Coco Gauff: ‘Definitely teach myself. I’m still not perfect’

Coco Gauff
Mal Taam/MaltPhoto

There will be times when Coco Gauff is on and she will smack her backhand near the lines for a winner. She is fast, she is also a very good volleyer, and she can also mix it when she has to. 

But the 18-year-old still has to mature on the court and re-think what she is doing. Yes, over the last year and a half, she started to rise and beat a number of the good players. But also, she has lost to some excellent competitors.

Last week Gauff was in the Dubai quarterfinals and she was striking the ball and her first serve was spot on. She beat her good friend Madison Keys 6-2, 7-5. In the semis, it looked like Gauff was plays wonderfully and she could upset No. 1 Iga Świątek. But that wasn’t to be as the Pole kept hitting to Gauff’s forehand, and the American kept pushing. Also, her forehand began to falter and she lost, 6-4, 6-2. While she did lose? Gauff said that she is more composed now. Is she really?

“Oh, definitely teach myself. I’m still not perfect,” she said. “There’s moments where I definitely get frantic. But I think it’s improving. I’m not trying to go on the court and not crack a reaction at all. Unless you’re like Roger [Federer], it’s quite impossible. There’s times I might get on myself. That’s just my personality. I think it’s more so not necessarily the reaction, it’s more so how fast you can reset from that reaction. I think that’s what I try to focus on, is letting my emotions happen, but resetting as quickly as possible.”

Gauff thinks a lot which why she will go up and down, depending on her mental focus. She is always pretty intense.

Last Sunday, Barbora Krejčíková did not look ready to win the title. But then she totally turned it around, winning Dubai, and knocking down Świątek 6-4, 6-2. Her variety was so solid. Plus, she took down three other top 10 players: Daria Kasatkina, Jessica Pegula and Aryna Sabalenka. Now, Krejčíková will attempt into rise into the top 10 this year or better:

“It’s a huge privilege. It’s a big achievement and I think it’s going to give me a lot of confidence that I can play with the best ones,” Krejčíková said.

The Czech plays a lot of doubles, too, but last year she couldn’t play for two months due to injury. Krejčíková was frustrated, and she couldn’t maintain her level. But in the fall the current No. 16 started to play much more consistently and aggressively. Almost two years ago, she won Roland Garros. She has been darn good, at times, but she also is hooked into her doubles, winning 15 titles.

“I definitely love doubles. I just love playing,” Krejčíková said. “I really enjoy it. I mean, so far I want to keep going in both categories, just try to do my best.”

Debut in Austin

There is a new tournament site this week in Austin, Texas. It will be interesting to see how many fans come out to watch. There aren’t many players in the top 20 in the field, but there are some thoughtful competitors, including Shuai Zhang, Danielle Collins, Sloane Stephens, Caty McNally and Katie Volynets, among others. 

Over the past 30 years there have been many different tournaments in California. Some are still there like Indian Wells. A number of cities watched as WTA tournaments came and eventually folded or moved, such as San Diego, Manhattan Beach, Carson, Carlsbad, Stanford and San Jose.

Sebastian Korda wins: ‘Having a new motto of, positive energy’

Sebastian Korda
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Sebastian Korda was cruising and looked like he was about to win. He was ahead in the fifth-set tiebreak versus Hubert Hurkacz and he was up 7-3. But then he began nervous, and he made four errors in a row. He could have lost it right there. But all of a sudden, he locked in again, and knew that he could slam the ball at the right time. He did, and he won it, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(7). He was finally overjoyed.

“Maybe nerves got a little bit to me,” Korda said. “He stopped missing a little bit more. Came closer to the line. And I made some easy mistakes, and he took advantage of that.”

But not for long. Over the past five years, the American could look pretty good, but then he collapsed a lot. His father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open, and he could run all day. Plus, he could move forward, even into the net. But Sebastian needs more time. His forehand and backhand are powerful, but his serve, his return and net game, aren’t quite good enough. But he worked hard, mentally, and now, he is much more mature.

