TennisReporters.net top 32 men: No. 20-16

Frances Tiafoe
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

20 Ugo Humbert

In the fall, he lost two really close matches, against Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Zverev. The Frenchman had played a lot, to different tournaments, and he had some fine wins, but also, he wasn’t sure where to hit the ball. However, in November, he won Metz, not with the great players, but in a sense, it doesn’t matter, as he drove the ball, quiet deep. Yes he can be consistent, but if he wants to reach into the top 10 next year, he will have to be more aggresive, whenever he gets a chance. He has won four small titles, so if he wants to grab an ATP 1000, then he is going to have to rise up, very soon.  

19 Nicolas Jarry

There are so many people who think that eventually, they can run into the top 10, or the top 5, but in reality, perhaps they cannot do it. The Chilean had a very good year on clay, winning Santiago and Geneva, knocking down Casper Ruud  and Alexander Zverev. He is pretty decent, on the hardcourts, as his forehand and his backhand are darn, strong. He does have a decent style, and he can sit there for a long time. However, if he wants to go into the top 10, then he has to improve his serve, and also, to be more patient at the net.  

18 Cameron Norrie

When Norrie is playing all the time, week after week, he is very consistent. He really likes to grind it, to set it up, and when to nail it down the line. His forehand and his backhand can be steady, and he can mix it up, but the 28-year-old has reached in 15 finals, yet he has only won at the ATP 1000, at the 2023 Indian Wells. That was great, and he returned terrific, but eventually, he can back off, here and there. At the 2021, he reached the semis at Wimbledon, he knew that he had to play terrific to upset Novak Djokovic, but the Serbian decided to sit there and hit it backhand after backhand. He was just better. Norrie will try to be better at the net, with his first serve, and with his forehand. Clearly, he plays a ton, and he likes to be creative, but maybe he should to strike, earlier.

17 Ben Shelton

Who would have know that the young American would beat a number of good players and grab it, in the matches? He was surprising, when in January at the Australian Open, he reached into the quarters, and he hit some amazing shots, but Tommy Paul was more faithful and he lost. Then many people know new who he is, yet after that, he did almost nothing, losing a lot, for six months. He needed to learn, each second, and then at the US Open, he reached into the semis, upsetting Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe. He was jumping up and down, and then in the semis, the No. 1 Novak Djokovic pounced him. As he said, “I’m thinking to myself as I’m walking to get my towel in the fourth set, and it’s, like, this is the greatest moment on the tennis court of my life, and I’m in a lot of pain, physically. But I’m loving it.”

However, during the fall, he continued to play much better, with his backhand and his forehand, when he is more in-your-face, winning Tokyo. Next year, if he continues to hit harder in the second serve, and with some more slice, then he certainly go into the top 10 next year. Or even, lower.

16 Frances Tiafoe

The other American had an odd year, playing astonishing and then, when he is on the rallies, he can table some curious shots. He is very enthusiastic, and off the court, he can laugh a lot, which is a blast. However, he was unable to win a tournament this year, and he did not even go into the final. Going into the start of the year, it looked like that his backhand should improved more, and the same goes with his return. He certainly can nail it his strong forehand on the lines. In the fall, he did not win many matches, so perhaps he was mentally shaking, , so to comeback soon, he has re-set exactly what he has to do, and be more satisfied, on the court.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic wins and wins

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic can win  so many tournaments next year. He is older, for sure, as he is 36-years-old, but in 2023, he beat everyone, especially in the fall. The young players have improved a good amount, and yes, they can upset the Serbian, but they have to jump on him, early. Or Djokovic can be patient, and really chance it up.

In the ATP Finals last week, he beat Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, in the semis and in the final, and he didn’t lose a set. He was essentially perfect.

As his coach, Goran Ivanisevic said:  “I think Carlos didn’t play his best tennis. Still you need to beat him,” he said. “Nole lift his game. He came ready. He knew how to play unbelievable matches this year.  Carlos already won two Grand Slams and he’s future of tennis. Jannik really step up this year. He showed the world and himself that he’s ready next year to win Grand Slams, and he’s not afraid of anybody.

