Can Nadal win Madrid for the last time?

Rafael "Rafa" Nadal

Will Rafa Nadal actually play at Roland Garros, given that over the past couple years, his body is breaking down? Is he finally healthy again, or will start to go down, ASAP? He doesn’t know, but however, he will try, day after day, and then, in a month, if he be confidence again, then he will charge on the wild clay? No one, really knows.

At Madrid, Nadal beat Alex de Minaur  7-6, 6-3 , which is somewhat surprising, as last week in Barcelo,  the Aussie beat him in straight sets. Now though, Nadal’s  huge forehand is coming back.

“I think last few days my body feelings improved a little bit, but not sure yet,” said Nadal about Roland Garros. “I understand for you sometimes it’s difficult  to understand some things, but for me, Roland Garros is the most important tournament of my tennis career, no, and all the things that I lived there, enjoyed there, stays in my heart forever.  So is not a thing about losing or winning. It’s about going on court there with the feeling that I can fight and I can be competitive, let’s go on court and dream about what can happen, no?  So if I am not able to go on court and dream about even if it’s the minimum percentage, for me don’t make sense to go on court, no? I prefer to stay with all the amazing memories that I have.

“I want to be there, and even losing, but go on court with the chance to dream about something important, if that happens, I gonna be on court. If I am not allowed to make that happen, even if it’s a super, super small percentage, I probably will not go on court. That’s the feeling, and it’s best-of-five, so it’s a different story.”

He is so right, especially playing with the best-of-five, rather than the best-of-three. That is a dramatic difference. Nadal has won 14 titles in Paris, the most ever. He is the so-called “king of the clay.” He was so consistent, with his massive forehand, his incredible return, his speed, with his gigantic  legs.

But Nadal is aging, and he cannot stop it. However, if he can continue to play well in Madrid, and maybe in Rome, then he will have enough time to recover. After that, at Roland Garros, he will be very intense.

Who would have known that Thiago Monteiro upset  Stefanos Tsitsipas  two days ago. He has never gone deep at the big events, but now the 29-year-old is playing wonderful. The Brazilian believes that he can grab it, when he is playing tremendous. Good luck with him.

“I knew I had a big challenge ahead against a top player, but I was feeling good. I was just trying to enjoy also, and I just believed that I could create opportunities and believed in my game that I was back to feeling good again,” Monteiro said. “So today it worked really well, and it give me,  big confidence to know that in a good day I can play, in high level against these big guys.”
 
Win or lose this week, even though Ons Jabeur has been up and down this year, but she does lover to really mix it up, and chuck in some fantastic drop shots. Maybe Jabeur will start to win again, but the No. 9 had not played very well since last September. That is a long time. She said that she doesn’t have to know what to do on the court, but to understand how to react. She will have to be more patient.

“I just was going, like, with the flow and seeing how the game was focusing a lot on myself lately.  I feel like I want to get back the creativity and the intuition part that I play really well with,” Jabeur said. “I know I’m intuitive person, so the more I let myself play more freely, the better I play. Obviously it’s very important to have tactics, but I feel like sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on me. If I want to go do a dropshot on a return, I will do it. I don’t want to regret it after or having someone, like, Why did you do that? Wrong choice. Yes, it’s my choice.”
 
She has to face against Jelena Ostapenko, a very aggrieve person. On clay though, there should be some long, physical rallies.

The No. 1 Iga Swiatek lost in Stuttgart, losing against the terrific player, Elena Rybakina, but she won Indian Wells, and plus, she has won four Grand Slams. But first, she has be more clear, when she is playing. She still has to adjust to it.

“You need to kind of switch your mindset sometimes during the rallies or make different decisions.  So, yeah, you need time, for sure,” she said. “Everybody needs it, I think. But also, the most important thing is not to treat clay the same way everywhere, because honestly in Stuttgart it’s different. Here it’s much, much different than Rome and Paris. Rome is the slowest. You go from the fastest in Madrid to,  the slowest in Rome and then to kind of average in Paris.”