“It was difficult but I’m very happy with the way I kind of just stayed down, kept going through it,” he said. “Throughout this whole year, I haven’t had one negative thought, whether it’s waiting for transportation to go to the courts, whether it’s eating lunch, whether it’s doing anything. That’s one of the biggest things is just having a new motto of, positive energy is more positive than negative energy. As soon as you get something negative, it can take you the opposite direction. Anything that happens, just thinking in the most positive possible way, just going forward.”

Now he is in the quarters at a Grand Slam for the first time. Obviously, he is confident. But in the second weeks of the Slams, you have to face the talented players. He realizes he would back off when the match is tight.

“I think I’ve had a tough match with Rafa [Nadal], serving for it a couple times. Match point with [Novak] Djokovic. I think that really helped me, especially in the last match with Medvedev, closing out that tiebreaker,” Korda said. “Then today as well. I think all those little moments that I’ve gone through, learning from them, staying patient, staying positive, going through the process I think have really helped me going forward.”

Korda will play Karen Khachanov, a player who showed a lot of potential a few years ago. The last time they played the Russian beat Korda 10-8 in the fifth set at Wimbledon. This will be a tossup.

How about Stefanos Tsitsipas, who advanced after he survived Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3. He could have lost, but he kept on trunking. He was composed.

It was a bit of a stunner when Jiri Lehecka upset Felix Auger-Aliassime in four sets. Apparently, Lehecka is super steady, and he will snap the ball when he had to.

Jelena Ostapenko won 2018 Roland Garros and then she almost disappeared. She is a huge server, from both sides, and she goes for it immediately. But she can hit it way too long. Time and time again.

She just beat Coco Gauff and, as she said, she finally has became more thoughtful, on the court.

“My life changed a lot [after winning Roland Garros], so I needed a few years to really get used to what happened because I was really young,” Ostapenko said. “I was 19 and then turned 20. I always knew and believed in my game. If I play well, I can beat almost anyone. I was trying to work more on my consistency, especially in the preseason. Yeah, just to step on the court and play my game.”

In the quarters, Ostapenko will play Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina, who is 2-0 over the Latvian. Ostapenko is the favorite, but not by much.

Once again, Jessica Pegula won a fine match, advancing over Barbora Krejcikova. She made few errors, and she also nailed her forehand and backhand. She has a real chance to reach into the semis for the first time at the Slams.

“It feels like there’s still a long ways to go, to be honest,” Pegula said. “I look at the draw you have Rybakina who won Wimbledon last year, you have Vika [Azarenka] who does really well here, Caroline [Garcia] won the [ATP] championships. It doesn’t really feel like I’m the highest left, even though I guess that’s a cool stat.”

She will face against Azarenka, who won this tournament twice but that is a long time ago. They have met four times and have split. Azarenka is a huge hitter from both sides, but her serves can be spotty. Still, she is very confident.

“I’m so happy I was able to manage it. At the beginning of the year there were a couple of very close matches that didn’t turn my way, so I’m very happy that I took my chances,” Azarenka said.

2023 Australian Open favorites

The women

Jessica Pegula
Rick Limpert

With the women, clearly, the favorite is No. 1 Iga Swiatek. But, she has never won in Melbourne. She can be very aggressive on the hardcourts. Last year, Ash Barty won it and then retired. However, one of the Americans, Sofia Kenin, won it in 2020, but then she went straight downhill. Maybe she will get going again but she has to turn thing around quickly, because she has to face Vika Azarenka in the first round. Azarenka won it twice in 2012 and 2013. Now she is playing decently, but she is not great right now. Both of them are super fierce and then they can go for the lines. Sometimes they miss it, the other times they can control play in the backcourt. But, to win it, that would be very surprising.

Three American women should reach the second week or to get into the final: Coco Gauff, Madison Keys, and Danielle Collins. But 18-year-old Gauff, who reached into the final at Roland Garros, would have to beat Świątek in the quarters if they both advance to that round.

Keys is a former US Open finalists and Collins reached that level at the Australian Open. No one won, but at least they played were tough outs all the way to the finals. Maybe something occurred, either they were too nervous, or maybe they were not strategic.

Another veteran, Jessica Pegula, is ranked No. 3, which means that she has been much more assertive with her ground strokes. She won Guadalajara in the fall and that was her best tournament ever. However, she has yet to go deep at the Slams, so this will be a huge challenge for her to show she can dominate in a major.

