Archives for July 2020

Federer: ‘When the cogwheels don’t grip anymore, I stop’

Roger Federer

Roger Federer won’t play this year, because he suffered an injury, and there was no reason to be super healthy during the spring and summer anywa

Now the Swiss says that next year, and even another year, he could still be playing when he will be 40 years old. The 20-time Grand Slam champ said that he will go to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Federer is a very smart person. Still, at times he can be irritable. In an interview with SportsPanorama, he said he isn’t sure whether he will retire, or he could continue play until he will be 50-years-old.

“Since I won the French Open in 2009, the media has been chopping on this topic. But it is already clear that I am at the end of my career,” said Federer.

“I can not say what will be in two years. That’s why I plan year after year. I’m still happy right now. But when the cogwheels don’t grip anymore, I stop. When I am old, I will definitely still play tennis. But no longer train, just ball.”

Just like Federer, 99 percent of the ATP and WTA rarely stop and think about stopping. Not everyday, as they age, but they can always go back to reflecting on a match and dream, win or lose. Just playing; that is enough.

Let’s stop dissecting the No. 1-10 rankings. Instead, let us look at the No.11-20, the young players.

Four of them has a chance to win ATP 1000s, or even if they reach the finals at a Grand Slam. There are four players who are still learning, such as Andrey Rublev (22 years old), Karen Khachanov (24 years old),
Denis Shapovalov (20 years old) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (19 years old).

Rublev and Khachanov are Russians, while Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are Canadians.

Eventually, when the terrific veterans finally retire, and then the majors will be wide open. In January, Rublev won Adelaide. He out-hit the big swinger Auger-Aliassime. Rublev can be very aggressive, but he can also become frustrated, and disappointed. He can crack both sides. But, he has to be more tolerant, and when he does, he will be placid and be ready to win more often.

Two years ago, Khachanov won the ATP 1000 in Paris. Then it looked like he was going straight into the top 5, but he stalled. There are times when he was magnificent, and at the 2020 Australian, in the fourth round, Nick Kyrgios edged Khachanov 7-6 in the fifth set. That must have been very hard. Khachanov is tall, but he is not very quick. I would think that at home, he has to work on his legs.

Shapovalov can be passionate, when he really wants to win, to show the earth that he is an stunning player. He can be, but when he is a little bit off, then he will fall apart. He needs to push himself closer to the net.
Auger-Aliassime came out of nowhere, and in January and February, he was very bold. He reached the final of Rotterdam and Marseille. Even though he lost, he was agile. He can bang the ball, but he still have to get much better when he had to return. That is critical, to reach the top.

The three wonderful players, such as Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, really know how to return. That is why they have won so many gigantic tournaments. If the young players want to go much further, they have to impose their return games.

Men can seize an opportunity at USO

Novak Djokovic

We don’t know which men will play at the US Open, next month, but if they had a chance, they will seize an opportunity. Roger Federer is out this year, but Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are healthy and kicking it.

Recently, the No. 1 Djokovic tested positive with the coronavirus, following the tournament he organized in Serbia and Croatia. Even though he wanted to show all the fans in Serbia who wanted to cheer at in stadium, the venture was seen as reckless by most observers. However, watching on TV, there were virtually no masks at all. I mean, hundreds of people were sitting at the event jammed into seats and close to Djokovic. Only days after, a number of people became sick. Not just Djokovic, but three other players, too. They all feel good, now, but with the fans … who knows? Are they OK? But statistically — like where I live in Los Angeles — there are many hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients. And many have died. So while everyone wants to watch tennis, just be careful.

Djokovic looks pretty good, and there was a picture last week, where he was practicing on the hard courts. Nadal was also practicing, but he was hitting on clay.

Will both of them come to the US Open, given that they have won the titles in NYC? They love the American Slam, but do they want to travel across the ocean? They aren’t sure yet. They have some time, in the next few weeks. It is not just the top players, it is everyone, especially Europeans, who are questing whether they will try to travel or just not go. Everyday, there are new changes; so just be patient. Or yell when they cannot find a solution. Scream!

