The Picks in Stuttgart and Barcelona: Monday, April 17

Jelena Ostapenko
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Veronika Kudermetova over Coco Gauff
The Russian has not had a good year, even though she is ranked No. 13. If you look at that, you would think that she is playing fantastic, and last year, she threw in some amazing shots. However, this year, Kudermetova has lost a ton of contests, from with the very good players, or the mediocre competitors. Perhaps she is mentally down. However, she can blitz her forehand and her backhand, and she is also very aggressive. She did beat Gauff in Doha in three sets on the hardcourts, returning very well. The American did play extremely well in the Fed Cup in Florida, but she immediately had to fly across the ocean, so while she is a teenager, it can be taxing. If she can wake up, then she can crack the balls, but in reality, Kudermetova will out-hit her in third dramatic set.

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Jelena Ostapenko over Emma Raducanu
Ostapenko is so, so up and down, there are times when she is on fire, and there are other times when she is totally checked out. The Latvia can create her shots, and she can also spring it. Ostapenko can also be very steady, throwing with some deep shots. Raducanu can also engage the rallies, and then when her backhand is right there, and she can really go for it. The problem with Raducanu is she is not deciding what she can do at the match, to be much more patient, and toss it all around. Eventually, the Britain will find herself, but the former 2021 US Open champion is losing a lot, still, so Ostapenko will win it in two odd sets.

Diego Schwartzman over Yibing Wu
Here is huge toss-up, as Wu recently won Dallas, beating John Isner. Wu is only 23-years-old, so clearly he has improving before last year, he won a ton of matches, mostly in the small tournaments, but look at this: a year ago, he was ranked No. 1749, and now, he is ranked No. 56. That is extremely good. However, Wu has to face versus Schwartzman, when the Argentine beat him in straight sets in Miami. Wu can be super consistent, but Schwartzman can mix it up a good amount. Schwartzman will win in three, long, sets.

David Goffin over Feliciano Lopez
Both of these two are aging, really fast, now. The Belgian Goffin was ranked No. 7 in 2017, playing some tremendous ball, with his terrific one-hander and with some heavy topspin. Goffin did manage to reach the final at the ATP Finals, and he did win six titles, but not the biggest ones. The Spaniard Lopez is still playing, even though he is 41-years-old, which is a little bit crazy in the singles, but many people just want to play until they pass, because they just want to go walk on the court and have another fine day. Lopezis ranked way down, 593, which is going down and down, but at least in 2015, he made a career high of No. 12 with his fun one-handed back hand, and at the net, too, That is a pretty darn good. Yes, Lopez is OK on the clay, but Goffin is still better than him and he will beat him in three, wicked, sets.’s top 32 in 2022: men 25-21

Diego Schwartzman, Alex De Minaur, Lorenzo Musetti, Nick Kyrgios, Roberto Bautista Agut

Nick Krygios
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No. 25: Diego Schwartzman
The veteran had a decent year at the beginning, beating some fine players, After April, he started to slump. From May through November, he did not win many matches, losing to the very good players and some medicare players. Yes he is fast and he could be steady, but when he is out of synch, his strokes aren’t deep enough.  Perhaps he was injured, but in the fall, he fell down fast. Hopefully next year he can reset his game and make a few more critical changes.

No. 24: Alex De Minaur
The 23-year-old Aussie had some terrific wins. He works hard in his practices, but he can be erratic at times. Of course, he can really hustle, and cover the court with his long arm. In 2022, he only beat one player inside the top 20 this year. While he is pretty good, but in order to put down the super consistent players, who hit the ball really hard, he has to rush the net when he wants to. To reach the top 10, he has to improve his thinking tat in order to play much better, which is critical. He knows in Australia, the fans want to see him excell, just like Pat Rafter did, who won two Grand Slams. He needs to have a gut check.  

