Archives for October 2020

Playing Ostrava: Azarenka, Svitolina, Gauff

Who wants to go home and just practiceover the past two months? Many of the players have stopped playing WTA events. What exactly should they do rather that playing matches in real events. Watching the exhibitions, it could be OK, but it could be boring.

Victoria Azarenka

Many of the top 30 WTA women are dpme but at least some of the good players are at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open this week. They are not all of the fantastic players, but some good fine matches have been played.

How about Jelena Ostapenko, who is more confident over the past one year. She upended the No. 18 Petra Martic in two easy sets. And, then on Thursday, she lost to Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian aim for the corners with her forehand and her backhand, and she hits them down the line. On Tuesday, she was moving like a springer and she nailed it. On Thursday, she was inconsistent as Maria Sakkari dumped her 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. During the next year, Jabeur will be ready to beat anyone — if she focuses and adds more variety to her game. One way or another, whether she wins or loses, she is a force. As she says, “I played very smart and also used dropshots and mixed it up a little bit, which helped me, but in the deciding moments I was still very aggressive.” We will see.

It is so impossible to understand Elina Svitolina week after week. She plays great, and then has poor form. She has been there in the top 5, but to go up into the mountain tops, and raise your hands when you stand up into the sky, then she can smile. But she is faltering; she needs to more steady. She lost to Sakkari, who has been much more consistent. She could be ranked in the top 20 in December. That is pretty good — very good. She will face Vika Azarenka in the semis.

Elise Martens crushed Amanda Anisimova, but couldn’t handle Azarenka. Mertens’ strong defense couldn’t deal with the aggressive Belarussian.

This is not a great year from Karolina Pliskova, who lost to Veronika Kudermetova. Sure, the Russian Kudermetova is getting better,while the Czech, Pliskova, is under pressure to get better.

Kudermetova will face against American Jennifer Brady, who wants to play every week, to practice all the time. She displays higher quality when she isn’t so irked.

There was an exciting marathon when Aryna Sabalenka defeated Cori Gauff 1-6 7-5 7-6(2) as the American let the final set slip away. There were some terrific points. Both of them will stay for many years ahead. Gauff has to improve her second serves and the returns, too. Everything is progress.

Nadal, Federer and Djokovic: the 20-20 thing

Rafael Nadal

In the great but very cold at Roland Garros. Rafa Nadal smashed Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to win it again.

He is now 20 Grand Slams, on all surfaces, with an astronomical 13 on clay. He is tied with Roger Federer with the “20-20 thing,” and we do not really know whether they will win another major again, next year, or ever, or if they will continue to dominate.

With the 39-year-old Federer aging, Nadal, 34, and Djokovic, 33, are much more likely to pad their Slam count. They look fantastic, and they have improved a lot. But, when you are in the 30s, you can get seriously hurt, and then it will be very difficult to feel healthy and easily to go deep at the Slams. The great thing in Paris was seeing how Nadal’s and Djokovic’s forehands, backhands, serves, returns and play at the net have improved a lot when since when they started 15 years ago. They are, as people say, mind-boggling.

Yes, there are some very good young players but, except for Dominic Thiem at this year’s US Open, they haven’t won a Grand Slam. Very few men have won a major early on and then have gone on to win numerous big titles. The list of top 10 in the Open era includes Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander – all have at least seven Slams. Really, you have to win it at least those seven to make the top 10.

Over the next few years Andy Murray (three Slams) and Stan Wawrinka (three Slams) can win another Slam, but they are at least 30 years old, and fading. Plus, they haven’t played much in the past two years. To catch it up again, they have to find a new level – especially for Murray with a revived hip. At the US Open and RG, both Murray and Wawrinka lost pretty early. Neither have a very good chance to do it again.

Right now, Nadal and Djokovic are eager. Thiem has a strong chance to win a number of majors, but right now to eventually become the top-10er, he could have to win another six Slams. The would be somewhat surprising.

