Men can seize an opportunity at USO

Novak Djokovic

We don’t know which men will play at the US Open, next month, but if they had a chance, they will seize an opportunity. Roger Federer is out this year, but Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are healthy and kicking it.

Recently, the No. 1 Djokovic tested positive with the coronavirus, following the tournament he organized in Serbia and Croatia. Even though he wanted to show all the fans in Serbia who wanted to cheer at in stadium, the venture was seen as reckless by most observers. However, watching on TV, there were virtually no masks at all. I mean, hundreds of people were sitting at the event jammed into seats and close to Djokovic. Only days after, a number of people became sick. Not just Djokovic, but three other players, too. They all feel good, now, but with the fans … who knows? Are they OK? But statistically — like where I live in Los Angeles — there are many hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients. And many have died. So while everyone wants to watch tennis, just be careful.

Djokovic looks pretty good, and there was a picture last week, where he was practicing on the hard courts. Nadal was also practicing, but he was hitting on clay.

Will both of them come to the US Open, given that they have won the titles in NYC? They love the American Slam, but do they want to travel across the ocean? They aren’t sure yet. They have some time, in the next few weeks. It is not just the top players, it is everyone, especially Europeans, who are questing whether they will try to travel or just not go. Everyday, there are new changes; so just be patient. Or yell when they cannot find a solution. Scream!

No. 3 Dominic Thiem says that he is ready to jump on the plane. He hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, but he did reach the final twice at Roland Garros, losing against the main man, Nadal, and dropping this year’s Australian Open final to Djokovic. He could win a Slam, at some point, as long as he pushes himself to go for the lines. Daniil Medvedev almost won the 2019 US Open, nearly upsetting Nadal. In the fifth set, the Spaniard kept clubbing him, and he finally reached another trophy. Nadal can do it again and, assuming Medvedev gets better each year, he can win a Slam, too. As long as he works on his return. 

Other in the mix for Flushing Mead are these three top-10ers: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Matteo Berrettini. They can crush the ball when they want to, but they lose their focus and forget their strategies. They need more practice. Two young Americans, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, are rising. They have to figure how to make a major move to be real Slam contenders.

ATP Finals: Zverev wins biggest title, stunning Djokovic

Here’s a wrap-up of the 2018 season for the eight ATP Finals singles players.

Alexander Zverev
From August all the way through November, Zverev played well at times, but mostly mediocre. But last week in London, Zverev stood up tall, stunning Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win the title. 

He was so locked in, so good, smashing his serves, his forehand and backhand and also being patient. The 21-year-old won Munich, the ATP 1000 Madrid, Washington and now, London. “I’m unbelievably happy, obviously it’s the biggest title that I’ve ever won,” said Zverev. And how. 

This year, he beat eight Top 10ers. On Saturday and Sunday, he overcame Roger Federer and Djokovic. That is almost impossible to do. The No. 4 Zverev has yet to go very deep in the Slams, but in 2019, he will be very confident and stoical.

Novak Djokovic
The 14-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic has had a terrific second half of the year, winning Wimbledon, Cincy, the US Open, and Shanghai. On Sunday, he had only lost twice since June, to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Toronto, and Karen Khachanovin in Paris. It looked like he was almost invincible. 
But in the final, he played OK, didn’t serve well during the second set, and he didn’t return with his usual tour-topping skill. However, you cannot win every week; it is going to happen, once in a while. Djokovic will stay as the No. 1 at the start of 2019, but the most important thing for him is to keep on churning.

Roger Federer
The 37-year-old Federer had two good wins against Dominic Thiem and Kevin Anderson, and two losses against Nishikori and then in the semis to Zverev. Not good enough for him? Probably not, because he wants to win at the most important events, and the No. 3 really, really wanted to grab it in the ATP Finals. He would have had 100 titles, in front of everyone, and he would have been so darn happy. But, he did not and for the next two months or so, he will be stuck at 99 wins. He must be think: “Ugh.”    

Kevin Anderson 
The South African/American looked terrific, winning two matches against  Nishikori and Thiem to start, but then the tide turned, and he lost easily to Federer and Djokovic. Yes, he had a fine year, winning two small events and he reached the final at Wimbledon. Can Anderson win a major in 2019? Hard to say. He has improved his backhand and speed, but the tall man is still a little bit slow. However, if he can return better, then maybe he can raise the Slam trophy in 2019. Maybe.

Marin Cilic 
There are days when you think that he is playing so clean, so smart, and so intense. But there are also days when inside his head, that he gets frustrated and then he gets mentally down. Yes, he had a very decent year, but for Cilic, unless he gets to No. 1, he is very disappointed. He has won one major title, the 2014 US Open, and he has also reached the final at 2017 Wimbledon, and this year,  at the Australian Open. There is no doubt that he will be a force again in 2019. But, to get his second Slam, he has to be steadier and focused at the net.

Kei Nishikori
After the Japanese stunned Federer, it looked like he was ready to take down all of them. But he did not, and he flipped out, losing so easily against Anderson and Thiem. Later, he said he had no idea why. That is so true. However, he did play pretty well most of the season, and he wasn’t that hurt at all, which is very good, considering that he had been injured for so many years. 
Nishikori is very fast, he leaps up into the sky a lot, and he puts the ball away.  
Can he actually win a Grand Slam someday? That is questionable because in the second week, he eventually gets tired and then starts coughing up the unforced errors. Hopefully, in 2019, he will continue to be healthy. If he does, Nishikori will go deep at some big events.
Dominic Thiem 
The Austrian has been creative this year. He mixes it up, he will spin it, chop it, and flatten it out. On clay, he was way up there, reaching the final at Roland Garros. But, on the hard courts, while he has improved during 2018, it has taken the 25-year-old a pretty long time to be a force. He is trying, though, he is stuck on the baseline. Maybe, he can push himself forward. He played a few good matches last week. He wasn’t able to reach the semis, but maybe next year in London at the O2, he can grab and actually win it.
John Isner 
The American was pretty thrilled that he made it into the ATP Finals, slipping in when Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro had to withdraw because of another late-year injury. He was excited and he was hopeful. He tried but lost all three of his matches. As he said before it started, there are some amazing players here. So, Isner had a small chance. Unfortunately, he couldn’t raise his game. Without a doubt, he did improve his backhand, and at net game, bending low. Maybe in 2019, Isner can crack the top 5. That would be even more special.