The Americans are trying to win a huge another event,  when Sebastian Korda has to face against Daniil Medvedev. He is going to grind it, all day…This should be a fine match, when Danielle Collins has to play versus the No. 2,  Aryna Sabalenka. Collins has yet to beat her, so she has to change it up, and be more careful. Something extra.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic wins and wins

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic can win  so many tournaments next year. He is older, for sure, as he is 36-years-old, but in 2023, he beat everyone, especially in the fall. The young players have improved a good amount, and yes, they can upset the Serbian, but they have to jump on him, early. Or Djokovic can be patient, and really chance it up.

In the ATP Finals last week, he beat Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, in the semis and in the final, and he didn’t lose a set. He was essentially perfect.

As his coach, Goran Ivanisevic said:  “I think Carlos didn’t play his best tennis. Still you need to beat him,” he said. “Nole lift his game. He came ready. He knew how to play unbelievable matches this year.  Carlos already won two Grand Slams and he’s future of tennis. Jannik really step up this year. He showed the world and himself that he’s ready next year to win Grand Slams, and he’s not afraid of anybody.

I think they going to both of them practice hard. The season is over. I think next year’s going to be very, very competitive and interesting year.”

Yes, during the year, he lost some so-so matches, and he lost. But Djokovic kept  moving forward, striding, and still learning. He has now won 98 singels titles, which is phenomenal, not only when he has won 23 Grand Slams, but he has won many various events, in Asia, Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, ext.  The huge hitter has also won in the hardcourts, on the clay, in the grass, outside and inside. But he is smarter on court, and perhaps, off the court.  

“I knew as soon as [Novak] got into the semifinal, he’s going to win the tournament. The mentality changed,” the Croatian Ivanisevic said.  “The new Novak Djokovic arrived on the court from Saturday. When real Novak Djokovic arrives on the court, then the moment is nobody that can play with him.”

When he won the Australian Open for the first time in 2008, Djokovic ran so fast, and he was super steady, but while his backhand was absurd, his forehand, his return and at the net needed to enrich. However, even though he had some difficult seasons, he still drove himself, and he added with different strokes.

 “It’s very tough to improve with him (smiling). But he wants to improve,” the one-time 2001 Wimbledon champion. Ivanisevic said. “ That’s the good thing and bad thing for me as a coach and the rest of the team. He improved a lot his volleys, his game at the net, and his position at the net. Now when he comes to the net – okay, today  he missed some easy volleys [against [Sinner]  – but generally this week and this year he plays some amazing volleys.  His position at the net is a lot better. Is very tough to pass him. Before he was very easy to pass. Now he knows what he’s doing at the net. He’s comfortable at the net. Final of U.S. Open he played two, three most important volleys in the final against [beating Daniil Medvedev]. He’s not afraid to come to the net. He’s hitting the forehands much, much harder. He’s going for the shots. Serving, second serve, sometimes he’s hitting over 200. He’s just going for it.”

Yes he did, and he still wants to be perfect, at the net. In January, Djokovic can win another Australian Open. Clearly he will be the favorite. But eventually,  the older you get, it is hard to sprint very fast. However, in 2024, he could do it again. He will make a huge effort.

Will anyone win a Slam next year? Maybe. Clearly, Alcaraz is very young and he is improving, so he could win one Slam, or two. You can throw in with Sinner, who had a terrific fall, but he has yet to win Slam, so in December, he must be thinking about how to return, deeper, and also, at the tough, nets.
 The American men had a solid year, overall, but no one reached into the final at the Slams. OK, maybe next year. Five of them are in the top 25 with Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul,  Frances Tiafoe , Ben Shelton  and Sebastian Korda. They are still pretty young, so they could rise, higher, but to beat Djokovic, or the rest of the top eight players, they will have to be much  deeper, about exactly what to do. Please.

Grigor Dimitrov over Andrey Rublev in Shanghai semifinal

Grigor Dimitrov

Ten years ago in Brisbane, Australia, Grigor Dimitrov won the tournament, and he said that soon, not only can he beat anyone, but he can win a Grand Slam. He hasn’t yet, but the 32-year-old still has a chance, a small one, but something.

In Shanghai, he has reached into the semis, after beating Carlos Alcaraz  and Nicolas Jarry with some powerful strokes.

