Zverev grabs Madrid; Nadal hopes to rebound in Rome

What an incredible week for Alexandra Zverev, who won Madrid, hands down. In the final, he out hit Dominic Thiem in straight sets. In the past two weeks, he has been not only more patient, but he had a good idea of where the balls are coming from and is setting up his replies better. Everything was working in Spain, as he smacked his first serves and he leapt on top of his forehand and backhand. He kept is focus and then went for big shots.

Zverev has won three ATP 1000 Masters Series crowns. That means that he is right there to become No. 1 pretty soon. Not immediately, but soon enough, assuming that he stays healthy and he continues to improve.

Last year, Zverev won Rome. This week, he will be there again. Can he actually grab it once again? Possibly, but remember that last week, Rafa Nadal actually lost, going down against Thiem. Nadal was riding a record 50-set winning streak on the dirt. But eventually, he played against another excellent player — like Thiem — and he was off a little bit. That’s all it took.

The good thing for Nadal is that he had a few days to rest. He won Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and then he went to Madrid. That is a lot of matches. We would imagine that he isn’t injured, so when he comes to Rome, he will be itching to dominate again. Nadal has won Rome seven times. That is a tremendous amount. Because of that, even though Zverev just won Madrid, Nadal is the favorite. However, with Zverev rising quickly, once again, the Spaniard Nadal has to show him that he can contain him. 

On Sunday in Rome, three Americans won: Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson, who beat Stan Wawrinka. That’s a fine win by Johnson.

Wawrinka just returned from a run of limited play, competing in only his fifth tournament this year. It is admirable that the three-time major champion Wawrinka didn’t retire, because he pulled out a few times this season because he wanted to play so badly, but his body has failed. Hopefully, he feels 100 percent. Just wait until he gets to Roland Garros, he loves that tournament.

Arrivederci Roberta!
Among the women, played her last WTA match in her country’s capital, Rome. She fell to Aleksandra Krunic in the first round  The Italian has always fought, she liked to mix it up and spin it. The 35-year-old did reach a Grand Slam final, at the US Open, and she had a fantastic career. She won’t go very far this week, but still, she will show them off.

Another Italian is going to retire this year as Francesca Schiavone is 37 years old and it is time to wave goodbye. She said he’s aiming for the end of the year. But for sure, she put together some fantastic matches over the past 20 years, especially at Roland Garros eight years ago, when she won it. She played lights out.

Sloane Stephens will play at night. She didn’t play great last week. It is time to dig down and commit to playing tough. … The same goes with CoCo Vandeweghe, who came very close to winning Stuttgart, but she couldn’t do it. Now she will attempt to do shine in Rome. She has to face Anett Kontaveit, who is pretty young, but she is very talented. Another toss up. … American Danielle Collins qualified, and she will face Camila Giorgi in the first round on Monday. I still cannot believe that she is the top 50 now. Last year, she was out of the top 100. She is very committed.

TR 2012 Year-end top 50: The Women, Nos. 31-40

Ula hasn’t cracked the top 5 yet like her big sisters has, but she had a career year.

Thus continues our review of the top 50 singles players on the ATP and WTA Tours. We resume with the women ranked Nos. 31 -40.

31. Urszula Radwanska


Wimbledon Day 2 Picks: Upsets should abound


Despite numerous injuries Hewitt is still dangerous on grass




I am going with an upset here of the No. 5 seed, which is I realize appears to be improbable on paper , but not when you consider that the Frenchman is playing with an injured finger and 2002 champion Hewitt is a fantastic player on grass and has shown over the two years that he can walk into Slams and play well even when he

V is for Varvarra

The Brisbane Caucuses: Early returns

Serena's troublesome ankle is acting up again.

How much is to be made of the first four days of the new season, when some of top players are still resting (i.e. Novak Djokovic and Victoroa Azarenka) and others are playing an exhibition (the oh-so-fun Hopman Cup.) Perhaps not that much, but given how many excellent players are competing, it’s worth taking a quick look at the what has befallen some in the first week of 2012 season.


Serena Williams wrenched her left ankle in a win over Bojana Jovanowski and is now questionable for the Australian Open. Given how fit she looked coming into the year, that’s awful news for Serena, who has been the most dominant player at the Australian Open over the past decade and who really needed matches after not having played since the US Open. It’s too early to tell whether she’ll heal quickly and be able to make a strong charge Down Under, but the video of her re-injuring that chronically problematic ankle did not look good

Ana Ivanovic has been a fixture Down Under since the off-season, which she spent with boyfriend and golfer Adam Scott. She won her first match, and then let go of a 3-0 lead in the third set against Kim Clijsters. Ivanovic’s three-set record since 2008 has been nearly miserable and whether its fitness or confidence ,she must turn that around because there is no way in creation that she going to run thorough the field in Melbourne without dropping a set.

Sam Stosur isn’t making too much of her loss to Iveta Benasova, and I wouldn’t either, because the Czech is very tricky and streaky player who is capable of bothering the top women. But Stosur better turn on the jets next week in Sydney, because she needs positive momentum going into her home Slams, where she’s never played her best.

Vets Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone will face off in the Brisbane quarters, which will be a good indication of where their levels are.