There are others who can win a Slam for the first time: Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka, Maria Sakkari, Daria Kasatkina, Belinda Bencic and Amanda Anisimova. The big question is: Does anyone here have a real shot?

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The men

To win the Australian Open, you have to be super patient and also mash the ball. Novak Djokovic has won it eight times,and Rafa Nadal grabbed it twice. Serena Williams also won it many times, but she retired last year. Naomi Osaka, took it twice, but now she is not playing because she is pregnant.

There are some people who can win a major for the first time. How about the men? Yes, Djokovic and Nadal, who won it last year, are the favorites,. But, there are more than a few who can win it for the first time like Nick Kyrgios, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Americans Taylor Fritz, Sebastian Korda and Frances Tiafoe.

Here is what is odd: among active men only Djokovic, Nadal and Stan Wawrinka have won Aussie Open in the past 25 years. Repeat: no one managed to grind it and nail the shots. Plus, those three really understand what to do during the matches. Plus, their strokes, serves and returns are fantastic. Medvedev managed to reach the final against Nadal last year. He was so coherent all the time, but in the finalps fifth set, Nadal threw some astonishing shots and he beat him 7-5. The Russian can look so steady, but after that he was mentally down. If he rises again, then perhaps he can be much more solid.

The Aussie Kyrgios is one of the hardest hitter on court. He can slug his forehand, he can clip his first serve and he really likes to be creative during the points. 

There are some who have a real chance to control matches and go deep at the Slams, such as the basher Andrey Rublev, the thoughtful Casper Ruud, the hustling Felix Auger-Aliassime and the Mr. Variety Matteo Berrettini. Now there are three American men who are seeded and can go deep too: Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Sebastian Korda. Fritz won Indian Wells last year, upsetting Nadal. At the ATP Finals, he looked very good, but it will be different at the Slams. Tiafoe reached the 2022 US Open semis and he was spinning around, and he hit some unreal shots. So if he can go into the semis, then perhaps he can take the gloves off. Korda’s dad, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open. So, if Sebastian can lock in early, then without a doubt, he can reach into the second week — or further.

Three players have outside chances to the final at Melbourne, such as Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem. They have all won a Slam — not on the Australian Open — but they have took it on the hardcourt. It is possible that they can win more than a few matches, but to win it all, that would be almost shocking.

TennisReporters.net’s top 32 in 2022: women 5-1

Iga Swiatek
Mal Taam/MALT photo

No. 5: Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka can be very fierce and rip the ball,with her massive forehand and her hard backhand. This year, the Belarussian collapsed a good amount, never really stepping up in the majors. In the WTA Finals, she turned it around. She was very close with Caroline Garcia. But, when it was right there, the Frenchwoman would go for her shots with a lot of depth and creativity. While Sabalenka looked very good and ready to extend it to a third set, she made some odd errors. Ouch. However, she did reach the top 2. If she can reset her decisions, on court and off, then she certainly may reach a Grand Slam final. But to do it next year? Only if she can steady her serves, and not throw in so many double faults, and also go to the net more often. She has to improve, simple as that. 

No. 4: Caroline Garcia
The now cool veteran Garcia was never broken in the year’s final match, beating the powerful Sabalenka 7-6(4), 6-4 to win the WTA Finals for the first time. Mentally, she was super focused, and she dashed all over the place. That was pretty surprising because 10 years ago she looked very decent, but she was not excellent all the time. On court, she could be intense, but other times, she would mentally walk away. But, not now, as this year, in the past three months, she looked very stalwart. She finally realized that if she pushed herself with her forehand, backhand and her terrific first serve, then she could beat anyone. She was very calm, and very effective. Next year, No. 4 Garcia has a chance to win a Grand Slam. Still, the Frenchwoman can be spotty in singles. In 2023 Slams, it would be a big step her for her to reach a final.