In 2017,  Dimitrov was locked in, at times, and he won Cincinnati 1000, as well as the ATP Finals in London. His confidence is rising, at least this week.

“I don’t think I did anything crazy in those moments, I just kept on believing in my game, kept going after my shots. I was trying to apply pressure with the hope that [Jarry]  might make a few mistakes, and he did,” Dimitrov said.

However, the Bulgarian will face against Andrey Rublev on Saturday. He could win, and he travels a lot, country to country, yet when he is on, he can move it around, all over the place, but also, his return is so-so. Plus his one harder with his backhand can be terrific, but Dimitrov will miss it, and to short. But he really likes to talk, off-court, which is good.

“[Beating Alcaraz] helps confidence-wise, but also it was just another match, if you think about it,” said Dimitrov. “I didn’t have much time to overthink it, I just had a little bit of a chat with the team and tried to see what I did pretty good, what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do better in the next round.  We didn’t have much time to think about that but of course I take all the positives out of it because you need to feed off this every single round.”  

If he beats Rublev and he reaches the final in the ATP 1000, it will be six years since his last final appearance at that level. That is a very long time.

Dimitrov over Rublev
Rublev looks terrific when he is playing very well, with his potent forehand and his backhand, But he can also blow it. However, in April on the clay, he won Monte-Carlo. Yes, just like everyone, he wants to win a Grand Slam, but how about this, win another at the ATP 1000, and then most people would think that in 2024, he can win a major. Dimitrov will grab it 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 over Rublev.

That was an incredible match when Seb Korda beat the other American Ben Shelton 6-7(10), 6-2, 7-6(6) to reach the semis. In the breaker, in the third set, it was a toss-up, but he hit some solid, deep, shots, and he won it. The two young players will face each other for a longish  time. Or not, as it depends who will go deep a lot. Sort of like Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal.

Korda will play versus Hubert Hurkacz, who has had a solid year, especially on the hard courts. At the Australian Open, in the fourth round, he lost against Korda 7-6(6) in the fifth set. What a crazy game. Now they will play each other again, on Saturday, and without a doubt, Hurkacz will hit so many aces. He can crack the ball, but the tall Polish person is is not running that fast. But two and a half years ago, he won Miami, and he did everything. However, in Shanghai, China, he will over-hit, and Korda will win it 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5.

Sebastian Korda upsets Daniil Medvedev, Shelton over Sinner

Sebastian Korda
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

At some point, each month, one of the players will climb, in front of you, and he be super consistent. How about  Sebastian Korda, who upset Daniil Medvedev 7-6(8) 6-2. Then he beat Francisco Cerundolo 7-5, 7-6 (6).

He has been so close over the last few years, but he has yet to reach into the top 20. He can be steady, and he smashes his forehand, but also, Korda can trip up. But in Shanghai,  when he beat the No. 3  Medvedev, it was the first time that he beat a top fiver. That was really important.


“I think one of the things that maybe disrupts him is  just being an aggressive player, going to the net,  slicing the ball, bringing him in. I think I do that really well, and I think it gives him a little bit of trouble,” Korda said.

He has not gone very deep at the ATP 1000s, but now it is time to do it. Not to win, but perhaps into the semis or the final, but he has to identify it.

Speaking of Ben Shelton, who reached in the semis at the US Open, he is rolling again. On Tuesday, he beat the Italian Jannik Sinner 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), who just won Beijing, China. He was playing so much better now, after he won at Toronto, just before at the U.S. Open, and after he lost against Alexander Zverev, he re-set, and in China, last week, believe it or not, he beat Medvedev in the final. He is now ranked No. 4, and finally, on the court, he can mix it up, a lot. He is maturing, and more thoughtful, when he is returning.  Against the young, strong man Shelton, he was pretty patient, but the American grabbed it in the tiebreaker, hitting some wonderful strokes. Each month, he is thinking more, on the court. Believe it or not, he will face against Korda on Thursday. That will be very close, again. It is a toss-up, but Korda will snag it 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the third set.

