Archives for January 2019

Djokovic whips Nadal to win the 2019 AO

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Jan 27 – On Sunday morning, many people were saying that it was going to be super close, once again, and that Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal would go toe-to-toe for many hours. But that didn’t help him at all. 

The Serbian Djokovic played wonderfully, while Nadal kept missing a lot, from the baseline, at the net, everywhere. He couldn’t shake him. 

Djokovic won 6-3 6-2 6-3. That is seven victories at the Australian Open. He is just so good and even better then last year, when he won Wimbledon and the US Open.

“He was pushing me to every ball. What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position,” Nadal said. “That’s not nerves. I don’t like to say [Novak] played unbelievable well because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things very difficult unbelievable well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick.”

Nadal just came back on court after he stopped for months because he was hurt. He is rising, but not even close toDjokovic. He admitted that.

It took the Serbian six months to get better when he was also injured in 2017/2018. When he is on, Djokovic is so far up there. He is so fast, he can spin around and put it away. He hit the ball so hard, deep and close to the lines. His serve was almost impossible to read him. He is the best player on the planet. Currently, you cannot compete with Djokovic. At least now.

“That was a truly a perfect match,” he said.

Osaka wins her 2nd Slam
Outside of the Williams sisters, it has been a very long time that a woman won two Grand Slams in a row. But not anymore.

Naomi Osaka won the 2019 Australian Open on Saturday, edging Petra Kvitova. At the 2018 US Open, five months before, she won a Slsm for her first time, pushing back Serena Williams.

At the start of 2018, very few people knew who she was. She was ranked around No. 70, she was moving a little bit, but not much. Then in March, she totally changed, it all came together.  

She won Indian Wells and the rest is history. Now, legitimately, she is the best player in the world. She is No. 1. Now everyone it.

“For me, every practice and every match that I’ve played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time. But I’m aware of all the work that I put in,” she said. “I know all the sacrifices that every player does to stay at this level. In my opinion, it didn’t feel fast. It felt kind of long.”

Not too long, given that she still very young. But she has grown, on court. Off court, she says that she is the same person. When she plays, though, she is so good with her huge shots. With her serve, her forehand and her backhand, very deep, and very sharp. It is hard to tell which way she is going, because when she is running, she is thinking, deep in her brain. In the last second, she re-directs her shot.  Undoubtably, she is smart.   

“I think for everyone, it’s to win Grand Slams and to be No. 1. Of course those were two very big motivating factors. I mean, people were talking about being No. 1 if I win this tournament. I was able to accomplish that. But the ranking was never my real goal, it was just to win this tournament.”

The great rivalry: Djokovic and Nadal face off …again

novak djokovic

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN, January 26 — There have been so many matches between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. They have played each other 52 times, over the past 13 years. Without a doubt, there have been some great ones, some fascinating ones, and on occasion, odd ones.

Over the past 30 years, there have been a number of terrific matches, long matches, but none of them have confronted each other deep in the tournaments.

Some have played against Novak or Rafa before, but you had to go deep, in the semis or the finals, because that is where they were. Roger Federer has, and also Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka did, too — the Slam winners. But the very good ones — like Juan Martin del Potro and Mario Cilic — have made it once in a while, but not a huge amount.

Djokovic and Federer have played each other 47 times, with Novak has  25 wins and 22 losses. That is a high results, too. Nadal owns 23 wins against Federer, and the Swiss has 15 victories. One more: Djokovic has 25 wins over Murray, and 11 losses.

Obviously,  Djokovic is way up there, beating the best rivalries, but while he has won 14 majors, he still  has to tie, or pass them, eventually, with the 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, and the 17-major winner Nadal.  

Djokovic lost plenty of matches to Nadal, but he is clearly better when on the hardcourt. The last time that the Spaniard defeated Djokovic on a hardcourt was 2013, in the US Open final. That is a long time ago now.  

If Nadal can take him out on Sunday night, then he will have to push himself.  A lot. They know each other up and down,  but in order to shove him back, he has to swing hard and physical.  He has to, because as Djokovic said, he has to jump on him early.

