Archives for March 2021

Sebastian Korda rising: ‘Best teams around me experience-wise’

Sebastian Korda

In the 1990s, Petr Korda won the 1998 Australian Open and he reached a highest rating to No. 2. He was close to be No. 1, but he didn’t get it, no cigar. Now his son, Sebastian, is on the fast track.

Sebastian Korda can really hit it hard and flat, just like his dad. He can really slap the ball from both sides. He returns pretty well, too. Plus, since a young age, he began to practice and he just fell in love with tennis. When he got home from the courts, he would turn on the TV and watched the pros. He wanted to play on that stage. Now, he knows he will stay at the ATP for a long time.

This week, in Miami, he upset Fabio Fognini 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. On Tuesday, Korda put down the No. 9 Diego Schwartzman. What an incredible week.
“I’d say I have one of the best teams around me experience-wise,” Korda said. “I mean, I have my dad who was a Grand Slam champion, No. 2 in the world, my mom [Regina Rajchrtová] who was a top-30 player, [the Czech] Radek Stepanek who is like my brother, we are always in contact, who was No. 8 in the world. And then to have a friend and mentor as [the Grand Slam who won eight Slams] Andre Agassi, I mean, I don’t think you can have a better team.”

Elina Svitonia nailed Anastasija Sevastova in a 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal. Svitolina said, “I know that she’s a big fighter and she will try to come back, it doesn’t matter the score, so I was expecting a tough battle. In the end, I think I played really good throughout the match and I’m really happy with the way I finished it.” No doubt. … Ash Barty outlasted Aryna Sabalenka in three sets. Of course the No. 1 can win Miami. She has all kinds of being diverse. … John Isner lost another close contest, losing 7-6(7) in the third against Roberto Bautista Agut.  Another brutal loss. … Once again, it was another sad loss, when Canadian Milos Raonic fell to Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(4) in the third. … Both with Isner and Raonic can hit so many winners, when they are serving, but one of the reasons why they haven’t won a Grand Slam is because they don’t return well enough. That is a fact, at least now.

In Miami with John Isner: ‘Mentally I feel pretty fresh’

John Isner

Over his now-long career, American John Isner has played some quality tennis. He has a massive serve and his powerful forehand. He is very tall, and when he is feeling good, he can be intense.

The 35-year-old has yet to win a Grand Slam, but he has gone deep at the US Open, as well as at Wimbledon, just a couple times. His biggest win title was when he won it at the 2018 Miami, and he was on fire. He beat Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Alexandra Zverev.

The next year, he reached the final again in Florida, but he lost because he had to face against the famous Roger Federer. There was nothing Isner could to. Federer, who now has won 20 Grand Slams, can return with success all the time, which Isner rarely does.
Right now, he is currently at Miami again. On Sunday he downed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in a second-round match. Auger-Aliassime was his semifinal victim when Isner won the tournament in 2019. The 18th seed fired 16 aces and improved his record in Miami to 26-11. Sometimes, when he is there, on the hardcourts, he can smash the ball, punching point after point.

Isner joined the ATP tour in 2007, so he has been here for 15 years. That is a long time, and maybe he can win another event, but to grab it at a Slam for the first time looks unlikely. He is aging and that would be a stunner. After peaking at No. 8 in 2018, he has slipped to No. 28.

At least he is trying. Last week he went to Acapulco, when he felt good, and also, bad. He just wants to play, win or lose.

“My health was pretty crucial because I haven’t played that much in the last year. It’s been a year since the tour shut down” he said. “I can get this tournament started and try to create some momentum for myself and see what I can do. Physically I’m healthy. Mentally I feel pretty fresh.”

Isner also said that he will also play Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. It is time to fly to Europe and back into the tennis elite.

Kei Nishikori won two long matches, which is very good, but he could also be tired. On Monday, he will face against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Good luck …

Petra Kvitova crushed Jo Konta 6-1 6-2, which is wonderful, and she can nail on the lines. But, she has hit so many errors this year… How about Marketa Vondrousova who is improving all the time? She will be around for years.

Two people who have a chance to win Miami: Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina. Let them rise up.

Canadian Leylah Fernandez wins first title in Acapulco

Lylah Fernandez

During the Grand Slams, everybody wants to play. If they can, they try to knock off the best. But, if they can lose early, at least they have faced the challenge of the top-ranked players.

The good news is that there are other tournaments where, if you can rise up, and win it, then many fans will know who they are.

Over the weekend, Leylah Fernandez won the tournament in Acapulco, beating Viktorija Golubic in the final. Clearly, she is quick, steady and bangs with a lot of depth. She also likes to attack at the net. The teenager had gone to Mexico to live with her family, but she was born in Montreal, so she had a lot of training. She is now ranked No. 72. She still has a long way to go, but she was improved over the past month.

“It’s always been part of my game, trying to go to the net,” Fernandez said. “I was just going out there, having fun on the court, and I wasn’t thinking too much about the consequences. I just went there and tried to execute what I’ve been training.”