 Frances Tiafoe lost again, and he may not reach into the top 8 at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. He is ranked No. 14, so to have any chance, he will have to go super deep in Paris, coming up. He has had an odd season, this year… Since he reached into the final at Roland Garros, then Casper Ruud fell down fast, but now it looks like he is trying to play well again. He really has to, but he lost against,losing against Fabian Marozsan 6-4 in the third set.

The American No. 12 Tommy Paul beats the 19-year-old Arthur Fils 6-4 in the third set. Paul has had the best year, ever, and he has a chance to reach into the ATP Finals,  but he has to go unlimited in Shanghai,  Paris and another couple of events.  Here he has to go against Andrey Rublev, who is a very tough player. He will  where him down in the third set. He will upset  Rublev 5-7, 7-6, 7-6…

J.J. Wolf is back, and he is healthy, again. He beat  Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 in the third, also a young player from  France. On court, Wolf  can really be angry, but he is very intense. However, he has to face against another Frenchman, Ugo Humbert. The No. 34  will trip Wolf in two, muscular sets.

Coco Gauff: ‘A weight lifted and I’m able to play more freer’

Coco Gauff

Will Coco Gauff  win match after match, as the American is so much better than she used to be. The 19-year-old might lose in China, but she did beat Veronika Kudermetova  7-6, 6-2, and the Russian was playing terrific, but in the second set, she looked tired. However, the American has improved her forehand, a lot, and she also has begun her return, much harder. The 2023 U.S. Open champion is smarter, when she is playing. She is rising, fast.

“I do think I feel more confident. I think having that win makes you more confident in these moments,” she said. “Especially the way the US Open went for me, a lot of three-set matches, a lot of tough moments.  I think it’s way more pressure in the Grand Slam than a 1000, even though there’s still pressure, but it’s just less. I’m able to handle these emotions more because of that experience.  Honestly, I do feel more confident stepping on court. Plus the way I kind of started on the scene, a lot of people wanted that for me and expected that from me. I feel like now it’s a little bit of a weight lifted and I’m able to play more freer, focus on the long-term and how to be able to set myself up to win even more.”

The No. 3 Gauff just beat Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-2, another very good player, which means that she is so steady. She is terrific at the net, and she is very fast, running. She hasn’t lost since Montreal, so if she can beat the former No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the semis in Beijing, China, then she will continue to be on the blaze.

How about Swiatek, who when she plays, and she is shut in, she can beat anyone, on the clay and the hardcourts.  She did win Poland, in July, but after that she did not win a title, losing against Gauff in Cincinnati. She has beaten her four times, yet Gauff out-hit her at the end. Both her forehand and her backhand are so strong, and her return is very aggressive, but the No. 2 can forget what she is thinking about herself. However, off court, she is more calm.

“I just kind of played what I felt I needed to and what I felt was right at the moment. Yeah, well, for sure the confidence level got higher when I just saw that I’m in control,” she said.

The Italian Jannik Sinner  won Beijing,China, beating the two Grand Slam players with Carlos Alcaraz  and Daniil Medvedev. Not many people can do that, but Sinner continues to remedy all around. The 22-year-old has lost to the very good players, which were close, but he couldn’t decide how to process. At the U.S. Open, he played against  Alexander Zverev in the fourth round, and he was pretty close, but in the fifth set, he over hit it. However, he was not  to sad, as last month, he won Toronto, the ATP 1000. He was ready to rumble, once again.

“I’m more proud about how I improved the level this year, mentally especially. I felt like or I feel that I’m much stronger,” he said. “Also physically I know that I have to work a lot, so this is an aspect where we are going to push a lot in end of the year, especially for the next year then.  But I felt like I was playing really consistent tennis throughout the whole year.”

NOTES
The WTA Finals is now set with Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek, Gauff, Elena Rybakina, Jessica Pegula,  Marketa Vondrousova, Ons Jabeur and Karolina Muchova. They will play in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of October.

In Shanghai, the ATP 1000, the odd Alexander Zverev lost against Roman Safiullin, who is playing well, but the German looks TIRED. Take a week off and recover…Three of the men won including Ben Shelton, Sebastian Korda and Christopher Eubanks. Will they stay during the weekend?

