Murray: ’It’s about finding a way to get the win.’ to battle Wawrinka

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 12 — Andy Murray has won three Grand Slams, twice at Wimbledon and once at the US Open. He has won a ton of titles, at the ATP 1000s, the 500s and then 250s.

He reached the final at Roland Garros last year, and he tried very hard, but Novak Djokovic was much more consistent and his forehand was harder and deeper.

However, at least Murray was enthusiastic, knocking off Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the semis. Now they will clash again, on Friday, in Paris.

Both have played extremely well in the past 11 days. Wawrinka has been locked in, but Murray has been a little off. However, the 30-year-old Scot exactly knows when it’s time to run, and change it up, and hit it as hard as you can.

Over the years, Murray has changed his movement and strokes. His forehand has improved greatly, his first serve is tremendous and he almost never gets tired, going left and right, hour after hour.

These two have played each other 17 times, with Murray ahead 10-7. Their head-to-head shows they have had on-and-off streaks, with Murray taking the last two meetings in 2016 while Wawrinka gad three in a row from 2013-15. They are both veterans, so the nerves aren’t an issue, but it is possible to get angry, or very happy. One way or another, it will be extremely close.

“I don’t know how Stan is going to play on Friday. I don’t know how I’m going to play,” Murray said. “Last year, I feel like I played some really good tennis and managed to win the match, but you have no idea. You don’t know what the conditions will be. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to win the match. It’s not always about how well that you play or, the level that you play at. It’s about finding a way to get the win, and that’s what I will try to do. In an ideal world you play great tennis, and play a really good match. That unfortunately can’t be the case always. Don’t know how either of us are going to play, but with the right attitude, right game plan, right tactics, you can still win matches.”

Nadal/Thiem faceoff in semis
Will Rafa Nadal cruise against Dominic Thiem? Nadal is playing as well as he can now, blitzing the opponents. However, Thiem did beat him in Rome, but the Spaniard was pretty tired after winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

No excuses, however. It’s all about Nadal’s massive forehand, and Thiem’s impressive one-handed backhand. Plus, the serves matter a lot, as do their ability to come to the net and put it away some volies. It should be a blast — we hope.

Halep sneaks past Pliskova
Karolina Pliskova was as aggressive as she could be, but Simona Halep was so consistent, so fast, totally locked in, winning 6-4 3-6 6-3 to reach the final. Pliskova was close, but she made a few too many errors at the end, which really caused her.

Now Halep has a legitimate shot to become No. 1, if she manages to take down 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, who just moved from a teen to a 20-year-old today. The Latvian is so aggressive, off both sides, forehand, backhand and her big serve. In beating Timea Bacsinszky 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 she hit 50 winners. Totally on the ball. Ostapenko, still a relative newcomer, has never reached the final at a Grand Slam, and maybe she will be super nervous. If she can focus, she definitely has an opportunity. She believes that someday, she will become No. 1. It will take time, but she’s pretty close all ready.

Halep has been No. 2 before, but she has not been able to snag No. 1, which she can if she takes the title. Over the past two months, she has refocused and has found a way to smack the ball deeper, and make her serve game smarter.

The two haven’t played before. Halep said that she hasn’t seen Ostapenko much, so she will have to look at tape. She will attempt to grind her, but if she cannot, then she must push her very early.

“My first Grand Slam and No. 1 in the world. It’s a big challenge. I think I have the game. I have the mentality to win, but it’s gonna be tough,” Halep said. “I expect her to give everything she has, to hit all the balls, to play with confidence. But I’m confident, as well. It’s a big thing. If it’s
gonna happen, it’s gonna happen, two things in the same time.”

Bacsinszky: Had a nightmare, but woke up, and then played great

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 10 – At certain times, Timea Bacsinszky can play up to her potential. Other times, she is mentally out of it. However, in the past three years in Paris, she has been enthusiastic, running like the wind and finding the lines. The Swiss seems to love at RG, and maybe she is a real favorite in the tournament.

On Tuesday, she clipped Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-4 and will face Jelena Ostapenko, who stunned Caro Wozniacki.

In 2015, Bacsinszky reached the semis, beating Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova before going down against Serena Williams. In 2016, she reached the quarters, upsetting Venus Williams before she lost against Kiki Berdens.

Now, Bacsinszky is back in the semis once again. She has not played very well this year, but when she walks on court in Paris, she is happy and she will let it fly.

However, when you are sleeping, well, that can be very difficult. The dream thing.

“I really get nervous. Like, this night, I went to bed more or less at 11:00. I woke up at 4:00,” Bacsinszky said. “Could not sleep for an hour. Went back to sleep. Woke up earlier than my alarm. My heart was beating. It was a rush. Then I imagine I was dreaming or doing a nightmare about I had to leave the hotel room to go to another tournament, but I forgot some things in the closets.

“I remember my nightmares and dreams pretty well. But I remember that I had, like, three towels that I wanted to give to my siblings because I have three, but I forgot them in the closet. So it was a big drama.”

I would say so. 

