Archives for July 2022

Carlos Alcaraz: ‘I try to keep learning, keep adding experiences’

Carlos Alcaraz

Even with a standout year with few losses, Carlos Alcaraz is still learning. He is so quick, and he is super aggressive. Here and there, he can be frustrated. But he is 19-years-old, and when he is on, he can pound the ball.

This season, ranked No. 6, he upset Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. On Friday, he is back on the clay, after Wimbledon. This week, he is in Hamburg, ready to win another title. So far, he is 23-2 on the red clay, and this season, he won Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and Madrid. The teenager is a little bit surprised.

“The truth is that a little, yes,” Carlos Alcaraz said. “I have had surprising results this year, I did not expect to evolve as fast as I did, but I work for it. As I always say, hard work pays off, although in my case it was all a bit quick and surprising. I try to keep learning, keep adding experiences and always try to give my best version in each game. I feel that I play for myself, for my team and my family, I don’t focus on the expectations that people may have. I just push it away.”

On Thursday, he crushed Karen Khachanov 6-0, 6-2 . He punched the ball, side to side. He whacked it, with 21 winners and only seven errors.

“I played unbelievable today, probably one of my best matches this year,” said Alcaraz. “I’m training every day to be solid and at the same time to be aggressive. That is my game.”

The Thiem comeback

Dominic Thiem won the 2020 US Open, but the 26-year-old really got hurt, and he had to stay away when he suffered his right wrist tear in June 2021. He tried a couple times, but he couldn’t play. Finally in April, he was good enough to walk on the court.

The former World No. 3 started playing on the clay, and he was very good, but on the hardcourts, the 28-year-old had to re-think when he hits the ball. He can spin it, and he can mix it up all around. However, when a player returns from a long layoff, they are rarely comfortable. Each week, he remembers. Here, he won it on Friday in Gstaad, Switzerland, and now he has to face the talented Matteo Berrettini.

“Dominic has had an unbelievable career,” Berrettini told the ATP. “He is a Slam champion and he got injured, but he is coming back. I saw some of him today and his level is coming back, so it is going to be a tough match. We always play great matches, so tomorrow will be a good one.”

Yes it will be.

Injury stymies Petkovic

Guess what happened? The veteran Andrea Petkovic won in the first round at the Hamburg European Open, but she said that she hurt her aggravated elbow injury during Wimbledon. And yesterday, she had to retire, after eight games. The 34-year-old did reach the at No. 9 in 2011, but currently, she is No. 67.

“It’s absolute horror. It’s completely gone in some cases, then a ball jumps wrong and the tendon is squeezed and I want to die,” Petkovic said. “It’s a very unpleasant pain, but it doesn’t go away even with rest. If I turn pale or start crying.”

The big-hitting Petkovic still plays a lot, almost every week, even with a bum elbow. The German wants to play, even though her arm can be sore. This year, she upset the two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza.

“But I play well, so it’s something I accept. At some point you have to take things like that with a sense of humor, what else can I do,” she said with a laugh. “If I turn pale or start crying, it’s probably because of that.”

Wimbledon champions: Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina

Novak Djokovic

The now 21-Grand-Slam champion Novak Djokovic decided to stay the course, even though Nick Kyrgios was serving gigantic in the Wimbledon final. The Aussie won the first set 6-4, and he was super confident, even though this was the first time that he had reached the final at a Grand Slam.

Kyrgios also really likes the slick grass, and he believed that if he could play very well, that he could punch Djokovic, who he had beaten two times.

But hold on. In the second set, the Serb decided that when the rallies began, he would change the direction and trick him. It was close, but he knew that if he served strong, and that he could bust the Australian’s backhand, then he could frustrate him.

He sure did that, and eventually won it 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) .

Kyrgios said: ‘“He’s a bit of a god, I’m not gonna lie,” said Kyrgios. “I thought I played well. … It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for me personally.”

But he lost, so he has to go back to work and work be even harder. He yells a lot on court, as he did repeatedly and annoyingly so on Sunday. While he can attack and he can snap out of his habit, when he loses control, then he throws in too many errors.

In January, the Australian Kyrgios finally realized that he was about to click.

He won the doubles with his good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open, and he realized that when he plays a lot, he can be much more solid.

“I think the doubles in Australia has really helped me at a Grand Slam level,” Kyrgios said. “I felt like just the kind of mundane, you win a match, you have a day off, you practice, you go again over a two-week period. I realized in Melbourne it’s a long time. You can’t explore, you can’t really go to the city here. You can’t enjoy your time as much as you would like to. You kind of have to stay in your house, be reserved, take your mind off things. I think in Melbourne I really realized that.”
Before that, he had never reached the semifinals before. It surely helped that 22-time-Grand-Slam champion Rafa Nadal pulled out with an abdominal tear, giving Kyrgios a walkover in the final.