“I think my 1-2 punches that worked pretty well throughout this tournament. The good thing is I’m feeling really comfortable on the court hitting the ball,” Djokovic said. “I can get into the court, I can step back, I can defend. I’m comfortable doing whatever it takes. I’m going to get out there and obviously try to dictate the play. But it’s easier said than done against Nadal. Just depends how we both start. Throughout the match, I guess you’re going to have to be present and get a feel of how it evolves. Sometimes it will require to be a little bit more patience with more construction of the point, sometimes maybe to attack more. He has improved his serve. I see he has a slightly different service motion that has worked very well. With everything he possesses, all the qualities in his game, adding to that also a lot of free points on the serve makes him much tougher to play against. That’s why he managed to have a lot of success with the shorter points, because of the serve. He’s backing his first shot up with that great serve, saving energy, and then he can go for more in the return game.”

Djokovic agreed that over the years, they adjust it, and added to it. There can be bad days, but for both of them, they are amazing players. That’s why they are the best right now.

“I think it adds more maybe pressure on [Nadal’s] serve and my serve, as well, because we return well. We’ve been playing well. Yeah, it’s going to be interesting.  We can get a sense of what we are about to experience. …When you go full out emotionally, physically, mentally, you might as well enjoy it.”

Naomi Osaka: ‘I was stuck there,’ but not now

Naomi Osaka

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, January 25 – Petra Kvitova is playing wonderfully, but in a sense, so is Naomi Osaka. The Japanese had to boost her game in the third sets, three times, and she kept chugging. She will smoke the crosscourt shots, with her forehands and her backhands. She likes to flatten it out, she can also throw in some spin, and she can sprint all the time. She does have a chance to win at another Grand Slam, two in a row, as five months ago in the US Open, she overcame Serena Williams in the final. That was very dramatic but marred with the Serena’s game penalty.

The same thing occurred two days ago, when Osaka edged out Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the third. Osaka knew it was super close, but in the last game, she took a deep breath, she took a little bit of time, she tossed it up, and with her serve, she smacked it down into both corners. “Ace, ace,” she yelled. And she also blasted her forehand. She won it, and while Kvitova is playing tremendous ball, the Japanese/Floridian is really fighting and she is getting better mentally.      

“I was stuck there for two years. As soon as I could break away from that, now I’m here again, I think it’s just experience and a confidence issue for me. It’s always felt like [that],” Osaka said. “I would love to say I’m that good, but literally I’m playing the best players in the world, and I’ve been playing three sets most of the time. It’s more like a battle of will at this point.”

She is correct. On Saturday night, in the final, they will go toe-to-toe. They are big hitters, and they have big first serves, and maybe even there second serves. They like to aim down the line, and they keep it low. They know that in the finals at a Grand Slam, they have to stand up very high.

“I love Grand Slams. This is a place where I think is worth all the training,” Osaka said. “When you’re little, you watch the Grand Slams, you watch all the players play, the legendary matches here. For me, this is the most important tournament. There’s only four of them a year, so of course I want to do the best that I can here.”

A few weeks ago, she played at Brisbane. She lost quickly in the semis against Lesia Tsurenko. She was unhappy, but she learned from it. So on Saturday at the Australian Open, she may not win, but she will try every second.

“The biggest thing I took away from that loss was the fact that I didn’t really try 100%. I just accepted the fact that I was going to lose,” she said. “For me, at this tournament, I wasn’t really focused on winning. I just wanted to make sure I tried 100% on every point. I’m still here, so thankfully that’s working out. I know that there’s other things that I can maybe tiny details within the large thought that I’m having of trying my best.”

