The Wrap: Madrid ruled by Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Each couple weeks, you can play fantastic and win it constantly, but in another few weeks, you can collapse, or play poorly. That is all about the tennis, on the court, and off. They can be happy, or sad. It is not just playing, but also, many of the players are learning what they can do. In order to practice all the time, to eventually  reach at the WTA or the ATP, it is rare that they can go to school. Or even if they did it, by high school, and you sit there for hours, five days a week, then they have to deal with the excellent players, and often, you will love. It is  very rare.

Also, mentally, you can see that a few of the players are upset, and worried. You can look at Amanda Anisimova and Garbine Muguruza, both just decided to take the time off. On court, they are bored, or frustrated. Hopefully, soon enough, they will come back, eventually, but to do very deep at the big events and the Grand Slams, that is a legitimate question.

However, Aryna Sabalenka had a terrific tournament in Madrid, beating Iga Swiatek  in three, super intense sets. She had lost five times with the Polish person, Swiatek,most of it on the clay, but this time,  Sabalenka decided not just to crush the ball, but to react. A few years ago, she did not love clay, but now, she is finally much more core.

“I really enjoy playing on clay, because I have extra time. It’s not super fast, so I can go for my powerful shots, because I have not so many but I have a lot of time here,” Sabalenka said. “Yeah, that’s why I really enjoy clay, because it’s longer rallies. It’s like not just bomb, bomb, you know. You have to work for every point, and that’s really amazing.”

She now rarely gets tired, as she can run for ever. Even when she plays, at an event, she knows that if she can consistently as much as she can, then she will gradually remedy. As she said,“I was working really hard in my fitness, so I’m able to play these long rallies and play these long matches and not getting really tired.  So I was feeling fine.”

Swiatek and Sabalenka and are No. 1 and  No. 2. Last year in Rome, Swiatek destroyed Sabalenka 6-2, 6-1. Now it will be totally different, on clay. They might play in the final in Rome, or maybe not. Also. Roland Garros is also coming up. There will be some nervous at times, but both of them know that if they play great, then they feel that they can beat anybody.


Petra Kvitova,  Belinda Bencic, Zhang Shuai and  Simona Halep, whom we don’t know who will return. She is waiting, soon. … Other than Sabalenka and Swiatek, there are some who will reach into the quarters, at least. Here are 15 more people who can win a few matches and then, in Rome, they will be pumped up such as Ons Jabeur,  Jessica Pegula,  Carolina Garcia, Coco Gauff,  Elena Rybakina, Mayar Sherif, Victoria Azarenka (who won the doubles) Paula Badosa, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Martina Trevisan , Beatriz Haddad Maia, Anastasia Potapova, Barbora Krejcikova, Sorana Cirstea, and the  — the last one, who finally began to rise with Zheng Qinwen.  She is coming up.’s top 32 in 2022: women 10-6

Maria Sakkari
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

No. 10: Simona Halep
The Romanian won two Grand Slams on the clay of Roland Garros and the grass of Wimbledon. She is one of the most consistent player, running everywhere with some fantastic strokes. On the court, she is rarely tired, and while she can huff and puff, she will still move it all around the box. She has beaten everyone by breaking them down. However, she lost some critical matches at the Slams and other tournaments, too. Unfortunately, she had received a provisional suspension after testing positive for a prohibited substance. She has appealed and may have a strong case. When and if she will comes back next year, has yet to be determined. And that is very sad, for everyone.

No. 9: Veronika Kudermetova
She is gradually coming up, identifying which way to go. The Russian had a decent year, reaching the quarters at Roland Garros, upsetting Madison Keys. There were a few good wins, but she was unable to win a tournament, although she did reach in the final at Istanbul. The 25-year-old thinks that she will be more level headed. “In 2023, we plan to pay a little more attention to singles. Of course, I want to win as many Grand Slams and other tournaments as possible. I also want to be remembered in tennis as a person who carried well. I always keep it simple and kind to everyone, trying to help as much as possible,” she said. Apparently, she is looking up. Now though, outside of her head, she has to do some new stuff on court. Maybe she will swing away.