Sofia Kenin is locked in, again

Sofia Kenin

Sofia Kenin is finally back, and she is playing substantially better, although she still has more work, during in the matches.

She almost beat the fine Czech player Barbora Krejcikova in the final at San Diego, but she did give up a few important errors. However, currently she is in Guadalajara, Mexico, and she has won twice, so she must be locked in. After she won the 2020 Australian Open, she began to slip, month after month, and eventually she was out of the top 100, losing all the time. She was frozen, and she swung way outside, almost into the fence. Yet currently, she is much more patient, not only can she crush the ball with her forehand, her backhand and first serve but will throw in an impressive drop shot.

On Monday, she will crack the top 50, or even higher, and then she could be much more consistent, and improve her return. But the 24-year-old can be fragile. She has to figure out how reshape her game.

Krejcikova had an excellent tournament and now she is ranked No. 10, again. She won 2021 Roland Garros. Can Krejcikova could grab another huge title? She can be balanced.

How about this? According  with CasinoAlpha, Coco Gauff “gained 195,480 Instagram followers and 110,200 followers on TikTok following her US Open finals win.” That is a huge amount

At the Davis Cup last week, the United States could not advanced, which was surprising. They lost against  Finland,  3-0, when Otto Virtanenbeat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(7), then  Emil Ruusuvuori beat Tommy Paul (USA) 7-6(1) 6-4, and Harri Heliovaara/Patrick Kaukovalta took down Austin Krajicek/Rajeev Ram (USA) 6-7(6) 7-6(5) [10-8]. How that happened, we have no idea. Yes, Finland is very good, but for the Americans, maybe it was just traveling right after the US Open. Maybe.

The now No. 1 Novak Djokovic has just pulled out of  Shanghai. It is hard to tell when he will play again — outside of the Laver Cup — maybe in Vienna or Basel? He will decide, one way or another. … American Sebastian Korda is in the tournament, called Huafa Properties Zhuhai, in China.

Korda said this about the No. 19 Ben Shelton, who reached the semis at the US Open against Djokovic: “I think Ben did a great job at the US Open. He just really showed the world what he’s capable of and what he can do in the near future. And he’s got a great game. (He is) powerful, entertaining (and he) loves to kind of interact with fans. I think it’s awesome. It definitely pushes all of us to do better. And obviously, it shows the way, that it is possible for someone like him, or of any age, to be out there performing like him.”

Taylor Fritz in Atlanta: ‘He needs to be stronger, more explosive’

Taylor Fritz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The American men are now playing the hellacious hard courts. The grass is finally finished, and while there are some other players who went back again on the clay, for the next three weeks, but many other people want to grab and go in the United States.

None of the guys have won Toronto or Montreal, or Cincinnati, or the U.S. Open. Yes, they have won some of the ATP 250s in the summer, but they could not win the ATP 1000s. Well good luck, once again.

Here they are, ready to hop again, such as Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda, the top 30 players. Fritz is playing in Atlanta this week, but they other players decided not to. However, the rising Christopher Eubanks is there, as he is ranked in the top 31. That is really good, considering that last year, he was out of the top 100. He has improved a lot.

Since Fritz reached the semis in Monte Carlo in early April, he lost against  Andrey Rublev on clay, and he didn’t win hardly at all after that. On the tough grass, at Wimbledon, he lost in the second round, darn  early. But while he was struggling, he knew that he needed to really train, very hard. His fine coach, Michael Russell, also played on the tour for many years. There were some tough moments, but he just kept going, and he added some new shots. Really, as Russell said, each week, you can be intense and drive, again. Here is what he said on ATPTour.com: “We’re looking to have a good hard-court season coming up. He trained really hard after Wimbledon, and I think that’s given him a lot of motivation,” Russell said.

“On the grass the margins are so fine; a few of the matches he lost were so close. It can come down to a couple of tie-breaks and a couple of shots. But in general, I feel that he’s been playing well and his fitness is getting better, which is the main thing. He needs to be stronger, more explosive.”