Bang, boom: Naomi Osaka & Petra Kvitova reach final

Petra Kvitova

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, JANUARY 24 – Whether or not Naomi Osaka wins the title on Saturday, it is clear that she hits the ball both sides and absolutely nails it. There are times when she is a little bit nervous, and she can over-hit it, but in the same time, she keeps going for her shots.
On Thursday, she edged Karolina Pliskova  6-2, 4-6, 6-4. It was very tight in the third set. Just like she did in the 2018 US Open final, at 5-4, versus Serena Williams, she aced it, twice, and smacked a winner. She was not shaking in her boots. Over the past nine months, she has been brilliant, stable, and on top of the ball. Osaka rarely backs off. She hit 56 winners. Ka-boom.

Pliskova thought she had it, she was close, but the Japanese kept raising her game.

“I believe she played unbelievable match. To be honest, maybe her best in (her) life” the Czech said. “I don’t think she can repeat match like this. Amount of winners what she had, she just had very little mistakes. I don’t think I did actually something wrong. I had some chances, of course I had. The chances, they were not in my hands at all. There was not much what I could do. I was just fighting, waiting for a couple of mistakes, waiting for my shots to be aggressive. I got the chance to go to the third set. Had a couple of breakpoints. Didn’t make it. She served amazing today.”
Yes she did. She is a very funny person, off-court, but on-court. She leaps at the ball,is pretty agile and quick.

She will face Petra Kvitova, who easily knocked down the American Danielle Collins 7-6, 6-0. Kvitova,has been here before, in 2012, when she was moving up, with some deep and hard swings. She was very strong, and ambitious, but in the semis, Maria Sharapova kept coming, and she clubbed it all the time. Sharapova won it in three sets.
Now, many years later, Kvitova is back in a Grand Slam final. She won it twice, at Wimbledon, on grass, but on the hard courts, it is a little bit different. A couple of years ago, she could play great one day, and then not so much the next day; she would mentally disappear. But not anymore. She is a little bit more mature and she really thinks about what’s going on inside her head. Now she can become No. 1 if she takes the final. 

“I was still top 10, which I don’t think it’s that bad. But I just didn’t really have the chances in the Grand Slams,” Kvitova said. “I think afterwards I have been a little bit more mature to win the second title in Wimbledon was, much more sweeter for me, kind of be able to repeat it. I’m not sure if I’m more mature now, but I think it’s the life process, which everybody is going through, and I think it’s the same with me.”

Nadal steamrolls Tsitsipas

On Thursday night, Rafa Nadal destroyed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0. That was surprising, considering that the Greek stunned Roger Federer, and some other good players, but it wasn’t to be again. I am sure he was tired, and maybe he was a little hurt, but still, he was pretty slow and shaky. Nadal has been around for almost 15 years and has won 17 Grand Slams. He could win another one on Sunday. Tsitsipas is the best young players right now, but winning a major this year? I am not reallysure during the season, but he might find another level.

Rafa is rarely missing again, to face Tsitsipas

Rafael Nadal, Rafa Nadal

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Jan. 23 – Rafa Nadal has not lost a set over the past 10 days. The Spaniard hasn’t played for almost five months, he was injured, and when he came back at the Aussie Open, he was unsure how he would play. but, one way or another, he had to come on the court and just hit the ball. Right off the bat, he was aggressive, hitting deep with his big forehand and his twisting first serve. His crosscourt backhand improved a decent amount and the lefty can put it away at the net. He rarely misses it.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner has a chance to win Melbourne. A decade ago, he won it, but after that, he did not grab it again. He really wants it though, badly.

Nadal has to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis. You know, the Greek who upset Roger Federer as well as beating Roberto Bautista Agut. The 20-year-old Tsitsipas is rising fast.

“I think Roger in the second set was unlucky,” Nadal said. “A lot of breakpoints in key moments that probably if he takes one of them, one of that breakpoints, probably will be a big difference on that score.

“Surprising or not, I will not say no because always when Federer is on court, is always surprise when he loses, no? But we know they are good. We know that Stefanos is one of these players that can win against everybody. Was a surprise but not a very big surprise. I know Stefanos is ready to win against everybody.”