No. 8: Daria Kasatkina
She managed to reach the WTA Finals and won one match, beating Coco Gauff. That was the first time that she advanced to the year-end event. In July, she won a title in San Jose, beating Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka, two top players. That tournament, along with winning in Charleston in 2017, was one of her best performances ever. However, she can check out on occasion. She is very potent, but she can misplace her thoughts. She has won six titles, which is very decent, but if she wants to reach the final at the Grand Slams, then she needs to listen with her body.

No. 7: Coco Gauff
The American had a fine year, going into the top 10 and she won some extraordinary matches. She is a major hitter. Her forehand and her backhand are pretty muscular, and she is also very good at the net. But while she is only 18 year old, she still has a lot of work to do. She has only won two small events, and outside when she reached into to the final in Roland Garros, she lost against the important players. Sure, it can be close, but even in the third set, she can throw in too many errors. Also, while she is super young, she lost to a ton of the top 10 players this year, like Iga Świątek, Halep, Maria Sakkari and Ons Jabeur. What that means is she has to more reliant, flatten out her shots and hit it deeper. As long as she can add some more solid strokes, then for sure next year, she will start to beat the best players next year.

No. 6: Maria Sakkari
In 2021, she rose, and she won some wild, fun matches. However, in 2022, she did not win a tournament, which was confusing. She can really hustle, and she can also throw in some wonderful drop shots. She can return brilliantly, but her serve is marginal. When she hits the ball, hers shot can be a little bit soft. Of course, she practices and plays all the time. It’s odd that she reached no. 3 in March and has only won one tournament in her career. So while she can look colossal, she has to decide what she will do in order to reach one of the Slams in the finals, which will be the first time. Our advice: step it up and smack the ball.

Wimbledon: Amanda Anisimova beats Coco Gauff

Amanda Anisimova
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Amanda Anisimova is still becoming more mature, on the court and off. Over the past few months, she began to think more clearly about her oncourt tactics. Both her forehand and her backhand are titanic, and while she isn’t incredibly fast, she can be pretty quick when chasing would-be winners. She stares at the ball and then she can decide to rally or leap on the lines. 

On Saturday, she beat Coco Gauff 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round. She was extremely excited.

“It was a super tough match today, but it was extremely special to get to play on Centre Court for the first time in my life,” Anisimova said. “It’s super exciting how many Americans are doing well and have advanced here so far. I think we have a ton of strong players. Even today playing against Coco, I think that’s extremely exciting and good for our country to play on Centre, both being American.”

She is the only American woman left in the tournament at Wimbledon. Jessica Pegula lost today, and a bunch of players lost in the first week. So now it is up to No. 25 Anisimova, to go further. 

“At the end of the day it’s about the consistency and how well you do at each tournament. It’s still something that I’m working on,” she said. “Just getting far into tournaments – I had a couple quarterfinals this year where I think I could have gone past it. I just try to take the experience. I’m just here for the journey so I’m building off of that.” 

It was a windy day, and the 18-year-old Gauff, who reached the final at Roland Garros, fell out in the last two sets. She could have been much more patient, but she just could not get it together. However, she said that Anisimova can go almost all the way. Oh, really? 

“I think she has got a good shot of pretty much going all the way to the final. If she plays like she did those last two sets against me, I think that’s some top-notch tennis right there,” Gauff said.

Anisimova will face the Frenchwoman Harmony Tan on Monday, who upset Serena Williams in the first round.

Swiatek’s streak ends

There was a wild upset when the No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak finally ended. The 32-year-old veteran Alizé Cornet was very driven and she snapped winners all over the place. She can hit it short and soft with her second serves, but she is still very quick and she can blast her forehand. However, Cornet had not reached the quarters at Wimbledon. Earlier this year, at the Australian Open, she upset Simona Halep before Danielle Collins took her down in the quarters. 