No. 3 Dominic Thiem says that he is ready to jump on the plane. He hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, but he did reach the final twice at Roland Garros, losing against the main man, Nadal, and dropping this year’s Australian Open final to Djokovic. He could win a Slam, at some point, as long as he pushes himself to go for the lines. Daniil Medvedev almost won the 2019 US Open, nearly upsetting Nadal. In the fifth set, the Spaniard kept clubbing him, and he finally reached another trophy. Nadal can do it again and, assuming Medvedev gets better each year, he can win a Slam, too. As long as he works on his return. 

Other in the mix for Flushing Mead are these three top-10ers: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Matteo Berrettini. They can crush the ball when they want to, but they lose their focus and forget their strategies. They need more practice. Two young Americans, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, are rising. They have to figure how to make a major move to be real Slam contenders.

Will Serena and Sloane dominate in Lexington?

Serena Williams
Mal Tam/MALT Photo

Next month, the players will begin to play at the important tournaments — finally. At Lexington, Kentucky, Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens will be there, two Grand Slam champions. Serena has 23 majors, while Stephens has ‘only’ one.

Serena has won everything: the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Stephens also won at Flushing Meadows. Clearly, everyone wants to play real matches because over the past fourth months, no one could play at the events, due to the contentious coronavirus.

In August, hopefully, it could begin to fly away, but no one really knows. Let us just assume that day after day, everyone will understand what to do when you go outside and battle the coronavirus.

On court, the WTA and the ATP players love to compete, and that is why they managed to become pros and play at the Grand Slams and any other events. In August, the players will be healthy and ready to go.

Serena does have an opportunity to win another major, this year or next. She isn’t as fast as she was 20 years ago, but the 38-year-old can still crack the ball off of both sides. Usually, she is so intense, but here and there, she can get frustrated and angry. Fortunately for her, Serena can recover. If they are going to upend Serena, then other players have to focus all the time.

A few have, such as SofiaKenin, who won the 2020 Aussie Open, knocking off Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza. The 21-year-old American can look tremendous, but she also can panic. The No. 4 can win a bunch of tournaments, but right now she is still trying to figure out what she should do, minute after minute. She has no choice. She has to find a balance and keep her focus under control.

That is exactly what Stephens has to do, too. In January through early March, she went 1-5. That is pretty awful for someone with her talent and athletic ability. Last year, in 2019, after Roland Garros, Stephens did almost nothing on grass and on the hard courts. Something was going on, or it was. When she is bold, she is incredibly consistent. But, when she is a little bit off, she gets negative. And she gets down on herself, slowly. Then, she disappears. Now the 27-year-old has to lift herself and move.

We have already discussed Madison Keys and Alison Riske. But, how about the 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who reached the semis at Roland Garros. She does seem to be lethal, but she can also over-hit. She has lost to a variety of people. But, since the passing of her dad and coach, Konstantin last August, she seems settled. So, assuming that, she will get better and better, Anisimova be more rational. She was working with the famous coach, Carlos Rodriguez, but she parted ways. Then Anisimova hired with Andis Juska, a former player from Latvia. He has a lot of work to do to make her the champion she can be.

TR @ 20: Matt & Ron continue to roll

Matthew Cronin and Ron Cioffi

Read Matt Cronin’s story on the the 20-year history of

If it wasn’t for Pete Sampras, there wouldn’t have been a

Huh? Well, let me go back to the 1990s.

Early in that decade I worked at Inside Tennis magazine as art director. Not for too long; less than a year.

It wasn’t until about two months before I left for a newspaper job in Pennsylvania, Matt Cronin (excuse me, that’s Matthew Cronin) joined the staff as managing editor. I didn’t get much time to get to know Matt but we socialized a few times. When I packed up my family and headed to Scranton, PA, I realized Matt could have been a life-long friend, but now lost. I was wrong.

After three long years in Scranton, I ended up in metro Atlanta. It was about 1999 when I kept seeing Matt’s byline on all over the Internet. Not only was he traveling to numerous tournaments around the globe for Inside Tennis, he was also picking up gigs writing for Grand Slam sites. I was impressed.

So, I found the IT office number in my Roledex (yes, Roledex) and gave him a call. It wasn’t long before we were delving into our opinions about pro tennis. We ambled over to talking about the best male player ever, pre-Big 3, of course.

