Archives for June 2024

On grass, a new shot at Wimbledon for Swiatek

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo

It is pretty obvious that Iga Swiatek won Roland Garros four times, and in the next few weeks, now she will try to win Wimbledon for the first time. Last year, she lost against the tough competitor, Elina Svitolina. Maybe they can face off again, or maybe not, but the No. 1 Swiatek wants to really try to change in up, on the slick grass. It depends on the day, when it can rain, a lot, or warm and sunny. No one really knows until it started.  

Swiatek is on the roll, winning Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. She played fantastic, almost each match, but now she has to take a breath, and breath, and think about it.

She might have to, as Naomi Osaka almost beat her in the second round, but she came through, 7-5 in the third. However, she rose up, and the former No. 1 Osaka was a little erratic, but already, she is darn good. She has won four Grand Slams, but the Japanese has never gone into the third round at Wimbledon. She must do it ASAP, as on the court, she can be brilliant. But she has to play more consistent. 

This week, she is playing at the Libema Open, and she defeating versus Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-4. Impressive.

 “I’m kind of taking it as if this is my first year on grass,” Osaka said. “I think even now, this is my first time at this tournament so in some ways I feel like a newbie all over again. I’ve been in Europe since April, so this is a lot of commitment for me. I’m really happy that I’m doing this.”

She is ranking No. 125, so if she can win a few matches, then she will be  at Wimbledon, and she won’t have to qualify, unless they will give her a wild card. Either way.

In England, at the Rothesay Open, there are some interesting  matches. Almost everyone is there from Britain, such as the No. 30 Katie Boulter, who won it in San Diego on the hardcourts, and that has her best tournament, ever.  But after that, she began to struggle, so to go deep in Nottingham, she will drive hard, early. Two of the top seeds are Ons Jabeur and Marta Kostyuk.

The Americans really have a chance to win Wimbledon, with Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys, and Emma Navarro. None of them have reached into the final, but it is possible, as Serena and Venus Williams did it so many times. Both of them will nail the ball, with there first serves, there backhands, and there returns. Even Serena could also split her forehand, into the corners. The current players have watched her a ton, so then they must have seen them, on the court. Then try to do a new thing. Last year, Marketa Vondrousova won it, beating, believe it or not, Jabeur, in the final. Both of them could go very deep, this time.

The No. 5 Pegula just returned to play in the Netherlands of the Libema Open.The American had not played  since April when she got a rib injury. Now she feels much better, and she knows that she will have to play a lot now, on the grass, and the hard courts, and then in Paris on clay in July.  Good, luck.

“It’s just such a crazy year with the Olympics squeezed in. With my game, I’d rather be ready for grass and the rest of the hardcourt season and grind out the rest of the year, than try and push it for clay and it doesn’t feel well,” Pegula said.” That’s why we played it safe.”

She says that when she watched during Roland Garros, she thought that the No. 1 is stunning. 

“Iga dominated the clay season, what else is new,” Pegula said. “Now we go into grass and I’m sure the grass-court players will do well. I feel like I’m walking back into the same kind of thing. That’s good.”

Carlos Alcaraz: three-time Slam winner

Carlos Alcaraz
Courtesy of Babolat

In the Roland Garros final fifth set, Carlos Alcaraz was locked in. He knew that if he could crack the ball, everywhere, then he could win another Grand Slam. He certainly did, when he defeated Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

That was stunning. However, in the last two sets, he became to hit it very hard, and he attacked, whenever he had to. He had played for hours, but he believed that he could still smash the ball, and throw in some incredible shots.

“I know that when I’m playing a fifth set, you have to give everything and you have to give your heart,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, in those moments, it’s where the top players give their best tennis.”

He has now won three Grand Slams, winning Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. He is only 21-years-old, and if the No. 2 continues to be healthy, he can certainly win many more Slams. He is content and he is getting better each month.

“Different tournaments, different aura, but I’m going to say: same feeling. I mean, winning a Grand Slam is always special,” he said.

No. 4 Zverev had a fine event, but in his last two sets, he collapsed, and he looked tired. Maybe in the final of a Slam, he could be be more forceful, or try to rush the net more.