But this time, Swiatek finally grew cold, and she lost, 6-4, 6-2 to Cornet. But, when she gets back on the hard courts, the Pole should be ready to punch it again.

Outside of Anisimova and Cornet, there are two players who are lurking, the former two-time champion Simona Halep, and the current No. 5, Paula Badosa. Halep won the 2019 Wimbledon, stunning  Serena in the final. Currently, she looks pretty good, but to get there, she has to hit it even harder. Last week, Anisimova punched Halep in Germany on the grass. The Romanian is always very steady, but she has to attack the net.

Badosa has had a strong year. But, she has yet to reach the semis at the Slams. The Spaniard picked it up last year, and she can be self-consistent, but once again, on grass, if she wants to go even further, she has to try and bang it down. Kick it, if you can. 2021 year-end review: top 20-16, women

Simona Halep

20. Simona Halep
Before she became injured, the Romanian played for years, and she rarely went down and retired. She may be a little bit short, but she is so strong and she can sprint. She is emotional, and very intense. Halep has won two Grand Slams, knocking off a number of the other top players. However, over the years, she can go back and push the ball, instead of slapping harder. Next year, assuming she will be healthy, she will punch herself back into the top 10 and will have a solid chance to win another Grand Slam.

19. Emma Raducanu
The Brit came out of nowhere at the US Open, given that when she started the year ranked No. 345. She won her firs Grand Slam, starting in the qualifying, and winning 10 matches, in all straight sets. She out-hit so many good players, like Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari and Leylah Fernandez. Her forehand and her backhand were deep and ruthless. She looked sort-off good at the net, too. In New York, she was placid and very confident. The 19-year-old will be around for a very long time, but in the fall, she was mentally exhausted. However, she is very young, and next year, she will be refreshed.

18. Jessica Pegula
That was quite a year by the American, who finally understood that she had to confront her mental game, improve and let it all go. Over many years, she wasn’t beating the top 20 players, so many people though that she looked decent, but not fantastic. But in 2020, and then in 2021, she started hitting much better, with depth and pace. She has played some long matches, and watching it, you could see that she just wanted to fight and she did. In 2022, she certainly wants to go into the top 10 for the first time. To do that, she has to amend her serve, play at the net, and return game. That is a lot of work.

17. Petra Kvitova
The Czech has always been a super, nice person, talking with the press and in onn-on-one interviews. She is so realistic about her game, whether she loses ofwins. Some other players barely want to talk at all. Kvitova has grown up a lot, and she is aging, but at least she has won two Grand Slams, and she also won some huge events. But there are times when on the court, she can be mediocre, and then she can check out. She does crush the ball, both sides, and she has a jumbo first serve. Her weakness is moving from left to right. The thing is that if she wants to win another Slam, she is going to have to refocus on her movement. If she does, she had a very good chance to win Wimbledon again.

16. Angelique Kerber
The German has won three Grand Slams and, like Halep, she likes to rally, rally, rally until her opponent becomes exhausted. Kerber, who could probably jump into the ocean and swim for 3,000 miles, with no problem. However, last year she began to mentally buckle, and she grew sorrowful. In the first six moments, she was shaky, but in the summer, she began to play better, finally, winning a lot of matches. The 33-year-old loves playing tennis, and it is her entire life. So, in 2022, if she begins to play amazing, then she can win just one more Slam. 

The two very good A’s: Alexander Zverev, Aryna Sabalenka win Madrid

Aryna Sabalenka

In the third set in the Madrid final, the rising Aryna Sabalenka was looking at a 4-4 score against No. 1 Ash Barty. Last year, in the winter, the spring and much of the summer, she was decent, but not great. But in the fall, she decided it was time to be different, smarter and control her emotions. So then, she was in control.