No. 23: Lorenzo Musetti
The Italian is only 20 year old. In October, he won Naples, beating Matteo Berrettini in the final. Even in Hamburg, he out-lasted the now No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. When he was on, and very confident, he can punch the lines on clay. Outside of that, though, on the hardcourts and the grass, he lost early a lot. Yes, he is very young, so in order to improve, he has to practice a tremendous amount to add more solid strokes. As many young people know that if they want to improve as much as they can, they eventually need to be more solid. Plus, he needs think about exactly where he needs to do. Think, and take a chance.

No. 22: Nick Kyrgios
This has been a bizarre year, as the controversial Aussie finally played a lot, in the singles and the doubles, and he beat a number of excellent players. On court, he will scream a lot, and yell, but in certain tournaments, he can absolutely crush the ball with his phenomenal forehand. Plus, his first serve is gigantic, and he really does mix it up with some wild, great crazy shots. Over the past 10 years, he can play excellently, and then, he would play almost lousy. He did reach at the Wimbledon final, his best Grand Slam, ever, but unfortunately, he self-destructed and then Novak Djokovic out-thought him in the fourth set. Really though, in 2023, will he continue to play great all year, or will he become pissed off on court, and off court, too. Few people really know what’s his erratic head.

No. 21: Roberto Bautista Agut
In his first event in January, he made it into the final at the ATP Cup in Sydney. In Mallorca, he reached the final, upsetting Daniil Medvedev. When he is pounding the ball, up and down, side to side, he can be so harmonious. However, the Spaniard is 34-years-old. While he absolutely love to play, but he is aging. Is he just as fast than he was 15 years ago? He might say, “Yes, I can still sprint” he is slightly slower. The good thing is that he won Doha and Kitzbuhel. But to win a Grand Slam, sure, he can upset a couple pf top 10 players. However, the reason why he has yet to reached the final because he cannot hit it hard into the corners all the time. He is a very good player, but to win a Slam, that would be a shocker.

Day 2, 2022 US Open, the picks

Alize Cornet
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Emma Raducanu vs Alize Cornet
Raducanu, ranked No. 11, won the 2021 US Open last year. Oh, really? Who knew that before Flushing Meadows that this teenager would play her so steady forehand and backhand, set after set after set. But, she did and then everyone knew that she can be terrific. But in the last 12 months, she has been up and down. The pressure is totally on. The Frenchwoman knows that, and also, she has been pretty good even last week in Cleveland when she reached the semis. She has played so many matches, and sometimes she is so consistent and other times, she is flat. There will be some fascinating points, with some wild backhands. Cornet really wants to reach the second week at the US Open, but Raducanu wants to rise, again. She will win in three sets.

Danielle Collins vs. Naomi Osaka
Talk about a pick-em. Yes, Osaka has won it twice, and when she did it, she was so strong and so focused. But, in the past year and a half, due to the vicious COVID-19, she was hit with depression. After that, she didn’t want to play in the matches. So far, since she made it into the final at Miami, she has won one match, and four lost. Osaka is now ranked No. 44, and given that she won the US Open in the 2018 and 2020, she can be mentally off. Maybe she can be motivated against Collins. However, the No. 19 Collins is very forceful, and she also goes for it immediately. It should be a bangup match, and Osaka will finally be happy and win it in three dramatic sets.

Diego Schwartzman vs. Jack Sock
The Argentine has been for years, and he always get into the rally, and grind it. Plus, when he has a chance, Schwartzman can swing away, and when he does, he can pocket a lot of winners. Years ago, the American actually got into the top 10, winning Paris. After that, his body got hurt and he wasn’t trying hard enough in the singles. In the doubles, yes, he is very good. In singles he has improved slightly, but he is ranked No. 107. Not good enough. He did say that he is trying again, and he thinks that if he is 100 percent, he will win many more matches. But not against the No. 16 Schwartzman, who knows that he wants to push him side to side, and tire him out. He will, and he will win in four sets.

