Archives for March 2022

Frances Tiafoe: ‘We genuinely want to see each other do well.’

Frances Tiafoe

At Indian Wells, the American men won the ATP Masters 1000 with John Isner winning Miami in 2018. But that was four years ago. Then Taylor Fritz won it this year, upsetting Rafa Nadal in the fin

Now they are in Miami, and some of the Americans believe they are moving up. Frances Tiafoe, who just won two matches in Florida, is one of the so-called kids are now more mature and better overall.

Tiafoe believes that it is time to fly.

“I think it’s been interesting. Like, I mean, Fritz, we’re kind of the first guys to break top 100,” he said. “Fritz made final of a 250 when we were super young. I made quarterfinal of Australia really young. Top 30, 20 years old, 21 years old. Reilly [Opelka] kind of figured out, Reilly breaks through, Tommy [Paul] starts to break through. You have [Sebastian Korda], these guys.

“I think seeing guys that you grew up with doing well, you’re like, ‘Well, fuck, this guy can do it. Shit, I grew up with him. I’ve beaten him how many times. Why not?’ But it’s all good. We genuinely want to see each other do well. It’s good. And then also finally there is a little opening in tennis. The big guys don’t play every Masters, for example, this one. Big guys, you know what I mean, the big three [like Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer].

“So there is a little space for guys. I mean, there was a while there where you go deep in an event, and you run into Rafa and them, I’m probably going home. But now guys can win it.”
Maybe all of them can win it, this year. But as Tiafoe said, there is a huge difference to win a Grand Slam when it is three out of five, not two out of three. Combined, Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic have won 60 Slams. The current U.S. players have won nothing — yet.

Eventually, those three will retire. The good news is that Tiafoe is now more consistent, and his forehand has is more forceful. He also thinks a lot during the match. Not all the time, but the 24 year old can more tactful. But the 31 ranking is totally realistic.

“It’s crazy. I was playing end of last year still injured, to be honest. Just poppin’ pills, kind of masking my pain in my elbow,” he said. “I was playing so well, I can’t stop. Then I got a late call to Davis Cup [in late November]. Had a bothered Achilles, elbow. The offseason I didn’t have time at all. Started the season. I mean, honestly, I don’t really count Australia, my team told me not to go. I still wanted to go, me being stubborn. Coming back, much more fit, looking good, arm is healthy.

“Beat Brandon [Nakashima] pretty convincingly last week. Lost to Andrey [Rublev] who was on a stupid match-winning streak. I thought I actually played all right. Not to where I know I can play, but I thought I still put a decent performance.

Here, able to win a couple rounds, thanks to Matteo Berrettini for opening that up for me a little bit (he was smiling). Any win right now counts. It’s still early in the year. I count my year as fine right now.”


Jenson Brooksby won the match over Roberto Bautista Agut. He was down 0-4 in the third set and he just kept chugging. He will face against the No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, and to win it, he is going to have to really mix it up because the Russian will play forever.

Andy Murray lost pretty quickly in straight sets to Medvedev, who showed his defensive skills.

‘He makes a lot of returns back from where he stands. That’s a big strength of his,” Murray said. “You know, even from back there he’s very successful.”

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz has now won 13 matches and just two losses. The teenager is incredibly talented. He actually has a chance to win Miami. He ousted Stefanos Tsitsipas in straights, 7-5, 6-3.

There is a piece I did about Nick Kyrgios, and at least this year, he has decided to practice and play as much as he can. He didn’t do that last year, but know he is feeling good. Here is the piece.

Still, he totally melted down in his quarterfinal loss to Jannik Sinner 7-6(3), 6-3. The Aussie racked up code violations leading to a game penalty in the opening game of the second set.

Retiring at the top: No. 1 Barty says she is ‘spent’

Ash Barty, Ashleigh Barty

On Wednesday in Australia, No. 1 Ash Barty waved goodbye, once again. As she said on TV this morning she did everything over the past few years. After she won the 2022 Australian Open, she was gone. She looked fantastic on the court, but she did not want to travel anymore. She pulled out of Indian Wells and Miami, and she did say that she needed to rest. But then, she thought about it a lot. Last year after she won 2021 Wimbledon, she was almost ready not to play after that. However, she wanted to try and see how she feels. It turned out to be fine, but the start of this year, after she finally won the Aussie Open, she had nothing left.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” the 25-year-old Barty said. “Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete. When you work so hard your whole life for one goal, to be able to win Wimbledon—which was the one true dream I wanted in tennis—that really changed my perspective. I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it. There was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. And then came the challenge of the Australian Open. I think that for me just feels like the most perfect way, my perfect way, to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.”

In 2014, Barty was mentally out of it, saying in her video with friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua that she was “spent.? She could not win anything. So she stopped, she paused and started to play cricket. She played pretty well, but by 2016, she was back again playing tennis. It took her for a while to really feel all the right shots. Eventually, she matured and began to crack the ball, with her forehand, serve and at the net. Barty could always hit her one-handed backhand, with an amazing variety. She could beat anyone when she was in form on the hardcourts, on the grass and the clay. She was one of the best players since she came on tour.