Sabalenka won the next two games for 6-0 3-6 6-4 victory. That was the best title ever. She is a gigantic hitter, with her hard forehand and backhand, and with her first serve, she can blast it. Her returns are very decent, too.

But listen, she has yet to win major title, but Barty has. Now they are 4 and 4, tied in their head to heads.    
Sabalenka thinks that she can win Roland Garros. She thinks that, but she has to prove it. The Madrid championship was the first time she won on clay. So, in Rome and Roland Garros, if she wants to week after week, against the excellent players, she must focus all the time.  One way or another, Sabalenka will continue to be aggressive and, right now, tough to beat.

Barty won 2019 Roland Garros, and she could win it in June. She has played excellent ball this year, mixing it up and move it all around the box. Getting another French title is very doable for her, as her confidence is beginning to make a difference.

German Alexander Zverev is so spectacular when he is confident. On Sunday, he overcame Matteo Berrettini 6-7 6-4 6-3 once again in Madrid. There have been so any times when he gets upset and irritable/ But, when he is playing well, he shows a smart and tactical game. He also likes to scramble and eventually he can whip the ball.

Zverev now has five ATP Masters: Madrid (twice) London, Rome and
Canada. Last week, also upset Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem, two Slams winners. If he continues to be healthy, it is pretty clear that Sasha will win a major. But in Roland Garros? Possibly. Good luck.

Sabalenka said: ‘I feel a little bit better on the clay, a little bit different.’ Oh yes she did…

John Isner on Andrey Rublev: “He’s the second best clay-courter in the world right now. He hits the ball so big. It’s pretty fast. He just does so many things well.” He has, over the last year…

Simone Halep, after she losing Elise Mertens: “I want to do it better, is to stop missing, because sometimes I am rushing and I do some mistakes that I normally don’t do. I have to work on that and to be more patient in the future.” The future is now …

Felix Auger-Aliassime when he lost against the rising No. 16 Casper Ruud: “He’s improved a lot. He has a great forehand, we all know that, and he did what he had to do.” 2020 year-end review: top 5-1, women

Ash Barty, Ashleigh Barty

5. Elina Svitolina
The muscular Svitolina can crush it with a tremendous strength. She can dominate with her strong forehand, and her ripping crosscourt backhand. She also has a good first serve. She had a very decent in 2020, but not spectacular. The Ukrainian did win Monterrey and Strasbourg, but there small tournaments. A few years ago, she was on fire, winning Brisbane, Dubai, Rome, the WTA Finals and Toronto, all huge events. However, when she loses, she can get disgruntled and dissatisfied. She has a complete game but she hasn’t won a Grand Slam. She must figure out what is stopping her from her first major. Maybe, she just needs more variety.

4. Sofia Kenin
Five years ago, it was pretty clear that the American was very good, and she became better each month. She can pummel the ball each way with depth. At the Australian Open, she beat the No. 1, Ash Barty, and then in the final, she flew high, beating Garbine Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. The 22-year-old said, “These two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life.”
They sure were. However, after that, she had a few terrific wins, but she also lost a good amount during the summer. She was hurt, which is why she went down to Vika Azarenka 6-0, 6-0 in Rome. That was a stunner, and we all know that she crying. But came back strong, reaching the final at Roland Garros. She had a real chance, but she lost to Iga Swiatek in straight sets, hampered by a leg injury and an opponent who was on fire. Then, that was it for the rest of the year. If she is healthy in 2021, then she certainly has a chance to do deep all the time.

3. Naomi Osaka
The three-time Grand Slam winner has a game without boundaries. She won the US Open, outhitting Azarenka in three sets. Not only can she smack the ball, but when she is returning, she can hit it close to the lines. After that, she attacks. Osaka only played five tournaments in 2020, partially because she was injured. Still, the year was not just about tennis. Her political statements supporting Black Lives Matter and her unrivaled income from endorsements made her a global name beyond the tennis court. Those accomplishments helped the sport’s profile. Assuming that she is healthy in 2021, she will snag some big tournaments and maybe more Slams. She is that good.