The top players have been playing for 15 years in the majors, and they have been winning forever. The current young guys looked pretty good, but they have yet to win it all at the Grand Slams. Can Tsitsipas beat Federer, Nadal and possibly Novak Djokovic to win it all? That would be unbelievable, but he has to get there first.

“Being honest with you, for me, I play another match if they are the NextGen or not. For me what really matters is win the match and give myself a chance to be in the next round,” Nadal said. “That’s the real feeling for me at this stage of my career. Is not like don’t give them confidence or not. I know they are good. I know they will be fighting for the most important things during the next couple of years. I don’t take it that way. I just take it like a difficult match against players that they have a lot of energy. That’s all.”

Pliskova rolls over Serena
How about the Czech Karoline Pliskova, who upset Serena Williams in three sets? She was down 1-5 in the third, but she did not want to quit, she kept going for her shots, she found her huge serves and she returned deep. After she turned her ankle on match point, Serena made more than a few errors, and all of a sudden, Pliskova jumped on the ball. Her eyes were very clear, she knew where she would go, flat and deep. She beat Serena 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. As Pliskova said, it was her best match ever. And for Serena: If she wants to win another Grand Slam, this year, she has to play a fair amount of tournaments. Here, she hadn’t played in four months. That is tough for anyone.     

Pliskova will face the rising Naomi Osaka, who smoked Elina Svitolia. Pliskova thinks she can out-think her, and to make her sweat. They are both huge hitters, and they can crush their serves. There won’t be too many rallies, but it will be a flashy, entertaining match..

American Danielle Collins is in the semis. She has improved a lot over the past year, a tremendous amount. She can move forward and try to put it away. Most times, in the past 11 days, she has. However, she has to face Petra Kvitova, who hasn’t lost a set. She is another Czech, she is directed, and she is very clean. You never know about her on court, but she will focus a lot. At least right now, Kvitova is better than Collins.

Pouille surprise showing
Lucas Pouille hit the top 10 last March but watched his ranking plummet to 31. He wasn’t on anyone radar to do damage in Melbourne. Pouille’s sneaked through the first three rounds with little opposition. In the round of 16 he knocked off his first seeded player, sending Borna Coric to the showers in four sets. The big win wass over Milos Raonic, seeded 16. With the Canadian showing his old form, Raonic looked like a lock. But, Pouille exploded to grab the semifinal berth — his first ever in a Grand Slam — with a 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(2) 6-4 win. Next up is Novak Djokovic, who advanced when Kei Nishikori retired.

Raonic, Serena, Pliskova rising

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, January 21 — Canadian Milos Raonic has been so steady and lethal over the past nine days. He is powerful, he won’t go too early to try and kiss the lines, and he thinks a lot. He was been injured so many time over the past two years, but today, he was smart and focused.

On Monday, he essentially crushed Alex Zverev in straights, 6-1, 6-1, 7-6. The German destroyed his racket, slamming it nine times after the second set. The young man was, as he said, “I was very angry, so I let my anger out.”

Raonic saw it, but he didn’t want to think about it for a long time. He needs to continue to focus.   

“I think it can have an effect. It’s like if a top guy after winning a game, even though they are behind against a player that maybe hasn’t been in a scenario is a bit more vocal, tries to sort of amp themselves up,” he said.

“It’s sort of that same thing. It could be to try to provoke or make the other guy think, because if another guy is in a very comfortable situation and things are flowing smoothly, it’s sort of a stimulation on the side that can provoke maybe some thought, some doubt, or maybe some, Oh, maybe that guy is going to wake up across. Just make them think something different.”

Raonic reached the Wimbledon final a couple years ago, and after that, injuries slowed him down. It has been a tough patch to deal with him. However, when he is healthy, he looks very good. The big man can shorten the angles. Will he survive the rest of this week? Nobody know, but he is trying.

“If I can do my things well, if I can go away and train, I don’t necessarily always need to hit that much with other players. If I can do my specific things well, if I can serve well, if I can be efficient, coming forward and first chance I get, and I can recognize those moments, I can always put different pressure. And I think all those kind of things and just the process I go about and how I like to keep to myself when I have been away.

