Archives for October 2019

Roger Federer wins — again — in Basel

At what point will Roger Federer retire? Last week, in his hometown of Basel, the 38-year-old won it again, smoking Alex de Minaur in straight sets. That was six times in a row and a total of 10. He has racked it up, winning 103 titles, only eclipsed by Jimmy Connors’ 109. That is unimaginable, really.

A couple of days ago, he said that yes, he will play in 2020. But in 2020, after he is done at the Olympics, will he wave goodbye? Possibly not, and maybe he wants to continue to play when he is 40 years old. But the older you get, you are a little bit slower. Yes, he has won 20 Grand Slams, but the last time he won it was at the 2018 Australian Open. That has been one year and nine months. That is not a big deal, but it is important.

In the final, at the Slams, it is an emotional trip. Federer was so close at Wimbledon with two match points against Novak Djokovic. But the Serbian edged him, 13-12 in the fifth set. It was right there, but Djokovic was very capable. After the match, Federer was extremely hurt, but he stood up and he talked a lot.

Soon, at the ATP Finals, the Swiss will re-charge. Federer just pulled out of Paris. It doesn’t look like he was hurt, but playing week-after-week can be tiring. He couldn’t risk the wear on his body. In many ways, that’s a smart move.  

He likes London and he has won it six times, a record. But, Rafa Nadal will be there, and Djokovic, too. Another terrific player, Daniil Medvedev will also be there, as will Dominic Theim, who just won Vienna. All of them will be very close playing indoors. The last time that Federer won the ATP Finals was in 2011, when he beat Jo Tsonga in three sets. Since he lost three finals to Djokovic. In 2018, he lost to Alexandra Zverev in the semifinals.

Maybe Federer will get a chance to be very solid, extremely powerful and deep. While he has be a master of the indoor tournaments, the question is can he win another ATP Final title?

WTA Finals
The 2019 WTA Finals is going on in Shenzhen, China. Already, there were some wonderful matches. Over the past two days, there were three matches that was very vivid. Naomi Osaka edged Petra Kvitova but then withdrew, Simona Halep barely beat the young Canadian Bianca Andreescu, and Elina Svitolina. — who won the tournament last year — knocked down Karolina Pliskova. There was another three-setter, but in the third set, and Belinda Bencic went down fast to Ash Barty. On Tuesday Barty fell to Kiki Bertens, who subbed in for Osaka.

It is too early to pick the winner, or even to reach the final, but Svitolina really wants to win it again. No. 1 Barty wants the title, badly, for the first time, but needs to get to 2-1 to have a chance to advance.

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

Karolina Pliskova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medvedev is on a roll

Daniil Medevdev

Every week, now, the Russian Daniil Medvedev is rising very quickly. Last week, he won Shanghai, beating everyone, including No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev. Not only is he very powerful, and pretty steady, but he can change his direction when he has to.

He is very tall, he is fast, he can smack his forehand and with some fine spin. Finally, he is aggressive, most of the time, and he gets bolder every week.

Medvedev is young, but he is a little more mature, and he is definitely fearless. Over the past two-and-a-half months, he has reached the finals six times in a row, winning two of the ATP 1000 Masters Series, Cincy and Shanghai.

He is 6’6”, and now he has 58 wins. What a year — so far. Yes, he has played extremely well since August. But he has yet to win a Grand Slam, which is three out of five sets, not two out of three. He will need more the legs, brainpower and breath to win a major.

In the next month, Medvedev can continue to win, in Paris and the ATP Finals in London. But, can he take out Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer in one week? Maybe, but now they all know how he plays. The Big 3 know how to combat their opponents and Medvedev will be in their sights.

Will Medvedev reach another fina, or will he eventually fold? It happens to everyone. Even though he has progressed a lot, fortunes can change. Right now, he is on a roll. Can anyone catch him?

With back-to-back wins: Naomi Osaka rises once again

Naomi Osaka

On the clay or grass, Naomi Osaka can under perform. But on hard courts, when she is very focus and positive, the Japanese/American can be driven. On Sunday, Osaka beat the No. 1 Ash Barty in three sets in Beijing. The Aussie Barty likely will stay at No. 1 at the end of the year if she plays decent at the WTA Finals. Osaka is currently No. 3 and has a chance to move up.

The Beijing victory follows Osaka’s win in Osaka, her “home city.”

Does it really matter who is No. 1, given that both Osaka and Barty have won 2019 Slams? Yes, it is. When they play each other, then they know they must make their mark against the best. That is very important. You have to show up, lift up your chin, open your eyes, and then you have to latch it in. You have to be locked in. You have to whip your powerful forehands and jump on the returns. Go to the net, put it away, and swing hard into the corners from both sides. In the third set, Osaka did that, by being aggressive and brainy.

Both of them will show up at the new venue, Shenzhen, in the WTA Finals. It is possible that they will play each other again.That could be a spectacular match.

Also in Beijing, Dominic Thiem won the tournament, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets. When Thiem started playing, he was already very good on the clay, but on the hardcourts, he was so-so. However, over the past two years, he practiced a lot, he listened and he willed himself to move himself forward and into the court. Also, he can go for it and when it is close, he can be combative. Not only did Thiem beat the young Tsitsipas, he beat the three Grand Slam champ Andy Murray and No. 9 Karen Khachanov. That was a great week by the Austrian.

Speaking of, Khachanov has a good shot to join the ATP Finals. The No. 8 Kei Nishikori is hurt and who isn’t playing, so the Russian should pass him in a couple weeks. Maybe even this week in Shanghai.

There are a few other players to have a chance to advance into the top eight competitors in London in November: Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Matteo Berrettini.

Young American men: Can they get close to the top?

Taylor Fritz

We are still waiting to see if the young U.S. men can reach into the top 10 at some point. How about in the top 15, instead?

The older American, John Isner, is still there, ranked No. 16 in the Race to London. Can he reach the top 8 towards the end of the year and play the ATP Finals in November? Possibly, but he will have to go very deep, week after week. The 34-year-old Isner has been there before, but maybe his legs are sore.
It appears that the young Americans look pretty good, but are they great and fantastic? Not yet.

At least they are pushing hard. Reilly Opelka just beat Taylor Fritz in Japan. That was a big win for him. The 6-foot-11 Opelka has a huge serve, and if he can stay in close near the baseline, he can slam it. However, when he has to run very fast, he can get tripped up. Opelka will never be speedy, but he can gradually improve. He is ranked No. 53, which is OK. But next year, he has to reach the top 20 at some point. Then we will know that he is getting better gradually.

Another young American, Fritz, has had a good year, but will the No. 31 move up towards the top? He will want to, but he has to think about how he is hitting about the ball, returning, and being more logical with his decisions.

There is only one more American in the top 50 — Frances Tiafoe at No. 46. He looked good during the winter and spring, but since then he has lost a lot. He fell to Alexander Zverev in straight sets, easy stuff. Tiafoe can grind it down, but it looks like he is confused. He was ranked No. 29 early this year. It is time to re-switch.


Outside of the U.S., there are some fascinating youngsters, such as Andrey Rublev, who just bounced Grigor Dimitrov in Japan.

In Cincinnati in August, Rublev upset Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. Maybe he plays too much, but when he focuses and drives the ball, he is dangerous.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost at the US Open, when he retired. But in July, he won Wimbledon. He was injured in New York, but he now he feels good enough to play. Because the US Open champ Rafa Nadal won’t play for the next month, Djokovic will stay at No. 1. I would think that the Serbian will end the year ranked No. 1, but he still has work to do against the top players.