Defintely Rod Laver. And Sampras. I was thinking that Sampras’ lack of clay court achievement was holding him back in my appraisal.

Matt said, “If Pete had reached at least one French Open final, I would go with him.”

Brilliant, I thought. So, I said, “That’s exactly what I was thinking, too. At least one final.”

After the phone call, I realized that this minor agreement was more than a coincidence. It was an affirmation that Matt’s keen analysis was getting him noticed by the most important tennis websites. Didn’t hurt that he agreed with me.

But, was he writing for a tennis news site? No. Why? There were no tennis news sites at that time. and the like weren’t writing breaking news. A few other sites like had a few stories. But, there was no dedicated website with professional tennis writers pumping out news from tournaments on a regular basis.

A few more phone calls. A bunch of emails. Buy a domain. Design a logo. Find another writer. Build the test website. We decided to change the logo colors two days before 2001 Roland Garros started. In 24 hours, this TennisReporters webmaster rebuilt the site.

3-2-1. Blastoff. We were launched.

So, on a regular and daily basis, Matt and Sandra Harwitt, our other partner, pumped out the copy from the Slams and other tournaments. As I told more than one person (with a wink), Matt and Sandy get to watch the Slams in glamorous cities and I wait for emails in my bland suburban subdivision, do some editing, crop a photo or two and then post. For 20 years, it’s been the same house and same website. For 99.5+ percent of those stories, it’s been my buddy Matt and me.

Sandy was smart enough to drop out during our second year. There was no buyout because there was no money to split. Matt and I kept our heads down, knocking out the stories. We never made any concerted effort to find a backer with a lot of venture capitalist cash. Foolish us. TennisReporters had broken ground and was piling on the readers. With Matt’s Twitter account – still @tennisreporters – our traffic grew and grew.

After a few years Matt was named one of the top sports tweeters by Sports Illustrated. Going into a US Open, their mention of Matt put our website on the Internet map. We were getting more than 3,000 unique visitors a day. We got some advertising. Wow, we thought: Money! I told my wife that I was building my retirement income. Oh, foolish youth, even though I was in my early 50s.

In 2002, Fed Cup came to Charlotte, N.C. USA vs. Austria. We had a family friend in the city. So, I did what I rarely have done over the last two decades: go on the road, write stories and take photos for TennisReporters.

What made this special was that Matt was assigned to the same event by Inside Tennis. So, for the first time since we launched, I spent some time with Matt. Sort of.

Why? Because when Matt works, he is so focused that he can barely break out of his routine. Plus, he often is writing for TR along with other clients. Often pumping out three to five stories a day. So, I think we had a drink together. Maybe a meal.

Four years later I had an all-expense trip to the US Open, a ticket to the coveted President’s Box and four days in NYC, my hometown. Why? Because TR was receiving the USTA Media Excellence Award, Broadcast Media. The honor had previously gone to CBS and ESPN. And us!!! A few years later, the USTA discontinued giving the media award. To this day, TR can say that we are the only website to win the award. Plaque is still on my office wall.

Big award. Heady stuff. That would definitely make TR a huge financial success. Yes, we got a few more ads. But, they pay fractions of pennies per viewer. Still not paying for my retirement. Still not making enough money to pay for an out-of-town trip to cover a tournament.

Even though I’ve worked for USTA Southern for 12 years, it was rare for me to be sent to the USTA semi-annual meeting over the Labor Day weekend and a visit the US Open site to see matches. Thanks for my communications job, I had a pass into the media room. And there was Matt. For the third time in 15 years, I got a quick hug and a few minutes of Matt’s attention. I was back there twice in the last few years. In 2017, I basically forced Matt to take off a few hours so we can have a real meal at a hotel restaurant. Trust me, a great treat.

Still, nothing in our 20 years together compares to a phone call from Matt in 2014. Wasn’t feeling well. Took a fall. Went to a doctor. Had a brain scan. Got a tumor. Cancer. Here’s the story. Classic TR … Matt wrote the main piece and I added a sidebar.

