Archives for August 2017

2017 US Open: Can Federer and Nadal face off in semis?

FROM THE US OPEN –It is very unusual that there are five top-10 competitors who are unable to compete at the US Open. All of them are hurt, badly hurt, so it is possible that they won’t play for the rest of the year:  Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. We could talk about it for hours; why are they so injured, why do they play too much, are they finally breaking down? We’ll leave that for another day, after the USO.

The First Quarter

Rafa Nadal is ranked No. 1 — which is great — but on the hard courts, he is very decent, but he is not spectacular. The Spaniard did reach the final at the Australian Open and IW, but he went to down to Roger Federer. Nadal has beaten the Swiss many times over the years, but this season, Federer’s backhand had improved a lot, so now, the lefty has to hit it harder.

Nadal should be able to reach the semis, but it will be difficult, to say the least. Remember last year in the US Open, when he was up two sets to zero versus Fabio Fognini and, all of a sudden, the Italian got hot, and in the fifth set, Nadal panicked and lost. Now, he could face Fognini again, in the round of 16. That could be a fantastic match, except that while Fognini has played some terrific ball, but he likely will have to play Tomas Berdych in the third round — who is struggling —  but a true veteran.
Whoever wins, Nadal will beat them up, and in the quarters, he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Gael Monfils. Dimitrov just won Cincy, the first time won an ATP 1000, so he is extremely confident. He will out-hit Monfils in a long match, and then go up against Nadal. The Spaniard knows that he has to crush Dimitrov’s one-handed backhand. He will, but it will be super close. Nadal wins in a delicious five setter.  


The Second Quarter

Here goes Federer, who really wants to win the USO. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has played incredibly well, on the hard courts and grass. He has tremendous confidence, he can hit anything. However, just like Nadal, he has some tough draws. He might have to face the lefty, Feli Lopez, in the third round. Lopez loves to slice, he hits a big first serve and he will come to the net. But it doesn’t really matter, because Federer will figure it out, easily. In the fourth round, Federer will have to go up against Nick Kyrgios, who once again, is rising up. Assuming that he is healthy, the Aussie will be ready to rumble. He has beaten all the top players, so when he is into it, he can kiss the lines. However, in the fifth set, Federer will be patient, while the Aussie will over-anxious.

Fed will move into the quarters, and it is very difficult to find out who will play. Maybe Juan Martin del Potro, Roberto Bautista Agut or Dominic Thiem. Throw in Thiem, who can really center the ball on his racquet, but he still hasn’t learned how to play on the hard court. Federer will in straight sets.

The Third Quarter

This bracket is fascinating. There are three seeded American players — Sam Query, John Isner and Jack Sock — and two German brothers, Alexander and Mischa Zverev. Isner will face M. Zverev is the third round, which should be a string over very short points. Isner has finally started to play the right way for six weeks, and now he thinks he can get ever further at the USO. He has been around for many years, getting upset when he isn’t playing the right way. But now, he has improved his backhand and at the net — when he gets up there. M. Zverev is finally healthy, which is good, but he has trouble returning.

Isner will face Querrey, his old buddy, in the fourth round. Querrey is rising again, with his forehand, his serve and, now, his return. They have hit with each other in practices hundreds of time. It really is a tossup, so pick Querrey, who is mentally sound.

A. Zverev has already shown that he can beat just about anymore, upsetting Federer in the final at Montreal. He is very young, but he is a huge serve and swings so hard with his forehand and backhand. He should be able to beat Kevin Anderson and Gilles Muller. In the quarters against Querrey, it should be close, with amazing serves. The 20-year-old Zverev aces the American in the fifth set.       


The Fourth Quarter

Who knows will reach the semis? Maybe the former US Open champ Marin Cilic? The former No. 5 Jo Tsonga? The new, very young Denis Shapovalov of Canada? The good Frenchman Lucas Pouille? Even though Cilic was hurt last month, he looks OK. We think.

The Hidden Secrets of Federer’s Game

FROM THE US OPEN — There have been few players like Roger Federer when it comes to inspiring the kind of lyrical praise and glowing adjectives his game regularly receives. Even a casual onlooker just needs to glance at the 19-time Grand Slam champion on a tennis court to know they are seeing something special — the elegant strokes, the feline movement, the way a swing of the racquet can instantly transform the regular into something exceptional. It is a seamless blend of the athletic and the artistic, forged within the intense, swirling midst of competition.