Russian Daria Kasatkina won the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy She is 23 years old, and she is now ranked No. 42. Three-and-a-half years ago in 2018, she was No. 10. But then she fell. It wasn’t because of an injury, it was in her head, essentially, with her life. But now, she is more patient, and and mature.

Not only when she just win in Russia, but in January, she won the Phillip Island Trophy. In 2019, at Indian Wells, she upset Sloane Stevens, Caro Wozniaki, Angie Kerber, and Venus Williams — all Grand Slam winners. Kasatkina did lose in the final, going down again Naomi Osaka. If she refocuses, then she will be totally back.

The former No. 2 Vera Zvonareva is currently ranked No. 122. She has to get into the top 100 and then she will be in much better shape to get into main draws.

Another Russian veteran, Svetlana Kuznetsova, is now ranked No. 35, Years ago, she won two majors, the 2004 US Open and the 2009 Roland Garros. She has a lot of spin, and she will stay out there for a million of years. She wants to have one more chance to knock off all of them, to win singles title. The last time she won it was in 2018 Washington. That is almost four years ago. She has to believe that she can conquer a field one more time.

Driven, Garbiñe Muguruza wins a title

Garbiñe Muguruza is finally back, playing excellent ball, smacking her forehand and backhand, cracking her first serve, and hustling. In Dubai, she overcame Barbora Krejcikova 7-6(6), 6-3 in the final. After reaching the Australian Open last year, she was up and down, mostly down. Her achievement of winning two Grand Slams might have clouded her ability to focus and she would space out. Or she was frustrated, and disappointed. The Czech looks pretty good, but she has to improve her serve.

But, at the start in January, she locked in. Yes, in the finals, she can overanxious, which is why she had not won a title in more than two years.

However, but on Saturday, Muguruza claimed her eighth title. She is driven. This year in the Yarra Valley Classic she beat Sofia Kenin, Marketa Vondrousova and in the final, she lost to No. 1 Ash Barty. At the Australian Open, in the round of 16, she lost against the great Naomi Osaka 7-5 in the third. It was very intense. The same thing happened when Muguruza reached the final at the Qatar Total Open, but she was gone, when Petra Kvitova destroyed her.

In 2020 and 2021, when she lost, she was totally out of it. But now, over the past two-and-a-half months, the Spaniard is playing stellar. She is impulsive. Here it is: can she win another Grand Slam this year? Perhaps, as long as she continues to step up and build on her recent successes.

The Canadian Eugenie Bouchard is now ranked 144. She is in the final in Guadalajara. She has had some bad years, and maybe she will never come back into the top-10, but let’s see if she reach the top 50.

Some good quotes by Sania Mirza. She has always been a really nice, and smart, person. She gave birth to her son in 2018.

“The other thing is that, which is something that’s very close to my heart, I feel that there are a lot of young girls and women who look up to me or look up to us, and I feel that when there is people like Serena, there are so many mothers now playing on the tour, and I just feel like, especially on our side of the world, women sort of think that once they have a baby, life’s kind of over. But it’s not. You don’t have to crush your dreams because you have a child. You can still go after them.

Mirza and Andreja Klepac advanced to the Qatar semis in doubles.

Mirza’s former doubles partner, Elena Vesnina, is also returning to the tour after becoming a mom. Playing with Laura Siegemund, Vesnina got to the quarterfinals.

Andy Murray’s future: up in the air

Andy Murray

Andy Murray is still dealing with a far-from perfect hip two years after announcing that he was retiring. His battling a lot now, and yes, he is more controlled, more powerful and hitting the ball a little bit deeper. But the three-time Grand Slam champion is still far away from the ability to beat the top players, such as Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.

The intense grinder recently lost to Andrey Rublev in Rotterdam, and he looked OK. But, as he said in the second set, Murray amassed way too many errors. He is very bright, but he can rip himself when he loses.

“I did some things quite well in the first set, but when it mattered I didn’t play well. To me that’s just not good enough,” Murray said about the match. “I felt in that moment at the end of the first set that I blew it a bit. I’m not used to making those errors in those moments and I’m finding that quite frustrating, and mentally finding myself looking back on those moments a little bit too much.”

Yes, he can scream on the court, and everyone hears him. When he was ranked at the top of his game, Murray nailed his forehand and backhand, his first serve, and his return. He just loves to play, all of the time. But if he gets hurt again, then it is doubtful that Murray can go deep at the Grand Slams. Right now, he can win one or two, but if he starts to breakdown, on court, then see ya’ later.

“I want to play as much as I can but also bearing in mind I have to be smart with the decisions about which tournaments to play,” said Murray. “Hopefully I be able to play in Dubai and Miami and then see from there.”

The former No.1 Murray is ranked No. 123, and in the past two years and two months, in 2019, 2020 and 2021, he has won 15 matches and 13 losses. No bad, but not great.

He is making a huge effort in the singles. He wants to show that he can beat everyone, at some point. In 2021, he will continue to up the rankings ladder. Can he reach the top 50 during the spring? Yes. If he does that, perhaps can he push into the top 30? Yes, he can, as long as his racked body continues to heal. If he can, then the people will recall that he is a specular player. It is up in the air.