I think they going to both of them practice hard. The season is over. I think next year’s going to be very, very competitive and interesting year.”

Yes, during the year, he lost some so-so matches, and he lost. But Djokovic kept  moving forward, striding, and still learning. He has now won 98 singels titles, which is phenomenal, not only when he has won 23 Grand Slams, but he has won many various events, in Asia, Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, ext.  The huge hitter has also won in the hardcourts, on the clay, in the grass, outside and inside. But he is smarter on court, and perhaps, off the court.  

“I knew as soon as [Novak] got into the semifinal, he’s going to win the tournament. The mentality changed,” the Croatian Ivanisevic said.  “The new Novak Djokovic arrived on the court from Saturday. When real Novak Djokovic arrives on the court, then the moment is nobody that can play with him.”

When he won the Australian Open for the first time in 2008, Djokovic ran so fast, and he was super steady, but while his backhand was absurd, his forehand, his return and at the net needed to enrich. However, even though he had some difficult seasons, he still drove himself, and he added with different strokes.

 “It’s very tough to improve with him (smiling). But he wants to improve,” the one-time 2001 Wimbledon champion. Ivanisevic said. “ That’s the good thing and bad thing for me as a coach and the rest of the team. He improved a lot his volleys, his game at the net, and his position at the net. Now when he comes to the net – okay, today  he missed some easy volleys [against [Sinner]  – but generally this week and this year he plays some amazing volleys.  His position at the net is a lot better. Is very tough to pass him. Before he was very easy to pass. Now he knows what he’s doing at the net. He’s comfortable at the net. Final of U.S. Open he played two, three most important volleys in the final against [beating Daniil Medvedev]. He’s not afraid to come to the net. He’s hitting the forehands much, much harder. He’s going for the shots. Serving, second serve, sometimes he’s hitting over 200. He’s just going for it.”

Yes he did, and he still wants to be perfect, at the net. In January, Djokovic can win another Australian Open. Clearly he will be the favorite. But eventually,  the older you get, it is hard to sprint very fast. However, in 2024, he could do it again. He will make a huge effort.

Will anyone win a Slam next year? Maybe. Clearly, Alcaraz is very young and he is improving, so he could win one Slam, or two. You can throw in with Sinner, who had a terrific fall, but he has yet to win Slam, so in December, he must be thinking about how to return, deeper, and also, at the tough, nets.
 The American men had a solid year, overall, but no one reached into the final at the Slams. OK, maybe next year. Five of them are in the top 25 with Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul,  Frances Tiafoe , Ben Shelton  and Sebastian Korda. They are still pretty young, so they could rise, higher, but to beat Djokovic, or the rest of the top eight players, they will have to be much  deeper, about exactly what to do. Please.

‘Americans’ triumph at Laver Cup

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

After the Laver Cup, will the Americans, the Canadians and the South Americans win some huge events, this fall? It is hard to tell. Yes, the “‘Americans” won it, beating Europe, and they played very well, but that is different to beat they excellent competitors, such as Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

The United States with Taylor Fritz , Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton all played in Vancouver, and they had some fun matches, but they have not won an ATP Master 1000 this year, or even and ATP 500 in 2023. So yes, they are all in the top 20, so they are good, but to win a big title during the entire of the year is questionable. That is for sure.

Also, how about the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had reached into the top 10. But, this year, he began to slip, after March, and he lost very early. Perhaps he can reset.

Argentine Francisco Cerundolo can look pretty decent, and on the grass, he won Eastbourne, but after that, when he faces against the great players, he still cannot hit harder enough.

However, the 20-year-old Shelton, who reached into the semis at the US Open, that the reason was because when he arrived there, the doubles had helped him. After the Australian Open when he reached into the quarters, he was happy, but then he had a lot of work to do. It look him seven months to understand what he really needed to put in some very smart matches, when he is hitting the ball, both side to side, and then he will learn it, gradually. He did, and now he is ranked No. 19.

