Tabilo over Djokovic, Hurkacz downs Nadal

In just one day, both of the other great champion, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, were gone, losing somewhat early, in Rome. Alejandro Tabilo played a terrific match, beating Djokovic 6-2, 6-3. The No. 1 put together more than a few errors, and he also didn’t crush the ball, with his amazing backhand and his forehand. He has mentally out of it.

Nadal went down again, as he could not re-find where he needed to do,  when Hubert Hurkacz out-stroked him, winning it 6-1, 6-3. Hurkacz played fantastic, but Nadal was almost awful, very rare, that the Spaniard has won so many titles on the clay, but soon, he will retired. His body is going away, soon.

Neither Tabilo or Hurkacz have won a Grand Slam yet, but when they are on, they can beat almost everyone. Yet they have to continue to prove it, and they know that if they want to win day after day, they have to be super smart, and also, really go for it. Tabilo said, “I came on court just looking around, just trying to soak it all in and trying to process everything. I’m just trying to wake up right now.”

Well wake up, on the court, to all of them. The Chilean has to face against Karen Khachanov, a very tight match.

There is two American men still left, when Taylor Fritz beat another guy,  Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-4.  Fritz  didn’t play great, but good enough, while Korda made some so-so shots, or mediocre shots.  Korda plays almost every week, so maybe he should not play way too much during the year. Maybe he isn’t very happy.

Fritz looks better and better, reaching the semis in Madrid, so he can do it again next week in Rome.  If he does that, his confidence will shine, again, but he has to face against Grigor Dimitrov, who has been playing extremely well in 2024. That should be a long, tough match.

Tommy Paul beat Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-2, and while he has been struggling, here and there, at least he is finally liking on the clay. On the hard courts, he can be darn, good. He will face versus Dominik Koepfer, who is also smart, so just try to fool him.

There will 16 women players on the singles, on Monday, when there should be some marathons.

Naomi Osaka has become better, with her backhand, and when she is 100 percent, on the matches, she can pound anyone. However, she had a child, and she could not play for a while, but now she looks more powerful, both sides. She has to face the No. 7, Zheng Qinwen. That should be fascination, as Osaka is starting to understand on the dirt.

“I just wanted to play smart tennis. I wanted to play the higher-percentage ball no matter what,” Osaka said. “I think in that match, when it got tight, I did overhit maybe one or two shots. I kind of realized that and I tried to get back in the groove of things.  For me, I’m very aware that I can’t beat her defensively, so obviously I have to go for my shots. I don’t want to play flat here either.”

Yes, also with some spin, and low, or  really high. The No. 3 Coco Gauff has to find a way against Paula Badosa, who has lost to her three times. The other American, the No. 13 Danielle Collins, played terrific on the hard courts, but over the years, in the clay, she did not go super deep. Now she has another chance when she has to play against another veteran Irina-Camelia Begu. Win another match, and again, and again.

Rome: Alexander Zverev amazed by Rafa Nadal

Alexander Zverev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Before they start to play in Rome, Alexander Zverev talked with the journalist whether Rafa Nadal will play in Roland Garros, who will likely be the last time in Paris. Nadal has won 14 Grand Slams at Roland Garros. Zverev was playing terrific, but he fell down and he ruined his leg. He had to retire. Nadal won, eventually, and while Zverev is much better now than he returned when he did, but he still isn’t playing 100% on court.

Yet Zverev does have a few memories. When he started, on the tour, he could see that Nadal is phenomenal.

“I have mixed feelings and mixed emotions obviously about that match, about playing him there just simply because it was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever played in my career, but it was the worst ending I’ve ever had to a tennis match in my career,” Zverev said. “ [Nadal] ball becomes all of a sudden a few kilometers an hour faster. All of a sudden his footwork and foot speed becomes a lot faster.  It’s more difficult to hit a winner, especially on Philippe Chatrier, which is a massive court, so he has a lot more space. It is very difficult. It’s the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport, playing Nadal on that court.  I would love to do it one more time just simply to kind of have a different ending to those memories, right? That’s just something in my mind. I would love to play him one more time.”