It’s always given me certain motivations. I think each injury has given me sort of the feeling I don’t know what’s next around the corner. Am I going to be hurt again or not? But it’s given me more of an appreciation of when I have been healthy.”

He will face the Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who has risen again. That should be some fascinating rallies.

If you watched it on Sunday night, Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame the great Roger Federer in four classic sets. Tsitsipas stood tall, while Federer missed some key forehands and watched 12 break opportunities float away. That’s what happens, when you cannot play perfectly. Tsitsipas almost did it.

The women
Karolina Pliskova smoked Garbine Muguruza in two sets. I mean she knew exactly how to play against her. And she did, with incredible confidence. So now the Czech will have to face Serena Williams, who overcame the No. 1 Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Pliskova reached the 2017 US Open final, losing in a close three-setter to Angie Kerber. She has been around for a fair amount of time, so at some point, she will have an opportunity to go super deep. But, she has to get over Serena, which is very difficult. However, she will have a decent chance.  

“We played [at the 2018] US Open. I didn’t play well that match, so for sure would be good revenge to play [Serena] again,” Pliskova said. “Different conditions here. I think I’m playing a little bit better than I was last year, so looking forward.  I think she’s playing very solid this tournament. … I have my game, so of course I have to take care a little bit of them, too. But I have to play my game so I don’t have any plan B, C, D,” she said with a smile.

“Of course if Serena is playing at her best, then it’s tough because she can serve, put a lot of pressure on her returns, but she can also miss.”

Everyone can miss, but not right at the end. Once in a while, in the past 20 years, Serena has missed some key ones in the Slams, and she lost. But not many. That’s why she owns 23 Grand Slams…

Last year, outside of college, very few fans knew who Danielle Collins was. Not anymore. The 25-year-old crushed the two-time Grand Slam champion Angie Kerber 6-0, 6-2. Earlier, she took down Julia Goerges and Caroline Garcia. Those are three top-10 players. Over the years, it is very rare for the college players to go on to the tour and eventually crack the top 10. Or eventually make the top 20. Right now, though, Collins has already reached the top 25 and if she keeps playing this way, she can go way up high. She will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who stunned Sloane Stephens, very late at night. … A tougher match for Ash Barty, who played a great contest, beating Maria Sharapova, but she has to play Petra Kvitova, who is on fire.

Nadal is Flying High … Again, Plus: Maria Sharapova vs. Ash Barty

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Sunday, Jan. 20: Before Rafa Nadal returned, last week, he was unsure how he would feel. After the US Open, four months ago, he stopped because his body broke down and he couldn’t play until he healed.

He knew that, and he has said that his legs are breaking down constantly. But, when he can actually play, he is very enthusiastic. And damn good. It is hard to say how long the 31-year-old will stay, and last, but he is already playing great at the Australian Open. He hasn’t lost a set, yet.

He knows that he’s got a very tough match against Czech Tomas Berdych, the veteran, who looked very fresh over the past week.

A five setter? I doubt that. Looks to be four, very close sets, but Nadal will take it. Here comes the second week

Marin Cilic has been very smooth, which is why he is still here on the slow hard courts. However, he has to play Roberto Bautista Agut, the Spaniard who leaped up when he started this year, taking down Novak Djokovic and Berdych to win Doha. That was somewhat shocking as the 30-year-old has been pretty good here and there, but not fantastic. He is knocked out Andy Murray, John Milman and Karen Khachanow at the AO. That is eight in a row for Bautista Agut. He has always been consistent, but pretty quickly, he can attack the ball, especially when he returns. He will wear down Cilic in five sets. That will be darn close.

There are some interesting matches, with Rober Federer versus Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Frances Tiafoe versus  Grigor Dimitrov. Go here for more reporting:

Angie Kerber is looking very good, and she could win it again. The German can do almost everything, hitting with spin, pretty flat, and going side to side. She can bash it, or just move around the box. Mentally, she is thinking a lot, then she can go where ever she wants to.   