“Well, back-to-back singles matches, I had some success in doubles, and so that’s definitely something that gave me some confidence, going into this event. That’s singles and doubles, confidence that I could put points on the board for the team and that I had been pretty fine-tuned in doubles throughout the year,” he said. “In terms of singles, sometimes it only takes one. Still trying to find my way out on tour. I don’t think I’m perfect at all or found my game exactly the way I want to, but it’s a lot of new experiences, different places and surfaces I have never played on, but being here in North America, indoor hard court with a huge crowd, it feels like home to me.”

The next huge event will be in Rolex Shanghai Masters ATP 1000, which will start October  4,  and all of the top players have to do it, unless you can pull out, such as Djokovic, who did it last week. But perhaps one of them can grab it, like Shelton, Auger-Aliassime, or Cerundolo. That would be damn surprising, but they have to confirm it.

Down in Guadalajara, Maria Sakkari won the title. She is  a very quick player, and she can also sprint for a hours, but in 2023, she looked very decent, but at some other tournaments, she missed a lot of basic shots. However, when they arrived in Mexico, she decided that it was OK, to win or lose, but to be happy, rather than being so frustrated.  The No. 6 player Sakkari said:

“I play tennis for a living. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t give myself a chance to enjoy it in the past. I told myself, you owe it to yourself to have fun. And this is what happened this week.”

In the final, she beat American Caroline Dolehide who was ranked out of the top 100 last week,  but now she is  No. 38. What a huge event.

The top 10: the men after the U.S. Open

Frances Tiafoe
MALTPhoto

Here is my list of the men with the biggest impact from the US Open.

1. Novak Djokovic
Clearly, at this point, he is the best player, ever, now winning 24 Grand Slams. He is ahead of Rafa Nadal (22) and Roger Federer (20). The Swiss is retired, and the one thing is that possibly next year, the Spaniard Nadal will return and play in the 2024. Can he win another Slam again, maybe at the Australian Open, and of course, with  Roland Garros, who has won it 14 titles. He has to be totally healthy, but his body is breaking down, gradually.

With Djokovic, he almost never gets hurt,  which is why he can just raise his game, in the matches, and chase it up with his forehand, his backhand, his serve, his return, and with the net. Yes, he can make a few errors, but beyond that, he can re-set it again, open his eyes, and bash the ball. He has had an incredible year, but let us see if he continues to win more titles during the fall.

2. Daniil Medvedev
The Russian had a terrific tournament at the U.S. Open, but in the final, he did not push himself closer to the net. In the second set, he was so thick, but in the tiebreaker, he backed up, and the Serbian jumped on him. Yes, Medvedev can win another Slam, but there are a couple things that he needs to do, such as going closer to the baseline, and also, to work on the volleys. If he goes, he will have a chance to go deep once  again.

3. Carlos Alcaraz
The young Spaniard was playing fantastic, until the semis, and then he started to throw in some odd shots. He has won two Slams, and clearly, he is darn good, but he needs to be a little bit more calm, when he is playing. The 20-year-old will continue to improve, just like Djokovic when he was adding with some new volleys.

4. Ben Shelton
The American came out of nowhere, in the semis, as after he looked very good at the Australian Open, but after that, he lost a lot, all the way until August. Then in Flushing Meadows, he looked much stronger and more potent. He could not handle Djokovic, but he really does want to catch him, and beat him, pretty soon. That is a vast  challenge.

5. Taylor Fritz
He looked pretty good, although into the quarterfinals, and then he stopped thinking exactly what to do. There were moments at times against Djokovic, but he missed so many basic shots. He can be a darn good player, but if he wants to go further, into the top 5, he was to return better, his second serve, and also, at the net.

6. Frances Tiafoe

He is another person that he lost early during the summer, and then once he came into the U.S. Open, he was fresh and ready to dance. He did, all the way in the quarters, and then against Shelton, he looked pretty decent, but when he was way to the right and on the left, he was there, and he is thought he could put away, close to the lines, but he missed a lot. Then he was gone. He can smile a lot, and he has improved over the last two years, but will he actually win a ATP 1000 at some point? Possibly, but who knows.