Matt took a break for about six months and TR went dark. There were many tennis journalists around the world who were pulling for Matt, knowing is ability and dedication. He was very well-respected and elected International Tennis Writers Association co-president. I was admittedly jealous of these writers; these were Matt’s working buddies who were sharing stories and drinks in crowded media rooms. I remained in Atlanta, three time zones from his California base.

During the hiatus, Matt had chemo. First, he was cured, then a relapse, then more chemo over the span of years. His output was sporadic, depending on his health. I took more time editing his stories, which often were less complex and incisive as material he wrote before the tumor. Still, through those dark days, he was still a writer, still a journalist eagerly looking to cover the next tennis match.

Now, he continues to be stable, healthy and active. But, his gargantuan ability to write quickly has been diminished. A man who did radio commentary on a global scale now has issues with remembering the right words in casual conversation.

There are often days, weeks, in which we don’t have new stories. Is the website making any money? No. Has the traffic grown? No. Have the ads flowed in? No.

Do I care? No, not really. You can’t be in a business relationship, any relationship, for 20 years without some highs and lows, some awards and some illnesses. For better or worse, continues.

TR @ 20: Matt & Ron continue to roll

Read Ron Cioffi’s story on the the 20-year history of

I was among the journalists who began writing about tennis early in the 1990s. Also, we also began appearing on radio and on TV at the majors. We were going to the Grand Slams and the other important tournaments, especially in the United States. There were amazing events and we made some fantastic friends, too. 

In 2000, some of us started talking about whether we could have a new magazine, one where we could write whatever we wanted to, without the bosses saying, “No, you cannot. We don’t like being controversial.”

We wanted to have our own voices. We might be scared or afraid. Really, in order to be happy, we decided to start, win or lose. It was time to go for it. So, in the new century, we decided to go online with our partner, Ron Cioffi, building our website.

Sandra Harwitt, who is still on the tennis beat, joined me as our primary writers. It wasn’t easy at all, when we started, because it was new, and we messed up a lot. Ron was home outside of Atlanta, posting stories on a nearly daily basis, especially during the Slams.

But overall, it was pretty good. It wasn’t terrific yet, but the journalists, the players, the coaches, the owners, and the fans began to come over and read our website. Gradually, we had thousands of people, looking at We were happy. We love tennis, and so do you, too.

Still, the site has never made much money so we all kept our jobs. Sandy (who dropped out a year later) and I continued to write for many other outlets that were the foundation of our income.

Now, in 2020, it has now been 20 years. We are still going on, with me and Ron. I live in California and Ron lives outside Atlanta. But, we still talk a decent amount. We are friends, believe it or not. 

Hopefully, in August, when the players return to play on court with the real events — due to coronavirus, which shut down every event in early March — then we will write about real competitive matches. We will all be thrilled. And all of the fans will also be incredibly excited. continues. We have survived 20 years and a pandemic.

Some more happy days will come.

Back to Back: A Smart Venus Harries Henin

Venus Williams

We started in May 2001, 20 years ago. We have posted well over 1,500 articles.

As coronavirus began to strike the tennis world, Indian Wells cancelled the tournament on March 9. Right after that, the tournaments pulled out quickly, including Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Now, the WTA and the ATP have shut down until June 7. Or even further. No one really knows.

However, if you love tennis, you can reminisce with We are resurfacing many of our best stories, written by Matthew Cronin.

WIMBLEDON – Early on at The Championships, when the sun was burning bright and hot and pale British ball kids were dropping faster than Tories from Parliament, defending champion Venus Williams  sat through another lengthy question and answer session that mostly focused on the triumphs of Jennifer Capriati. Unlike Jennifer, Venus had made an awful showing in Paris just a couple weeks prior and many observers had forgotten whxat a cagey woman she had become over the past year. 

Called a mindless basher by some and an immature trash talker by others, Venus was the most thoughtful of all the competitors during the ’01 Wimbledon fortnight and unlike many narrowed-minded jocks that proliferate the U.S. sporting scene, she wanted to assure her public that she believed that having intellect is very cool. “Being smart is one thing and having common sense is another,” said Venus. “There’s a lot off things that goes into the combination. But it is sweet when you can think your way through situations. I like having smarts.”