Kerber will face the 25-years-old American Danielle Collins, who came out of nowhere. A year ago, she was ranked No. 161. Now she ranked No. 35, and she will be moving up. It took her a while to understand what she had to do, when to go for it or be patient. She hustles, now, too.  Can Collins upset Kerber on Sunday? She has a chance, given that she took out Julia Goerges and Caroline Garcia, two top 10 players. This time, though, Collins has to nail her first serve and her return. All of it, essentially. American Sloane Stephens now loves playing in the majors. Three years ago, she didn’t love it, she would back off, she wouldn’t go for it, and she would disappear. But since she returned after her surgery, a year and a half ago, she actually became more mature. And she became more aggressive, when she had an opportunity. She moved it up, and she returned better. That is why she is ranked No. 5. Stephens is a serious favorite against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has been good here and there, but she is not way up[RC1] .

Another American, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, has to face Petra Kvitova. Obviously, she will become a better player, year after year, and perhaps, even quickly. Her parents used to live in Moscow, but they moved to the USA, and she was born in New Jersey. A few years later, they went down south to Florida. They still lives there, but Anisimova travels are lot. She jumps into the ball, and she is very quick.
But how will she deal with Kvitova, as the Czech has improved her fitness, and now the huge hitter rarely gets tired. She used to, but not this week, as she has focused and she doesn’t get angry when she misses it. As long as she is stable, she will out-hit Anisimova.

Now this is the biggest match on Sunday, with Maria Sharapova against Ash Barty. The Russian/American played a wonderful match beating Caro Wozniacki in the third round, possibly the best contest over the last year. Really, because last year, she was hurt all of the time. Agreed her serve — many double faults — is still a liability, but her backhand, her forehand and her return are lethal. She knows that when she faces Barty, there will be many rallies. The Aussie can run and run for a long time, and once again, she rarely gets exhausted. Barty can mix it up, especially her backhand, and just grind. It will be a packed house Melbourne, and Barty really wants it. This will go into the third set, but in the end, Sharapova will rip the ball, on the lines, and win it.


De Minaur versus Nadal: youngster takes on the superstar

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, January 18: The young Aussie Alex de Minaur is rising very fast. He has a long way to go, but he is very quick, on the top of the ball, and then he explodes.

He has won seven matches in a row. He lives in Spain, half of the year, when he isn’t on the road. Before, he had to learn how to play. He is 19 years olds and he has watched Rafa Nadal on TV. Now, he can see him a lot in person. He just won Sydney and here at the Australian Open in the second round, he won a five-setter over Henri Laaksonen.  

De Minaur said he has admired the 17-time Grand Slam champ Nadal has admired him for a long time. They will face each other Friday night.

“Well, Rafa is pretty much like the king in Spain. He’s done so much amazing things for the sport,” De Minaur  said. “He’s had that many achievements. It’s pretty incredible. It’s going to be fun for me to get out on court and be able to test where I am. I think this is what you play for: toplay the biggest guys and the best guys at the top of their level on the biggest stages. You just got to go out there, enjoy, just thrive off the atmosphere.”

De Minaur moved to Europe  when he was just 5 year old. His mother grew up in Spain, so when she saw that her son loved tennis, it was a good idea to go there, to learn. That is the same thing in Australia: so many people are hooked on tennis, and there are a lot of fine coaches, so it is fine to split it up, in different counties.  

De Minaur did watch Nadal win the Australian Open, in 2009 — 10 years ago. That has been a long time ago, but it is pretty fresh. At least when they face off.  

“Yeah, well, you watch that many matches of Rafa, he’s won that many Grand Slams. I remember that one, watching it,” he said. “He’s still Rafa. Whenever he steps out on court, he always has that presence. No one can take that away from him. I just got to go out there, try to focus on my side of the court, generally just go out there, have fun, just hopefully take it to him.”

Halep advances, more comfortable now

Simona Halep

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN – No. 1 Simon Halep, who won the 2018 French Open, began to get hurt during October, and she had to pull out for the rest of the year.