2. Simona Halep
The Romanian is so bright, on the court, being very patient. Her backhand and forehand can go crosscourt or down the line. Her net game is very solid. Over the past decade, she was excellent at times, but emotionally, she would get upset. She can grind it, but at the Slams, very deep, she could back off. Finally, at Roland Garros, in the final in 2018, in the third set, she went for it and she beat American Sloane Stephens. She was finally there. The next year at Wimbledon, she was totally zoned in, crusing Svitolina in the semis. In the final, she stunned Serena Williams quickly, perhaps her best match ever, if not one of the best matches by anyone in 10 years. However, she can be inconsistent. This year she didn’t win a Slam, yet she won Dubai, Prague and Rome. After Swiatek thrashed her in the RG fourth round, she said, “It was a fantastic year with all the tough moments that we all had, so I’m not going to ruin the whole year just for a match. Of course, it’s not easy to take, but I’m used to some tough moments in this career.” And, she still will find a way to prove she’s one of the best in the world.

1. Ashliegh Barty
Obviously, she is a damn good player. She can be fragile, but she can also be super steady. However, the odd thing is that she is still No. 1 even though she played only four events, three in Australia in January, and one in Doha in February. After that, she didn’t play at all for the year. It wasn’t that she was hurt, she didn’t want to travel after that, staying in Australia due to the vicious coronavirus. That is totally respectable, but it has been a crazy year. Before that, Barty won Adelaide. In Melbourne, she did beat Petra Kvitova in the quarters, but in the semis, she lost to Kenin, which was very close. She is very intelligent, and thoughtful. She also loves playing doubles. She won Roland Garros in 2019 but has only one other trip to a major semifinal. In 2021, she has to reset and drive. She practices all the time, improving and trying new shots. She likes to play all sports, including her well-documented stint on the professional cricket ground. Barty will continue to get better, and she will grab a Slam in 2021. No doubt about it.

WTA Finals: Eight great players, but who will win?

Karolina Pliskova

Over the past 25 years — or even longer — it usually looked like the No. 1, or the No. 2 were serious favorites at the WTA Finals. But this week coming up, in the eight-player, round-robin event in Shenzhen, China, almost all of the competitors will have a shot to win. That is almost unheard of. There will be a bunch of three-setters, surprises and complicated group calculations. Whoever wins the event, she has to step up and produce top-level tennis.

In the Red Group, it will be Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.

In the Purple Group, it will be Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.

The odds
Although Barty, Andreescu, and Osaka all share the same odds going into the Finals, I believe that perhaps that Pliskova has a decent chance.”

Red Group
Will Barty stay at No. 1? Probably, because she has a big lead in points. But while the rankings are important, the Australian still wants to win the event. She has improved a tremendous amount this year, staying patient, and she really mixed it up a lot. But, at times, she should become more aggressive.

Yes, Barty won Roland Garros, her first victory at a Grand Slam. In the final, she showed no fear. Then at the US Open, she exited in the fourth round against Qiang Wang and couldn’t hit it into the corners often enough.

She reached the semis of Wuhan and at the Beijing final, so she enters the event in good shape. But, in her group is the player who won Beijing, Osaka, who beat Barty in three sets. Osaka usually goes for it as soon as she can and Barty likes to work her way into the points. So if the Aussie wants to win it, she has to go for her shots, immediately.

In the fall, Osaka turned around her play. She had won the Australian Open, but then slumped, on clay, grass, and the US Open. She is a terrific hitter, but the pressure affected her mentally and she wasn’t focused. Now she comes in with wins at Osaka and Beijing, and if she can find her rhythm, she’s another one who can win it for the first time.

Talking about being up and down, there’s also Kvitova. The Czech can be fantastic, jumping on balls with her massive forehand and cracking first serve. She can scramble, she can re-set, and she can be very competitive until the final ball. But, the two-time Grand Slam champion can also unravel mentally when she can’t get her game going. So does the 29-year-old, one of the most popular and friendly players off the court, really want to win the tournament badly? To do it, she must be totally focused, day after day.

