Archives for July 2019

Can the GOATs graze again?

Serena Williams has 23 Grand Slams, while Roger Federer has 20.

Last weekend, Serena lost in the Wimbledon final to Simon Halep, very quickly, 6-2, 6-2.

Federer went down, but it was very close, super close. He lost 13-12 in the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. He had two match points at 8-7 in the fifth, and he couldn’t do it.

Serena wants to tie Margaret Court at 24 Grand Slams, and over the past two-and-a-half years, she has had an opportunity, but she couldn’t convert. And if she does so, then for sure, she will be the best player ever.

The Swiss is one of the best player ever, for now, but in the next few years, Rafa Nadal (who has 18 Slams) and Djokovic (who has 16 majors) could pass or tie him. They both are still playing, and the 37-year-old Federer might retire at the end of 2020. Maybe not, but he is aging,slowly, but still aging.

Serena is also 37-year-old, and next year, she might wave goodbye. Her older sister, Venus Williams, is still playing, and maybe she will continue to play until she is 40 years old. Clearly, they love tennis, which is why they can run forever, but that doesn’t mean that their bodies are wearing down. It happens for everyone. The heart might want to play but hurt legs end careers.

Years and years ago, like it is now, the best competitors wanted to play on the tour almost forever. For some, it didn’t really matter anymore if they were winning a title; they only wanted to hit the ball, anywhere, anytime. That was their mantra.

But two of the fantastic players, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, decided to retire fairly early. American Sampras hadn’t won an event for two years, and then, at the 2002 US Open, the huge server won it all. Twelve months later, he called it quits. He owned 14 Grand Slams, and at that time, that was enough.

Graf did much the same thing. In 1999, she won it at Roland Garros, and three months later at San Diego, she retired because her knees were totally wrecked. She was “only” 30 years old. She had won 22 Grand Slams, but she didn’t want to continue anymore. It was time to have a baby, and to have a new life. And she did, and now she has two children, and is married to Andre Agassi, another great player.

But that was a different era.

There have been a number of Grand Slam winners who continued to play after their prime: such as Sergi Bruguera, Thomas Muster, Petr Korda, Helena Sukova, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Nathalie Tauziat, among others. They believed that they could do it again, somehow, someway, but they weren’t even close. Eventually, they had to stop.

With Federer and Serena, they both have a chance to win it a Slam next year. Oh, sure, both of them have won the US Open, but to win it again, which will start in five weeks, I cannot see it. Last year, Federer lost to John Millman in the fourth round. Serena lost in the final against the rising Naomi Osaka. Federer was upset, and Serena was extremely upset, with a now infamous meltdown.

The last time that Federer won it was in 2008, 11 years ago. Serena won it 2014, which it wasn’t so long ago.

But, both of them aren’t quite as fast as they used to be, which is why over the past two years, they still look very good, but not great-great anymore. There was a day they were winning almost everything. However, to think they will shine forever is foolhardy.

In 2020, both Federer and Serena have a real chance to win just one more time. Perhaps at the Australian Open, and Wimbledon again. But after that, at the end of the season, both of them will walk away and retire. It will be time.

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 is the super young Cori Gauff?

Over the past 51 years, it has been very rare to see the 15-year-old women players have reached the second week at Wimbledon. It has happened here and there, but when you beat three players on grass, and you are an American, who grew up largely on hard courts, then to upset experiences players, well, is quite an accomplishment.

Cori “Coco” Gauff fended off two match points, but somehow, she rose up and knocked off Polona Hercog 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-5.  

“When [the last shot] was going overhead, I was like, ‘Please go out, please,'” Gauff said. “Then after, when I was jumping, I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it. It’s been one long match, it’s finally over!’ “

Yes it was. She is very fast, she really concentrates, and she can smack her forehand and her  backhand. Without a doubt, she has a long way to go, because she is very, very young, and she has to improve a lot of different things. But what I can already say, if she continues to work, and really focus, then soon enough, she will crack the top 20 within a year.      