7. Andrey Rublev

The other Russian can look so efficient, and he can also be forceful, but then he will to start sliding. He has beaten a lot of very good players, but not against the top ones. Maybe he is good enough, but not to win a Slam.

8. Alexander Zverev
It is almost impossible to see where he is going. He played some wonderful matches, but then in the quarters, he looked really tired, again. Sure, he can play great, but in the fall, he is going to have to attack early, and try to stick it away, or just sit there, point after point, and hope he can grind them down. Maybe he will, but if the German does the same things, he might never win a Slam.

9. Jannik Sinner
The Italian can look spectacular, and he is a huge hitter, but in the fifth set against  Zverev, he lost himself. He is only 22-years-old, and in August, he won Toronto. That was a big positive, but he need to be much more fitting in the fall.

10. Alex de Minaur
The Aussie had a solid summer, winning Los Cabos, reaching into the final at Toronto, and then in the quarters at the U.S. Open, he was pumped up, but in the last two sets, Medvedev crushed him. Good bye, and quickly. He is rational and he has to improved his return and his backhand, but if he can reach into the top 5 next year, he must think about where he should go, and trick the other people.

US Open picks: Tuesday, Sept 5

Jelena Ostapenko

Coco Gauff over Jelena Ostapenko

Many people are thinking that Gauff is ready to win the U.S. Open for the first time. She is playing wonderful ball, with her terrific backhand, and at the net, where she really reads it. She has lost a few sets, but in the third set, she jumps on the ball, and she focuses. It is possible that she can be shaky, in the match, but she is maturing.

Ostapenko actually won Roland Garros years ago, and she put in so many winners, as she went for it, all the time. But now, while she can crush the ball, currently, she can wait, here and there, until she can go for the right shot. Yes, she can make some crazy shots, and it will go out. That is her, but Ostapenko really likes to play in front of the massive crowns. However,  Gauff will challenge her, backhand versus backhand, and she will win it, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic  over Taylor Fritz

The American Fritz has played much better at the U.S. Open, with some intense strokes. Before that, he was somewhat confused, and his return was spotty. However, over the past two years, his forehand and his backhand has been concisely powerful. However, he has only won one ATP 1000, and he has never gone deep in the Slams. But maybe he is finally more mature, point after point.

But he has to face against Djokovic, who has won 23 Grand Slams, as well as a huge amount of the ATP 1000s. Clearly, the 36- year-old is better than just about everyone, as his backhand is the best ever, and his intelligent serves. He can also run very quickly. Yes, it will be above 90 degrees on Tuesday, so they will eventually be tired, if it goes long, more than three hours. Djokovic has beaten him all seven times, including  at Cincinnati, when he crushed him 6-0, 6-4. Yes, two year ago, at the 2021 at the Australian Open,  Fritz looked very good, but in the fifth set, the Serbian raised up, and Fritz fell.

This time at the U.S. Open,  Fritz will win a set, but Djokovic will bury him, stroke to stroke, and he will grab it 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Karolina Muchova over Sorana Cirstea

Three years ago, the Czech beat Cirstea at the U.S. Open in the third round in a massive match, grabbing it 7-6(7). Will they do it again on Tuesday? Sure, why not? They are both hitting deep, into the corners, and attacking it. They can bash the ball, and they also can be steady. Yes, Cirstea can back off, and the reason why is because she has yet to win a huge tournament, but at this year, the veteran has changed her tactics. So she has won a bunch if matches.

However, Muchova is one of the best players when she can lock it in. She has yet to win a Grand Slam, but at least she came close at Roland Garros. However, she can collapse, when she isn’t playing well.
The 33-year-old Cirstea is finally understanding that if she wants to go further, she will have to take the gloves off. She will, and the Romanian will win it 6-4, 5-7, 7-6

Frances Tiafoe over Ben Shelton

The 20-year-old Shelton has already had a fantastic tournament,  and he is growing, day after day. He is physically strong now, and he is faster, running, too. Also, he can mix it up, and down the line. He will improve a lot over the next 10 years, but right now,  Tiafoe believes that he can actually win it at the U.S. Open. That is a huge task, as he has yet to win a Slam, or an ATP 1000. Maybe he is ready. He can look stellar when he is on, trying to paint the lines. His forehand and his backhand are darn stout, but he is going to have to do it against Shelton, who will be pumped, up. As Patrick McEnroe said: “This is the biggest match like this in a long time. A very long time.”

