Archives for November 2021

Garbiñe Muguruza wins WTA Finals

Gabriñe Muguzura

In the WTA Finals, in Guadalajara, in two match of her matches, Garbiñe Muguruza was mediocre at best. Still, in the final match, she took down a misfiring Annet Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 to become first Spanish women to take the year-end tournament.

When Muguruza finally got some momentum, she knows that when she is focused, she could find the magic she show years ago. At times, she would get upset, and two years ago, she dropped out of the top 50. She couldn’t focus. But gradually, she got better, week after week, and while she was not perfect, she was more consistent.

“I feel like I’ve struggled the first couple of matches. One, I didn’t find the way,” she said. “The other one, I did. All of those circumstances help you to find the way, the way to play here, to find your shots, to serve, to have a game plan. Because I struggled and went through the tough times, it’s like a little progression. Sometimes it’s not like that. Sometimes it goes just worst. I feel like in this time it really helped me. Those first matches, two hours and a half on court fighting, trying to find a way, I think it paid off. I’m like, ‘Okay, I know the altitude by now. I’ve spent many hours on the court. I think, Okay, I feel much better.’ ”

As the Finals progressed Muguruza began to turn it around. She began to hustle, to return deep, and with some terrific first serves. Even beyond that, both her forehand and backhand were strong and powerful.

Finally, after the past two years when she was struggling, the two-time Grand Slam champion woke up. She was ready to dance, and celebrate after she nailed a winner.

She also beat Paula Badosa in the semis. Kontaveit, who did have a fine tournament, lost her aggression and made too many unforced errors against the Spaniard.

When Muguruza was young, when she was practicing, she was good, but she wanted to be great. So she added to her stroke variety, and she continued to think constantly.

“I think it started to change. When I was a teenager. I don’t know exactly when was the transition,” she said. “Let’s say like 17 or 16. Also because my body, I’m a tall woman, big arms, and my personality always didn’t match probably the classic Spanish game. I wanted to dominate, be aggressive, be fearless. I had to kind of change my game style. I started playing the Spanish way. I quickly figured out, ‘Hey, this is not for me. I got to step on the court and be aggressive.’ I developed this game. People don’t have to think that the Spanish style is only being further back, more defensive. Like I’m a clear example that I got to go forward.”

Muguruza is now ranked No. 3. Next year, will she be able to leap to the top of the chart, and be No. 1? It is possible. As she says, “I think it paid off.”

Three big winners: Carlos Alcaraz, Paula Badosa, Tommy Paul

At 15 he was already looking very good, but it took him a while to be more smarter on court.

Perhaps another Spaniard, Carlos Alcaraz, will go up very high. On Saturday at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, he won the tournament, beating American Sebastian Korda in straight sets.

Alcaraz has two gigantic strokes, with his forehand and his backhand. He is very strong, already, and his first serve is mighty. He keeps moving forward when he gets a decent chance, but not all the time. But here is the reality: While many of the teenager or the early 20s, they can look good against some other people who look stylish, but none of them are in the top 30 yet, so in a couple years, then we will all know how they really are.

However in 2017, during the first Next Gen ATP Finals, it looked like they some of the first contestants were nailing it. The ones who won, or reached the final, were Chung Hyeon, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex de Minaur and Jannik Sinner. This year, they are all way up, either in the top 10 through the top 40. That is very impressive. I would think, and maybe I will be wrong, but in 2023, Alcaraz and Korda will be having a good shot to win an ATP 1000, and also go deep at the Slams. Sometimes they can get hurt, but if they are healthy, they can knock out a lot of people.

WTA Finals
Let’s review the young women. Paula Badose has come up gradually, and now driving. A few days ago, she destroyed Aryna Sabalenka 6-4 6-0 in Guadalajara.  If you look at Badosa, who just beat Maria Sakkari 76(4) 64 in the WTA Finals. A couple years ago, she was unfocused on the court. But this week, she is so locked in, and she can mix it up. Sakkari was close, but she made some mental mistakes. Badosa is now composed.

“I suffered but I knew I was going to suffer against a player like Maria, she is an amazing fighter,” said Badosa. “I think the key was to fight as well, I’m the same as her I am a competitor, I like to compete.I stayed aggressive and focused and fighting a lot and I think that was the game plan.”

Tommy Paul

That was a huge win by Tommy Paul, who won Stockholm beating Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. This is his first title, backed with a strong performance with his forehand and his backhand. The 24-year-old from North Carolina is more mature now, and next year, he could even better when he returns more consistent.

“I played some of my best tennis to beat Denis,” said Paul. “It’s the most fun I’ve had playing a tennis tournament. It means everything to win my first title. I’ve worked so hard to achieve this and I’d like to break into the Top 30 at some point.” Go for it.

WTA Finals: Karolina Pliskova edges Garbine Muguruza

Karolina Pliskova

They were both a little bit nervous in the final-set tiebreak. At the end, Karolina Pliskova beat Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 [6] in the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

During those last, crucial moments, the Czech was fearless, though not on every sho

Yes, it is important that when you are chasing the ball side to side to just get it back, hopefully deep, doing anything to stay during the point. But, when Pliskova had an opportunity, she should punch it away.

It was a very long match. Pliskova has hit so many aces, easily one of the best in the WTA. Her first serve is a bomb, on the line, or in the corner.

Really though, Muguruza could have won it, especially with her muscular forehand and backhand. Plus, even though she is not perfect at all at the net, her game has improved there. But, in the last couple minutes, she made a few important, fateful errors.