But not with Alcaraz, who is so much smarter. In the semis, the Spaniard edged Jannik Sinner in five, tough sets. Once again, he hammered his forehand and his backhand.

“Last year I clearly failed that exam, but this time we’d done our homework,” said the Spaniard. “This year I managed to do much better. I think I passed the exam, but not with flying colors. It’s something I have to keep improving and as the years go by, I’ll feel even better.”

The Italian Sinner became No. 1, for the first time, and while he couldn’t win at Roland Garros, at least he won the Australian Open, the  ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami, and he reached the semis at Indian Wells, Monte Carlo and RG. He was disappointed in Paris, but now he is thrilled.  That was a gigantic achievement.

“It represents a great result of work ethic. It was one of my goals for myself and my team this year,” he said. “The most important goal is always to improve as a player and as a person, surrounding myself with great people. In the last period I’ve played some really good tennis. I’m very happy to be in this position.”

Here comes the grass
Will Alcatraz, Sinner or Zverev grab the Wimbledon title? Maybe, but it is totally different on the lawn. Perhaps a few of the American men will go deep there, such as Taylor Fritz, Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Frances Tiafoe.

Fritz is not playing this week, but the rest are, in Netherlands and Germany. Even the current No. 12 Fritz lost super early at last year’s Wimbledon, so is it possible that maybe one American can reach into the second week? That would be good, as the US guys won it at Wimbledon, such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Sampras won it seven times, and Agassi did it once in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Will the young players push it and learn from it?

Roland Garros final: Carlos Alcaraz versus Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev

Eight years ago,  Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic won the title at Roland Garros. Finally, a couple “new” people have the chance to finally win it in Paris. The fast Carlos Alcaraz beat Jannik Sinner in five tough sets, at the semis, and then, Alexander Zverev pounded Casper Ruud in four sets.

Both of them certainly knows that if he is play great, most of the time, he would nail it in the corners, and win it. But it is complicated, as both Alcaraz and Zverev can be patient, and wait until he has a chance to strike it with a winner. Both of them can slap his forehand, low, and with his backhand, it could be  wicked, and deep. Sometimes in the second serve, they will step closer, but in the first serve, they are way back, near the fence, even with the Spaniard. On court, they know that if he can be proficient, then he can control him.

This will be the 10th time with Zverev leads 5-4.  That is very close.

“We had very tough battles in the past,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a difficult match. It is a Grand Slam final. If you’re in a Grand Slam final, you deserve to be there. That goes for both of us. I think both of is are expecting a tough battle.”

Alcaraz  has won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, but he has yet to win Roland Garros. But now he is ready to make some incredible shot. He can miss some odd shots, but then, he can change it up, and throw in some amazing shots. He does think that his opponent can hit some huge  hits, super deep. Zverev can be very intense.

“Sascha, he’s playing great tennis on clay,” Alcaraz said. “Big serve, big shots, really solid. It’s going to be a really interesting final.”

In there four matches, Zverev beat Alcaraz at the Aussie Open in the quarters, in four difficult sets, but in 2023, the Spaniard won it at Madrid and the U.S. Open. Then the German grabbed it at the ATP Finals. Essentially, it is tied, but Zverev will finally win a Grand Slam, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5, 7-5. He will finally make it.

Roland Garros final: Will Jasmine Paolini upset Iga Swiatek?

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo

Who would have thought that Jasmine Paolini have reached the final at a Grand Slam? Over the past 10 years, she wasn’t close, but finally, she started to try to hit the ball, much harder. And she made it, beating Mirra Andreeva 6-3, 6-1, a quick day in the semis. She was sprinting, left and right, into the corners, and back. Anytime she had a chance to rip it, she did, most of the time, because Andreeva threw in some many errors. Perhaps she was sick, but she was totally out of it.

Now, though, Paolini  has to face against the No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who is totally on fire. She won Madrid, Rome, and over the past 13 days at Roland Garros, she has been so intense, on the court. In the semis, Swiatek beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4, pretty clean. Yes, Gauff had a small change to win in the second set, but Swiatek just hammered it with his  forehand. Plus, while Gauff has improved substantial, but her second serve and her forehand was spotty, at best. Yet Swiatek is much more calm, during the matches, and plus, she wants to attack, anytime she wants to. During the match, she can change her direction. 