“But when you wake up, take a shower, go eat, stretch it off, and by the time you arrive on court, you can settle in. However, it will take a while. I do get nervous, but everybody does. And as soon as you understand that it’s the same for everyone, and thanks god it’s like that, because otherwise you’re a rabbit and you cannot feel those good emotions,” Bacsinszky said. “Because if everything is just coming and is so easy, it would be less fun. I try to take the fun part of it. So if I’m nervous, I try to be less nervous. If succeed, then I’m happy, and I try to play with it and I try to take the momentum.”

She will play against the 19-year-old Ostapenko on Thursday.

Murray vs. Nishikori
On Wednesday, the No. 1 Andy Murray will face Kei Nishikori, which should be a five-set classic.

In the 2016 US Open, Nishikori stunned Murray in the quarterfinal.
However, Murray has beaten him nine times, while Nishikori has only won two matches against the Scot.

In the past two and half years, Murray has beaten Nishikori in Madrid, Canada, the Davis Cup [twice], the Olympics and the ATP World Tour Final. 

There were a number of tough  matches at times, like in November 2016 in London, when Murray put down Nishikori 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4.

“Obviously lost against [Kei] at US Open. He plays well on the clay, obviously,” Murray said. “Very solid off both wings. Kei is dangerous off both wings. Moves well, quick.”

Nishikori hasn’t won a tournament this year, but he reached the quarters at Indian Wells and Miami on hardcourts. On clay, he reached the quarters in Madrid, but he pulled out. In Rome, he lost against Juan Martin del Potro and, in Geneva, he lost against Mischa Zverev in the quarters. 

Here in RG this week, Nishikori said physically he is 100 percent. He outlasted Hyeon Chung in five sets and then he beat Fernando Verdasco in four sets.

He does think that he can upended Murray, but he says in order to do so, he will have to be perfect.

“We have been playing so many times. He’s great player,” Nishikori said. “Very smart tennis player. It’s never easy, and I think he’s been playing well and (been) watching some matches. He’s hitting great balls. So I’m sure it’s gonna be tough one, but try to enjoy and try to win the match.”


Serena vs Sloane: The Picks, Roland Garros. Does Stephens has a real chance?

Serena Sloane IW 15 TR MALT8490

Monday, June 1

Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens

Obviously Victoria Azarenka was very upset at a line call at 5-4 in the second set, when she hit a heavy ball on the line but Serena argued that it was a late call of out. The umpire inspected the mark and saw that the shot was good, but the point would be replayed. Vika was very angry.

Yes, maybe Azarenka could have woken up again or feel confident, believing that she can finally beat Serena at a Grand Slam, but she did not.

Because really, Williams was down 2-4 in the second set and then she knew she had to step on the gas and she did, grabbing 10 of 12 games and winning 3-6 6-4 6-2. She was down 0-2 in the third set, and then she found the lines quickly and the upset Azarenka was erratic. She seemed to be dreaming and she lost six straight games. She was out-hit, pure and simple and, if Azarenka can ever beat Williams, she will have to stay there every second, because at the Slams – in fact at every tournament – you can never give in. To a degree in Paris on Saturday, she did not.

Williams will play Stephens, who played the best match all year by blowing out Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-1. Stephens says that she loves the red clay, and she shined here, having reached Roland Garros at the fourth round, four years in a row. She is only 22 years old, and she still has a long way to go, but she has reached into the second week at Paris once again and she can really play. Without question, she is super fast, she can crack off both wings and she can mix up her first serves. But at times, she will push the balls, waiting for mistakes, which is why she almost disappeared during the past year. Stephens likes to start slow during the points and when her foe pushes the balls into the center and short she can attack, but against Williams she has to try and dictate from word go. Williams not only can dominate with her giant serves, but if she is feeling good she can attack immediately off Stephens’ second serve. She won’t give her room. If she has any real chance, she has to be comfortable and lock it in, because after Stephens shocked Serena in the quarterfinals at the 2013 Australian Open, they battled off the court and since then, Sloane has become very shy. She has to get in her face. But she won’t again as Serena will win in straight sets.

Sara Errani vs. Julia Goerges

The Italian has been one of the most consistent on clay over the past five years or so and she really took it against Andrea Petkovic, winning 6-3 6-3. She is pretty small so she cannot over power her opponents, but she can grind it against almost anyone. That will occur against Julia Goerges, who beat Irina Falconi 6-4 6-1. Goerges can smack her forehands, but she can disappear during key moments. She will at RG and Errani will reach it into the quarters once again.

Petra Kvitova vs. Timea Bacsinszky

Once the Czech gets into the match, then she is just fine. She was very clean in besting Irina Begu 6-3 6-2, and now she was to figure out the Swiss, Timea Bacsinszky, who was very accurate in beating Madison Keys 6-4 6-2. Bacsinszky will try to mix up her attacks, but the big lefty Kvitova can go every which way but loose. The two-time Wimbledon champion will win in three sets, but there will be some long rallies.

Alison Van Uytvanck vs. Andreea Mitu

How, who and why? The unknown Van Uytvanck of Belgium beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-1, and the totally unknown Andreea Mitu of Romania overcame Francesca Schiavone 7-5 6-4. Van Uytvanck has played well during the qualifies, while Mitu seems to love clay as she has played a ton of tournament. A true pick’em here, but Mitu is more comfortable on the clay and will win in three sets.