Yet for all the broad appeal of Federer’s game, the players who watch him just as avidly as fans know there is even more in the details. To their trained eyes, it is the little things — a step here, a racquet turn there — that imperceptibly add up to a champion’s repertoire. What is equally striking is that each of these players, asked to identify a subtle feature of his game, selects something different.

It begins from the moment Federer tosses the ball up to start the point. “It’s very tough to read his serve, because the toss goes in different directions,” said Mats Wilander.

Players typically throw the ball up in slightly different positions depending on whether they want to slice, kick, or hit the ball flat in either direction, often allowing opponents to guess their intentions. Pete Sampras was famous for being able to disguise his delivery by always tossing the ball in the same spot. But Federer can throw the ball a particular way and then hit it another.

“This is next level,” said Wilander.

On top of that, Federer’s serving — on a good day, anyway — is also the most precise on tour. While most players place the ball a couple of feet inside the box, Federer can consistently keep within a foot of the lines.

That helps explain why, despite a delivery that rarely ventures above the low 120 mphs, his winning percentages are similar to the giants serving in the 140-mph range and he has the third most aces in ATP history behind Ivo Karlovic and Goran Ivanisevic.

Even on other shots, it’s not much easier to tell where Federer is going. Germany’s Mischa Zverev is among the very few players on tour still serving and volleying, and he relies on his ability to anticipate where the other player is going next. Except when he’s playing his idol.

“Federer takes almost every ball on the rise, which takes time from you, especially if you try to come in,” he said. “And the other thing is, he can position his feet the same way for down the line, for crosscourt, and for a lob. So that gives me no chance to read where he’s going, where with most other players, I can — based on how they position their feet on the court — if they’re leaning into the ball, if they’re leaning back.

“Federer and Rafa [Nadal], those are the two where I have a lot of difficulty to anticipate where the ball is going, but Federer even more.”

Like his feet, Federer’s hands don’t give much away, with the same swing, a little flick can send the ball almost anywhere on the court. “His wrist is just so creative,” said Zverev. “He can do so many things with his wrist, even when he’s off-balance.”

Zverev might be a Federer fan, but he can’t exactly say he likes playing against him. “I always feel like I am an amateur, and I have no clue what to do,” he said.

Other aspects of his swing and footwork also elicit admiration. As Federer strikes the ball, his arms and legs move in choreographed tandem, assured in their balance and timing.

“To me, he has the best technique on tour,” Feliciano Lopez told journalists a couple of years ago. “I have never seen anyone who moves on court the way he does. He always looks great in photographs. With other players, we’re stretched like this, or look like this [contorted]. Roger’s always show him up straight.”

Those photographs often capture the moment Federer makes contact — eyes locked, watching the ball coming off his racquet. And that is what other players also look at, noticing the way he stays so still above the shoulders. “He hits the ball, and he looks at the ball and he doesn’t move,” noted Fabrice Santoro. “He keeps [looking] on the ball much longer compared to other players.”

It all helps to produce the symphony of shotmaking that has become Federer’s signature. Most famous are the attention-grabbing crowd-pleasers like the “sneak attack,” the tweener, the dropshot and the high backhand smash. Admittedly, there can also be more than few shanks on off days. But even seemingly standard shots reflect an unusual amount of talent.

“He plays low-percentage tennis,” comments Nick Kyrgios, astutely, knowing a few things about low-percentage tennis himself.

Unlike the more volatile Kyrgios, though, Federer can hit such shots consistently and under pressure. That, Tim Henman has suggested on BBC, is because Federer adds “margin” — like by putting topspin on his trademark crosscourt angled forehand so it curls high above the net, allowing him to do it again and again.

Simona Halep especially likes the way Federer moves his feet when running around his backhand to hit the forehand, calling it “efficient” in its motion and positioning.

And while his one-handed backhand is not as big a weapon as the forehand, it has admirers of its own. Since Federer returned this season from an extended layoff following knee surgery, the talk has been largely of his topspin backhand, which he is hitting more often and offensively than before. But some pick the standard version as his most effective shot off that wing.