American knocks off Tauziat & Davenport
Brilliant was more like it for the vexing V en route to her second straight Wimbledon title, when in the second week she schooled two veterans — Nathalie Tauziat and Lindsay Davenport — and one bright teen, Belgian Justine Henin, over whom she delivered a dissertation on mid-match thinking in the final round with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 victory.  “Not bad for a ghetto girl, doing two in a row,” her father Richard, said.

You see, it was apparent to Venus the minute she stepped on the hallowed lawns of the All-England Club that she had the best game for the surface. That’s right — better than ’99 champ Davenport, ’97 champ Hingis, her erratic sister, Serena, and the long-swinging Capriati. When she’s focused and determined, Venus has the most devastating serve in the business. She is sure-footed on grass and extremely fast. She is a wall from the baseline and is able to hit backhand winners from any angle and has improved her forehand to the point where it is no longer just a defensive shot. She has tremendous reach around the net and is developing into a fine volleyer.  “I have a good combination for Wimbledon,” she said. “Because I return very well on grass and I serve very well, plus I’m willing to move forward when I get to Wimbledon.” 

For Venus, winning the title was more a matter of keeping her head in the game, putting her family’s off-court distractions aside and playing thinking woman’s tennis. Whether she was a bit rusty entering the event was irrelevant. “Really, it’s not about who’s playing the best, its about who’s making the right decisions at the right times, who’s playing the right points well,” she said.

The 21-year-old Compton native was the only player in the field who did that most of time. Hingis crashed out in the first round due to a bad back and a rapidly developing case of burnout. Serena was completely stressed out with the prospect of playing Capriati in the quarters, caught a virus and found herself staring down miserably at the bottom of a toilet in the third set of her loss to Jennifer, rather smiling up smiling at royalty in a match that was her’s for the taking. Davenport was still too out of synch after three months off, one wonders if she is still too unsure of whether she has the weapons to beat Venus anymore (that’s three straight losses to Williams in Slams). And Capriati was looking ahead to a final with Venus when she got caught napping in the last two sets of her loss to Henin, the feisty all-courter with raccoon eyes and a nuclear backhand that already might be the prettiest one-hander that the women’s game has ever produced.

With her rabbit feet, rolling forehand, full-hip-and-shoulder turn backhand topper or slice, and deft touch around the net, Henin may be eye candy on court, but she is a tough nut to crack off court. Henin’s mother died when she was 12 and she has been estranged for more than a year from her father, Jose, who she says had too much influence on her career.  She answers questions with machine-gun quick responses; often short and  to the point. But she has tremendous inner strength and fight, which allowed her to overcome her choke to Kim Clijsters in the Roland Garros semis and reach the Wimbledon final.

Henin can’t control match
However, the 5-foot-6, 125 pound Henin still hasn’t learned to stick with a winning strategy or completely tame her on-court wildness. She failed to jump on Venus’ attackable second serves in the first set and was in a decent position going into the third set but when she began to lose her rhythm, instead of easing up in back court and trying to put a few more balls in play, she kept going for broke and missing. “Today I proved – not all the match – but during one set that size doesn’t matter,”  said Henin, who has leapt up the rankings from 100 last year to  No. 5  “Great champions are tough. Maybe it’s another level because you know Williams, Capriati, Davenport, they’re very strong. But I think I have the game to win these matches.” 

On the other hand, Venus was the mark of cool consistency, patiently stepping up to the service line, concentrating hard on where she would place her returns and only going for outright winners when she had a short or midcourt ball.  “I think Centre Court is going to be a great place for me for years to come,” said Venus, who rose to  No. 2 in he rankings, still a long way from Hingis, but with a chance to overtake the declining Swiss in the fall.

The question for Venus — who has won three tournaments this year but who has only competed in eight events — is whether she will play enough to earn enough points to reach the top. Is being No. 1 a priority for a woman who just tied U.S. legend Tracy Austin with three Slams titles and is looking more and more like a Hall of Fame player? “It’s on the top list now. Maybe in the past, it wasn’t. Grand Slams definitely are No. 1. Then No. 2, for sure, is No. 1,” Venus laughed. “Oh, boy, like a Dr. Seuss book.  I have to make it a priority. I have to play more. Either that or I have to win every Grand Slam, which is not easy.” Well, at least off of grass.