Regardless, Kyrgios beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Brandon Nakashima and Cristian Garin. In some matches the 27-year-old can be subdued.
“I just feel like I’m more mature. I think earlier in my career if I made a third, fourth or quarterfinals, I’d be on my phone a lot, I would be engaging online a lot, would be keen to go out to dinner and explore or just do things,” said Kyrgios. “I think everyone has the same goal in my team. That’s why it’s working. We all know what we’ve come here to do.”

He was close, but the the 35-year-old Djokovic is older and more mature, too. Now, going in the next two months, can Mr. Novak continue to win a lot. If he can play the US Open (the US currently bans incoming travelers who don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine – Djokovic does not), then he might get lucky and not have to face two of the tour’s best players, Alexander Zverev and Nadal, who are injured. Regardless, Djokovic will fight, during the last breath.

Rybakina’s big game take trophy
If you look at the entire year, Elena Rybakina was struggling on the court. She had some good wins, but not great ones. However, at Wimbledon, she began to push up the mountain. Over the past couple years, she would win a terrific match and then in the few days later, she would be erratic. In London, she was finally in the zone. She knocked off Zheng Qinwen, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and in the final on Saturday, she out-hit Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Rybakina has a big first serve, a vicious return, and she can strike bigtime with her forehand and her backhands. She finally boomed.
“The last three years I think I’m top 20,” Rybakina said. “And I had very good matches, great battles, against great champions, and it was always close. In those close moments I was the one who will lose the serve or just miss. Maybe it mentally clicked (this time). I believed in myself more in this tournament and in the crucial moments I was just solid enough to win.”

And how.

The Wimbledon final: Novak Djokovic aims for No. 21

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Novak Djokovic’s body is always ready but the question is about his head. At times, he can be foggy, and out of the balance, but gradually, he wakes up and then he knows exactly what to do.

In the Wimbledon quarters, very young Jannik Sinner was pounding the ball, smacking it down the line, or low and cross court. In the first two sets, he had it all.

But after that, the smart veteran Djokovic began to change. He knows that when he is down, he has to change the points. He also had to come closer to the baseline and swing very hard. Not many people can come back from a two-to-zero-set hole. Djokovic can and has shown how to do it over the years. He really believes that he can out smart his opponent.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion did exactly that, outlasted Sinner 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

“You approach these particular situations when you’re two sets down a bit more calmly, a bit more confident, with more self-belief. I always believed that I could turn the match around,” Djokovic said.

Yes he did, and the 20-year-old Italian started to slip and the errors came, point after point. He did look decent at times, but he did not know how to deal with the confident and motivated Serb.

In the semis, Djokovic defeated Cameron Norrie 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. In the first set, Norrie was pounding the ball. But, the tide turned. In the last three sets, Djokovic was almost perfect, targeting his gigantic first serve, his amazing, crosscourt backhand and his hard forehand. When he is on, players have to play a zero percent to beat him.

He had another goal, because he knows that in the famous grass, he has another opportunity with a chance to win his seventh Wimbledon title.

Going for his seventh and fourth consecutive title, he will have to face the Australian Nick Kyrgios, who is playing as well as he has at any Grand Slam. He is a huge hitter, and he is so confident.

Kyrgios has beaten Djokovic twice in 2017 at Acapulco and Indian Wells. But that was a long ago. The 20-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic believes that, in the three-out-of-five-set format, he can put him down.

“It’s going to be [Nick’s] first Grand Slam final, obviously he’s very excited and he doesn’t have much to lose and he’s always playing like that. He’s playing so freely, he has one of the biggest serves in the game,” Djokovic said. “Just big game overall, a lot of power in his shots. We haven’t played for some time, I never won a set off him so hopefully it can be different this time. It’s another final for me here in Wimbledon, the tournament I love so much, so hopefully the experience can work in my favor.”

Another factor is the withdrawal by Rafa Nadal, who defeated Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals but pulled out of the tournament before facing off with Kyrgios. Now, he will have to contend with not playing a semifinal. The extra-long rest may help the Australian’s body but will the extra time to think be a problem for his often volatile emotions?

Let Taylor play!

Taylor Fritz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When I was the Atlanta Open media director, one reporter who was new to tennis asked, “What’s a lucky loser? How can a loser be lucky?”

I explained tennis’ practice of letting qualifiers who lose in the final round of qualies move into the main draw if a main-draw player withdraws before play starts. The rule gives more players a chance to play and advance into the tournament. Plus, it gives the fans an extra match to watch.

So, why not do that with the main draw? Let’s let Taylor Fritz advance into the Wimbledon semifinals.