No. 3: Jessica Pegula
American Pegula finished the year ranked No. 3, but at times she could be unsettled on court. The 28-year-old finally won a huge tournament, when she captured Guadalajara over Maria Sakkari/ In the WTA Finals, she did not win against three other opponents. A few years ago, Pegula was outside of the top 60, and she was somewhat consistent, but she was not aggressive enough. Then she had decided that, win or lose, she has a real chance to jump on the ball, she would go for the lines. But that can be risky. Pegula has yet to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam, but she could do that next year. However, in order to do it, she has to throw in some new shots and continue attacking.

No. 2: Ons Jabeur
For many years, the Tunisian was pretty good, but she couldn’t find the right balance. This year, though, she finally improved a lot. The 28- year-old has been almost spectacular with some incredible spin. She can run for a long time grind it. She won Madrid and Berlin. It looked like she was ready to win a Grand Slam for the first time. But, at Wimbledon and the US Open, she did not focus enough, losing against Elena Rybakina in three sets, and then, Iga Świątek blasted her. At the biggest events, Jabeur can be very uptight. In 2023, at the hardcourts, in Australia, she has to breath all the time.

No. 1: Iga Świątek
Świątek came up into the top spot this year by winning almost everything, beating the heck out of them. The Pole snared at Roland Garros, for the second time, and then won the US Open for the first time. Also, this year, she grabbed eight titles. It was for sure that she was the best player, hands down. Almost each point, she will go for it, when she striking her serve or she can attack on the return immediately. She will put her legs very close on the ground, which is known problem, and then she would swing viciously. How about this? Before she came to Roland Garros, she won Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome. On the hardcourts and on the clay. She has lost a few sets, but not many. The 21-year-old found the lines all the time. Yes, it was a great year, but if she wants to be one of the best players ever, then she has to win many more Grand Slam titles, such as Venus Williams (who is still playing) and has won seven titles. And let’s not even think that she can win 22 Grand Slams,like Serena Williams did. But outside of that, if Świątek continues to be No. 1, then for sure, she can win the 2023 Australian Open, as well as Wimbledon.

2023: The outlook for American women

Jessica Pegula
Rick Limpert

American Jessica Pegula finished the year ranked No. 3, but at times she could be upset on the court. The 28-year-old finally won a huge tournament in Guadalajara dismissing Maria Sakkari in the final. But soon thereafter in the WTA Finals in Texas, she did not win against three opponents.

Oh well, in 2022, she went from flawless to floundering.

“It just gets frustrating after it happening so many times in a year; I don’t think that’s happened so many times to someone else as it did to me, so that’s why I was very frustrated,” she said.

A few years ago, she was outside of the top 60, and she was somewhat consistent, but she was not aggressive enough. Then she had decided that win or lose, when she has a real chance to jump on the ball, she would go for the lines. But that can be risky.

“All these challenges and I just did a good job of handling it, knowing I’m in a really tough section and maybe someone in my section is going to win the tournament and I think just decided more like, ‘Okay this is my chance to work my way through the draw and be that person that’s going to win,’ ” she said.

Pegula is the top American, just ahead of No. 7 Coco Gauff. They both play doubles together, a decent amount, and they are No. 3.

Pegula has yet to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam, but she could do that next year. To do it, she has thrown in some new shots.

“Luckily it worked out but it’s definitely challenging but at the same time if you take it the right way it can be extremely motivating,” she said.

NOTES

Gauff has had a very good year, as the 18-year-old improved a lot. But there are times when she gets deep into the tournaments, she can miss a lot of shots. She can hit the balls pretty hard, but she can be predictable. It will take her years to correctly decide which strokes to hit. That did happen with former No. 1 Ash Barty. When she started, she always had a lot of variety, but when she played from the backcourt, her shots could be very short. Eventually, she grew up and her forehand, her first serve and the return rose so high.

The good thing for Gauff is that the reason why she plays lots of doubles, that the No. 7 is pretty good at the net and when she returns. In 2023, she can bring it into the singles and possible win a Grand Slam. But that is a big maybe.

With the retirement of 23-Grand-Slam-winner Serena Williams, which players can win a major next year? Obviously, Gauff, but you can throw in the rest of the top 30 such as Americans Madison Keys, Danielle Collins and Amanda Anisimova.