Barty has said that she wants to focus on something else, and it looks like she may not return again. That is her decision. However, Barty was very popular and many the fans would watch her, at the events or on TV. But now, the WTA workers have to reset and hope that the fans can listen and hope they will like a different style. 

Indian Wells results

At least Iga Świątek has improved a lot, winning Indian Wells when she took down Maria Sakkari in two easy sets. She can get down so low, and she can hit it pretty deep, with her forehand, backhand and first serve. Plus, this year when she plays, she can lock it in. She can be very intense. She is ranked No. 2 and since Barty has retired, it looks like that Swiatek could be No.1. According to reports, it’s up to Barty whether she will ask to be removed from the rankings, leaving the top spot open.

At what point did Taylor Fritz rose way up high? A year ago, in fact, even in January, he was rising, but he couldn’t put it all together. Finally, at Indian Wells, he played fantastic, upsetting Rafa Nadal 6-3 7-6(5). Yes, the 21 Grand Slam champion was hurt. The Spaniard injured his ribs in the semis on Saturday when he edged the terrific teenager Carlos Alcaraz in more than three hours. He had to get up the next day and battle again. He was frustrated at times, but Fritz get chugging, and he smacked with his powerful forehand and backhand. His first serve was impressive, taking his

first ATP Masters 1000. Finally, he is darn good. Plus, the last time that an American men won in the ATP 1000 was almost four years ago when John Isner won Miami. Nadal said that Fritz finally won it all, plus a couple other Americans are impressive.

Nadal said, “It’s a great victory for him. First Masters 1000. Big day for him. Victory like today helps. He played well. He went through some great matches during this week, especially yesterday [when he beat Andrey Rublev ]. A lot of credit to him on the victory because he had much tougher opponent in front yesterday than today I think.

“But he already played great matches in Australia against Tsitsipas. It’s obvious that he is improving. With this victory, it’s a great start of the season for him. He will have chance to be very close if not in the top 10 very soon. Going to be a big battle there for these numbers because there are a lot of young and great players fighting for these spots. Yeah, Brooksby is another kind of player. I saw him play a couple of times. He does a lot of things very well, with a special style, but doing things very difficult, doing very difficult things easy. Probably he going to have a great future, too.”

Yes, that was Fritz’s biggest championship for the current No. 13. If he develops mentally, then maybe he can go very deep at the Grand Slams. But before that, he and the others are already in Miami. Winning these two 1000 tournament back to back would be almost impossible. Or is it?

Taylor Fritz: ‘My goal is to move into the top-10”

Taylor Fritz

In Indian Wells it is somewhat odd that so many people can go very deep

Of course the top 10 players can go up the charts. But the reality is that outside of the top 32, the chances are somewhat slim.

Eventually, someone will rise up and have a great show. The fans can watch in a terrific, fun match.

Except for one, the American players are now gone in California, including Reilly Opelka, John Isner, Jenson Brooksby, Tommy Paul, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Cori Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Jennifer Brady and Danielle Collins.

The sole American standing is Taylor Fritz, who won two matches two days ago, winning third-set tiebreaks over Jaume Munar and Alex De Minaur. He  in the quarterfinals.
In January, Fritz began to mix it up a lot, and he almost beat Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australia, Open in a classic five setter.

When he lost, he was very upset. He should have grabbed it, but he missed on a couple of key errors.

“I think obviously chances were there. It was just one of those matches, like, literally was decided by a couple points here and there. I felt like I just need to put myself in those situations a little more so I can play better in those moments” Fritz said. “The level is there to hang with those guys. I feel like I can play at that level consistently. I just got to keep having that consistency, keep getting in those situations, and it will just get easier.”

It has this week, but physically, he might feel tired. He has to face Miomir Kecmanovic, the Serbian, who has had a fine week. Kecmanovic needed three sets to oust Matteo Berrettini in the round of 16.

Fritz believes that he has progressed because he been more comfortable, but it is more mental than anything else.

“I think just my level as a player has gone up. I think I’ve gone up several levels. I’m a way better player than I was when I was here last year and I think I’ve improved a lot. I expect a lot more of myself. Back then when I think I was ranked about almost 40 six months ago, however long ago this tournament was, and now I’m in between 15 and 20. I’m looking, my goal is to move into the top 10. So I definitely have a lot higher expectations.”

Andrey Rublev: Can he win Indian Wells?

Andrey Rublev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Before Russia invaded Ukraine with the intent of taking over the country, the No. 6 Andrey Rublev won Dubai. He said that when he is playing at the Grand Slams, that he has to pick it up and be more firm.

A number of the Russian tennis players opposed the war. The few who have talked with the tournaments, saying they are stunned, and a bit afraid. There is the possibility that if the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues to bomb Ukraine, then in the couple month, the Russian players may not be able to play tennis tournaments. That is true. 

Hopefully, the war will stop immediately.
Beyond that, Rublev has won 10 titles, but he has yet to reach the semis at the majors. The 24-year-old did reach into the ATP 1000 twice in 2021, but he could not win them.