Frances Tiafoe vs. Marcos Giron
Talk about a matchup, as both of them have practiced a lot, so they know each other well. Tiafoe is in the top 26, and Giron is in the top 56, too, meaning that at the US Open, they really want to reach the second week. But only one can win it, and when they are playing, they certainly be very creative and attack when it is right. They have to hit a lot of first serves — not second serves — smack their forehands, and bend down low at the net. It doesn’t look like that they will be nervous, so the most important is to be very focused. Tiafoe will edge him in five sets. 2021 year-end review: top 15-11, the men

Felix Auger-Aliassime

15. Dominic Thiem
There are days when he can be move the ball around, with heavy spin, with his forehand and backhand. He is presto and can run quickly. He has improved a lot over the past few years, understanding what he had to do, and to push the opponents to the back wall. Yes, he was hurt much of the year — playing only 18 matches — so that is why he dropped down into the top 15. But next year, if he is healthy, he will punch back into the top 5 and maybe, he can win another Grand Slam. It is all about the perfect health.
14. Denis Shapovalov
The Canadian kept playing all the time, when he was very good, and so-so when he was tired. Clearly, he wants to play a lot, almost each week, and he can mix it up. His forehand and backhand are very solid. He is young, but he has been here for a few years. If he wants to reach into the top 5 next year, he will have to grow even more. If he can improve his return and come to the net more, then the lights will be bright. But first, try to reach a ATP 1000 final for the first time.

13. Diego Schwartzman
The Argentine is efficient. He also likes to spin it on the clay courts, and he punches into the net. Over the years, he also started to read his strokes on the hardcourts, hitting even harder. In reality, while he is very good, it will be difficult for him to reach a Grand Slam final. To reach that level, the 29-year-old has to play almost perfectly. In 2022, maybe he can try to hit the ball, very deep, and dive into the net.

12. Cameron Norrie
The Brit finally added to his game, and he could see that in order to win much more, he had to make changes. Now he knows that when he wasn’t playing well, he would find a a way to throw in a few winners. After that, he became more disciplined and then he would fire away. He did that at Indian Wells this year, winning an ATP 1000, perhaps his best two weeks ever. Now he thinks that in 2022, and he continues to improve, he will be better, month after month. However, to upset the top players, he has to focus every second.

11. Felix Auger-Aliassime
Another Canadian had a dusty year, adding to his strokes and becoming smarter. He is very rugged, and he can bang the ball. He can chip it, here and there. He is another young player who is rising, and he has said that he certainly wants to win an ATP 1000, or a Grand Slam. Given that he has reached eight finals, and he has lost all of them, the 21-year-old seems to find a path through his nerves. Like all of them, to go there, Auger-Aliassime should improve his serve and his decisions when he is playing. He has to practice very hard, and then in 2022, he will win even more. 2020 year-end review: top 6-10, men

Stefanos Tsitsipas

10. Matteo Berrettini
He watches various sports, and he goes to cheer. And he also pays attention. He likes swimming, football and judo. In 2019, the Italian grew up, and upset Dominic Thiem, before losing to Alexander Zverev in Shanghai. At the US Open, he upset Andrey Rublev before he lost to Rafa Nadal. Overall, though, in 2020, he looked OK, but not great. He went 9-6 this year. That was almost mediocre. In January, he needs to harness his skills and make a statement. 

9. Diego Schwartzman
He can scrape, run around and get to most ball. He has added to a few more shots. This year, he upset Nadal in Rome, and then at Roland Garros a couple weeks later, he also shocked Dominic Thiem in the fifth set. But in the semis, Nadal kicked him out. He has a very respectable ground game, but he has get do closer to the net and improve his second serve. To get higher than his one week at No. 8, he must develop more weapons.