They might in Rome, or in Paris, in the next four weeks. But we don’t know, yet. Nadal has not yet reached into the semis this year, playing three events, when he returned, and the injured man is still not yet healthy. But he said that he could play 100 percent, but he doesn’t sure, yet. Regardless, Nadal will fight on, and hope that he can go deep in Rome. He will face Zizou Bergs, the Belgian, on center court. People will cheer him, every second.

There are a number people who are still there, the Italian men and the women. Somewhat sadly, the world No. 2 Jannik Sinner pulled out, due to another injury, but Matteo Arnaldi can play on the number one court, and the young man will play against Tomas Machac in front of a lot of fans. He really has to feel on the ball.

Over the past year, Jasmine Paolini has added more game. She might not be very tall, but she can drive the ball, corner to corner. She is 28-years-old, which mean that she is a veteran, but she did won Dubai two months ago, so she has to  thrown in some more, aggressive, shots.

“Usually I want to hit more flat, but my coach says to me always to try to play more topspin because it’s good to have a variation on your game. I think it’s something different because in female tennis you see like more flat shots,” she said. “It’s not easy also because you need maybe a little bit more time. But I try to mix it up a little bit. I think it’s good to change a little bit the variation, the speed of the ball,”

There will be three more matches on Thursday with Emma Navarro against Paula Badosa, Shelby Rogers against the No. 7, Qinwen Zheng, and Amanda Anisimova, who just became back this year against to play with the veteran, Sara Errani. Talk about stroke after stroke, for many hours.

Can Emma Raducanu win consistently?

Emma Raducanu
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It can take a long time to recover on the court, to understand what you need to do, or something, but the former U.S. Open 2021 champion, Emma Raducanu, is getting better now. This week, she is playing Stuttgart,  a very solid area, and Raducanu seems to be more thoughtful, on court and off. Last year, she got hurt in April 2023, and then she could not play during the rest of the reason, as she had to undergo a surgery, on both her hands and her ankle. She did win a couple terrific matches this week, but over the past three and a half months, she has been up and down. However, she can make a decision, and then to decide to go crosscourt, or down the line. She can be  aggressively, or be patient. It is her decision.

Raducanu beat Angie Kerber pretty easily, but there were long rallies, yet she most of it.

“You need to be really careful not to overpress. She makes the court seem really small,” Raducanu said. “ There were moments in that match where I didn’t really know where to hit the ball because I felt like she was covering so much of the court and she was using my pace really well.  I think just not trying to squeeze the lines too much and kind of just playing the shot and almost not trying to hit winners, and accidental winners I feel like are the best way, because I wasn’t trying to blast winners around the court. I was just committing to my strokes and would hit winners by accident sometimes. I feel like that’s the best way to approach it because then you’re not getting stressed out. It’s just a pleasant surprise when it happens.”

She must have been. The 21-year-old is a fine player with her forehand and her backhand, and she is also somewhat quick. Her serve is so-so, and at the net, she is OK, but not fantastic. Maybe she will, someday, but she has to become substantially better, as she has only won one event, and nothing else.

“I think the last weekend I played some great tennis. I’m mentally in a good place,” Raducanu said. “I’m taking a lot of confidence from the training I’m doing. I feel like I can actually, like, lean on that more so now because I’m actually doing the work, whereas last year it was very difficult. I have played a lot of matches and I’m feeling fatigued than being super fresh and losing. It’s funny, because you always want something that you can’t have.  But I am playing some really good tennis.”

She is going to play even better, as she has to face the No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who can take you out immediately. … Also in the quarterfinals, Elena  Rybakina is ready to try to win another title, but while she can look stunning, she can also fold. Or maybe she will not, yet she has to face against the Italian Jasmine Paolini, who has had a terrific season, winning Dubai. She is more aggressive then she did five years ago….Coco Gauff has had a pretty good year, yet as she has said, she can miss some key opportunities. She will go up against Marta Kostyuk , a re-match, as Gauff beat her 7-6, 6-7,6-2 in the third, a marathon. One more time?

With the men, how about the teenager, Arthur Fils, who a big match in Barcelona? It will take him more of a while, but his two coaches, Sergi Bruguera and Sebastien Grosjean, have done it a lot when they went into the big matches, so maybe they can teach him with more various strokes…Rafa Nadal lost there and while he did not play great when he went down, but he just came back, with his frequently injury,  so assuming that he can play 100 percent, then he will be very good again. But that is a huge question, health wise…There are two players who are seeded like Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and they look on top of it. But can they win the event? That is possible, as long as they can be a victim, on the famous clay.

