The top 32’s in 2015: Will Dimitrov and Sock rise again, are Stosur & Kuznetsova ready to push





No. 28

Grigor Dimitrov: In 2014, it looked like the now 24-year-old was coming up rapidly. He has tremendous variety, he is fairly quick and driven. But in 2015, he was all over the place and he was admittedly confused. If he wants to return into the top 10, the Bulgarian has to be more patient and calm.

No. 27

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The veteran has played a ton of tournaments, and while he was unable to grab any big events, the Spaniard did snare Croatia (hard courts) and Romania (clay). He is a big hitter and while he will never win a major, he has improved and if he managed to avoid the so-called Big 4 plus 1 early on (Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Nadal and Wawrinka), he can reach a major semifinal. He will be very pleased indeed.

No. 26

Jack Sock: Slowly but surely, the American is rising up. He is ‘only’ 23 years old, and while he has been unable go very deep at the Grand Slams or the ATP 1000s, he did win Houston on clay, and he reached the final at Stockholm (upending Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet). Outside the top 10, he has beaten a number of fine players, but inside the top 10, he has shocked the top competitors such as Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. Will he be ready to take down the big boys in 2016?

No. 25

Robert Bautista Agut: There are so many good, solid Spaniards. Last year, Bautista reached No. 14 and looked like he was prepared to jump into the top 10 and pound the opponents. In 2015, he was pretty close, but when push came to shove, he went backwards. Try, try, try again – in 2016.


No. 28

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Let’s be positive about the Russian: She did win a tournament at Linz and then reached the final at Moscow, which was terrific. But, when she went to the Fed Cup Final against the Czech, she lost all three matches and they went down. Now, she has won eight titles since she began on the tour in 2005, which is admirable, but is she consistent enough to go very deep at the Slams? Doubtful, but give her another chance in 2016.

No. 27

Samantha Stosur: The veteran may have slipped downward, but the Aussie keeps working and she has improved her so-so backhand. She says that someday, she could win another major (she won the 2011 US Open), and perhaps she can, but first and foremost, she cast off any nervousness in Australia. She has lost to numerous average players over the years at the Aussie Open, Sydney and Brisbane. If she goes deep in Melbourne, the entire world will stand up and cheer.

No. 26

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova: Slovakia has had a decent amount of solid players over the years, but few expected that the 21-year-old Schmiedlova would crack the top 30 and make heads turn. She won two small events in Poland and Romania, which is commendable, but she didn’t do much at all during the Slams. She is pretty young though, so in 2016 if she continues to get better, she might threaten the big girls.

No. 25

Svetlana Kuznetsova: If Serena Williams won three Slams this year when she was 33 years old, then maybe ‘Sveta’ can do the same thing — revive. The Russian is 30 years old now and while she isn’t quite as fast as she did when she won the 2004 US Open and 2009 Roland Garros, she does mix it up now and she is very bright. If she wants to move back into the top 10 in 2016, she has to improve her backhand and her volley.

In Canada: Tomic raises his head, Azarenka thumps Kvitova easily

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In Montreal, August 12  

Given that Bernard Tomic has been struggling mentally with the Aussie Open bosses, but he did concentrate a great deal and he upended Marin Cilic 6-3 6-4. Interestingly, not only has the former two-time champ Lleyton Hewitt is now helping Nick Kyrgios, but he has hit with Tomic this year. Tomic has said that he really respects Hewitt, so perhaps he will be helping with both of them? Tomic could really use his council.  The US Open champ Cilic looked pretty decent in Washington, but in order to have a chance in NYC, he is going to have to be much more consistent.

How about the Belgian David Goffin blew out Steve Johnson and then he was comfortable when he beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4? Does Goffin really have the goods on hard courts? It’s time.

Gael Monfils was saying that he was very happy to be back on North America, but then he went down against Gilles Muller, losing 6-3 3-6 7-6(4). Monfils believes he can really go far at the USO and maybe he can, but he needs to push hard at the Cincy so he is feeling very comfortable.

Jack Sock grabbed a marathon in the first round, and then he out lasts Grigor Dimitrov 5-7 7-6(5) 7-5. The 22 year old has improved a lot this year, but while he has shown that he can reach the top 10 next year, is he ready to shock No. 1 Novak Djokovic? He will have to play his best match ever.

Here is a surprise of the day: the so-called “veteran” Donald Young upset Tomas Berdych 7-6(5) 6-3. The newly wed Berdych is still on his honeymoon, or has Young realized that if he does not play aggressive all the time that he won’t ever reach the top-20.