However, Tiafoe  will control him, and he will win it 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Raonic turns back the clock to kickstart comeback tour

Milos Raonic

TORONTO–Milos Raonic not only turned back the clock but almost got to rerun his career during a memorable opening night win in his hometown of Toronto.

The 32-year-old Canadian, currently ranked No. 575, defeated No. 10 Frances Tiafoe 6-7(12), 7-6(4), 6-3, but even that eye-catching scoreline doesn’t fully capture the exuberance of the victory.

Raonic is three events and five matches into his comeback tour, having spent two years away from the game and 14 months not picking up a racquet, gaining 40 pounds during an injury break that he thought had likely finished his career. During the more than two-hour 44-minute contest played minutes from his childhood home, he hit 37 aces, almost a career-high for a three-setter, including one on match point to seal a spot in the second round against Taro Daniel.

But the statistics were secondary to the spills and thrills, especially in a tightrope walk first-set tiebreak that finished amid controversy and boos. Having fallen behind right at the start of the match, Raonic broke back to send the first set to a tiebreak that went on and on, highlighted by a scintillating Tiafoe dropshot that spun back onto his side of the court. Even the pro-Raonic crowd cheered that winner, but Tiafoe’s flicked running forehand on set point got quite a different reception. “Initially appearing to be a winner, it then seemed umpire Fergus Murphy had given the point to Raonic as Tiafoe had touched the net, followed by a long discussion between all three — and even an appearance from the tournament supervisor — before Tiafoe was given the point, and with it the set.

Though Murphy attempted to tell the crowd that Tiafoe had touched the doubles portion of the net, considered a “fixture” with which contact is allowed, there were loud boos that only amplified when Raonic walked back to the side of the court and smashed his racquet on his chair.

“So I guess the part that’s confusing is he did call it my point,” Raonic told press following the contest. “Then the change — then the issue was the amount of times the whole conversation was changed.

“Then it was, okay, which part of the net he touched.”

But though admitting he’s “not necessarily the best player involving the crowd” — largely due to his staccato play and stiffness — Raonic was energized by the atmosphere.

“I think that kind of got everybody going. That, and that game that I got fortunate to break back at when he was serving for the first set,” he said. “And I think that just kind of gave me some momentum and some force going forward.”

There were loud cheers and chants of “Let’s go, Milos” accompanying his comeback in the second and third sets, during which he slowly took control with his big serving and improving consistency off the ground.

“It wasn’t the first time a Raonic contest has involved a controversial call — ten years ago on the same court, he won a point against Juan Martin del Potro despite a double hit he eventually would say he should have admitted on court.

There was also an appearance from the trainer for a lower back injury, so frequent during all the physical problems Raonic has had during his career.

And along with that were the other hallmarks of Raonic matches — easy holds, tiebreaks, plenty of aces. But for Raonic, it was more about again having the feeling that goes with it — getting to play in front of friends and family, the roar of the local fans, all in the stadium he once watched from the stands.

He’s not sure whether he’ll retire before he can play this event again, but on this evening, it was like old times.

“For me — it’s incredibly special for it to be here,” he said. “The embrace between my mom and dad, that’s probably the thing…that means the most to me.”

And with his win, there’ll be another repeat of some of those sights and sounds.

The picks at Wimbledon: Thursday, July 6

Sloane Stephens
Ron Cioffi/TR

These picks were written before play started. Due to a technical error, these picks were not posted on Wednesday, July 5.