8. Andrey Rublev
The Russian finally climbed up the rankings, figuring out that in order to be steady, he needed to suffer. He won Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna. He said it best about his 2020 campaign: “This year I win more tournaments than in my career. I win more matches than in my career. I can be only grateful for the season. I become top 10 for the first time. So the season was amazing for me.” The 23-year-old player showed more smarts. His first serve packs plenty of power and produces a lot of aces. But, he must to get better, each month to challenge the best. He did have a fine year. In 2021, I expect more of the same.

7. Alexander Zverev
Next year, the German will continue to elevate or sputter. At the 2020 US Open in the final, it was a tremendous match, toe-to-toe, between Zverev vs Thiem. The corners were tremendous, they hit some gigantic forehands and backhands. Both would were tired, but in the end, Thiem beats Zverev 7-6 (6) in the final. But, Thiem showed more daring and guts. Zverev backed off and was very upset to let his first Grand Slam slip away. He can be irritable, but when he is thinking hard, then he can blast the ball. However, he slips in and out of synch. In the fall, he won Cologne, he upset Nadal in semis at the ATP 1000 Paris. But in the ATP Finals in London, he couldn’t reach the semis. He was ready to go home, but he was still upset in New York — two months later — and, he is still recalling. “The US Open match obviously still hurts, but all the other ones, it’s great that I’m playing at this level again. Still, it was a good year and there is a lot to build on for next year.” Yes, but he has to deal with off-court issues: Olya Sharypova’s abuse allegations and another ex-girlfriend, Brenda Patea, who is pregnant and claims he is the father.

6. Stefano Tsitsipas 
The Greek can be very intense, and on court, his eyes are lucid. After he lost against Nadal in London at the ATP Finals, he said, ‘I should have handled it a little bit more clever and patiently, but it didn’t happen. My serve was not there when I needed it, you just have to be there. I wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t playing in the moment.” He also said that he was very disappointed. He actually had a good year, but not perfect. Over the past two years, of course, Tsitsipas has beaten a lot of good players. He has beaten top-20 players, but his nerves get in the way. He lost to Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Borna Coric, Rublev, Grigor Dimitrov and Thiem. He has a lot of shots, and it can also be much too erratic.  Meaning, if he wants to a Slam for the first time in 2021, he has to be composed.

Top 30s in 2018, Men, 20-16

Milos Raonic

No. 20: Marco Cecchinato
Where did the Italian come from, so suddenly? A few years ago, he looked OK,but this season, the 26-year-old rebelled and he was much more dependable —early on. He won Umag and Budapest, which was not a Slam, or in the ATP 1000s, but still, at least he stuck in there. More than that, at Roland Garros, he stunned David Goffin and Novak Djokovic to reach the semis before he lost to Dominic Thiem. That was impressive. But, after that, he barely won a match during the next five months. He must regroup ASAP or he will begin to drop hard down the rankings. Here comes Australia.

No. 19: Grigor Dimitrov
The Bulgarian looked so good in 2017. He concentrated, focused and hitting the lines. But, not so in 2018 as he slipped, pretty badly. Of course, he is still in the top 20 in 2018. Now, when he is on court against the great players, you can tell that inside he is nervous and almost immediately frustrated. Here and there, he won a few good matches, but it was rare, and he lost to all the elite competitors, like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, etc. Healso lost to the very good players like Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. The only real accomplishments in 2018 were reaching the quarters at the Aussie Open, beating Nick Kyrgios before losing against Kyle Edmund. In February, Dimitrov made it into the final at Rotterdam, but Federer crushed him 6-2, 6-2. After that, he did nothing. At all. However, he is an excellent player when he is on. Still, he has to believe himself again. Will he do that in January? I have no idea, but it will be intoxicating to watch him.    

No. 18: Milos Raonic
The 27-year-old Canadian was OK, here and there, but he has said that he wants to win a Grand Slam. Most people do, and two years ago, he reached the 2016 Wimbledon final, and he was ready to rock. He upset Federer in the semis — a great win — but in the final against Andy Murray, the Brit took him down.Murray was very thoughtful, and he returned well, too, on grass, while Raonic couldn’t break him. Clearly, Raonic has improved a decent amount — especially his backhand — but also, he gets hurt a tremendous amount. Plus, while he has won eight small or medium titles, he still haven’t won an ATP 1000, even though he has lost three finals. In 2019, if he wants to win a gigantic event, he has to breathe, be solid and creative, and once in a while, have some fun.