In Toronto, August 12

Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova hadn’t played since 2011, when Azarenka had grabbed their first two contests. The Czech won four wins in a row, their last meeting in October in Istanbul at the WTA Final, with Kvitova out-hitting Azarenka in a tremendous contest.

For whatever reason, they kept missing each other. They are around the same age, and both have won two majors (two Aussies for Azarenka and two Wimbledon for Kvitova). They have changed quite a bit since then, but on Wednesday night, it was hard to tell who was doing what. Azarenka, who has been struggling with her serve during the past year and half, looked terrific, while Kvitova looked pretty slow and erratic. Azarenka won the match 6-3 6-2.

Kvitova had mono starting in the spring and she just found out after Wimbledon, which is very good that she now what she is dealing with, and bad

that she isn’t close to 100 percent. If Kvitova won the US Open, it would be a miracle.

Azarenka has played fairly well at times this year, but she has not been consistent. Maybe her door will soon come open.

Credit to Belinda Bencic, who beat Genie Bouchard in three sets on Tuesday night and then late in the afternoon on Wednesday, she knocked Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 7-5. The 18-year-old Bencic is improving day after day and without a doubt, if she keeps her head on straight, she could reach the top 8 by the end of the year and be able to play at the WTA Finals in Singapore. She would be thrilled.

Wozniacki is slightly hurt, she lost in her first match in Stanford and now she did the same thing in Rogers Cup. She said last week that she has a chance to win the US Open. Really? Well if she has any chance she has to turn it around very quickly.

A number of the young players went out immediately, such as Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, the Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza lost to Lesia Tsurenko 7-5, 6-1. Maybe the Spaniard will wake up immediately and compete in Cincy. If she wants to be a great player, she has to lock in every single time.

Sabine Lisicki looked extremely forceful in beating Venus Williams on Monday, and then she overcame Barbora Strycova 7-6(3) 6-4. The big-server Lisicki will face Bencic, who attacks every moment.

Angie Kerber has won seven matches in a row and now she will face Simona Halep, who is back after a long rest. Halep hasn’t played very well in the past couple months, but she is happy to be back on the hard courts. Plus, Kerber has to be tired. However, the German is more confident now and she will fight her to the end.

Here was a good one when Daria Gavrilova stunned Lucie Safarova 4-6 7-5 7-5. The 5-foot-5 Russian-Australian hustles around all the time.

7 US Men on clay: All have tough matches in first round at Roland Garros, Day 1


In 2006, the last great U.S. player Andre Agassi retired and there were no competitors left who still loved the clay. Agassi won Roland Garros in 1999, and the other fantastic males had grown up together on the hard courts and very quickly, they learned how to play on the clay. Michael Chang won Roland Garros when he was just 17 years old, shocking the world in 1989. Jim Courier pounded his forehand into the corner and he won two straight titles in 1991 and 1992. His best players, the 14 Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras never reached the final on clay in Paris but at least he reached the semifinal in 1996.

But when the American’s Big 4 retired, only Andy Roddick had won a major, winning the 2003 US Open, so it looked like he would change it up and go deep in Roland Garros. But he could not manage to reach a quarterfinal. Two of the top 10, James Blake and Mardy Fish, couldn’t do it either.

This current US males group would love to reach the second week in Paris, but they have to play extremely well from the    outset because everyone they are facing are either ranked in the top 32, nearly ranked or coming soon.

Here at the 7 US men:

No. 16 John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi: Isner is favored but Seppi stunned Roger Federer at the Aussie Open. Dangerous.

Jack Sock vs. No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov: The Bulgarian Dimitrov hasn’t played well at all this year but of he is on, Sock is going to have to be very patient to win it.

 Sam Querrey vs. Borna Coric: Querrey is super aggressive, but so can the 18 year old Croation also be able to bomb away.

Donald Young vs. Santiago Giraldo: The Columbian cracked the top 30 last year and while he has slipped this year, Young will hang in there for hours to best Giraldo.

Steve Johnson vs. No. 27 Guillermo Garcia Lopez: Johnson has improved over the past two years on clay, but if he can upend the Spaniard he will have to play very aggressive.

Tim Smyczek vs. No. 15 Kevin Andersons: The tall South African doesn’t love the clay but he is consistent on every surface, which means that Smyczek has to run him as much as possible.

Frances Tiafoe vs. Martin Klizan: Another teen, Tiafoe, has potential and he looked pretty good on the hard courts, but in order to best the No. 35 Klizan he must return very well to take him down.

Jack Sock is coming alive, wins Houston title

Jack Sock won his first big Challenger title.

Jack Sock won his first ATP title.