At the start of the year, Bencic didn’t look like she’d be among the top eight at China. A few years ago, she cracked the top 10 and beat a lot of top players with her variety and tactical ability. But, she had a few injuries, and took at least a year-an- a-half to become good again. Right now, she is patient or aggressive as she needs to, and is winning against the biggest names again. To win the tournament this week, though, will be difficult with all the quality opposition.

Purple Group
Pliskova can play fantastic ball. Her first serve is massive, she can go down the line with her forehand and backhand, and she is pretty good when she goes up into the net. But, she has yet to win a Grand Slam. She has been at the top for years, and she has got fairly close, darn close. But, in important moments, she backs off, mentally. Also, the Czech is not very fast, and opponents can break her down. If she immediately starts to roll, she can bash the ball, put together a ton of winners and win the WTA Finals. The No. 2, though, is not the favorite; there are very solid players in the field who can run her around.

Where did the Canadian Andreescu come from? Yes, the teenager looked very good in the juniors. But, to join the WTA and then almost immediately win a few huge events, such as Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open, was a shocker. Of course, Andreescu is very young, but she already knows the right way to play. While she isn’t very tall, she is super agile, has a huge amount of shots, and she can move forward regularly. She can surely win a Grand Slam again, assuming that she stays healthy, and she can become No. 1. But she hasn’t played before at the WTA Finals, and many of her opponents haven’t played that much against Andreescu, nor she has played against them. They will have to adjust. One way or another, she’s one of the favorites to win the WTA Finals.

You never know with Halep, a true grinder who now competes hard. In 2018, the Romanian won a major for the first time at Roland Garros, which took a lot of pressure off her. The 27-year-old she stopped being so nervous and she dug deep.

Halep is one of the best returners and, she can run side-to-side forever. Plus, she is pretty good tactically, so in the final at Wimbledon, she locked in and only missed a couple of shots. It was possibly her best match ever, crushing Serena Williams in the final. But since, she hasn’t done much at all. Halep was frequently hurt in the run up to this week, and to win the Finals, she would have to hit the lines constantly. Right now, though, she might just want to go back home.

Svitolina is also in question. Having won the WTA Finals in 2018, she looked like she had a real chance to next win a major. She did improve a bit, reaching a pair of semifinals, but she has yet to reach a final at the Slams. 

She is a very strong player, running back and forth, and side to side. Physically, when she is healthy, she can beat everyone, but Svitolina can be frustrated on court. Winning a second straight title will be tough.

Women: Can Osaka can win the US Open again?

Naomi Osaka

Here we are, waiting to see which woman is going to be dominate at the end of the US Open?

Could it be the defending champion Naomi Osaka? The No. 2 Ash Barty? The 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams? The 2017 winner Sloane Stephens? The other Grand Slam winner this year, Simona Halep at Wimbledon? Or a vet like Petra Kvitova? Or how about the very young and the rising Bianca Andreescu from Canada?

Early on, everyone can win. But in the second week, then the pressure will be enormous. Not only do you have to think hard, but you have to be totally focused. Then, there is a real chance a player can wear someone down and you can seize the day.  

Since Osaka won this year’s Australian Open, she went down for a few months. She was overwhelmed and confused. She hasn’t won a tournaments since then, but who knows, at the Slams, she was been composed on the hard courts.
In the fourth round, she might face the Swiss Belinda Bencic, who gets injured a lot. Over the past few months, she has been healthy and when she plays, she is definitely a top-10 player. She is a huge hitter.

Still, Osaka will move on and in the quarters, she could face Aryna Sabalenka, Vika Azarenka {they have to play against each other the first round) or Donna Vekic. All four will crush the ball and go for the lines. For sure, they can go right in the face versus Osaka, but how do you contain her? That is the biggest question, for all of them.