“His backhand slice,” said Lleyton Hewitt. “He’ll hit it and the other player, often they don’t know what to do with it, and then he takes control.”

Federer possesses five types of backhand slice, according to Santoro. There have also been measurements that suggest he can carve the ball more than any other player.

There is plenty more to pay attention to: his anticipation, his touch, his variety. Watching Federer has become something of a collective exercise within the game. But for a lot of pros, his conduct is just as remarkable as his play.

“As the player who has won the most Slams on the men’s side and been No. 1 for so many years, he’s incredibly relaxed … talking to everybody in the locker room,” said Michael Chang, recalling, “When I came on tour, the [John] McEnroe, [Jimmy] Connors, [Ivan] Lendl generation, everyone was in different corners, and not talking to each other, and so we learned from those guys, what you were ‘supposed’ to be. Roger’s very much not like that, and I think he’s created an atmosphere in the locker room where guys are a lot more friendly.”

Whether it’s on the court or off, fellow players see a lot in Federer.

Picking the US Open Women’s Draw

The First Quarter

No.1 Karolina Pliskova almost won the 2016 US Open, but Angie Kerber took her down, 6-4 in the third set. The Czech has played pretty well recently. She has improved a lot over the past two years. She is a little bit faster, she crushes the ball and she is very good at the net. Here, she is one of the favorites to win her first Grand Slam. But, at times, she can get angry and be off her game.

Pliskova might have to face against Shuai Zhang in the third round, which could be difficult, but she should get through. In the fourth round, then she will have to play ball. Assuming that Kristina Mladenovic gets through, then the Frenchwoman will be set to attack Pliskova. Mladenovic loves to come into the net, and while she isn’t very fast, she can create angles.

In the quarters, there are five players who can challenge the Czech: the good veterans – Svetlana Kuznetsova, CoCo Vandeweghe and Lucie Safarova – and the two very young players, CiCi Bellis and Anett Kontaveit. Pick the teenager Bellis, who is rising super fast, to move through the early rounds. But, by the time she hits the quarters against Pliskova, she will tap out.

The Second Quarter

There are lots of possibilities.

Elina Svitolina has played extremely well this season. She recently won Toronto, smoking her backhand and forehand. She is very determined. However, she has yet to go deep at the majors.

She might have to face Daria Gavilova in the third round, who has reached the final in Connecticut. She is small, but she loves to play and she is super fast. But Svitolina will move on, and then she will go up against Madison Keys, who is finally happy again. The American is ready to go on the court and stay there for hours. Both Keys and Svitolina want it bad, and in the end, Keys will hit harder and she will reach the quarters.

Guess who will play against Keys? How about the RG champion Jelena Ostapenko? The young big swinger hasn’t played great on the hard courts, but she knows what to do: powder the ball and hope it goes in. Without a doubt, if she faces against Angie Kerber, she will win in the fourth round, because the German is mentally gone.

Can Keys beat Ostapenko? Toss-up, as both of them are aggressive all the time. Give it to Keys, in a great marathon.


The Third Quarter

Ms. Garbiñe Muguruza is the favorite, hands down. She won Wimbledon, and she just won Cincy. She is on fire, and while she can get mad and pout, her first serve, forehand and backhand are very, very good.

Who can upset Muguruza? Maybe Petra Kvitova, if she is really back. But the two-time Slam champion hasn’t played well at all during the last five weeks and she has a tremendous amount of work to do. Possibly Venus Williams, but the former No. 1 is up and down on hard courts. Caroline Garcia has gotten better, but is not yet a real threat to top players. And then there is Caroline Wozniacki, who has played very, very well this season, but once she reaches the final, she really backs off.

It has to be Muguruza, hands down.

The Fourth Quarter

Well, well, what a great contest coming up in the first round with the five-time major champion Maria Sharapova versus the No. 2 Simona Halep. Sharapova is just coming back, and if she can be healthy, maybe then she can win another major. But until she is 100 percent physically, she will struggle.

But she is better than Halep. The Romanian is 0-3 in matches this year when one win would have given her the top ranking. She has frozen and played very badly, going down very quickly. Just last week, Muguruza destroyed her in the Cincy final, dashing her third shot at No. 1.