Coco Gauff
Mal Taam/MaltPhoto

The veteran Keys has gone years without great results. When she was playing terrific with her massive strokes, but she has pulled out a lot due to her injuries. She is making the effort, but the No. 11 is not that fast, and she still is not comfortable at the net. At the 2016 US Open, she reached the final, and it looked like that eventually, she would grab it someday. But now, it is very questionable. Maybe she will have a few more years when she is looking like that she is jolly. This year, she had two very good tournaments at the Australian Open and Cincinnati, but that was it. She has to be more advanced, especially about her second serve and at the net.

Collins is so up and down. She did have some strong results, such as at the Australian Open, when she reached the final, beating Iga Swiatek before she lost to Barty. The No. 14 Collins loves to swing away, and she can boom the ball, but she throws in too many errors. The 28-year-old wants to continue to mix it up, and that is a good thing, but in order to get better results, then she should add some different thumps.

Anisimova started at No. 81 in January and now she is ranked No. 23, which is good because she got hurt at the US Open, and then she could not play for the rest of the year. She is only 21 years old. Let us assume that she is continuing how to really play when she is extremely close. This year she did win some tough matches, but she has also lost against Simona Halep twice, Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur, among others. However, Anisimova did out hit against the four-time major champion Naomi Osaka. She was up in the top of the world. But not always. The Floridian can be very frustrated, but each year, if she wants to build with her strokes, she needs to find something new, and some very cool.

By the way, outside of the top 30, there are three Grand Slam winners who are still playing: Sloane Stephens, Sofia Kenin and Venus Williams. Clearly, the seven-time Grand Slam champ Venus is 42 years old, and she is too slow now. She may retire next year.

Stephens, who won the 2017 U.S. Open, she did not play well almost all year. Will she return and strike the ball hard?

Almost three years ago, Kenin won the Australian Open. But now she is ranked No. 238. She has played quite a bit this season, but she cannot get moving again. Something is going on. Why? No one really knows.

Jessica Pegula finally wins a huge tournament

Jessica Pegula
Rick Limpert

Who would have known five years ago that Jessica Pegula would win a tournament — any tournament. She was steady at times, but she was not blasting the ball. She had chances, yet she would back off, and she would hope that her opponent would miss it.

Pegula knew that if she beat some excellent players, then her confidence would help reset her career.

Finally this year she won a huge event for the first time, winning the 1000 Guadalajara and beating Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in the final. During the match, she knew that if she attack with her ground strokes to different areas, then she could eventually prevail. That she did. Also, her return was excellent. Not only that, she also beat Elena Rybakina, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stevens, and Vika Azarenka, four Grand Slam champs. Whether she had to go for it soon, or just be patient, and she had it all.

Currently, she is No. 3 for the first time, and she is close to pushing past the No. 2 Ons Jabeur at the WTA Final, which will start on Saturday in Fort Worth. She will not be able to pass No. 1 Iga Świątek. But if they play each other, maybe Pegula can find a path to victory. They played each other this month in San Diego and the Pole out-hit her in three sets. To win the match, Pegula will have to be super assertive, because Świątek slams the ball all the time.

Auger-Aliassime rises

Last year, Felix Auger-Aliassime looked super when he was playing well. Plus he can be very enthusiastic. But he could not win the tournaments, falling in the Stuttgart and Melbourne finals and in Marseille this year.

Then, all of a sudden, he changed. His serve became more harmonious, his backhand was going deep and his return was finally thoughtful.

On Sunday, he beat American Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-4 in Antwerp. In 2022, Auger-Aliassime has won three titles, and the Canadian is up to No. 9, and he has a real chance to play in the ATP Finals. The biggest thing will be in the Paris Masters, which will start in October 31. There will be serious pressure.

During the last two weeks, Korda finally came up, and he reached into finals twice. The 22-year-old decided to be more patient and, when he had a real opening, he shattered the ball. His father, Petr, won the Australian Open,in 1998, would also be patient but then he would rush into the net. Maybe the No. 33 Sebastian will do the same.

It was a bit of a surprise when Holger Rune took down Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4 to win Stockholm. However, the Dane is only 19 years old, so he can really hit it. He still isn’t perfect, yet, but he did have a fine run at 2022 Roland Garros beating, believe it or not, Tsitsipas.