It’s hard to tell whether Andy Murray‘s knee is really bothering him, or whether he just needed to shake the rust off in two long victories. If his knee is bothering him, his Aussie Open chances will obviously be dimmed. If it’s OK, then once again he’ll enter the tournament as a top 5 favorite.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether his new coach Ivan Lendl can help him win a major. Lendl seems to think so and with a certain amount of star power, will certainly deflect some attention from Murray himself, but really, is it Lendl’s legendary work ethic, conditioning and dedication that Murray needs, or some technical and strategic help. To me, he has almost all the necessary tools to win a Slam except a big enough forehand and decent enough second serve. Then off course, there is his willingness to cut loose on the bog points against the Big 3. Lendl, who has never coached a pro, can certainly help him with the latter, but with the former, I’m just not sure. A swing and positioning coach might do a better job.

Murray’s former coach, Miles Maclagan, who likes to work his students hard, is coaching Marcos Baghdatis and the early returns are good after the Cypriot bested Kei Nishikori. He’ll play Murray in the quarters, which should be a fascinating match up.

Aussie Bernard Tomic has caught fire and is actually capable of winning the tournament. Imagine the attention he’ll get if he pulls off the feat. The tricky Radek Stepanek will test Alex Dolgopolov’s fitness and brain.


It’s been a grey windy and sometimes-windy week in New Zealand so it’s really hard to gage how well anyone is playing. Julia Georges is sick, Peng Shuai was said to look super rustym while Sabine Lisicki and Flavia Pennetta march on. Built the biggest surprise of this week was Svetlana Kuznetsova smoking Christina McHale 6-1, 6-1, after the young Amercian had beaten her twice last year. Kuznetsova appears motivated again which could make her very dangerous. Also watch out for Jie Zheng, who has one more good season left in her if healthy.


Rafa Nadal says his problematic shoulder is feeling better after he warms-up, which is good news for the Spaniard’s fans. He has added a bit of weight to his Babolat AeroDrive Pure racket, presumably to amp up his serve and presumably his groundies a bit. He is strong enough to handle the extra weight and retain his remarkably quick swing speed. Whether it will affect his play in the short term remain to be seen, but at the very least he was willing to make a change and if he gets in a groove, it may give him confidence that he has a secret new weapon to face off against Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer and Jo Tsonga could face off in the semis, which I believe would be the fifth time they clashed in the past seven months. Jo needs a win this time around. Gael Monfils, who played a ton of exos in the off-season, is also still alive.


This is the weakest event of the three ATP 250s, but Milos Raonic is in the draw, which makes it super interesting as he’s now had enough months to recover from his elbow injury and could put himself in prime position for the Aussie Open assault with a good week. Young Indian Yuki Bhambri won a match and will face top seed Janko Tipsarevic, while Spain’s Nicolas Almagro is the second seed and is looking to establish his Davis Cup chops. Sam Querrey fell in the first round, but something tells me he’ll be heard from in the next three weeks.

US Open: grading the pros


This was written before the women

RG semis: Living & breathing tennis

Schiavone will face another savvy vet in Li

Neither the three-times Grand Slam champion nor the French femme fatale could contend with the wind or the occasion on Court Phillipe Chatrier, so on Saturday China

RG Notebook: Murray matters

The injured Andy played on.

While it is appropriate to question Andy Murray

Bartoli chooses fight (and joy) of flight

Marion Bartoli

Bartoli finally loves the crowd and it loves her back. Mal Taam/MALTphoto


ROME: Sharapova, Schiavone, Mattek-Sands Through

Mattek-Sands is getting used to clay.

Murray, Soderling win, slumping Isner out

Maria Sharapova scored a much-needed win in Rome when she bullied an erratic Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-1. Sharapova does not expect to win a slow clay Tier I tournament, but the weather is hot in Rome and if the balls are moving the air quickly she is certainly a threat. In an encouraging sign, she thought she served well, which has been plaguing her much of the past nine months. If she can find a way to start ahead in points on her service games she’ll be in very good shape for the rest of the year because her return is still right up with the best in the game. “I’ve been working on my serve and especially placement,” said Sharapova, who will play the winner of the match between Shahar Peer and Alisa Kleybanova. “I was happy with it today and with my stats, especially on clay.”

Bethanie Mattek-Sands won another big match on dirt, stunning Flavia Pennetta 64 4-6 6-3. Mattek should now at least equal her career high of No. 37 and if Venus and Serena Williams don’t play Roland Garros as expected, if she can lift her ranking to No. 34 – which might mean reaching the quarters – than she’ll be seeded at a Slam for the first time and that will mean a hell of lot to her. She’ll play Jarmila (formerly Groth) Gajdosova, whom she lost to in the Hobart final.

French Open champ Francesca Schiavone also advanced by taking out US teen Christina McHale 6-3 6-1. “Everything went according to plan today and it’s given me confidence,” she said. Alberta Brianti took out Zheng Jie 6-4 7-5 and Sara Errani advanced when Roberta Vinci retired injured. Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova bested Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4 6-4 and will play Caroline Wozniacki. Andy Murray made a bit of noise that he may be heard from in a big way sometime soon again when he survived Xavier Malisse 6-2 2-6 6-3, and Robin Soderling came back to beat Fernando Verdasco 2-6 7-5 6-4, who has had a terrible clay court season.

After a desultory 6-4 6-1 defeat to Argentine veteran Juan Ignacio Chela, it looks like John Isner won’t be seeded at Roland Garros, which would have been a decent way for him avoid standout clay courters in the first two rounds. The word off the court is that Isner mentally threw in the towel in the second set, which would explain the score. The man needs a kick in the pants because he really does have top 10 stuff if he competes like he did last year and can find a way to improve his backhand, return and transition game, and yes, I realize that