In the second quarter, it will be a bunch of players who could reach the second week: Halep, Stephens, Kvitova, Andreescu, the former two-time champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, and the other Americans: Danielle Collins and Alison Riske.  
Between all of them, Andreescu has risen so quickly that she refuses to know fear. She is already so smart, and composed, but during the event, she has to be healthy and brilliant. I bet she will.

In the second half, here is the list of the people who will reach the second week at Flushing Meadow: Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, Jo Konta, Serena, Anastasija Sevastova, Qiang Wang and Barty.

All the Americans playing right now who have reached the US Open final — Venus, Serena and Stephens — have won it before. Except for Keys. Two years ago, she did reach the final, but she froze against Stephens. This time, if she gets there again, Keys will be very comfortable.

2019 Wimbledon final: Djokovic has slight edge over Federer

Novak Djokovic takes on Roger Federer, again, in a Wimbledon final.

This will be another tremendous match. The Serbian won it here last year, being so consistent and finally, secure. His backhand is truly remarkable, his return is deep and true, his forehand is very hefty, and at the net, when he gets in there, he bends down and he hits it right near on the lines. 

The Swiss Federer has learned to improve over the past 16 years. He is brilliant, he is cagie, he crushed his forehand, and he loves coming into the net. He softly drops it close to the net: a jaw-dropping winner. 

Djokovic and Federer have played three times in London. Novak beat him twice, while Roger won it once. This matchup is about grass, not about clay or the hard courts. There will be relatively short points, with huge serves. While they can be patient, here and there, there is no doubt when they have an opportunity, they will strike. 

Djokovic leads Federer 25 to 22 — 47 matches. That is an extraordinary number of head-to-heads.

During 2015-2018, Djokovic won six matches against Federer, and the Swiss won three. 

At Wimbledon in 2015 in the final, Novak beat Roger 7-6 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3. Then, and now, the smooth Serbian is slightly better than he is. It will be close, very, very, close, and it will go to the fifth set.

While many people fans will be screaming for joy for Federer, either on the Centre Court, or on TV, still, Djokovic will beat him again with his wonderful backhand cross-court. Then, the very strong Djokovic will have 15 Grand Slams. 

Halep crushes Serena for title, stalling her march to 24

By Ron Cioffi

Saturday was the day many thought that Serena Williams would tie Margaret Court with 24 Grand Slam titles.

Simona Halep didn’t give the 37-year-old Serena a peak that the milestone.

In one of the most decisive beat downs in recent Grand Slam final history, Halep dominated the aging American and won her first Wimbledon trophy 6-2, 6-2.

There were three notable statistics that showed how one-sided the final was. Halep came out on fire rushed to a 4-0 lead in about 11 minutes. At that point, Williams had to start to wonder if she was going to find her A game.

It wasn’t until mid-second set that Williams served her first of only two aces. Another weapon dismissed.

But, the third stat was three. That’s the number of unforced errors by the Romanian. Three. In two sets. Versus the best woman player of all time.

Williams had 26, many hitting the net because she wasn’t bending for low shots or just not being in position to dent Halep’s accurate shots.

Halep called it the best match she’s ever played. I would hope so because it’s hard to see how she could play better.

Anticipating Serena’s massive serves was one of the keys to give Halep an important edge. She was often on the move as Serena’s toss was still in the air. One on serve up the T, Halep was so quick that she overran the ball.

Finally, it was quickness that slay the queen. Halep’s movement was a weapon that cut down the ferocious Williams backhand. Usually Serena can jump in and crush her cross-court backhand. But, Halep stunned the crowd by not only getting a few rockets back but hitting them for winners. Those shots had to make Williams wonder if she could ever break down Halep’s defenses. And, maybe if she can rise enough to meet Court’s record.

Who’s the favorite the French Open?

Simona Halep

“Who’s the favorite for fabulous France? There are a lot, which is another way of saying there isn’t one at all.