Andy Murray over Stefanos Tsitsipas
The Greek finally grabbed it right at the end, when he beat Dominic Thiem 7-6(8) in the fifth set. He almost lost,  but he hung in there, so on Thursday, his legs will be tired, but he really wants to win. He has been struggling, but his strokes can be consistent, so against Murray, he must be super patient.

When Murray won Wimbledon, twice, his return was very deep, his first serve was banging it, and his backhand was fantastic. However, he is not that fast now, as not only that he us aging, but he almost retired due to his broken legs. He knows that, and he is trying to bring home again, but he may not as he was not won an event since 2019.  As  he said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt sort of physically this good coming into Wimbledon. The last few years have been very challenging. I’m hoping I’m fit and ready for a good run.”

Tsitsipas can play amazing on the hardcourt, but on the grass, he is still wheezing on the slippy grass. There will some long rallies, yet Murray will rise once again at Wimbledon, and he will win it in five, dramatic sets.
 
Sloane Stephens over Donna Vekic
The once great American  player now has become slightly better, trying to powder the ball. Stephens  looked pretty good at Roland Garros, which was somewhat surprising, as she lost a number with some sole  matches. However, she has gone deep at a variety of events, so when she is feeling good, she can be highly consistent.

Vekic has had a somewhat solid year, when she reached into the final at Berlin, but also, on clay, she was so-so. She can be aggressive, and she can mix it up, but not often enough. Vekic  does think that eventually, she can actually win a Slam for the first time, but she will have to prove it. Stephens has been before, so she will do it again, and win it in three tremendous sets.

Belinda Bencic over Danielle Collins

The Swiss can look that she is going into the sky, touch it, and then go backdown and nail with a damn fast winner. Bencic can really hustle, and she can also grind it until she has a chance to  hit the lines. However, when she backs up, she can throw in some strange errors.  Collins had a good year in 2022, but over the past nine months, she has lost pretty quickly. Maybe she is confused, or it is possible that she doesn’t know where to go. Bencic will find it, and she will win it in two big sets.

Frances Tiafoe  over Dominic Stricker
All of a sudden, Tiafoe actually knows how to play on the grass. Over the years at Wimbledon, he looked cluttered, and he wasn’t going to go the right way. But he just won Stuttgart,  so apparently, he could see how he can play, with his strokes.  He might be 22- years-old, but he does think that he is a little more sold.  Stricker is also very young, as he is 20-years-old, and he his rising, slowly. He is briskly fast, and the Swiss can bash his forehand. However,  Tiafoe will be more patient and he will win it in three long sets.

Matt’s picks this week

Correct: Belinda Bencic over Danielle Collins
Correct: Frances Tiafoe  over Dominic Stricker
Sloane Stephens over Donna Vekic

Matt’s picks from Wimbledon

3 out of 4, 75% correct

Novak Djokovic: the Wimbledon favorite

Novak Djokovic
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Wimbledon starts, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will be the favorites, but it is possible that the American men Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda can go deep into the second week.
 
The former champ John McEnroe said, “I think Taylor is a confident kid. He’s worked really hard on his movement and fitness, which is the reason to me he’s in the top 10,” McEnroe said. “He hits a great ball. I don’t think he’s actually that comfortable on grass. I think Tiafoe is a better volleyer and more skilled at net, athletically better. That would help him on the grass. Taylor hits a better ball and is a bigger guy. His serve is probably a little bit more dependable.”

Neither of them have reached very far at Wimbledon, although they are pretty young. They have to be more consistent and attack pretty early. In order to win point after point, they can construct their strokes. And, of course, they have to be totally locked in, all the time.

“Both of them would be in the quarters of Alcaraz or Djokovic, which would make it more difficult. I think at this time those two and maybe [Sebastian] Korda are the guys. Tommy Paul looks like he’s fallen off at the moment a little bit,” McEnroe said. “Hopefully he’ll get it back. I think there’s going to be guys soon, Americans, that are going to make the breakthrough within a year or two hopefully. I think that’s going to be big.”