However, the Spaniard has lost only one match. So, on Friday and Saturday, the two-time Grand Slam champion will need to win two matches to move into the semis in Mexico. She just has to continue to battle.

That’s 11 match wins in a row by Anett Kontaveit, who beat Barbora Krejcikova. In August, she started to play excellent ball, moving quickly and depending on her super true-blue strokes. She is still gaining ground on the rest of the players with another victory at the WTA Finals.

It looks like an American man will not finish the end of the year in the top 20. Taylor Fritz is the closest person. Next Monday, he will be ranked 23, more or less. He did have a good year, at times, but not fantastic – yet. Sure, many people are happy that the players can be inside the top 20, but for the most part, they want to move into the top 10, or even better, in the top 5. It is all about winning the biggest events, such as the Grand Slams, and after that, the ATP 1000s. The last American man to win a Slam is Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open. That has been 19 years ago now. That is a very long time.

Someday, it will eventually happen, but when? Next year, or in two years? How about in 2024? Will it be John Isner? Fritz? Reilly Opelka? Sebastian Korda? Frances Tiafoe? Tommy Paul? Brandon Nakashima?

Outside of Isner, who has reached the semis at the Slams and he has won an ATP 1000, the rest of them have not reached in the quarters at the majors. The younger players had some terrific wins this year. But, when you have to defeat the top 5-ers like No. 1, Novak Djokovic, there is a long way to go. Just take it and grab it.

The spectacular Novak Djokovic overcomes Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic

Everyday whether he is playing fantastic or mediocre, Novak Djokovic shows up to play. Once again, on Sunday in Paris, there was an encore. Like the best music in the final song, the Serbian edged Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win another title this year. He grabbed five huge titles in 202
If you go back to see Djokovic’s first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, in 2005 when he fell to Marat Safin, he clearly looked terrific. But, he still had to improve his forehand, his second serve and net game. New, 16 years later, the now 34-year -old has become almost picture-perfect, which is why he won three Grand Slams this year. He almost took a fourth at the US Open, the famous and elusive calendar year Grand Slam, but Medeved caught him in three sets in the final. The Russian was incredibly steady on the rock.

However, Djokovic said he thought about it a lot. And, he re-adjusted.

“I went back and reviewed the final of the US Open to see what I did wrong and what I did right. I tried to read the patterns of his serve and the ball toss, maybe. I tried to look for the small details, because it was a match of small margins,” Djokovic told the Tennis Channel.

“He started better, broke my serve in the first game and I came back. He served the first set out pretty comfortably, but I felt as if I was there. I thought it was only a matter of time when I was going to read his serve better and start to make some plays. You can’t go through him. You have to find a way to play with controlled aggression, play the right shots at the right time and make him come in. It’s variety that wins matches against him. We both suffered on the court and there was a lot of grueling rallies.”

Djokovic has now won 86 titles, mostly because he is still so fast and, plus, he is now more comfortable coming into the net, and his backhand might be the best ever.

”You still have to play some half volleys, some low volleys and come in, but you have the whole of the court to play with,” he said.

A few years ago, Medvedev was almost out there, when he wasn’t playing well. He has always been steady, but he didn’t want to aim at the lines. At times, he would because like almost all of the players wanted badly to become No. 1. Or even the top 10. So, he worked and worked, he added to his game, with his serves and his return.

Right now, he is on the top of the game. Or close. He has beaten everyone in the past two years, and he is just fine to stay out there for hours and battle. He has no fear. Well, almost, because the best players can get nervous, depending on the day. That includes Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and of course, Djokovic.

At the ATP Finals in Turin, in a couple weeks, Djokovic and Medvedev might clash again. That are 5-5, head-to-head. That is enough times for them to know each others games. Plus, they have had some fascinating matches. However, as Djokovic knows, (he who has played Nadal 58 matches), there needs to be some new adjustments. Medvedev will do that, too.

Coming of age: Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe reach the finals

Taylor Fritz

No. 1 Novak Djokovic is back, planning to play again in Paris this week. During the summer, he looked mind blowing, but, once in a while, he can lost. You cannot be perfect each match.

However, in the US Open final, Daniil Medvedev was so patient and powerful. The No. 2 is also in France, along with Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The so-called top four.

Zverev just won in Vienna, beating American Frances Tiafoe, 7-5 6-4. Zverev crushed his serves, and he had no double-faults. He was patient and courtly. Since the summer, he began to re-think of what he had to do. For example, when he missed a few bad shots, he used to get very agitated. But now, he will turn it around and be super intent. Not only can he bust the ball, Zverev also he can meld it up. He is feeling startling competent.

Tiafoe had a terrific week. He did not win, but he has the best week this year. He took down three very good players, stunning Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman and Tsitsipas. He is playing consistently and more aggressive. His esteem has finally rose. He needs to return better and, at the net, but both his forehand and his backhand is tracking deeper.

Taylor Fritz reached the final in St. Petersburg, but he lost, too. However, he was very close against the veteran, Marin Cilic. Both of them like to pummel the balls, but they also like to rally. Cilic won 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4, and he toughed it out. There are times when he is loose with little self-confidence, and there are times when he can focus. This year, he has been so-so. But, on certain days when he keeps his head, he is a worthy opponent, Remember, when he won the 2014 US Open, he was almost perfect.

The San Diego native Fritz has played a lot, playing 20 tournaments in 2021. He is now ranked No. 26, which is pretty good, Perhaps in the next few weeks he can reach the top 20 before the end of the year. That would be just fine, which will be his career high. He can volley, and he can go for the lines, but if he wants to push into the top 10 next year, then he has to re-adjust, and like Tiafoe, he has to return more efficiently.