Nadal understands what it going on with the other players, and he is not only smart, but he really listening. When he retires, as he says, then he can talk about everyone. He just won Roland Garros for the 13th time, and clearly, he has the credentials to say anything.

Roland Garros, Day 11: ‘Hang it all out’

Sofia Kenin

What is fascinating in the Roland Garros second week is there are some well-established players, but also some of the new breed.

On the Thursday and Friday, all the men and the women will compete in Paris. The traditional players are still there, such as Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Petra Kvitova and Sofie Keni , all the Slam winners.

One important questions: When they play, are there nervous or not?

Kvitova can win a another major, but she has yet to win RG. So, once again, if she is remains calm and hones her tactics, then maybe she can trick Kenin. Kenin, who crushed Danielle Collins in the final set of the quarters; she wiped her out. Both Kvitova and Kenin are aggressive and play without fear. They won’t push the ball, and they go for the lines. Big serves and returns will determine the match.

How about Nadia Podoroska and Iga Swiatek? Where did they come from all of a sudden?

The youngsters will be around a long time. But, to go way up into the top 10 in the next year, that is pretty questionable. Or they can disappear as quickly as they rose, though Swiatek looks like the real deal. They just have to prove it…

Stefanos Tsitsipas is on the winning streak. Over the past two weeks, he started to be consistent and powerful. Before that, in August, he was on and off, playing well or playing badly. Tsitsipas recently said that at this Grand Slam, he could it hang it all out.

He will face Djokovic in the semis, and the No. 1 Serbian is very controlled. And he is cane astute. If he feels rattled, and realizes it, he can change it up. Tsitsipas has had some tough days, but he never gives up.

Nadal is cruising, taking out Diego Schwartzman on Friday. It was odd to see the Argentine getting into a tiebreak and then not winning another point. But, with Nadal on clay, the mountain is very steep.

Roland Garros, day 8: Simona Halep: No drama, just locked in

Simona Halep

The dramatic Simona Halep always hustles, and when she is so steady, then she can smack the ball deep and with variety. The Romanian absolutely crushed Amanda Anisimova, a very good young player, who can panic. She did immediately and she lost 6-0 6-1. That was super quick
Halep has won two Grand Slams, and right now, on clay, she is certainly a favorite, unless she has to face against another player who loves on the dirt. They just have to slide and to go for the winners. After all —assuming Halep doesn’t get hurt again — she can drive the ball deep and on the lines.

Another top player, Elina Svitolina, really wants to go even further in the Slams. Over the past two years, she stopped being fearful. Now, she is more serene, takes more breaths, focusing every second. 

In the first week at the Slams, there are dozens of people who just won matches, and they can jump in joy. But, each day, they will be facing awesome players. So, to continue and win, they must keep their level up. as they can. Because if you don’t, then ’see ya.’

Or you can be more patient. German Alexander Zverev won on Friday, knocking down Marco Cecchinato. Even though Zverev can rip the balls, and he won a couple of the ATP 1000s, but he can be sullen and to check out. But, he is smarter now, as he can try to rip a winner, or just stay back and waited for an opening. Still, many of his decisions in his US Open final loss to Dominic Thiem call into question where his head is.

Diego Schwartzman is looking better and better on clay, which took a long time, but he has become more astute now.

Caroline Garcia, the former top 4 player in 2018 was once very steady. Over the last couple years she has been struggling. Even though she battles all the time, she is down to No. 45. she is back at RG and she could reach the second week if she can get by Svitolina. After that, she wouldn’t give it in.

Canadian Genie Bouchard looked better than she did last year. She won a couple matches, and then she lost against Iga Swiatek.

The young player, Sebastian Korda beat Jannik Sinner. His dad and coach, Petr, was he ranked No. 2, in 1998, a long time ago. Maybe it will be that Sebastian Korda can close to reach the No. 1, someday.