Yes it will, as the U.S. men have not won a Grand Slam since 2003 at the US Open with Andy Roddick won it. It might be 20-years-ago in September that they cannot win another Slam again. But before that, in England, you can actually play longer in the rallies. They don’t have to slide all the time, and they can actually return, more. In the 1990s, there were some really quick rallies, and with millions of aces.

“The people that can add that adaptability and finish points at net successfully, like an Alcaraz, for example, who is a really good volleyer, Novak learned it, so did Rafa [Nadal],” McEnroe said. “I believe that’s why Tiafoe has a shot because he’s skilled at net. That will help you get over the hump at Wimbledon. Yes, it’s more homogenized. Yes, it’s more like hard courts. The bounce is higher, but there’s still a nuance that only a few get it.


“Look at [Casper] Ruud, for example. He’s regarding this as he’s showing up, hoping for the best. He could be out in the first round or two. [Stefanos] Tsitsipas doesn’t seem to be comfortable at all, can’t figure out how to play on the grass. There’s an opening. There’s many guys that don’t even understand it, or girls for that matter. That’s why it’s pretty narrowed down who can actually win it. That’s why Novak can afford not to play any tournament because he’s so confident, he understands what it takes, he doesn’t feel the need to play any warmup matches and he still wins it almost every year.”

Yes, he is the now 23-Grand-Slam champion. Djokovic really thinks that he can win another major once again. However, he can lose here and there, so at Wimbledon, he can become lost during a match, and he will fall down. Or maybe Alcaraz will rise, now.

As he said: “Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon, but I will try to play at this level to have chances to beat him or make the final. I saw a statistic that Novak has won more matches at Wimbledon than the other top 20 players (combined),” the Spaniard Alcaraz said. “What can you say about that you know? Novak is the main favorite to win Wimbledon. That’s obvious. But I will try to play at this level, to have chances to beat him or make the final at Wimbledon.”

On the grass: Will Carlos Alcaraz rise again?

Carlos Alcaraz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz can be totally be on fire. He is a huge hitter, as is with some strong forehands,  and his phenomenal backhand. However, the very young player can be nervous, once and a while, and he knows that when he has to face against Novak Djokovic, he has to really concentrate. Unfortunately, in the semis at Roland Garros, he stopped thinking, in the third and the fourth set. He began to get hurt, and he lost,  6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, and he was quickly gone. Also, his brain was collapsing.

“The tension of the match. I started match really nervous,” he said. “The tension of  the first set, the second set, it was really intense two sets.  Really good rallies, tough rallies, dropshots, sprints, rallies. It’s a combination of a lot of things. And I started to cramp, in my arm. At the beginning of the third set I started to cramp every part of my body, not only the legs. The arms, as well. It was really tough for me to move at the third set, and in the fourth set let’s say I had a little chance, but it was really tough.”

Alcaraz  did win the 2022 U.S Open and in May, he won Barcelona and Madrid. It looked like he had a good shot, in Paris, but he fell down. Just like the other Spaniard, Rafa Nadal, when he was 20-years-old, he began rise, fast, winning RG in his first Grand Slam title. However, his forehand was amazing, but his backhand was too short, and his serve was pretty good, but not great. Of course, he worked and he worked all the time, changing his tactics, and adding to it. Now, he has won 22 Grand Slams, at RG, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. The now 37-year-old figured it out, but it took him more many year. 

The same thing goes with the No. 1 Djokovic, who won his first Slam at the Aussie Open, and while he was running so fast, and his backhand incredible, his forehand was good, but not great, and his second serve and at the net needed to grow, more. Alcaraz also needs to be more consistent.

“Is not easy to play against Novak. Of course a legend of our sport. If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies,” Alcaraz said. “ Yeah, next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.”
 
NOTES
The teenager Ben Shelton  lost against Lorenzo Musetti  6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The Italian can look terrific, but there are times when he forgets what to do. But this week, he will try to push even harder.  Shelton is ranked No. 34, so he does have a small shot to be seated at Wimbledon, but he may not, as a few people can get injured and they pull out before, but you never know.