On Saturday, she has one four Grand Slams. Another? Perhaps.

“After the tournament it usually hits me what I achieved, but during it, I feel like I just need to play another match,” said Swiatek. “Sometimes, it’s hard not to see what’s at stake and what the atmosphere is around these matches. I’m not used to it. It’s not the routine. On the other hand, when I’m focused on work, I can make it a routine because that’s easier to do.”

The Italian Paolini will have to play 100 percent, and make sure that  Swiatek will slam it, early. Even a few years ago, Paolini lost a lot, maybe because she pushed the ball, when it was close. This year, though, she knew that she had to rise up, risky of not. 

The 28-year-old Paolini said that she needed to change, and better, to everyone. “Often, I heard, ‘You play well’ and ‘You could do more. You can get good results,” she said, who is now ranked No. 7. “You could do great things.’ But I never really believed it deep down, which is something that has changed lately. The on-court results are something tangible, more concrete, to me than someone telling me, ‘You can do great things.’ It helps to win more matches — or even lose ones that were hard-fought against strong opponents.”

While Paolini has had a terrific tournament at Roland Garros, but with the Polish person on court, she will be very stable. Because if that, Swiatek will win it in straight sets, quickly.

A toss-up: Alcaraz versus Sinner in the RG semis

Jannik Sinner
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The former No. 1, Rafa Nadal, has won Roland Garros 14 times. On clay, he is the best player, ever. However, the other Spaniard, Carlos Alcaraz, also really likes on the clay, and in the past 12 days, he has played very aggressively. He out hit Stefanos Tsitsipas in three tough sets, and while he did a few odd errors, he was composed, at the end.

Now in the semis he has to go against Jannik Sinner, who will soon be No. 1 on Monday. He will be thrilled, but if he loses in the semis or the finals, then he would be upset. Or maybe not.  The first thing is he has to be super patient, and really go for it, when the time is right.  Sinner has improved this year, and his forehand and his backhand can mix up, and smash it very hard. Alcaraz has an amazing ground strokes, and the two-time champion has improved his first serve. The young player is very fast, when he is running, and he also is very solid at the net. They are close when they have played each other, as they have had eight matches, 4-4. Is that close enough? Yes. They have only played on the clay once, and Umag, and the Italian Sinner won it. At the Slams, Sinner beat Alcaraz at Wimbledon, but at the 2022, the Spaniard defeated him, and he won the US.Open. They have played only once in 2024, at Indian Wells, and Alcaraz beat him in three demanding sets.

In a sense, they know  each other, pretty well. Both of them think that if he is totally on, then he can really go for it, with his first serve, close to the lines.

“Everything [Sinner] does, he does it perfectly,” Alcaraz said. “The way that he hits the ball is unbelievable. The way he moves, it’s really, really [good]. He pushes you to the limit in every ball, in every point. I think it is the hardest thing to face Jannik. At the same time, I love that. I love these kind of matches. I love this kind of challenge, to have a really difficult battle against him.”

Sinner will try to slap with his forehand, somewhat  deep, yet Alcaraz will attempt to go down the line with his quick spin.   It will likely be a marathon, and in the end, in the fifth set, Alcaraz will win it 6-4, in four hours.

Can Alexander Zverev will finally win a Grand Slam?

Well, over the past week, he was struggle, but he made it. From the backcourt, he was so consistent, crosscourt, and down the line. He rarely gets tired now, and his goal is to win a Slam for the first time.

“I’m in another semifinal here, which I’m very pleased about. Of course I want to win one,” said Zverev. “I want to be in the finals. That’s my main focus.”

He has to face the 25-year-old Casper Ruud, who really loves on the clay, having reach into the final at the 2023 Roland Garros. He lost against Novak Djokovic, but in the semis, he beat Zverev. Yes, this year, he came big again, but in the semis, Ruud was on fire, while Zverev collapsed. Maybe the German will do some knew shots, that fool him. Or, Ruud can trick him, again.