Remember in the 2014 final at Roland Garros? Sharapova beat Halep 6-4 in the third. Maria rose up at the end, and Halep pushed the ball. At the USO, both of them will be nervous, but Sharapova – if she isn’t hurt – will continue to attack. Halep will back off. Sharapova will win.

Who will reach the quarters? Look to Jo Konta, Ana Konjuh,or Sloane Stephens. Pick Stephens, who is lights out right now.

Zverev’s Amazing Year Continues in Montreal

Source: Coupe Rogers presented by Banque Nationale via Facebook.

Alexander Zverev has stormed up to a career-high No. 6 ranking after defeating Roger Federer in the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Federer was struggling with fitness, but this takes nothing away from a dominating 6-3 6-4 victory by the young German who had saved match point in the second round against Richard Gasquet. This mental fortitude highlights the credentials of a player who has long been tipped to win a Grand Slam.

This trajectory seemed predestined for Zverev as soon as he emerged on the ATP World Tour, heralded as a future Slam champion in a short space of time. Zverev has continued along this trajectory without any major hiccups to change the popular opinion formulated when he burst onto the scene. In fact, the fitness troubles of the sport’s top players could accelerate Zverev’s journey to a Grand Slam title.

Zverev’s meteoric rise is reflected in the tennis betting at bet365, where the young German can be found at odds of +1200 to claim the US Open in September. This places him as fourth favourite in the current standings, and that situation may well change over the next couple of weeks. Andy Murray’s fitness is currently unproven, while the degree of Federer’s physical discomfort in Montreal is yet to be established. That would leave Rafael Nadal as favourite, and the Spaniard is never the same proposition on hard courts as he is on the clay. 

Federer’s defeat to Zverev was only his third loss of the year. Source: Coupe Rogers presentee par Banque Nationale via Facebook.

With expectation comes pressure, and perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over Zverev’s potential is that he is yet to prove himself in the high-pressure situation of a Grand Slam. There were high hopes of the German at Roland Garros, given his propensity to handle all surfaces with aplomb, but he fell to the sporadically dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the first round. Zverev fared better at Wimbledon, delivering his strongest Slam performance in a round-of-sixteen defeat to Milos Raonic.

Zverev should probably have prevailed in that match but was defeated over five sets. If Zverev can deliver his peak level across a best-of-five match, then there is little to suggest that he is not on the pathway to Slam success. Previous US Open winner Marin Cilic will be dangerous at the US Open if fully fit, but otherwise, the tournament promises to be extremely open.

The young German is undeniably the form player and therefore has to be considered a worthy contender. A look at the six ATP Masters 1000 tournaments so far in this calendar year substantiates that claim. Federer triumphed in Indian Wells and Miami before Nadal excelled on the clay of Monte Carlo and Madrid. The clay tournament in Rome was won by Zverev, a stunning victory that has now been joined by the aforementioned glory at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. 

That victory in Rome came after Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final in straight sets, and Zverev doled out the same treatment to Federer. Some talented players lack the armoury to take down the best and therefore lurk in the lower position of the top ten for much of their career. Zverev has all the weapons to take down the best, and the US Open may be coming at the perfect time for a player in terrific form. 

Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Elina Svitolina wins Toronto, smacks Wozniacki

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SUNDAY, AUGUST 13: Now Elina Svitolina is the top of the charts.

The 22-year-old blasted Carolina Wozniacki 6-4, 6-0 to win Toronto. Admittedly, she was tired, because day after day, she has to run back and forth, side to side, forward and back. She is very strong and determined. She barely slept last night, maybe three to four hours, which is incredible. She was showing the effects of beating three strong players: Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.

During the first set, Svitolina was up and down. Her forehand and backhand were pretty good, but she was a little late. Her serve was decent, but she could not kiss the lines. She was terrific at the net, bending very low and going the other way. At 4-4, Wozniacki looked pretty tired, too, while Svitolina kept pushing. She broke taking won the first set,

In the second set, the Ukrainian was almost perfect. She woke up, her legs returned, she attacked quickly against the Dane. She rarely hit an unforced error, while Wozniacki was super frustrated. She wasn’t going anywhere, and she was totally gone.