Sebastian Korda beat  Frances Tiafoe, who just won  an event, but he looked tired. He has looked very good on the hardcourts, but before last week, he was struggling. This time, he was much more CONSISTENT.

The Floridian Korda has improved over the past few years, but he is still young, so he 22-year-old can miss it a lot. Yes he really goes, but also, he can mix it up. At the Cinch Championships in London, we will see how well he is playing against Cameron Norrie, a very competitor. They are very close…
Taylor Fritz  looks very decent, but on the grass, he needs to really lock it in, like he did in 2022. Last year, he won Eastbourne, and then at Wimbledon, in the quarters, he was right there, but Nadal edged him 7-6(4) in the fifth set. He has to be thinking about it a lot, but he has another chance over the next month… 

Where is Reilly Opelka? He is still injured but he hopes to resume in August as he is recovering from a wrist injury. Very good luck, but on the court, it will take a long time  to be 100 percent again.

The picks at Roland Garros: Thursday, June 1

Emma Navarro
Ron Cioffi/TR

Bianca Andreescu over Emma Navarro
Who would have known that Andreescu has already playing excellent again? Two month ago, she could barely walk, because she received a tear in her leg and it looked like that she would be off for months, but somehow, she fixed, it. She is almost 100 percent and two days ago, she flipped Victoria Azarenka in three sets. Her forehand is gigantic, as has her hard backhand. Over the past eight months, the American Navarro is rising fast. It took her a while to improve her forehand, and when she returns. She really like sports, overall, so she will charge into the net, on occasion. If she continues playing well, she could actually end the year in the top 30, but the is a big if. Andreescu may not win Roland Garros, but she definitely wants to go into the second week. Therefore, she will win it in two stagy sets.

Lauren Davis over Lesia Tsurenko
The American has been playing for so many years, all the time, week after week. She is 29- -years-old, and eventually she will age, but right now she just wants to play and finally reach into they second week at a Grand Slam. As she said, “Anything, please!”

Davis would really like to go for it, so while she is not that tall, she can hit the ball, harder, and really fusion it up. The Ukrainian Tsurenko can be very valid, and she can also hit it deep, in the singles and the doubles.The veteran can hit it pretty short, and her forehand is decent, but not fantastic. She certainly can play, but she can throw in some different shots in Paris? I would think, no, so Davis will where her down, and win it in three lengthy sets.

Frances Tiafoe over Aslan Karatsev
The Russian went bonkers in Madrid, when he qualified, and he stunned to beat Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16. He managed into the semis, and he looked terrific, but he lost, eventually. He has won three small titles, but that is good enough. He has a monstrous forehand, and his backhand can be solid, but he can also back off.

Tiafoe seems to be feeling pretty good, on the court, as he has lost some unmatched matches. The American can mash his forehand, as well as his backhand, too. The former US Open semifinals Tiafoe can be fierce, and he can also hit extreme shots, when he is returning with a second serve. He is a very nice person, off the court, but on court, he can be disturbed. This time, though, he will were Karatsev in five sizable sets.

Nicolas Jarry over Tommy Paul
The Chilean all of a sudden started to be more aggressive, and much more patient. In Geneva, he won it, upsetting Casper Ruud, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov on clay. That was a huge event, so he was totally sealed. He did win another two more, somewhat small, but this time, he had to beat the very good players. Apparently, he made some new tactics.
 
The American Paul had a solid year in 2022, and this year, he pulled off a good amount of wins, especially in the hard courts. He is a huge hitter, reached the semis at the Australian Open, and he also got into the final in Acapulco. He was getting better, each month, but after that he started to slip. Yes, the No. 17 will reflect on the court, and what he is really doing, but he also has to center more. Paul can make a astronomical effort, but Jarry is on fire and he will win it in four intense sets.

Matt’s yesterday picks

Correct: Jessica Pegula over Camila Giorgi
Correct: Andrey Rublev over Corentin Moutet
Correct: Novak Djokovic over Marton Fucsovics
Leylah Fernandez  over Clara Tauson

Matt’s picks from Roland Garros

10 out of 16, 62.5% correct