“Okay, I won’t play perfect, but I’m going to be a tough player to beat in best-of-five sets on clay,” said Ruud. “That’s the kind of mentality that has been working for me.  I know if the opponents want to beat me, they’re going to have to play really good tennis for at least three full sets, and I’m going to try to make it tough for them. Physically I’m going to try to be in good shape and make them suffer if I can.”

Ruud knows that Zverev can be very intense for hours, but he does know that on the clay, he can exhaust him. He will, and Ruud will win it 6-7, 7-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Can Coco Gauff  upset Iga Swiatek in the semis?

Coco Gauff
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Is it possible that Coco Gauff will beat against Iga Swiatek for the second time? Maybe, but the Polish person has beaten the American 10 times, and Gauff beat her just one time, in Cincinnati, on the hardcourts. At Roland Garros on Thursday, Gauff is going to have to chance a few tactics, and make sure that she can try to crush her forehand, as Swiatek knows that she is more solid, and deeper, too. Last year at RG in the quarters, Swiatek  beat Gauff 6-4,  6-2, with some amazing shots. 

Yes, Gauff has a terrific backhand, and she is very quick, when she is running. Also, she loves the net, but Swiatek has a better serve, and she is not only can immediately attacks, but also, she can jump on the lines. Eventually, Gauff will beat her again, but exactly, when and where on the clay? Swiatek has won four Grand Slams — three at the French Open — and one at the 2022 U.S. Open. Gauff has won just one at a Slam, at the 2023 U.S. Open. Gauff has improved a lot of the past two years, yet she was unable to win a tournament since January, which is OK, yet Swiatek just won Madrid and Rome. She is on fire, beating  Gauff 6-4, 6-3 in Rome. 

“I remember last year was really stressful for me, so every match was kind of like a relief,” Swiatek said. “Now I’m enjoying it more, and I have more satisfaction from just playing my game. Two years ago, I would say in my mind it felt pretty similar, because I just felt like I had already a great season, and now I can just go for it.”

Iga Swiatek will win it 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the third set.

All of a sudden, the 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva rose up, super high.  In the third set, she was comfortable, while Aryna Sabalenka threw in some unusually bad shots, and she lost  6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4.

Andreeva went for it a lot, down the lines, and closer  into the corners. Her serve isn’t great yet, but her forehand and her backhand was huge.  She has to face against the Italian, the  Jasmine Paolini, who stunned Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4,  her first time at the Grand Slam semis. Over the past 10 days, she has been very impressive, pushing herself, trying to hit it harder and harder, rather then just putting it back in. She also scrambled, and managed to confuse with Rybakina, who almost won, but she missed some wild, out, shots. 

So now, both Paolini and Andreeva have reached the semis at a Slam, so clearly, when they come on the court, they will be nervous, but when they start, one of them will lock it in. They will have some cool rallies, and some tremendous shots, but in the end, the veteran Paolini will win it 4-6, 7-6, 6-3. 

Roland Garros: Will Alex de Minaur beat Alexander Zverev?

Alexander Zverev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Eventually, the very good players finally understand how to figure out on the clay.

Up until this year, the Australian Alex de Minaur looked very good on the hard courts, but in the slow surfaces on the dirt, he could be very impatient. But now de Minaur became committed, and two days ago, he stunned to beat Daniil Medvedev in four sets. He has yet to reach the semis at the Grand Slams. In January, he won the United Cup in the hard courts, beating Alexander Zverev in the final. Now his confidence is high there, which is good, as over the past two months, he wasn’t great yet, but he was pretty solid.  

“Well, I screamed, ‘I love the clay. I love it here. I can’t get enough,’” De Minaur said, who has to face Alexander Zverev in Roland Garros. “I’m pretty happy, (I’m) not going to lie. (I) managed to beat a quality opponent in a Grand Slam fourth round, which is one of the goals that I had been setting for myself to go deeper at these events. I’m very proud of myself.”

De Minaur is ready to win another match, but Zverev has beaten de Minaur seven times, and lost just two. In Paris, Zverev won a very close match, twice, in the five setter. At times, he can back off, but when he has to, he can swing away, deep, and close to the lines. Zverev  will not be nervous, yet, but de Minaur might panic when it is super close.