However, he said that he wants to transfer his success to the Grand Slams. He is playing at the Indian Wells this week, and next week.

“First of all because you are playing in one place and you have every time one day off, even if you’re playing best of five sets, maybe you win match in three sets, which maybe take you one hour and a half can be easily, then you have one day rest. You have more than enough time to be fresh,” he said. “I can transfer this to the majors. The problem is that, in my opinion, my problem that sometimes I want something really badly and I cannot manage this emotionally so I need to find a balance to be more stable mentally, to be better mentally. I think it will come also that I will have chances to go deep in a Masters or Grand Slams. Even last year I did two finals of the Masters [in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati]. I had I don’t know how many quarterfinals the Grand Slams. I had a chance to be in the semis. But I didn’t manage it mentally and that’s why I couldn’t win that matches.”

In 2020, he won three titles, but he couldn’t push very deep at the slams, and do damage against the top 5 players, such as Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and the now No. 1 and fellow Russian Daniil Medvedev.

This season at the Australian Open, Rublev went down against the veteran, Marin Cilic in four sets in the third round.

When he won it in Dubai, he said that that he has to be more thoughtful on the court.

“If I want to be a better player, I need to improve a lot mental part because this is the main thing I’m doing worst compared to top five players. That’s the main goal,” Rublev said. “If you want to change some things inside of you, you’re the one who take responsibility. There is no secret about mental part and how to improve. All the best athletes on histories, all the best philosophies, all of them, they say that many times. It’s about you.”

He also mentioned that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another Russian, came to watch him play in Dubai. She also said that she doesn’t like the war. The No. 14 Russian Pavlyuchenkova is physically hurt and she cannot play until she heals. Both her and Rublev won the Tokyo Olympics in the mixed doubles.

“We have a great connection with her, especially what we been through with Olympic gold medal. Of course, after this it’s already like a story that will be forever with us,” Rublev said. “Even if we’re not going to talk to each other, we will always have great respect to each other, great feelings, because what we done. This is memory for all the life. If I will need any help, she can help me. Same thing other way, if she needs help, I will help her as well.”

Andy Murray: inconsistency for me has been frustrating

Coming into Indian Wells next week, there will be some new faces, who can shock the world. They hope. Traditionally, the top players are always there,  and usually they can go very deep, into the quarters, the semis or in the final.
Over the years, in the desert, that Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic grabbed it, winning so many Grand Slam titles. They also did that in California at Indian Wells, but not only those. In 2009, Andy Murray reached the final, and he lost against Djokovic, pretty easily, but he looked tired, as he played some long matches on the hardcourt. He was a little bit slow, plus the No. 1 Serbian was playing nearly perfect.

The Scotland man also became No. 1 in 2016, and he won three Grand Slams, but however, he almost retired due to his hip surgery, twice.  He finally came back, slowly, in 2020, and he looks decent, but he is not the same quality when he is playing day after day. However, early on, he looks terrific, with his hard hitting strokes. But he is realistic. He just wants to play,and he is pushing himself.

“I have goals, and I still believe I can play much better. Since I came back from the hip surgery, I’ve won against Zverev, Berrettini, Norrie, Hurkacz, Alcaraz. There’s a number of guys that are currently in like the top 25, top 30 in the world. I think I’ve beaten 12 or 13 of them since I came back.  The consistency certainly has not been there. I’m totally aware of that. But there has been times where I played well. The last sort of seven, eight months has been tough. Having some consistency and continuity there I think will help me get a bit of consistency back.  The inconsistency for me has been more frustrating because I’m not sure exactly why it’s been so up and down. I need to try and change that.”

Murray is a true grinder, and really likes to get into the rallies. His forehand and his backhand can hit it each way, and he can hustle. His first serve is strong, but his second serve is mediocre, not because he won a lot of events, but because the top players can jump on it. Not all the time, but here and there. 
He is decent at the net, but he does not go there very often. That is why the 21 Grand Slam champ Nadal has improved at the net a tremendous amount. The same goes with Federer and Djokovic, the two 20 Slam victories, who improved there serves, there strokes, and at the net.      

The 34-year-old Murray can try if he wants to, but it is up to him. Without a doubt, he just wants to walk into the court and make an attempt.

Since he returned, he is currently ranked No. 86. The last time he won a tournament was in 2019 in Antwerp, Belgium.    Can he do it again, somewhere? 

“I feel like physically I’m doing well in the matches in terms of I played some tough matches recently and came through them well physically, and that’s really positive. I’m 8-5 on the year, which is not amazing, but there’s a lot of guys on the tour that are significantly worse than that,” Murray said. “So I’m trying to sort of not get too disappointed by maybe not performing as well as I would like, sort of accepting or trying to accept the situation that I’m in just now.  I want to be doing better. But obviously I have an opportunity to achieve a goal of mine. I’ve been wanting to get to 700 match wins [currently he is 699 wins], which I think when it happens will be a great achievement.”