No 17: Diego Schwartzman
The Argentine plays a ton, but a few years ago, he was so-so. Yet in 2018, he became more skillful on clay. He is still trying to figure out the hard courts as well as the grass, but he will rush the net here and there. His legs are strong and he can be very steady. Just like Cecchinato and Dimitrov, after Schwartzman reached the quarters at Roland Garros and lost Nadal in four sets — a pretty good match — he went down from June through November. Of course, he works a lot, but is he changing any type of tactics in 2019? I would hope so.

No. 16: Daniil Medvedev
Finally, here, among these five players, we have a 22-year-old. Russian Medvedev is getting better all the time. He is 6-foot-6, he can smoke the ball, and this year, he won three titles: Sydney, Winston-Salem and Tokyo. Obviously, they were not huge tournaments, but in Tokyo — a good event — he upset Raonic and Nishikori to grab it. To beat the Japanese in front of everyone in the final was very important. Plus, when he started the year, he was ranked No. 65, and he has to qualify at Sydney. He went all the way, taking seven matches in a row. Medvedev is obviously very healthy and pretty lethal. Without a doubt, he will push into the top-10 pretty soon.  

Thiem blasts injured Zverev; dejected Djokovic loses

FROM ROLAND GARROS — Alexander Zverev was physically done. When he woke up in the morning on Tuesday, he felt fresh. But, when he got on the court against Dominic Thiem, his legs were very heavy. In the first set he felt a muscle pull and he needed treatment on his left hamstring. The result? Thiem blasted him in three quick sets.

“First time I felt a pull was in the fourth game of the first set, when we had a few great points, a lot of physical points,” Zverev said. “I remember I slid one time, and then I felt a muscle pull. I thought maybe it’s just soreness or something that would just go away. I didn’t think about it too much. Then each game and each slide, I was getting worse and worse. Middle of the second set, the pain was too much. I knew I’m not going to win the match. There was no way for me.”

Thiem has played great over the past 10 days and has a terrific chance to reach the final at RG.  He is a fantastic mover and his one-handed backhand jumps off the court with a lot of spin. While Zverev won three wonderful five-setters, still, the No. 3 has yet to reach in the semis at a Grand Slam. He is an amazing player, but he has to improve his return, his patience, and most especially, his volleys.

How about the Italian Marco Cecchinato, who stunned Novak Djokovic 6-3 7-6(4) 1-6 7-6(11)? Djokovic played pretty well, overall, but he missed a few key opportunities and Cecchinato was on fire towards the end, with his flashy backhand and forehand. Djokovic was ticked off and he said that he isn’t sure he will play Wimbledon. He was pretty distraught.
“Well I guess he’s not ready physically,” Mats Wilander told Reuters about Zverev. “Maybe he is further away physically than … or maybe it’s a different approach, maybe he needs to not go on grass because grass is the ultimate confidence killer.  Even if you play well on grass the bounce is bad, it’s hard to find good practice courts, you can’t really move properly because you slip and slide and if you are really, really keen to get back to your best, which for him is the hardc ourt season, logically you would not want to play on the grass.”
There are times when you are down and out, and there are times when you wake up and smell the roses. Or in the tennis court, you smell the opportunity. In the third set, Diego Schwartzman began to scramble more, he hit deeper, and he could tell that Kevin Anderson was getting nervous, and hesitant, and a little bit scary.  Schwartzman was down 1-6, 2-6, 4-5, and ka-boom, he rose up. He grabbed the third set, and in the fourth set, Anderson was there to do it again, but he fell back. But in the fifth set, his brain had wilted.  Schwartzman beat Anderson 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(0), 6-2.
“It’s definitely one of the most emotional matches that I can say I have played,” said Schwartzman.
No doubt, but he has to go up against Rafa Nadal. It is possible that Schwartzman can win a set, but I doubt it given that Nadal has beaten him all five times, and pretty easily. Hopefully, he has to find something, anything, because Nadal just keeps on pounding.