“They gave me a lot of slack for me complaining all these years of my level on the clay, but now it looks like it’s one of my best slam results. It looks like I’ve converted myself into a clay specialist,” de Minaur said.

Zverev beat de Minaur at Indian Wells in March. So he will do it again, but maybe not in five setters. The German will collapse. Perhaps.

Aryna Sabalenka is playing very solid, even better, as she will rake the ball. She has to face the 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva, who is so quick. The Russian Andreeva can slam the ball, especially with her hard backhand. Her forehand is pretty good, but she has a lot of work to do over the years. Sabalenka is now much more calm in the Slams, and her serve has improved a lot. Her forehand and her backhand are terrific, and now she can change it up, more. The Belarusian  Sabalenka  will win it in two, tough sets.

When Elena Rybakina is on, it looks like that she can win another Grand Slam, like she did at the 2022 at Wimbledon. But that is on the grass, so with the clay, you have to be patient and really set it up. At Roland Garros,  Rybakina is attacking early, and she is more thoughtful. But at times, she can become very frustrated.

She has to face against Jasmine Paolini who has a good year, and while she isn’t very tall, she can run for a very long time. She is fast, and she can move forward, and try to put it away.  The Italian Paolini has played for 10 years,  and while she has played much better, but  Rybakina will pound her and win in in straight sets.

Tough matches, but Djokovic keeps winning

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Given that Novak Djokovic played for four and a half hour, and when he finished,   it was 3:00 a.m. at Roland Garros. It had rained a lot in Paris, but he stayed there, and he beat Lorenzo Musetti  7-5 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. He finally looked very good, but Musetti collapsed. The No. 1 Djokovic has been struggling this year, but each match, he could play very well, and more confident. His backhand is amazing, and he can return deep, close to the lines. Now he has to face against Francisco Cerundolo, who has had a so-so year, but the Argentine can rise up. He will have to, as Djokovic will push him into the fence. The Serbian will win it in four, tight, sets

Alexander Zverev is still playing darn good, while he almost lost in a marathon, but he managed to survive, but now he has to face versus Holger Rune, who really likes on the clay.  Zverev can crush the ball, on the hardcourts, but the German can become impatient,with his forehand and his backhand, and he will rush it. Zverev has yet to win a Grand Slam yet, but he has come close, at the U.S. Open, yet in France, he has been up and down. “I kind of had this conversation with myself and I realized that you know I don’t do any good to myself and especially to people and kids watching so, I’m glad it’s working out,” he said. “I mean, I worked on myself quite a lot uh in that department.”

However, in the past month, Zverev was very smart, on the court, winning Rome. His confidence is there, but Rune is trying to reach the semis at the Slams for the first time. He can be steady, and he did have a fine year in 2023, and at Rome, he reached the final, beating Casper Ruud before  he lost against  Daniil Medvedev. Pretty good. Ruud knows that to beat Zverev, he must be super patient, and really mix it up. Unfortunately, Zverev will gringe him, in five, fun sets.

Taylor Fritz is the only American men are left, so to beat Ruud, he is going to play lights out. Ruud reached the final at Roland Garros, and recently, he won Barcelona and Switzerland. He is so confident when he can chuck it on to the lines, and he can be very creative. Toe to toe, he can also change his tactics. That should be a wild five setter, and Fritz will really be very aggressive, but Ruud will grab it 6-4.

On Saturday, the American Emma Navarro will face versus the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. Gradually, Navarro is trying to add some new shots, and also, to be thoughtful.

“It allows for some unique tennis, which is what I like,” Navarro told WTA Insider. “I like problem-solving, I like figuring things out. I like that I can be creative.  I like to play with some style. That’s what I enjoy about tennis and the clay allows for that, a little bit more than hardcourts.”

At Indian Wells in March,  Navarro upset Sabalenka 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. That was one of the best day, ever. She did lose in the next round, but she seems to be better with her forehand, and her  second serve.  However, Sabalenka is much more close to the lines, hitting as hard as she can. Yes, Navarro will try to rallied her, but Sabalenka  will take it, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.