I think we all know that Karolina Pliskova is almost on fire — almost. She just won Eastbourne last week, she was hitting the ball very hard, and of course, her first serve is massive. Still, though, in the past decade, she can look great, and she can be pretty lousy. She has matured a great deal, though. She has never loved grass, but right now, maybe she finally will. She will faces her fellow Czech, Karolina Muchova, in the round of 16… 

Caro Wozniacki went down. We all knew that on grass, she doesn’t know to be patient enough. Or to be more aggressive. She has never gone deep at Wimbledon, but in a few weeks, she will be on the hard courts again. You have to think that she will play pretty well in the U.S. and Canada, but she has to prove it again. …  

Elina Sviolina is still there. Maybe she can reach into the quarters? On grass? Outside at the Grand Slams, she is a top-5 player over the past couple years, but at the majors, it gets into her head. Maybe, she has changed… 

On Friday, Simon Halep played almost perfectly, while Vika Azarenka did not play well at all. Pretty bad, in fact. If Azarenka comes back into the top 10, she will have to concentrate better. 

We expected a terrific match on Saturday between Sloane Stephens versus Jo Konta. It turned out to be exciting, as Konta had to overcome losing the first set. Stephens said that she would be changing up her tactics. But, it didn’t work, especially in the final set. Konta won 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

For another story from me about Stephens and Naomi Osaka, go to:

Isner talks about Federer, Nadal and Djokovic

John Isner is finally back on court, this time at Wimbledon. Due to injury, the American couldn’t play on clay at all. In fact, at the end of March at Miami, he reached the final, and he lost to Roger Federer. 

Right after Miami, his foot became swollen, and later, he had mono. Until a couple days ago, he hadn’t hit a ball. It was a very long time, the first time, to recover.

In the first round at Wimbledon, Isner beat Casper Ruud in straight sets, and on Thursday, he will face Mikhail Kukushkin. Isner may be a better player, but as he said, when a player returns, they can be rundown. It will take him at least a month to feel healthy again.

Isner reached the semis at Wimbledon last year, but the 33-year-old has not made it to a final at any Grand Slam. But he knows that the best players — the 30-year-old-plus competitors Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic — are way above over the rest. Once in a while you can upset them, but it is rare. When they play against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, they can try, but that doesn’t mean that you can fool them. Because they can knock back most any shot, make them dizzy, become frustrated.


Isner said that the top three are still dominating. It is early at Wimbledon, but they are the three favorites, hands down.  

“It’s incredible. I mean, eventually they will slow down, maybe that’s six years from now. Who knows? But it’s absolutely remarkable, the stats that the big three have in Masters Series and Grand Slams over the last ten years, even more than that,” Isner said. “So it’s incredible. At the same time, you can consider yourself very fortunate to play in this era, just to say that you played with these guys week in and week out. But at the same time, it’s a bit unfortunate [for us].

“But, for me, I’ll take it. I have been right in the thick of it. A lot of players have had it worse than me. Look at a guy like Andy Roddick, incredible Hall of Fame player, but he ran up against Roger so many times in big finals. I think without Roger on the scene, Andy [Murray] could have eight Grand Slams.”

Murray has won three Grand Slams, twice at Wimbledon. In 2003, Federer won Wimbledon (grass) for the first time. The same with Nadal, in 2005, when he won Roland Garros (clay). In 2008, Djokovic won Australia (hard court). For 16 years, they have nearly monopolized the Grand Slam trophy case.

“It’s amazing to look at the Grand Slam stats. I mean, what has Roger won, 20?,” Isner said. “And he’s, like, he can’t even say he’s the greatest player of all time at 20 Grand Slams. It’s incredible. These guys are pushing each other. Rafa has 18 and then Djokovic is 15, not slowing down. It’s remarkable. These guys are pushing each other. I think when all’s said and done, it’s going to be arguing who’s better, Michael [Jordan] or LeBron [James]? It will impossible to tell.”