Another youngster, Lorenzo Musetti, upset Matteo Berrettini 7-6(5) 6-2 in the Naples final. This season, Musetti did not win that many matches in the hardcourts, but the teenager is getting smarter each month. He was aggressive in the match. But, to move up the rankings, his serve and his return needs to grow and blossom.

2022 US Open: Four picks for Wednesday

Jessica Pegula
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Iga Świątek vs. Jessica Pegula
Pegula has had a surprising week. Yes, over the past two years, Pegula began to play much better, improving her strokes, first serve and return. Before that, she liked to hit the ball after the serve starts, and she was OK with the rallies, but if she didn’t dominate early, so she was struggling. Finally, she changed her mind, and she pushed herself. She is not perfect by any means, but she does know how to make the most of her size. Before she became No. 1, Swiatek was suspect. She would play fantastic and win, and then the next day, she would be foggy and lose. But in February, she totally changed her mental approach. She would go on the lines, almost immediately, because she realized that if she attacks, very deep on the corners, then the players would freeze up. But not Pegula, who has been incredibly consistent. Right now, Swiatek is a better than she is, stroke by stroke. The Pole will win in straight sets.

Andrey Rublev vs. Frances Tiafoe
The American stunned Rafa Nadal, and he played one of the best matches, ever. He sprinted, he dove, and clocked more than a few winners with his big backhand. He said that before the match that now he is much better, and he can really think on court. He also said that if he plays fantastic again, perhaps he can win it all. But they all are, too. Rublev was also had a fine nine days, displaying a terrific forehand, powerful serve and superfast speed. Sure, he can be moody, but now he is intense. Both of them can dug it in, and slog to grab a rally. The Russian thinks he can wear down Tiafoe. But the crowd will the American up again, and Tiafoe will zoom. He will win in four hard-fought sets.

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Karolina Pliskova
Two of the biggest servers will face off, and it is almost seems that it is boxing, trying to knock each other to the floor. It is the punching bag, toe-to-toe. Pliskova has hit a huge number of aces, and when she is right there, she will go for the lines. Sabalenka is certainly faster, and she can pop her forehand and her backhand. However, when she serves, she has double faulted a lot. Both think they are ready for a Grand Slam trophy. Pliskova has always been straight forward in press conferences about not winning a major. But she makes a lot of mistakes. That’s why in the third set, Sabalenka will bite her.

Carlos Alcaraz vs. Jannik Sinner
How did the Spaniard win an amazing five-setter against Marin Cilic? It looked like he was mentally tired, and then, he continued to scrabble, point after point. Now he has to beat another very good player in Sinner. The Italian also has had a terrific week, changing it up, working hard and made some crucial decisions. His is alert, he can return well, and his decisions have improved a lot. Both have to decide whether they can be very patient or swing super hard immediately. Alcaraz can be amazing, but if it goes into the fifth set, then he will be very tired. The same thing goes for Sinner, but he seems to be more ready in Flushing Meadows. Sinner will win in  five demanding sets.

Friday predictions at US Open

Matteo Berrittini
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Matteo Berrettini  vs Andy Murray
Just before he got hurt, the Italian was feeling good, not only being very consistent snd controlled. He has yet to win a Slam, but he has gone deep, especially at the 2021 Wimbledon, when he  reached the final, and he lost to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets. But he kept going, jumping in and throwing it hard. This year, he reached the semis at the Australian Open, and he won Queen’s. But guess what? In Stuttgart, Berrettini played against the three-time champion, Murray, and he beat him in three difficult sets. This time, at the U.S. Open, things can change. The Scotl looked very good in the first two matches, as he hit some wonderful strokes, especially with his first serve and his wide-eyed return. If it goes into the fifth set, then Berrettini will tire him, but it doesn’t, then Murray can decide how to fool him. That is a toss-up, but in the end, Murray will win.

Nick Kyrgios vs J.J. Wolf
The so-called ‘new’ American, Wolf, is already smiling on the courts, sprinting and bashing his forehand. This year, he played a number of challengers, and he won a lot, but the 23-year-old knew that he needed to add to his shots. At least this week, he threw in some wonderful strokes. However, Kyrgios is playing so well, almost every match, with his mind-blowing serves, his muscular forehand, and also, his with his fine net play. Of course he can yell all day, but other than that, on court, he finally learned to be more efficient. There will be some crazy rallies, but Kyrgios will win in three sets.  