The former No. 1 Wozniacki has reached six finals this season — which is fantastic — but lost them all. She doesn’t know why she can read her opponents’ strokes. Overall, she isn’t aggressive enough and she freezes.

Svitolina has won five titles this year and thinks she can win the US Open. She hasn’t been close, but now, she knows that if she really believes that if she can play 100 percent, then she can knock down anyone.

Incredibly, the No. 1 ranking will be up for grabs by five women, according to TV commentators. Besides the Toronto finalists, current No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber and the almost-there-but-can’t-convert Simona Halep could all be the top woman by Sept. 11.

She wants to sleep soon, but she is so, so happy.     

“I was very, very tired after the first game of first set. And I knew that I need to give everything because Caroline doesn’t miss much,” she said. “You have to work really hard to get unforced error from her. I just decided I’m going to just play every ball and just leave everything on court. And that’s why, emotionally I was relieved when I won the first set, and then was playing better and better in the second. I really couldn’t believe that it all finished and I’m holding the trophy.”

Svitolina: ‘The mental part is also a very stable’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, SATURDAY, AUGUST 11: Elina Svitolina is already pretty close to winning a major. But first, she has to really believe in herself. The Ukrainian has been darn good this season, she is already No. 5, winning Rome, Istanbul, Dubai and Taipei City. In Dubai, she took out Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Guess what? They will clash on Sunday, an extremely important event here at the Canadian Open.

In this event, Svitolina has beaten two terrific players here, who had great Wimbledon results: Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams.  On Saturday, Svitolina crushed Simona Halep 6-1 6-1. She was strong, and Halep was exhausted.

At Roland Garros, Svitolina thought she could go very deep and actually win it. She won the quarterfinal first set against Halep, thought she could nail it during the second set and move ahead, but she stopped, and Halep out-though her, winning 3-6 7-6(6) 6-0. She cried then. But, on Saturday, she locked in, showed her power and was ready to be patient.

“In Paris it was very difficult to have that loss, but I think it also was the experience,” Svitolina said. “So that’s why, from the first point today ‘til the last point, I was very focused and I was just 100 percent on every ball. I just learned. I learned from that experience that you need to play until the last point and, you know, just one point at a time. There will be nerves, but that’s how you need to try to manage them and to put them in the right direction. You know, to don’t push the ball, go for the shots and move your feet quickly. Because every player is different, but you need to know what happens with you when you are very stressed. So I try to learn this from the experience.”

Svitolina is very rugged, has a fast but varied serve. She can mix it up and bash it. Last year, she was pretty decent, but the 22-year-old needed to change a couple things and become substantial better. Her forehand, her backhand and the lob are forceful.  

“I’m more consistent with my game. With the mental part is also a very stable,” she said. “Yeah, it’s just the small things. I’m 22 years old, so I’m always changing. And I see some things differently than, one year ago, two years ago.So just something clicked together and it’s working.”

The same goes for Wozniacki, who has now reached six final tournaments this season. Without a doubt, she has been super consistent, but when she reaches the final, she gets nervous, and then she panics. Is she the favorite here on Sunday? It is hard to say. Svitolina beat her in February, but the 27-year-old Wozniacki has been on the WTA Tour for 10 years. That is a very long time. She knows all the other players, she knows exactly what she has to do, but in the finals, she becomes too conservative.

This time, she cannot, or Svitolina can blast her and destroy her forehand. Caro is so quick, she knocks it back all the time. Her backhand is so consistent, especially crosscourt. His first serve is much better now, and occasionally, she puts away the volleys.

At the press conference, a journalist asked: “It’s your sixth final of the year and you’re still looking for your first win. Does that weigh on your mind at all?”

Caro said, “No, not unless I get asked about it (with a laughter.) So I put myself in great positions and I’m going to try and make the most of it.”

Sloane Stephens: ‘Everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, THURSDAY, AUGUST 10 — Sloane Stephens is coming back strong, upsetting Petra Kvitova and Angie Kerber in Toronto. While she was off for almost a year, she increased her practicing and got better.

American Stephens was hurt last year and had foot surgery. She stopped playing in August 2016. She returned to play on the WTA Tour at the end of last June.