Can Taylor Fritz win Indian Wells again?

Taylor Fritz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

INDIAN WELLS – Four years ago, Taylor Fritz won some important matches, but he also lost quite a few. Now, the American is ranked No. 5, and last year he won this ATP 1000 tournament.

When he was younger, he had been going up and down. Now he is smarter and more thoughtful, and as he said, he finally found a mental approach to play more consistently.

“I think for me what made me a really good player and gave me a lot of success early on when I was 17 or 18 was how aggressive I was and how big I was hitting the ball. I could do that because I was free,” he said. “I’m not supposed to beat these guys, I’m the younger guy. Then all of a sudden I remember thinking this, I had some good wins when I was 18. One year later when I was 19, I barely beat a guy that I was supposed to beat. I thought to myself, wow, if I had this win one year ago, it would have been the best one of my whole life. We’re only a year now in the future and I’m supposed to win that. It’s bad if I don’t win that match. So I just feel like there was a lot of pressure on me, and it just tightened me up. I wasn’t playing my game as much as I guess should have. I got away from playing what made me good.”

Some young players with potential don’t go through usual teenage paths like going to high school and college and have restricted perception. On the court and off, the players gain more time to understand why they are playing tennis and deal with extensive traveling. It could be odd, or upsetting.
 
“Some deal with it better than others. At the age of 17, 18, 19, maybe you’re not the most well-equipped to deal with that stuff. Now it’s different, I’m older and the pressure I feel is just the pressure that I put on myself,” Fritz said. “I don’t care about what other people are saying and what pressure other people may be putting on me to succeed. That’s kind of just a lesson you need to learn.”

The 25-year-old has won five tournaments. Is that enough considering his age and potential? At least he has beaten a number of excellent players in the past year, such as Rafa Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andrey Rublev.

Fritz’s forehand and his backhand have grown more solid, and his return has been much better. He is coming together. 

“I think one of the biggest improvements in my game from two years ago is the return. Before I would only stand up and stand in the same position and try to return,” he said. “I have made some tweaks to where I stand. I can mix up where I stand, as well. I definitely put way more returns in the court than I used to, for sure.”

Always lurking: Taylor Fritz is moving up, again

Taylor Fritz

The ATP 250 Delray Beach has had some incredible matches over the decades

On the Florida hardcourts near the ocean, Taylor Fritz beat Miomir Kecmanovic 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 in the final. There were some wild shotswith some fine variety. Finally Fritz’ forehand and backhand were sailing deep and were more challenging. Yes, the No. 7 still can be up and down week to week. Whenhe is pushing himself, and he can mentally center and beat anyone. Well, most of them.

Kecmanovic lost but he really has improved a lot of the past year and a half. He is fit, his forehand is pretty darn good and his backhand is decent. In order to eventually reach into the top 10, he has mix it up more. Also, his second serve is marginal. The good thing for the 22-year-old is he has reached the top 30. If he can add to some new shots, then he can upset some of the very excellent players.

Daniil Medvedev had an odd year in 2022, playing a few spectacular events. After lost the 2022 Australian Open final in a classic five-setter against Rafa Nadal, Medvedev began to slip. After that, he started to make a lot of errors, which is unusual for him. He could not take down Novak Djokovic at all.

All of a sudden, Medvedev is back into it. He was so solid, with his consistent forehand and his backhand that he hits pretty flat. He managed to win the Rotterdam title, beating Jannik Sinner 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

The Italian Sinner can really pop the ball and can also mix it up. When the Russian Medvedev is locked in and goes for winners, he is again among the four best players in the world.

Even at the 2023 Aussie Open, American Sebastian Korda beat Medvedev, in just three sets. Korda was jumping on the ball while the Russian was so unfulfilled. And then, a month later, he not only beat Sinner, but he also took dwon Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semis. Then, the fans were almost stunned that he could move it all around the box.

Now, he is back into the top 10 at No. 8. Can Medvedev eventually go into No. 1 this season? Perhaps, but he is not ready yet.