Jessica Pegula vs Yue Yuan
We talked it before, but if Pegula can reach the second week, then she will finally have a terrific change to win the US Open. For so many years, she was pretty consistent, but she rarely tried to go for it, deep and close to the corners. She finally decided that if she can get into the top 20, then the world would know who she is. But even further, Pegula is ranked No. 7, which is keen. However, she has yet to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, so this time, she has to knock it up.
Yuan has come out of nowhere in singles and currently she is ranked No. 142. Maybe she started to work hard with a couple of coaches, so she is now more mature. Regardless, Pegula will be patient, and when she has a chance, she can crack her shots. She will win in two sets.

Vika Azarenka vs Petra Martin
The Belarussian has won two Grand Slams. Years ago, she was one of the most aggressive strokers with her forehand and her backhand. However, her serve has been OK, but not great, and at the net, she stumbles. But the outgoing Azarenka can really return, in the lines. She would scream ‘C’MON.’ Very loud She has a child, and she has said that she is totally happy. We are sure that she is, but on court early in her matches, she can look terrific, but then, not so much. If she can manage to win fast, then she will continue to battle. However, Croatian Martin has been around for a long time. Years ago, she hit the top 15, and at the US Open, she reached the fourth round a few times. Yet she never was able to go super far. She upset Paula Badosa this week, so the 31-years-old must have been solid. Can she poke around against Azarenka? Maybe, for an hour or so, early, but  Azarenka will be intense and she will win it in two sets.

McEnroe and Evert mull Medvedev and Osaka at US Open

Daniil Medvedev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Both with John McEnroe and Chrissy Evert have won at Flushing Meadows. They were the best players back then, but now they have retired. However, they are on ESPN. While they talked about with Serena and Venus Williams earlier this week for a long time, still, they had a lot of comments. Some very good ones, and some real questions.

Outside of the famous Williamses, there are other players who could go very deep — or even to win — the US Open.

The No. 1 Daniil Medvedev won it last year, but since then, he has looked pretty good, but not spectacular. The former No. 1, Naomi Osaka, who won it twice at the USO, she has been struggling a lot.

According with McEnroe, Medvedev has not improved enough.

“He looks more or less the same. You wonder what’s going on in his head, obviously, with what’s going on with that war,” McEnroe said. “So, I can’t imagine it’s not playing a part in all these Russian players [who couldn’t play at Wimbledon] and what’s going on in that part of the world. Having said that, I still think he’s one of the favorites, one of the top two couple guys, no question about it. So that’s obviously an interesting storyline to follow. And tactically there’s a whole other thing. Obviously he plays so far back. It seems like that will catch up to him … players should figure out a way to deal with that and he’s got to adjust.”

Osaka has been phenomenal when she is so focused, with her huge first serve, and her hard hitting with her forehand and backhand. In her first Grand Slam final in 2018, the fans were almost stunned when she exploded out of nowhere and she upset Serena. But eventually, after Osaka won the 2021 Australian Open, she became depressed. Mentally, the Japanese player had to stop, a lot. She wouldn’t play that much, and here and there, she could walk on the court and be pleased, but in the matches, maybe she didn’t want to be there.

Evert said, “You don’t know how she’s made us very aware that mental health is very important in her tennis. And I think she’s hitting the ball fine. I’ve watched her the last couple of weeks. She’s hitting the ball fine. She’s made some coaching changes [she does not have a real coach, currently] by which I think was probably because of the time — I don’t know why. But anyway, she’s made some changes. And I think she just isn’t match-tough. I think that’s the one thing that’s hurting her. She just hasn’t played enough matches where she feels her instincts are back and she feels confident going for the shots, going for shots on big points like when she was playing her best tennis. If she gets to the second week, I think she’s going to be dangerous. She loves the hard courts and I think she’s going to feel good playing at the US Open.”

McEnroe thinks that Osaka can be thrilled, on and off the court, or she can be very gloomy. When she is smashing her forehand and backhand, then she can put together a ton of winners. But she is now ranked No. 44. He thinks the 24-year-old needs to step it up.