The young American males haven’t won a title in quite some time. But the 22-year-old Jack Sock is moving very fast, making progress in Indian Wells, Miami and now winning the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, beating Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 7-6 (2).

Not only were many fans were surprised how good he was on the hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami To see the 22-year-old running back and forth on the clay, they were definitely surprised.

Some of the players can’t handle sliding all day, but he actually likes it.

“It feels incredible,” said Sock. “Clay is my favorite surface. It feels surreal. It feels incredible, and to have friends and family here to share it with me feels even better.”

The 22-year-old played OK last season, reaching the Challenger final in Savannah and he qualified at Nice, where he lost to John Isner. He did reach the third round at Roland Garros, going down to Dusan Lajovic.

He wasn’t perfect and, as he admitted recently, he should have been in better shape. However, he kept plugging away, reaching the semifinal at Newport and Atlanta, before he skidded a bit, losing in the first round of the US Open. But he played well in the fall, upsetting Kei Nishikori in the Masters 1000 Shanghai and qualifying at the Masters 1000 Paris, where he almost beat Milos Raonic.

This season, he missed the first two months due to an injury but when he came back at Indian Wells, he felt like he was faster and  concentrating more. He reached the fourth round before falling to Roger Federer, and in Miami, he upset the No. 22 Fabio Fognini before going down in the third round.

“This is the best I’ve felt physically by far off the court and on the court,” Sock said.

In the doubles, he shined, when he and his Canadian Vasek Pospisil won Indian Wells over the legendary Bob and Mike Bryan and in Miami, they reached the final, and barely lost to the Bryan Brothers

He has a massive serve and a big forehand. He’s a fine volley but he knew in Houston that he had to be patient because on the clay courts, it takes time to set it up and then go for his shots.

That is what he exactly did in U.S. Men’s Clay Court. He beat No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 32 Santiago Giraldo and No. 16 Kevin Anderson before besting his fellow American Querrey.

He beat a series of solid players and he never looked nervous at all. Sock has climbed to a career-high 36th and he is now the No. 2 American, behind Isner. Very likely, he will continue with rapid rate.

“I put in a lot of hard work before I came back,” said Sock. “I had almost nine weeks in a row off the court in the gym getting my body ready to come back. To come here and win is a very incredible feeling and I’m going to savor it for a while.”

Miami, first week, Who is in, who is out? Pennetta, Monfils, Murray win; Nadal, Azarenka, Ivanovic lose

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No. 15 Flavia Pennetta d Victoria Azarenka 7 -6(5) 7-6(6):

Given how well Azarenka has been rising again and playing better overall, it looked like the Belarussian was ready to take out anyone expect for Serena. But Pennetta is in the zone again, upsetting a former No. 1 Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells and now she stunning another No. 1, Azarenka. Pennetta wants to possibly return at the end of the year? She can be so good that there is no absolutely no chance if she stays healthy.

No. 27 Sabine Lisicki d No. 5-Ana Ivanovic 7-6(4) 7-5:

The German is finally playing better again, crushing her forehand and booming her first serves, but coming into the New Year, she thought that she might be able to win a Grand Slam again, but after nearly taking down Maria Sharapova at Brisbane, Ivanovic looked nervous again and she is now all over the place. She is not happy, at all.

No. 11 Sara Errani d beat No. 21 Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-4 6-1:

The Italian really needed the win because she hasn’t been able to best the better players, so now she will attack more often due to her confidence factor. The Spaniard has had a good last three months and now needs to rest and get ready for the clay, which she loves.

 Belinda Bencic d Tatjana Maria 6-4 7-5:

The young Swiss has turned it around now she isn’t panicking. If Bencic stays healthy, watch her crack to the top 20 by Wimbledon.

No. 1 Serena Williams d Catherine Bellis 6-1 6-1:

Bellis is very, very young, and Serena is very, very excellent and more mature. Bellis has years ahead.

No. 24 Svetlana Kuznetsova d No. 13 Angelique Kerber 6-3 3-6 6-3:

“Sveta” has a lot of guile and guts but Kerber has had an awful three months this year. Simply put: she has to remember that a top player who can grind down anyone if she actually believes. Try it.

 No. 3 Simona Halep d No. 30 Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5:

Halep is so confident right now that she thinks that even if she isn’t playing well, she can also figure out how to win. She doesn’t get wild like Giorgi does at times.

Sloane Stephens d Johanna Larsson 6-4 6-4:

Stephens is getting better and better and if she matures, she can be in the top 10 – or the top 5 – at the end of her year.