“It’s kind of like I’m just starting my season and everyone else is, like, huffing and puffing. I feel good,” said Stephens. “Obviously I haven’t’ played, so I’m really looking forward to getting on the court every time I step on the court and just happy to be out there. And not that the other girls aren’t happy, but they’ve already had a really long season, and it’s been tough for them. So maybe that’s a little bit of an advantage.”

The 24-year-old reached the semis at the 2014 Australian Open, upsetting Serena Williams before losing against Vika Azarenka, who won the event. She cracked the top 10 that year. She didn’t do much in 2015, but in 2016, she won Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston before her injury stopped her stellar progress.

She said that before she came back at the tour, she practiced a lot and she is trying to improve.

“There was a lot of things I needed to improve. I was on a peg leg for, like, 15 weeks, so I couldn’t do anything,” Stephens said. “I was walking on that stupid thing. And then when I first started actually hitting on the court again, like, I couldn’t run full on. I couldn’t do anything.

“So, it was just like a lot of slow feeling and working on stuff. So, I had a lot of time to work on a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to work on. I had time to improve, keep playing and you have really good results.”

She will face against Lucie Safarova, who has already beaten Dominika Cibilkova and Ekaterina Makarova, on Friday.

Karolina Pliskova: ‘Maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, WEDNEDAY, AUGUST 9: Karolina Pliskova is now No. 1. But she hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, the monkey also on the back Caroline Wozniacki who went years with that notorious distinction.

Obviously, this situation can be awkward, because she has come close to winning the major, like last year at the US Open, when she lost against Angie Kerber, 6-4 in the third. She didn’t choke, but she hesitated, and she got a little bit nervous, and she backed off.

Pliskova is so much more consistent now. Three years ago, when she wasn’t playing well, she would check in and out. Now, she is composed and can keep her flat shots in the court. Her consistency has increased and she can mix it up, deep and very short, and on the lines.

“I feel more experienced now,” she said.

This season, she has been pretty good, but not great. She won Brisbane, but then she lost in the quarters against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Aussie Open. She won Doha, beating Wozniacki. At Roland Garros, she reached the semis, but then she went down to Simona Halep in three sets. On grass, she won Eastbourne, taking down Wozniacki. At Wimbledon, in the second round, she lost to Magdalena Rybarikova. Bye-bye.

“Everything still the same,” Pliskova asked about being No. 1. “Still going out for practices and still want to win every match. So, maybe the pressure is a little bit bigger, but that’s normal, you know. So, just counting with that and nothing has changed.”

She will play against Naomi Osaka on Thursday.


Wozniacki and her close friend Aga Radwanska will face off on Thursday. They have played each other 16 times, with the Danish being a little bit better, up 10-6. In 2016, Wozniacki beat her in Tokyo, 6-4 in the third. In Wuhan and Beijing, Radwanska was the victor. In 2017 in February, Caro beat Aga in Doha. Last year, they were both pretty hurt but are in much better shape now. We say it’s 50-50 between there fantastic friends on Thursday.

Venus Williams will go up against Elina Svitolina tomorrow night. Venus came pretty close to winning Wimbledon again, but she is getting slower. While her first serve and backhand are phenomenal, her problematic forehand is still up and down. She is better than Svitolina. Maybe Venus is looking to grab the No. 5 spot from Svitolina. … Garbiñe Muguruza was so-so last week, but she is incredibly confident. She can still get too frustrated. Can she win Toronto and the US Open? Maybe, but first off, she has to face Australian Ashleigh Barty who is getting better and better. … Sloane Stephens is back, upsetting Kvitova 76 36 62. She was out for nine months but returned at Wimby and now showing constituency and strength again.

Aga Radwanska: ‘I’m fresh, so I’m also happy’

FROM TORONTO, THE ROGERS CUP, TUESDAY, AUGUST 8 – Aga Radwanska has been a WTA mainstay for many, many years. In 2007, 10 years ago,  she shocked Maria Sharapova in the US Open, which was stunning because the American/Russian was winning all the time. But Radwanska was very young, super thin and she wasn’t powerful enough to dominate a Top 10 player.

Radwanska strengthens are in her legs; she is very fast and bends down so low. Also she can deposit her backhand deep in the court and can mix it up all day.