Sinner has won six in the 250s, but in the 500s, he won it only one time, back in 2021 at Washington. A couple years ago, when he reached the final in Miami, it looked like that when he continued to rise, all the time. Now 21-year-old serves and returns better. His volleying is even improved. His forehand and backhand are very . Mentally he can be slips, which is his downfall. Sinner will attempt to mature on the court. Hopefully, he can go much further at the ATP 1000s and the Grand Slams. He really has to be totally honest with himself.

Carlos Alcaraz has not played since he became injured at the 2022 ATP Masters 1000 Paris in the beginning of November. He was happy to be back on the court in Buenos Aires. You’ve got to figure it will take a while to be very good again. Then, in the last couple matches, he was pretty darn good, sliding around on the clay. He was quick, and he swung very hard. In the final, he edged Cameron Norrie 6-3, 7-5.

He became No. 1 when he won last year’s US Open along with Miami on hardcourt and also grabbing five tiles on clay. His biggest title was on the dirt in Madrid.

Alcaraz is only 19 years old. Sometimes the Spaniard can forget exactly what he has to do. Yes, if he is healthy, he will win many titles, just like Rafa Nadal has. Alcaraz can follow Nadal’s career who played all the time when he was young. He also knew he had to improve with his backhand, second serve and net game. Then eventually, he did it.

Nadal has won 22 Grand Slams. Can Alcaraz do the same? Who knows, but if he can continue to Still Djokovic is No. 1 right now.

2023 Australian Open favorites

The women

Jessica Pegula
Rick Limpert

With the women, clearly, the favorite is No. 1 Iga Swiatek. But, she has never won in Melbourne. She can be very aggressive on the hardcourts. Last year, Ash Barty won it and then retired. However, one of the Americans, Sofia Kenin, won it in 2020, but then she went straight downhill. Maybe she will get going again but she has to turn thing around quickly, because she has to face Vika Azarenka in the first round. Azarenka won it twice in 2012 and 2013. Now she is playing decently, but she is not great right now. Both of them are super fierce and then they can go for the lines. Sometimes they miss it, the other times they can control play in the backcourt. But, to win it, that would be very surprising.

Three American women should reach the second week or to get into the final: Coco Gauff, Madison Keys, and Danielle Collins. But 18-year-old Gauff, who reached into the final at Roland Garros, would have to beat Świątek in the quarters if they both advance to that round.

Keys is a former US Open finalists and Collins reached that level at the Australian Open. No one won, but at least they played were tough outs all the way to the finals. Maybe something occurred, either they were too nervous, or maybe they were not strategic.

Another veteran, Jessica Pegula, is ranked No. 3, which means that she has been much more assertive with her ground strokes. She won Guadalajara in the fall and that was her best tournament ever. However, she has yet to go deep at the Slams, so this will be a huge challenge for her to show she can dominate in a major.

There are others who can win a Slam for the first time: Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka, Maria Sakkari, Daria Kasatkina, Belinda Bencic and Amanda Anisimova. The big question is: Does anyone here have a real shot?

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The men

To win the Australian Open, you have to be super patient and also mash the ball. Novak Djokovic has won it eight times,and Rafa Nadal grabbed it twice. Serena Williams also won it many times, but she retired last year. Naomi Osaka, took it twice, but now she is not playing because she is pregnant.

There are some people who can win a major for the first time. How about the men? Yes, Djokovic and Nadal, who won it last year, are the favorites,. But, there are more than a few who can win it for the first time like Nick Kyrgios, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Americans Taylor Fritz, Sebastian Korda and Frances Tiafoe.

Here is what is odd: among active men only Djokovic, Nadal and Stan Wawrinka have won Aussie Open in the past 25 years. Repeat: no one managed to grind it and nail the shots. Plus, those three really understand what to do during the matches. Plus, their strokes, serves and returns are fantastic. Medvedev managed to reach the final against Nadal last year. He was so coherent all the time, but in the finalps fifth set, Nadal threw some astonishing shots and he beat him 7-5. The Russian can look so steady, but after that he was mentally down. If he rises again, then perhaps he can be much more solid.

The Aussie Kyrgios is one of the hardest hitter on court. He can slug his forehand, he can clip his first serve and he really likes to be creative during the points. 