At least Fritz won the 2022 Indian Wells, an ATP Masters 1000, but again, in 2023 in the summer, he didn’t win enough with some key matches. At the U.S. Open, another American in the first round, against the new, young  player, Brandon Holt. One was happy, and the other was sad.

Fritz will face against Wu Yibing on Thursday. Also, in Atlanta, J.J. Wolf will face against Maxime Cressy. That could be a very close match, a wild, three-set encounter.

The picks at Wimbledon: Wednesday, July 5

Sebastian Korda
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Barbora Krejcikova over Heather Watson

Over the past 13 years, the Britain has put together some nice wins. Watson can really hustle, and she can also play hour after hour, but the reason why is she has yet to reach the top 35. Maybe  because her heavy strokes isn’t hard enough.

Krejcikova looks pretty darn good, and while she can play up and down, when she is concerning, she can pulp the ball. She is awesome at the net, and she can also return, pretty deep. However, from the backcourt, she can hit it too short. In a sense, though, she is pretty confident, when she won 2021 Roland Garros.

Yes, that is on clay, but on the grass, Krejcikova will be slightly confident, and she will win it in two secure sets.

Donna Vekic over Shuai Zhang
The Chinese Zhang has lost eight matches in a row, which is surprising, given that last year, she beat some very good players, but she is slipping, big time.

Vekic plays a lot, week after week, and this year, she moved forward. She can miss some odd-shots, but she can also roar with her backhand. She looked very good in Berlin, so perhaps at the Slams, she will continue to rise. At least in the first round, she will win it in two easy sets.

Sebastian Korda over Jiri Vesely

It seems like Korda is playing much better than he did it three months ago, as he was hurt, so he had to stop. However, at Queen’s, he finally looked very good, reaching the semis. He can be strong, and nail his forehand and his backhand. He is not perfect, yet, but he is getting better, year after year. The older Czech Vesely has had some terrific matches, but he is aging, and while the 6-foot-6 player has hit a number of aces, but in the backcourt, he can fall down. Korda will win it in four hard sets.

Matt’s yesterday picks

Correct: Andy Murray over Ryan Peniston

Matt’s picks from Wimbledon

1 out of 1, 100% correct

Novak Djokovic: the Wimbledon favorite

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Wimbledon starts, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will be the favorites, but it is possible that the American men Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda can go deep into the second week.
 
The former champ John McEnroe said, “I think Taylor is a confident kid. He’s worked really hard on his movement and fitness, which is the reason to me he’s in the top 10,” McEnroe said. “He hits a great ball. I don’t think he’s actually that comfortable on grass. I think Tiafoe is a better volleyer and more skilled at net, athletically better. That would help him on the grass. Taylor hits a better ball and is a bigger guy. His serve is probably a little bit more dependable.”

Neither of them have reached very far at Wimbledon, although they are pretty young. They have to be more consistent and attack pretty early. In order to win point after point, they can construct their strokes. And, of course, they have to be totally locked in, all the time.

“Both of them would be in the quarters of Alcaraz or Djokovic, which would make it more difficult. I think at this time those two and maybe [Sebastian] Korda are the guys. Tommy Paul looks like he’s fallen off at the moment a little bit,” McEnroe said. “Hopefully he’ll get it back. I think there’s going to be guys soon, Americans, that are going to make the breakthrough within a year or two hopefully. I think that’s going to be big.”

Yes it will, as the U.S. men have not won a Grand Slam since 2003 at the US Open with Andy Roddick won it. It might be 20-years-ago in September that they cannot win another Slam again. But before that, in England, you can actually play longer in the rallies. They don’t have to slide all the time, and they can actually return, more. In the 1990s, there were some really quick rallies, and with millions of aces.

“The people that can add that adaptability and finish points at net successfully, like an Alcaraz, for example, who is a really good volleyer, Novak learned it, so did Rafa [Nadal],” McEnroe said. “I believe that’s why Tiafoe has a shot because he’s skilled at net. That will help you get over the hump at Wimbledon. Yes, it’s more homogenized. Yes, it’s more like hard courts. The bounce is higher, but there’s still a nuance that only a few get it.