Rafael Nadal, who downed Fritz in the quarterfinals, announced today he would not play his next match. He was scheduled to face Nick Kyrgios on Friday in the semis.

But, there are no lucky losers in the main draw or in any tennis tournament. If a player withdraws, his/her upcoming opponent gets a walkover. No opponent, no match.

What is the alternative?

Just like the advantages to give a lucky loser a slot in the main draw, the advantages of moving a loser further in the tournament are the same.

  • The fans, especially those who spent a whole lot of English pounds at Wimbledon, will get to see two semifinals instead of one.
  • The losing player will be pleased to get another match and can continue in the tournament.
  • No opponent would have one less match than another. In the upcoming Wimbledon singles final, Kyrgios goes in having played only five matches while his opponent will play six matches.

Oddly enough, there is a rule that allows Fritz to advance. If Nadal had decided to retire during the match (as seemingly he was encouraged to do by his camp), then Fritz would have been the winner. So, to a certain degree, it was the timing when Nadal decided to stop that means a Wimbledon semifinal won’t be played. Explain that to the fans and TV networks.

As happens when a player pulls out of a Grand Slam before the first round, both players would get a payday. To make sure giving up the match was not too attractive, the player withdrawing could get a small slice of the money. How about 25 percent?

What happens if Fritz is already on a plane to the U.S. when Nadal announces his withdrawal? Undoubtedly, he would return to London. But, what if this happens in a $25K low-level tournament and the player has arrived in the next city? Well, no penalty to the player if he/she decides not to play the match.

I’ve read criticism that allowing a loser to advance goes against the core of competitive tournament structure and it could contribute to intentional losing or, even worse, the temptation to have the player who would benefit influence the player withdrawing. All these are fair arguments.

There’s nothing wrong with questioning the tournament structure and making improvements.

Let’s discuss about how we can make tennis more attractive. If you have any thoughts on this rule change, please email me at

Wimbledon: Amanda Anisimova beats Coco Gauff

Amanda Anisimova
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Amanda Anisimova is still becoming more mature, on the court and off. Over the past few months, she began to think more clearly about her oncourt tactics. Both her forehand and her backhand are titanic, and while she isn’t incredibly fast, she can be pretty quick when chasing would-be winners. She stares at the ball and then she can decide to rally or leap on the lines. 

On Saturday, she beat Coco Gauff 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round. She was extremely excited.

“It was a super tough match today, but it was extremely special to get to play on Centre Court for the first time in my life,” Anisimova said. “It’s super exciting how many Americans are doing well and have advanced here so far. I think we have a ton of strong players. Even today playing against Coco, I think that’s extremely exciting and good for our country to play on Centre, both being American.”

She is the only American woman left in the tournament at Wimbledon. Jessica Pegula lost today, and a bunch of players lost in the first week. So now it is up to No. 25 Anisimova, to go further. 

“At the end of the day it’s about the consistency and how well you do at each tournament. It’s still something that I’m working on,” she said. “Just getting far into tournaments – I had a couple quarterfinals this year where I think I could have gone past it. I just try to take the experience. I’m just here for the journey so I’m building off of that.” 

It was a windy day, and the 18-year-old Gauff, who reached the final at Roland Garros, fell out in the last two sets. She could have been much more patient, but she just could not get it together. However, she said that Anisimova can go almost all the way. Oh, really? 

“I think she has got a good shot of pretty much going all the way to the final. If she plays like she did those last two sets against me, I think that’s some top-notch tennis right there,” Gauff said.

Anisimova will face the Frenchwoman Harmony Tan on Monday, who upset Serena Williams in the first round.

Swiatek’s streak ends

There was a wild upset when the No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak finally ended. The 32-year-old veteran Alizé Cornet was very driven and she snapped winners all over the place. She can hit it short and soft with her second serves, but she is still very quick and she can blast her forehand. However, Cornet had not reached the quarters at Wimbledon. Earlier this year, at the Australian Open, she upset Simona Halep before Danielle Collins took her down in the quarters. 

But this time, Swiatek finally grew cold, and she lost, 6-4, 6-2 to Cornet. But, when she gets back on the hard courts, the Pole should be ready to punch it again.

Outside of Anisimova and Cornet, there are two players who are lurking, the former two-time champion Simona Halep, and the current No. 5, Paula Badosa. Halep won the 2019 Wimbledon, stunning  Serena in the final. Currently, she looks pretty good, but to get there, she has to hit it even harder. Last week, Anisimova punched Halep in Germany on the grass. The Romanian is always very steady, but she has to attack the net.

Badosa has had a strong year. But, she has yet to reach the semis at the Slams. The Spaniard picked it up last year, and she can be self-consistent, but once again, on grass, if she wants to go even further, she has to try and bang it down. Kick it, if you can.