There are some who have a real chance to control matches and go deep at the Slams, such as the basher Andrey Rublev, the thoughtful Casper Ruud, the hustling Felix Auger-Aliassime and the Mr. Variety Matteo Berrettini. Now there are three American men who are seeded and can go deep too: Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Sebastian Korda. Fritz won Indian Wells last year, upsetting Nadal. At the ATP Finals, he looked very good, but it will be different at the Slams. Tiafoe reached the 2022 US Open semis and he was spinning around, and he hit some unreal shots. So if he can go into the semis, then perhaps he can take the gloves off. Korda’s dad, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open. So, if Sebastian can lock in early, then without a doubt, he can reach into the second week — or further.

Three players have outside chances to the final at Melbourne, such as Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem. They have all won a Slam — not on the Australian Open — but they have took it on the hardcourt. It is possible that they can win more than a few matches, but to win it all, that would be almost shocking.

ATP Finals: Novak Djokovic is flawless

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Novak Djokovic is climbing. On Wednesday he crushed Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-1. In the second set, the multiple Grand Slam champion played spectacularly, with his super consistent backhand, speed, and deep returns. When Djokovic is on, it is very tough for the best players to upend him.

Rublev can whack his backhand. But, if he can’t figure out his opponent, he collapses.

“He went down in his energy a little in the second and I wanted to use the momentum and energy from my side in the first few games and it was a flawless second set,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic has won four sets in his first two round-robin matches, gaining a path into the semis. Yes, when he is on, he can beat anyone. He is the favorite, ready to win another huge event. , but there are still some very good players who can overtake him.

Stefanos Tsitsipas almost lost against the former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, but he won 6-3 6-7(11) 7-6(1). Medvedev was up 5-4 with a break. But he made a few awful errors, and it was 5-5. After that, he collapsed, while Tsitsipas rose up, with some wonderful shots.

Medvedev won’t advance to the semis, as he lost both matches. He did win at the 2021 US Open, but this year, he has had some bizarre tournaments. Of course he is extremely consistent when he is on. However, over the past 12 months, he has not added his game. Of course he has a fast first serve, and also, his forehand and his backhand are more regular, but he doesn’t come at the net enough. Also, he does not attack on his returns. If he wants to win another Slam next year, or at the ATP 1000s, then when he practices in December, he was to changed it up.

Tsitsipas and Rublev are are 1-1 in the Red Group and will face each other on Friday. The pressure will be huge. Whomever wins will go into the semis, so they will slash each other, toe to toe.

In the Green Group, Rafa Nadal lost both matches in straight sets and won’t advance. Casper Ruud is undefeated and Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime are vying for a slot in the semis.

Wimbledon champions: Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina

Novak Djokovic

The now 21-Grand-Slam champion Novak Djokovic decided to stay the course, even though Nick Kyrgios was serving gigantic in the Wimbledon final. The Aussie won the first set 6-4, and he was super confident, even though this was the first time that he had reached the final at a Grand Slam.

Kyrgios also really likes the slick grass, and he believed that if he could play very well, that he could punch Djokovic, who he had beaten two times.

But hold on. In the second set, the Serb decided that when the rallies began, he would change the direction and trick him. It was close, but he knew that if he served strong, and that he could bust the Australian’s backhand, then he could frustrate him.

He sure did that, and eventually won it 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) .

Kyrgios said: ‘“He’s a bit of a god, I’m not gonna lie,” said Kyrgios. “I thought I played well. … It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for me personally.”

But he lost, so he has to go back to work and work be even harder. He yells a lot on court, as he did repeatedly and annoyingly so on Sunday. While he can attack and he can snap out of his habit, when he loses control, then he throws in too many errors.

In January, the Australian Kyrgios finally realized that he was about to click.

He won the doubles with his good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open, and he realized that when he plays a lot, he can be much more solid.

“I think the doubles in Australia has really helped me at a Grand Slam level,” Kyrgios said. “I felt like just the kind of mundane, you win a match, you have a day off, you practice, you go again over a two-week period. I realized in Melbourne it’s a long time. You can’t explore, you can’t really go to the city here. You can’t enjoy your time as much as you would like to. You kind of have to stay in your house, be reserved, take your mind off things. I think in Melbourne I really realized that.”
 