That was then,  this is now.

In the first round at the Australian Open, she beat Kaia Kanepi 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. Even though last year she was thrilled that she finally won a Grand Slam at the French Open, still, as she said, “There is nothing to lose,” because her health is not 100 percent — yet.

The Romanian won the Canadian Open, beating Sloane Stephens in the final. The next week, she reached the final in Cincinnati, finally losing against Kiki Bertens. She lost, but it is almost impossible to win two huge events, two weeks in a row, because it was in August and it was darn hot outside.
Her body began to struggle. She was sore, she was hurt, there was some pain. She began to struggle, losing in the first round of the US Open. In Beijing, she had to retire. She pulled out and she couldn’t play for the rest of the year.

It happens to everyone.

Gradually, in December, she began to practice and hit some balls. Slowly. Finally, was ready to play again.  

“I just took the risk coming late here, staying home more, because I wanted. I said that no expectations coming here,” Halep said. “Just giving my best to find the rhythm, which was a great level of tennis. I feel like I am one step forward.”

While Halep has won 18 titles, it took her 10 years to grab a major. She was close at the Grand Slams, but in the second weeks, she would back off. Last year in the Australian Open, in the final, she lost to Caro Wozniacki 6-4 in the third. Last June at Roland Garros, she finally achieved it, beating Stephens in the final.
Even though she wore down towards the end of the year, now Halep feels more comfort.

“We’re going to see in the future what is going to happen with me this year. But comfort, for sure,” she said. “I’m not putting pressure on myself any more with the results. But I’m still motivated. What it comes now, it’s a bonus. I still the things in that direction. I feel better.”

Madison Keys talks about being healthy

Madison Keys

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Day 2 — Four years ago, Madison Keys, who advanced to the second round, reached the semis at the Australian Open, stunning Venus Williams then she finally went down to Serena Williams.

The same thing occurred in the 2017 US Open final when she was incredibly nervous and she lost quickly to Sloane Stephens. Last year, almost out of nowhere, at Roland Garros, she never loves clay, but finally, she understood her strategy, so she reached the semis. But Keys again lost to Stephens in straight sets. At the 2018 US Open, she was at the semis, playing well, smoking the ball, but she couldn’t not return very well and Naomi Osaka waxed her.

All in all, in the Slams, Keys has played very well overall, staying on top of the ball and digging in. She hasn’t won a Slam yet. But, if she can stay healthy all year, she will have a real chance to win it. Her first serve and forehand are gigantic.

But will she be healthy during the entire year? She wants to, but that doesn’t mean that it will happen, year after year. However, in December, she decided not to play early in Australia; she didn’t play Brisbane or Sydney. She wanted to wait and feel healthy. On Tuesday, Keys beat Destanee Aiava, easily.

‘I started being able to do some stuff at the beginning of December, but I was still a little bit limited, and it was still seeing, if we did something physical one day, had to back off the next day,” Keys said. “It was definitely managing that still for the first probably 10 days, so it was middle of December before I really got to ramp things up. We have been training a lot, so I’m glad you said that I looked fit. … There is a little bit of stress,
but at the same time, it is what it is. I couldn’t do anything about it. So, all I could do was prepare as well as I could and play as many practice sets. Luckily, things paid off, and I got the win.”

In 2018, at the AO, the 23-year-old Keys reached the quarters, going down to the former champion Angie Kerber. That was another tough loss, because the German is very quick, and can run side to side forever, while Keys cannot.

But she has worked her footwork and spped, so at the AO, she can look play even better. However, there are some difficult matches: against Elise Martens in the third round, perhaps against Elina Svitolina or Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round, and in the quarters — hello — Osaka, the US Open champion. As Keys said, her defense has improved. Well, it has to get better.

“I think my movement is, it’s gotten a lot better. It’s something I have been very focused on,” Keys said. “I think it’s more what I do when I get there is my issue. So, I’m working on making the right decision once I have slid into the ball, that’s more my problem.”