But she has yet to win at a Grand Slam. She did reach to No. 2 in 2012. At Wimbledon, she reached the final, knocking off Maria Kirilenko and then Angelique Kerber in the semis, finally losing against to the great Serena Williams in three fun sets.

At the Aussie Open in 2014, Radwanska was very consistent, her forehand was stronger and she was confident at the net. She reached the semis, and she was ready to grab the trophy. But she backed off her shots and lost to Dominika Cibulkova. In the ’06 Australian Open, Serena crushed her in the semis. The only way to upset S. Williams would be to jump on the ball immediately, rather than waiting, which she did not do, and the American blew her out.

These are also great times personally for the Pole as she just wed her longtime boyfirend and hitting partner Dawid Celt.

When Radwanska is very happy, and she was feeling very good, she can push herself. Or she can get better, especially with her weak second serve, and to continue improve her forehand, which is decent, but she has to smash the ball crosscourt.

On Tuesday in Toronto, Radwanska  beat CoCo Vandweghe is straight sets.  She is health again, and she moved inside the courts all the time. But over the last year, she was injured, all the time, but she won’t stop, at least for a couple weeks. This season, she should have pulled out for a long time, but she couldn’t.

“Playing all the time with no breaks — you want to keep going, it’s hard to make the decision that you want to stop and have a break. I didn’t, I just keep going, I didn’t want to not play anything just pushing yourself, and you’re doing injections, you can’t play, you’re skipping those weeks that you’re at home so you’re not practicing at all. Especially the Grand Slams, I didn’t want to not play Paris, Wimbledon. I had a really bad virus, before grass — I was even thinking not play Wimbledon, but I was like, there’s no chance I’m not going to play [a] Grand Slam. You’re pushing yourself, but every day you’re feeling better and better, and I was able to play great matches. And then, there was the foot again, and more injections, and I didn’t play for two weeks. … But I’m fresh, so I’m also happy that I’m playing good tennis with little preparation.”

If she wants to win a major, she will have to change the tactics, like going more to the net often, and immediately go for her shots against the excellent competitors, or she will loses in the final rounds of the majors.

She won her round of 16 match by crushing Timea Babos 6-0, 6-1. However, this week, she has to be patient and not be maudlin. 

Bouchard: ‘Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it’

FROM THE ROGERS CUP, TORONTO — Genie Bouchard is up and down this year. When she is into it, she can move from corner to corner and be effective. But, when she is mentally out of it, she can spray the ball. Hopefully, in the next five weeks, she will play great on the court and she will start belting the ball.

In the court, that is.

Three years ago, Bouchard was coming fast. She went deep at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She didn’t win, but she was right there. She was young and fresh. She was ranked No. 5. But at the end of that year, she began to slip. She fell, way down. She has yet to comeback. Somedays, she looks pretty good. Other days, she collapses.

Let’s look at the good news: If Bouchard becomes more consistent and confident, then she can return to the top 10. But she has a long way to go. She is currently ranked No. 70, which is not great, but at least she has put together two good tournaments: she reached the semis at Sydney, upending Dominica Cibulkova, and she reached the quarters in Madrid, surprising Maria Sharapova.

Those were two good wins, but other than that, she can get extremely nervous.

“Well, look, Serena still says she feels nervous before matches. So I don’t think it’s ever something that any athlete completely masters. I think it’s more about how well you deal with it,” Bouchard said. “And it’s just an ongoing battle, really. Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it than others. I’ve learned more and been able to maybe detach it a little bit and really make it. ‘Okay, this is my job and it’s not, so personal.’ But it’s an ongoing process. It’s something I’ll always have to deal with for the rest of my career.”

Sloane Stephens took out Yulia Putintseva in three sets. Stephens is just coming back. Slowly, slowly. … Petra Kvitova didn’t play very well in California, but she looked aggressive and consistent on Monday in Canada. I would think that very soon, she will come back into the Top 10. … Domi Cibulkova has had a very tough year. She is straining. … Barbora Strycova wiped out Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman looked spry in May and June, but now she is backing off. … What a great win by the 31-year-old Varvara Lepchenko, who upset the RG champ Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 in the third. Lepchenko has been playing at the WTA for 16 years, which is a very long time. But without a doubt, she plays as much as she can and if she locks in, she could push herself extremely deep at the end of the summer.