Before that, he had never reached the semifinals before. It surely helped that 22-time-Grand-Slam champion Rafa Nadal pulled out with an abdominal tear, giving Kyrgios a walkover in the final.

Regardless, Kyrgios beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Brandon Nakashima and Cristian Garin. In some matches the 27-year-old can be subdued.
 
“I just feel like I’m more mature. I think earlier in my career if I made a third, fourth or quarterfinals, I’d be on my phone a lot, I would be engaging online a lot, would be keen to go out to dinner and explore or just do things,” said Kyrgios. “I think everyone has the same goal in my team. That’s why it’s working. We all know what we’ve come here to do.”

He was close, but the the 35-year-old Djokovic is older and more mature, too. Now, going in the next two months, can Mr. Novak continue to win a lot. If he can play the US Open (the US currently bans incoming travelers who don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine – Djokovic does not), then he might get lucky and not have to face two of the tour’s best players, Alexander Zverev and Nadal, who are injured. Regardless, Djokovic will fight, during the last breath.

Rybakina’s big game take trophy
If you look at the entire year, Elena Rybakina was struggling on the court. She had some good wins, but not great ones. However, at Wimbledon, she began to push up the mountain. Over the past couple years, she would win a terrific match and then in the few days later, she would be erratic. In London, she was finally in the zone. She knocked off Zheng Qinwen, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and in the final on Saturday, she out-hit Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Rybakina has a big first serve, a vicious return, and she can strike bigtime with her forehand and her backhands. She finally boomed.
“The last three years I think I’m top 20,” Rybakina said. “And I had very good matches, great battles, against great champions, and it was always close. In those close moments I was the one who will lose the serve or just miss. Maybe it mentally clicked (this time). I believed in myself more in this tournament and in the crucial moments I was just solid enough to win.”

And how.

TennisReporters’ Wimbledon predictions

TennisReporters.net’ co-owners Matt Cronin and Ron Cioffi go on the record with their Wimbledon picks. Each one give their thoughts on which players are going into the second week and the semifinals.

Here are the 10 men and 10 women, who want to happily shake hands in the final.

Rafa Nadal
Mal Taam/MALT photo

THE MEN

Rafa Nadal
Once again, Nadal continues to battle and work on new strokes. He won Roland Garros, with an amazing show, along with the Australian Open. He has a shot at the calendar year Grand Slam. That’s a big ask for a player of his age. Nadal gets hurt a lot, but when he manages to go on court, he figures it out. He is just fine at Wimbledon, and if he is healthy, he can win it and have 23 Grand Slam majors. That would be something else.

Novak Djokovic
Over the past couple months, the Serb finally began to play much better, banking on his super confidence. His backhand is phenomenal, his returns is terrific, and his first serve is so patient. However, he is not perfect. If he looks very good in the second week, he can push it into the final. And then he has a very good shot at his 21st Slam.
 
Matteo Berrettini
The Italian can go very deep once again. Last year, he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz reading the final, before Djokovic beat him. He just won two tournaments this month, so he is ready to finally win a Slam. He likes to go down really low to hit his shot, and he also can jump up for some huge shots. He is right there, but can he really rise to the Slam challenge?

Carlos Alcaraz
The young Spaniard has had a wild, wonderful year. When the 19-year-old is feeling very good, he can leap around the court and paint the lines. He can be a little bit erratic, but he tends to go for it, anyway. He really likes the clay, but this is on the grass. So next week, he must change it up ASAP and get a clear understanding on how to preserve at Wimbledon.

Andy Murray
We all know that the three-time Grand Slam champion almost retired due to a massive injury, but he did return, and it appears that he is playing better now. The 35-year-old is unseeded. But, he knows almost everything to do to succeed on court. Now he is a little bit slower than when he won his majors. In order to reach the second week, he has to go for it early. If he cracks a bunch of winners, then the fans might think that he can win it at SW19. That would be a blast.