2017 top players: men’s 21-25 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 21: Nick Kyrgios
When the Aussie is into it, he is about as good as he gets. Nick has a tremendous first serve, huge forehand, good slice on the backhand and is pretty good when he is at the net. The big downsides are he doesn’t want to play hard all the time and he gets hurt frequently. Then, he disappears. Look, it’s all about him. Nick is very young, but he needs decide if he really wants to be a tennis player.

No. 22: Kei Nishikori
I have no idea what Nishikori is going to do in 2018. Just like Raonic, I really though that the now 27-year-old Kei would get better and better and eventually will win a major. Or even win an ATP 1000. But, he gets hurt constantly. Sure, he is a fantastic player when he is into it, but every time deep in a tournaments, we start thinking, “Is he going to retire tonight, because his body is about to collapse?” I hope not, but he has to figure out how he can adjust his frame to the hard rigors of pro tennis.

No. 23: Albert Ramos-Vinolas
The 29-year-old Spaniard had a fine year. Sure, it has taken a long time to figure out the hard courts, but still, now he is willing to move forward and he can mix it up whenever he can. He needs to push himself even more, with his backhand, especially.   

No. 24: Milos Raonic
A few years ago, I was pretty sure that he was about to win Grand Slam. He came close, reaching the final at Wimbledon, bu,t as he says, he gets hurt all the time. I mean, almost every second. That’s why in 2018, he has to stay healthy for the entire year. On court, when he’s 100 percent, he has become so much better, especially with his backhand and at the net. If he keep focused and not overthink, the 26-years-old Raonic can actually win a major for the first time. Imagine that.

No. 25: Gilles Muller
The 34-year-old had a very good year. It has taken, what, 15 years before he realized that, in order to win a tournament, he had to stick with a strategy and not panic. In 2017 he won his first ATP title – ever – in Sydney. He is very tall, he loves to come into the net and while he isn’t that fast running, he focuses. Maybe he can reach the semi at a major in 2018. He would be thrilled.

2017 top players: men’s 26-30 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 26: Diego Schwartzman
The 25-year-old Argentine had a pretty good year, reaching the US Open quarters, and he made it to the final at the European Open in Belgium. He is fast, and quick, and agile. If he wants to reach the top 10, he has to attack the net more often.

No. 27: Fabio Fognini
The Italian had a decent year at time, taking down Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Lucas Pouille. He likes to mix it up, to chop it, and he goes for the lines. At times, he is a beautiful player, but at other times, he gets totally losing control. He’s outstripped Nick Kygrios as the current tennis bad boy. In 2018, if he can find a calm space, he could reach the final at a Grand Slam for the first time. But, but not at Wimbledon, because he can’t figure out on grass. 

No. 28 Adrian Mannarino
The 29-year-old Mannarino is up and down, playing great, and then mentally, he gets very frustrated. The Frenchman did reach the final of Tokyo, and he knocked out Gail Monfils at Wimbledon. He is very good, but he is not a fantastic player. Maybe in 2018, he will find a better form.

No. 29: Philipp Kohlschreiber
The veteran plays all the time, and he is rarely injured. He likes to spin, and slice, and crack the ball. He is a very good competitor, but to win a major? I cannot see that.

No. 30: Damir Džumhur
The Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina native Dzumhur had a breakout year, winning Petersburg and Moscow while reaching the final in Winston-Salem.He started the year ranked No. 77 and now he is in the top 30. He seems to like hard courts, but he does not love grass, or even clay. Obviously, the 25-year-old is still learning to play, and he is playing much better.