One day, the two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova might actually become No. 1 — she has been so close over the previous 10 years — and it could be on the clay courts. The Czech just won Stuttgart and rose up to No. 2. She doesn’t always love clay, but with three clay titles since 2018, these days it seems she does. Kvitova is very strong and now can play for many hours, and she can really hit some hopping serves.

She has never won the French Open, but she did reach the 2012 semis against Maria Sharapova, when the two-time champion and Russian out-slugged her.

Though Kvitova has won twice at Wimbledon, on clay in Paris, you have to slow down and wait and wait until you get an opportunity, and then strike. Having improved her fitness, she’s starting to do that.

Simon Halep finally won a Grand Slam when she beat the American Sloane Stephens in the final at the 2018 French Open. During the third set, she was consistent and forceful, while her opponent checked out. Halep can do it again, and actually, so can Stephens, who won the 2017 US Open. Even though she seems very confused and hasn’t won a tournament this season, she just hired the very smart coach, Sven Groeneveld, and might right herself as she does so often. Regardless, it’s the 2018 winner Halep who’s seen as the current favorite. “

Osaka in the top line
The No. 1-ranked Naomi Osaka is a tremendous player, upsetting Serena Williams in the final of the controversy-laden 2018 US Open, being so peaceful and lethal at 5-4 in the third set. There were no nerves, just blasting the ball. K-boom — Osaka grabbed it. The same occurred during the Australian Open final against Kvitova, and she edged her 6-4 in the third. She really believes in herself, and she can blast the ball in Paris. But Osaka does not love clay yet, so she has to learn to slide and return before she starts swinging hard.

Serena Williams has won the tournament a couple times, and the 23-time Grand Slam champion can play anything she wants — except at the net — so when she is feeling fantastic, she can win it again. But right now, she is still hurt — if she goes to the French Open, she has to step up quickly, or she will get knocked down.

Caro Wozniacki loves hard courts, but like over the years in Roland Garros, she gets pretty angry because she cannot hit enough winners, especially with her forehand. When she is happy, she is really happy, but when she loses, she clams up. She will likely do it again.

Muguruza, Sabalenka slumping
Garbine Muguruza has won this tournament before, in 2016, which was surprising, but the Spaniard can smash her forehands and backhands and knock the ball on the lines. Mentally, she can go down fast, but when she does not do that, she can raise her game. In Paris? That is a toss-up, but if she’s healthy, she has a small chance to produce another surprise and win it again.

It was in 2018 the young Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka eventually cracked the top 10. She is very intense and strong, but on clay, she is still learning to figure out how to play. There are a few other excellent established players — Angelique Kerber, Karolina  Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Ash Barty. The German veteran Kerber has won three Slams — at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. But in Paris, she has never reached the semis, not because she is not super steady — which she is — but because she doesn’t go for the corners or punch the ball returning second serves. But when she is rock solid, she can go very deep.

Pliskova should win a major, but the 27-year-old hasn’t yet. She did reach the semis in Paris in 2017 and she faced Halep, but right towards the end, she wasn’t steady enough. Regardless, she has improved a good amount, and she is thoughtful, so perhaps she can do it for the first time on the gorgeous clay. It wouldn’t seem like the most obvious place.

Elina Svitolina never gets tired, and she has won some big tournaments, but at the Grand Slams, she gets very nervous and loses fairly early. But she is so good with her first serve, her forehand and backhand, that it seems she has to have a breakthrough sometime. This year?

The young Australian Ash Barty is getting better all the time. She is steady and thoughtful and she never gets tired, too, playing both singles and doubles. But she doesn’t like clay and has to grind it for many hours in the French Open. At least she can aim to reach the second week.

There are still more players who can reach the second week and beyond: the again-rising Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, the new and excellent Canadian Bianca Andreescu — who is currently hurt — the steady Qiang Wang, and the other Americans — Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin and the long time veteran Venus Williams. Some American will go deep in Paris, but exactly who is an extremely big toss-up.