-MC


Stefanos Tsitsipas
The big Greek has a big game and a long fluid backhand. He is in the top tier of the best young players who haven’t grabbed a major, along with Alexander Zverev (who is injured), Berrettini, Andrey Rublev (the Russian is banned) and Felix Auger-Aliassime. It’s easy to say that it’s just a matter of time (and the retirement of the Big Three) for them to win a Slam. But, Tsitsipas has a better chance among these players because of his variety and ability to blast first serves. But, he may have to power through the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios in the third round.

Felix Auger-Aliassime
The Canadian has had a consistent assentation to No. 9. At 21, he still has a lot of time to improve. In 2022 he won Rotterdam over Tsitsipas and reached the Marseille final. But, there are too many events where he stalled in the quarterfinals. That has allowed him to rise to a career-high without having any notable momentum going into Wimbledon.

Casper Ruud
A run to the Roland Garros final was the high point of the Norwegian’s career, propelling him to No. 5 and the third seed at Wimbledon. But, he played only one match on grass and lost to No. 180 Ryan Peniston. Ruud has the big game to make a real run into the second week, especially that the only other seed in his first three matches is Sebastian Baez.

Hubert Hurkacz
Hurkacz is on fire. He took down Daniil Medvedev, Kyrgios, Auger-Aliassime and Ugo Humbert to win Halle. That gives the seventh-seed a head start on grass compared to others. His first-round contest is against the dangerous Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. He could face American Tommy Paul in the third round. Others in the bracket are has-beens Fernando Verdasco, Adrian Mannarino and Jiri Vesely.

Taylor Fritz
Fritz is seeded eleventh. That is fortunate as he has only reached one third-round match on the lawns ofWimbledon. It also doesn’t help that he is 0-2 on the grass in the two lead-up tournaments this year. His one claim to 2022 fame is downing Nadal at Indian Wells. So, why will Fritz go deep? He has the game to dominate on the grass. And, it just may be the right time for figure it out, if he can get by his possible third-round opponent: upstart Holger Rune of Denmark.

-RC

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo


THE WOMEN

Iga Swiatek
She won Roland Garros, again, and the No. 1 hasn’t lost a match since early February. During each point, she goes for a winner quickly with her forehand and backhand, too. Obviously, she was a serious favorite on the clay, last year at Wimbledon, she lost in the fourth round. She certainly has been so much smarter now, and if that is the case, then she will continue to be brilliant.

Ons Jabeur
She has had a solid year, and gradually she has become more aggressive and better with her shot selection. On two clay court tournaments, she won in Madrid and reached the final in Rome. She just won Berlin on grass. However, she has yet to make much of an impact at Wimbledon. If she wants to achieve big-time success at Wimbledon, she has to bring a better game in the third set.

Maria Sakkari
No. 5 Greek Sakkari did have a very good last year, and this season, she did manage to reach the finals at Indian Wells. However, in the last three months, the fast hitter lost early at Roland Garros. She always loves to battle, and she rarely collapses. There is a good change that, if she reaches the final, she leap into heaven with the trophy?

Coco Gauff
She reached the final at RG. That was surprising, given that she is still very young. On the hard courts, she knows the right way to grind it, to take more time and to construct where to go. She is becoming better each months. While the grass can be odd, she will figure it out where to go.

Jelena Ostapenko
A few years ago, she won Roland Garros, crushing the ball. But, after that, she became so erratic. She is slower now, and she has not changed a few critical flaws. But now she is here again ready to crush her shots deep into the court. If she really wants to win a major again, she needs to find the motivation to hustle, really hustle.

-MC



Simona Halep
Remember 2019? Halep delivered a masterpiece with a crushing 6-2, 6-2 beatdown of Serena Williams. Sad to say she hasn’t played at Wimbledon since. As Halep has fought through injuries and questionable confidence, she still has the foot speed and consistency to battle all the top players. Getting into her way into the second week is Katrina Muchova in the first round and a possible clash with the resurgent Camila Giorgi in the third.

Petra Kvitova
I took a wild stab at predictions at the beginning of 2022 and said Kvitova would win another Slam. Which, obviously, has got to be on the fast grass of Wimbledon, where she prevailed in 2011 and 2014. She has the weapons and wide lefty serve to frustrate all comers, which showed in her straight-set defeat of Ostapenko in the Eastbourne final. She could face the fourth-seed Paula Badosa in the third round, which would be a challenge.