 No. 29-Fernando Verdasco d 2-Rafa Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3:

Clearly, Nadal isn’t at 100 percent. He hasn’t won a tournament since last Roland Garros and he admitted that he is lacking confidence. Verdasco has lost to Rafa so many times, but he could tell that his fellow Spaniard was a bit shaky. He was correct and now Nadal has to sit down, talk to his parents and uncles, take a breath and just grind until he feels 100 percent again. And then he can yank every other player, especially on clay. The clay is coming very soon.

No. 17 Gael Monfils d No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6(4):

As expected, Monfils was cool and calm and was more accurate when Jo returned after four months due to an injury. Tsonga will have a tough time on clay courts, but the big man he has to try. His body is ticking.

No. 28-Adrian Mannarino d No. 7 Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6(4) 7-6(5):

The lefty Frenchman hasn’t been able to threaten to beat the big boys, but he did in Miami, stunning Stan, who has been so-so this year. Dominic Thiem d Jack Sock 6-4 6-3: The Austria youngster took out another up and coming player, when Thiem stopped the confident USA Sock. We will see both of them for years to come.

No. 15 Kevin Anderson d No. 24-Leonardo Mayer 6-4 6-4:

Anderson is very consistent on the hard courts. Yes, it’s hard for him to beat the top-10 guys, but he can beat anyone below him, witness over Mayer. No. 3-Andy Murray d No. 27-Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-4: The Colombia has been pretty impressive over the past year, but Murray seems to have watched everyone, so he knows exactly where he can go.

No. 8-Tomas Berdych d No. 25-Bernard Tomic 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 6-1:

Tomic was right there in the second set, but Berdych nailed a couple of huge shots and repelled him. The Aussies has played almost every week since the start of the season and needs to rest – badly. He has improved a lot but he does not want to burn out.

The Picks, Monday, March 30, Miami

Carolina Wozniacki vs. Venus Williams Venus has been better over Wozniacki essentially forever, owning her head to head 6-0, beating her in three sets in the final at Auckland at the start of the year. Caro has not had a good year and she knows that this time, she has to play much more aggressive and forceful or Williams will beat her in straight sets.

Even though Venus’ forehand can be great or bad, it’s thick and stronger over Caro, who frequently pushes her forehand. Why she doesn’t step into her forehand using her left leg out in front doesn’t allow her to crunch the ball.

The Dane is faster than the 34 year old Venus is, but she is substantially better at the net. Let’s say Caro’s backhand and Venus’s backhand are even – their best serves down the line and cross court – but when the American is clicking with her first serve, she can hammer them at 120 MPH. Caro’s first serve improved during the last half of 2014, but she has regressed in 2015.

Really the only way that Wozniacki can upset Venus is that she has to go for her shots, smoke the balls, mix it up and hit sharp angles. Winner or lose, the 24 year old has to try and not push the ball around because if she does, Venus will beat the heck out of her. Venus is not as great as she was say 10 years ago, but she is still very good. She is fresh, she loves Miami and will figure out how Caro is playing. It will be close, but Venus will win, in three long sets.

Roland Garros: Jack puts a Sock in Garcia-Lopez

Jack Sock won his first big Challenger title.

Jack Sock won his first big Challenger title.

Mattek-Sands back on rise, young US men make qualies noise

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Notes on a Draw Sheet: After fine Bartoli win, Wozniacki to confront Kvitova in Dubai semis


Caro is the queen of Copenhagen

Caro is looking to push back into the top 5

It appears that Petra Kvitova has finally picked ups steam again after being completely out of sorts in January. Last week she nearly beat Serena Williams and on Thursday she trounced defending champ Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-4 in Dubai. It

Gauging prospect Ryan


Harrison is trying not to be impatient with his lack of strong results.

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – With the young U.S. women like Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Jamie Hampton getting world attention with their fine recent play, the young U.S. men have been somewhat left in the dust to start the year.

Ryan Harrison, 20, has had a decent win or two, but he hasn’t had an outstanding 2013 tournament yet. After focusing on his fitness in the off season, the frequently injured Jack Sock, also 20, got hurt in his opening round of qualifying at the Australian Open and then didn’t play another match until the first round of the SAP Open in San Jose, where he lost 7-6, 6-1 to Marinko Matosevic.

Harrison did a little better than Sock, except that he was favored to win his match against Benjamin Becker, whom he had beaten two times last year, but he did not, falling 6-7, 7-5, 6-3. He


Jack Sock won his first big Challenger title.

Novak Djokovic

The Serbian seems very gung-ho on seizing the No. 1 ranking back from Roger Federer and played with a lot of confidence with his back against the wall in his 5-7 7-6 6-3 win over Andy Murray in the Shanghai final. Of the five match points he faced, Djokovic ripped forehand winners on three and forced two errors off the Scot