters.net top 32 women: No. 20-16

Veronika Kudermetova


20 Caroline Garcia

Last year, the French woman was on fire, beating a number of fine players, leaping on the lines. However, last year, she did not go deep much at all, except in Lyon, in February, and she reached into the final, but she couldn’t make it. In the 2022 WTA Finals, she played amazing, winning the title when she pushed down, grinding verses Aryna Sabalenka. The now 30-year-old Garcia has beaten some excellent players, but also, the reason why is that she has not made into the Grand Slams finals. She does have an interesting strokes, with her forehand and her backhand, but her serve, and at the net, it can fall  off. She will have another shot to finally win a a Slam, but to do it, she will have to be totally locked in. As she said: “I sank on my own. I’m making the effort, but it doesn’t work. I would like to know why, to be able to control it.”

19 Veronika Kudermetova

She had a great tournament in September, winning Toray, beating Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula. She was so consistent, and her backhand was spot-on. Her forehand can flatten it out, and when she returns, when she is playing fantastic, she can go for it.  She plays a lot, and the Russian can mix it up, well, but also, she will throw in some odd errors. Going into to play at Roland Garros, she reached the semis twice, on the clay, in Madrid and Rome. Then in Paris, she folded it, immediately. Next year, in the Slams, she has to be much more patient, and don’t get scared.

18  Daria Kasatkina

The other Russian had a decent year, winning a number of matches, but she did not beat enough players in the top 10. Yes, she can be somewhat fit, and she can also attack when she is feeling solid. She is also rapidly, when she is running, to-and-fro. She had a very good year in 2022, but this year, she almost stopped. In 2024, it is time to move the change.  

17 Belinda Bencic

The Swiss began early, when she started to hit the ball harder, more frequently. She won the Adelaide, Australia, beating three top 10 players. She certainly likes to run, and chuck in some expert shots, with her forehand and her backhand. However, she did not plays well enough at the Aussie Open, when Aryna Sabalenka blitzed, her. When she is very hopeful, she can stay there for a long time.  She is thoughtful, and she will think about it, on the court, but she also can be bleak. Maybe to improve, she should try to play at the doubles, learning more when she serves and at the net.  

16 Liudmila Samsonova

Here is another Russian who had some prime weeks, but also, she has never gone deep at the Slams. She did have a smooth week when she reached the final in Montreal, stunning Sabalenka, Bencic, and Elena Rybakina before she lost against Jessica Pegula . Then in the fall, she reached into the final in Beijing, s clearly, she can be darn good. She can crack the ball, and she can also attack when she jumps on the second serve. She is very good, when she is on, but at the Slams she has never gone uno the second week. Next year, it time to do it.

TennisReporters.net top 32 men: No. 32-26

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

32 Alexander Bublik
You never know how good he is, when he won a couple events, on the clay and the hardcourts, but also, week after week, he could lose, early. He can be very good, when he is locked in, but also, he disappears. He is tall, and he can blast the ball, yet he can over hit it. He has to change it a little bit, to go deep at the Grand Slams and the ATP 1000s. Good luck.

31 Jiri Lehecka
The Czech had a pretty good start in January, reaching the quarters at the Australian Open. However, in March, the 22- year-old lost a lot of matches, especially to go up against the top 15  players. He can be consistent, and he is pretty quick, but to learn how to throw in some more angles.

30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry
He finally cracked into the top 30, and while he wants to go further, the Argentine must have been thrilled. However, outside on the clay, he still has a lot of work to do. This year he did not beat anyone in the top 15, so if he wants  to raise his game, he has to try to mix it up, more, and also, to really push it.

29 Felix Auger-Aliassime
He played so good in the first half of the year, but then, in the summer, he faulted. Perhaps he was hurt, but he threw in some odd shots, so he was confused. He is a terrific player, yet he has to come back and improve with his return and also, at the net.

28 Sebastian Baez
He is pretty young, and the Argentine had some very good matches, on the clay. Certainly, he can grind it, but he still needs to snap  the ball, much deeper. If he can improve his forehand and close in the net, then next year, he might be able to burst into the top 20.

27 Lorenzo Musetti
There are so many young players who are trying to go further. The Italian is only 21-years-old, and he started pretty slow, but in Monte Carlo, he upset Novak Djokovic. That might have been his best, ever. After that, he beat more than a few good players, and he was rallying, for a long time. However, he did go into t he top 15 this year, but in the summer and the fall, he lost a lot of matches. Sure, he can enrich his one handed backhand, and  slice it, lower.    

26 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

The Spaniard its not as good as  the former No. 1 Rafa Nadal, but on the court, he can also hustle, a lot. He has not won a tournament ever, but the tough man did reach  the ATP 1000 in Monte Carlo last year. That was a great week, but in the last four months, he did win enough matches. Next year, he has to play much better, especially with his serve, and if he does, maybe he can upset the excellent competitor.