Karolina Pliskova
How can we do a Grand Slam prediction sheet without mentioning Pliskova. The “always a bridesmaid” label continues to stick. She can’t get deep without a possible meeting with Serena Williams. One of her two major finals was a year ago at Wimbledon. This year hasn’t been her best and she only advanced to the Roland Garros second round and lost to Gauff on grass in Berlin. She can get to the semis but holding the trophy might still elude her.

Paula Badosa
At the age of 24, Badosa doesn’t have much history at Wimbledon. She has only played twice and reached the fourth round last year. But, the Spaniard has the tools to bedevil most of the field, which is why she has risen to No. 4. She hasn’t played since Roland Garros, where she retired with a right calf injury. The lack of matches on grass could slow down her path to the second week. Still, she has the game to advance.

Serena Williams
What do you say about Serena? She still is a mighty force in women’s tennis. But, she has only played two doubles matches since her retirement in singles at 2021 Wimbledon. She is considered a threat to win her record-tying 24th Slam. But, she arrived in England out of shape. She will make all of her opponents worry. But, she could face Pliskova in the third round. So, we mention Serena in our top group but really have no idea how far she can go.

-RC

Matteo Berrettini: Will he take a big leap forward at Wimbledon?

Matteo Berrittini
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Italian Matteo Berrettini can really go very deep at Wimbledon next week. There are some notable players, like Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, but the quick-footed Berrettini really likes to smash the ball on the grass.

Last year at Wimbledon he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarters and then he defeated Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals. In the final, Djokovic was super steady and he beat Berrettini in four sets.

However, the dogged Italian likes to go down really low, and he also can jump with some huge shots. He just returned to playing after wrist surgery this year, that sidelined him for three months.

Last week, he won Stuttgart, beating the three-time Grand Slam Andy Murray in three sets. And then, exactly one year ago Berrettini won Queen’s, beating Cameron Norrie in the final.

But he can be irritable on court.

“Sometimes in order to flip the match around or the energy level and your mindset, you have to scream. You have to do something that gets into your body, into your mental mindset in that moment,” Berrettini said. “I don’t feel comfortable throwing rackets or throwing balls, it’s not something I like to do. But sometimes screaming at yourself helps.”

Now he is ranked No. 11, and the 26-year-old is an inferno, finding the lines and corking it up.

“There are so many emotions,” Berrettini said. “The last thing I expected was to come back from surgery and win two titles in a row, defend my title here at one of the most prestigious tournaments we have. I don’t want to cry. Most of the job is thanks to my team and my family. I just can’t believe it.”

He has won seven titles, which is pretty good, but it was a bit odd that he has yet to win a hard court event. However, at the 2022 Australian Open, he reached into the semis, when he pushed back Gael Monfils in five sets. But, Nadal hit him into the wall. The 6’5” guy still has to improve before next week, because the Slam winners are ready to win another title. It is up to Berrettini to leap forward.

NOTES
Murray has improved the year in the singles, but in the three-out-of-five, he might not be able to go in the distance. He has won Wimbledon two times, but we all know that he almost retired due to his injuries. He has always been a grinder, but he needs to shorten the points. If he does not, he has no chance to win it again …

Ig Reilly Opelka is hurt, then maybe he eil pull out of Wimbledon. In April, he won Houston, when the tall man was playing super ball. But after that, he has gone two wins and seven losses. Is it mental, or something else? …

In Eastbourne, there are a number of the American players. There were three wins today by Brandon Nakashima, Tommy Paul and Maxime Cressy. Ousted were Opelka, Sebastian Korda (who just pulled out at Wimbledon), Frances Tiafoe and Jenson Brooksby. Tiafoe will be seeded at the Big W. But, he has lost many matches this year. He has to go to the net more on the slick grass …

The two top men cannot play at Wimbledon: the No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. (Wimbledon banned Russians and Belarussian players due to the war.), and Alexander Zverev (who is injured). Other than Djokovic and Nadal, there are a few very good players who can rush into the second week.

Here are 10 more: Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Carlos Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime, Hurkacz, Berrettini, Cameron Norrie, Jannik Sinner , Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex De Minaur and Nick Kyrgios. But of you want another one, throw in John Isner. Yes, he is aging, but his first serve is still called “Mr. Ace.”