“Look at [Casper] Ruud, for example. He’s regarding this as he’s showing up, hoping for the best. He could be out in the first round or two. [Stefanos] Tsitsipas doesn’t seem to be comfortable at all, can’t figure out how to play on the grass. There’s an opening. There’s many guys that don’t even understand it, or girls for that matter. That’s why it’s pretty narrowed down who can actually win it. That’s why Novak can afford not to play any tournament because he’s so confident, he understands what it takes, he doesn’t feel the need to play any warmup matches and he still wins it almost every year.”

Yes, he is the now 23-Grand-Slam champion. Djokovic really thinks that he can win another major once again. However, he can lose here and there, so at Wimbledon, he can become lost during a match, and he will fall down. Or maybe Alcaraz will rise, now.

As he said: “Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon, but I will try to play at this level to have chances to beat him or make the final. I saw a statistic that Novak has won more matches at Wimbledon than the other top 20 players (combined),” the Spaniard Alcaraz said. “What can you say about that you know? Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon. That’s obvious. But I will try to play at this level, to have chances to beat him or make the final at Wimbledon.”

On the grass: Will Carlos Alcaraz rise again?

Carlos Alcaraz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz can be totally be on fire. He is a huge hitter, as is with some strong forehands,  and his phenomenal backhand. However, the very young player can be nervous, once and a while, and he knows that when he has to face against Novak Djokovic, he has to really concentrate. Unfortunately, in the semis at Roland Garros, he stopped thinking, in the third and the fourth set. He began to get hurt, and he lost,  6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, and he was quickly gone. Also, his brain was collapsing.

“The tension of the match. I started match really nervous,” he said. “The tension of  the first set, the second set, it was really intense two sets.  Really good rallies, tough rallies, dropshots, sprints, rallies. It’s a combination of a lot of things. And I started to cramp, in my arm. At the beginning of the third set I started to cramp every part of my body, not only the legs. The arms, as well. It was really tough for me to move at the third set, and in the fourth set let’s say I had a little chance, but it was really tough.”

Alcaraz  did win the 2022 U.S Open and in May, he won Barcelona and Madrid. It looked like he had a good shot, in Paris, but he fell down. Just like the other Spaniard, Rafa Nadal, when he was 20-years-old, he began rise, fast, winning RG in his first Grand Slam title. However, his forehand was amazing, but his backhand was too short, and his serve was pretty good, but not great. Of course, he worked and he worked all the time, changing his tactics, and adding to it. Now, he has won 22 Grand Slams, at RG, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. The now 37-year-old figured it out, but it took him more many year. 

The same thing goes with the No. 1 Djokovic, who won his first Slam at the Aussie Open, and while he was running so fast, and his backhand incredible, his forehand was good, but not great, and his second serve and at the net needed to grow, more. Alcaraz also needs to be more consistent.

“Is not easy to play against Novak. Of course a legend of our sport. If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies,” Alcaraz said. “ Yeah, next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.”
 
NOTES
The teenager Ben Shelton  lost against Lorenzo Musetti  6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The Italian can look terrific, but there are times when he forgets what to do. But this week, he will try to push even harder.  Shelton is ranked No. 34, so he does have a small shot to be seated at Wimbledon, but he may not, as a few people can get injured and they pull out before, but you never know.

Sebastian Korda beat  Frances Tiafoe, who just won  an event, but he looked tired. He has looked very good on the hardcourts, but before last week, he was struggling. This time, he was much more CONSISTENT.

The Floridian Korda has improved over the past few years, but he is still young, so he 22-year-old can miss it a lot. Yes he really goes, but also, he can mix it up. At the Cinch Championships in London, we will see how well he is playing against Cameron Norrie, a very competitor. They are very close…
Taylor Fritz  looks very decent, but on the grass, he needs to really lock it in, like he did in 2022. Last year, he won Eastbourne, and then at Wimbledon, in the quarters, he was right there, but Nadal edged him 7-6(4) in the fifth set. He has to be thinking about it a lot, but he has another chance over the next month… 

Where is Reilly Opelka? He is still injured but he hopes to resume in August as he is recovering from a wrist injury. Very good luck, but on the court, it will take a long time  to be 100 percent again.