“Did she look happy? Does she look sad?,” McEnroe said. “Does she look this way or that? So, in a way it made it more difficult for her. So that part I think she didn’t take that. It seems like that part may not have been taken into account enough. And so that’s made it trickier. I don’t know where her head’s at. Obviously, she’s incredible on hard courts. And I’m sure if her head is into it the way it can be, she’s obviously one of the favorites, in my book. But at the moment it doesn’t seem like she’s all there. But she’s won it twice [at the US Open] and she’s won four majors [also twice at the Aussie Open] on hard courts. To think she wouldn’t be capable of doing it would be crazy.”

NOTES
Here is my story about Alize Cornet on Tennis.com.

Cornet, 32, is set to break the consecutive Slam appearance record, with her 63rd straight major at the US Open. She could retire next year, but right now she is playing very good, so maybe she can continue for a couple years. She will probably make decision in 2023.

Here is my Tennis.com story on Maxime Cressy. The French-American, said, “I do big things when I’m really focused.” He will have to. The best think is that he is seeded for the first time at a major at No. 30. In the third round, if he gets there, he might face Stefanos Tsitsipas. That would be a huge battle.

19-year-old Ben Shelton is in the draw based on winning the NCAA singles this year. If he makes it to the third round he might have to face against the No. 1, Daniil Medvedev, who won it last year. That is almost impossible, but you never know. … Jessica Pegula has yet to reach into the quarters at the USO, but she is ranked No. 7. So this time, she has to be so real and be much more fierce. Just do it. 

TennisReporters.net plans on commenting on the US Open draws on Saturday and Sunday.

Jessica Pegula to face Ons Jabeur in the Madrid final

Ons Jabeur
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

When Jessica Pegula was a kid, she thought about playing all sports: football, hockey or even tennis. She wanted to score or nail a winner, either way.

Her father, Terry Pegula, owns the NFL Buffalo Bills, and the NHL Buffalo Sabres. But ,she wanted to do play tennis and advance to a pro career. Eventually, the American joined the WTA, but while she was OK, she was not amazing on court — yet.

Up until the start of last year, she was so-so, out of the top 50. Year after year, she would win and then she would lost, early. But then, she decided to hit the ball much harder and really go for it.

She still isn’t perfect, yet, but she has improved a tremendous amount. The 28-year-old could have retired, and go watch hockey or football, but she wanted to fight on court.

Now she is in the final in Madrid, and on Saturday, she will meet the talented Ons Jabeur.
 
Pegula is ready to drive and she wants to practice confidently.

“Well, if I didn’t work, I’d be very bored. People don’t realize that, they’re like, ‘You don’t have to work.’ I’m, like, ‘What would I do all day?,’ ” Pegula said. “I just wasn’t wired like that, I guess. Growing up, I guess I was just wired differently where I always wanted to be successful, and whatever it was, I feel like it’s not just tennis, whatever I do off the court too, I want to be really good at it, I want to be the best at it, I want to work hard at it. But honestly I think I just love the sport. I just have a lot of passion for playing. Yeah, I love to compete and be out there. It’s so much fun for me, and I think at the end of the day most players that’s what they are playing for.”

There are some people who want to earn money — whether it be a modest or large amount of money — and a few people do not push themselves when they play the matches. They may look OK, but there are times when they are feeling good. Conversely, when they can start to lose, they check out.

“You see the top players, they’re not playing really for more money at the time. They have already made enough money. Look at [Roger] Federer,” Pegula said. “He could have stopped a while ago and nobody would have blamed him. He says he loves the sport. I feel like I have the same feeling. I’m very compassionate about it and I love to compete and I love the challenge and the grind of doing that.”

Yes it is a huge challenge but she is rising to it. She is ranked No. 14 and very soon, she could finally be in the top 10. This year she has knocked off some solid players. But besides Madrid, she has been up and down. In Dubai, Jabeur crushed her. Who will prevail on Saturday? Neither have won a WTA 1000. Someone will.

“We’re both, I think, going to be nervous,” Pegula said. “We’re both going to want to win. We’re going to go out there and compete and have a great match, I hope.”