2017 top players: women’s 11-15


TennisReporters.net will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 11: Kristina Mladenovic
As the Frenchwoman said, she was great from January through June, and then, she totally collapsed. She says that the pressure came on and she couldn’t shake it. She couldn’t think anymore, and she became very frustrated. In the first five months, she was unbelievably good, on hard courts and on clay. She is super strong, plays with a lot of variety, either way back on the baseline and putting away at the net. If Kiki gets her head on straight, she could actually reach the Grand Slam final. If not, she can disappear once again.

No. 12: Svetlana Kuznetsova
The Russian has been playing for eons, having won the US Open in 2004 when she was very young, confident and she believed in herself. That was 13 years ago and now, she plays tournament after tournament, playing fantastic, and the next week, she gets mentally down and then she plays flat. That is Sveta, who loves to talk —which is a very good thing — but she got hurt towards the end of the year and now, she cannot go to Australia in 2018. Hopefully, she will returns in February, and she will be fresh. And maybe next year, she will win her third Grand Slam [she also won Roland Garros, on clay, in 2010] and then, she will be thrilled and continuing on forever. There is no doubt that she will become a coach someday.

No. 13: Sloane Stephens
A couple years after she started on the WTA Tour in 2010, the American looked like she would win a major pretty soon. She was so fast, so steady, and pretty smart overall. But then when she was close to winning the Slams, at the Aussie and Wimbledon, she backed off. Then she fell down mentally. Hello, 2016! She underwent surgery and could not play for nine months. When she returned, and for the first time, she went for it. She had an amazing summer, and eventually, she won the US Open. After that, she was exhausted and failed to win a match in Asia, and even at the Fed Cup final. In 2018, she can certainly win another Grand Slam. She is that good. 

No. 14: Julia Goerges
What a great year by the German, who did very little against the big guns before this year. In 2017, she raised her head and rarely backed off. Another veteran, she realized that if she can actually push forward, be aggressive, and be patient, then she would have a legitimate chance to go deep. And she did. Can she crack the top 10 for the first time? Sure she can. She wants it badly.

No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The “other” Russian is another veteran, who plays great at times, and then she gets down on herself and she checks out. However, in 2017, she finally became more consistent, which is why now, at four different Grand Slams, she has reached the quarters. In 2018, perhaps she will reach the semis for the first time? Hmmm


Bacsinszky: Had a nightmare, but woke up, and then played great

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 10 – At certain times, Timea Bacsinszky can play up to her potential. Other times, she is mentally out of it. However, in the past three years in Paris, she has been enthusiastic, running like the wind and finding the lines. The Swiss seems to love at RG, and maybe she is a real favorite in the tournament.

On Tuesday, she clipped Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-4 and will face Jelena Ostapenko, who stunned Caro Wozniacki.

In 2015, Bacsinszky reached the semis, beating Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova before going down against Serena Williams. In 2016, she reached the quarters, upsetting Venus Williams before she lost against Kiki Berdens.

Now, Bacsinszky is back in the semis once again. She has not played very well this year, but when she walks on court in Paris, she is happy and she will let it fly.

However, when you are sleeping, well, that can be very difficult. The dream thing.

“I really get nervous. Like, this night, I went to bed more or less at 11:00. I woke up at 4:00,” Bacsinszky said. “Could not sleep for an hour. Went back to sleep. Woke up earlier than my alarm. My heart was beating. It was a rush. Then I imagine I was dreaming or doing a nightmare about I had to leave the hotel room to go to another tournament, but I forgot some things in the closets.

“I remember my nightmares and dreams pretty well. But I remember that I had, like, three towels that I wanted to give to my siblings because I have three, but I forgot them in the closet. So it was a big drama.”

I would say so. 

“But when you wake up, take a shower, go eat, stretch it off, and by the time you arrive on court, you can settle in. However, it will take a while. I do get nervous, but everybody does. And as soon as you understand that it’s the same for everyone, and thanks god it’s like that, because otherwise you’re a rabbit and you cannot feel those good emotions,” Bacsinszky said. “Because if everything is just coming and is so easy, it would be less fun. I try to take the fun part of it. So if I’m nervous, I try to be less nervous. If succeed, then I’m happy, and I try to play with it and I try to take the momentum.”

She will play against the 19-year-old Ostapenko on Thursday.

Murray vs. Nishikori
On Wednesday, the No. 1 Andy Murray will face Kei Nishikori, which should be a five-set classic.

In the 2016 US Open, Nishikori stunned Murray in the quarterfinal.
However, Murray has beaten him nine times, while Nishikori has only won two matches against the Scot.

In the past two and half years, Murray has beaten Nishikori in Madrid, Canada, the Davis Cup [twice], the Olympics and the ATP World Tour Final. 

There were a number of tough  matches at times, like in November 2016 in London, when Murray put down Nishikori 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4.

“Obviously lost against [Kei] at US Open. He plays well on the clay, obviously,” Murray said. “Very solid off both wings. Kei is dangerous off both wings. Moves well, quick.”

Nishikori hasn’t won a tournament this year, but he reached the quarters at Indian Wells and Miami on hardcourts. On clay, he reached the quarters in Madrid, but he pulled out. In Rome, he lost against Juan Martin del Potro and, in Geneva, he lost against Mischa Zverev in the quarters. 

Here in RG this week, Nishikori said physically he is 100 percent. He outlasted Hyeon Chung in five sets and then he beat Fernando Verdasco in four sets.

He does think that he can upended Murray, but he says in order to do so, he will have to be perfect.

“We have been playing so many times. He’s great player,” Nishikori said. “Very smart tennis player. It’s never easy, and I think he’s been playing well and (been) watching some matches. He’s hitting great balls. So I’m sure it’s gonna be tough one, but try to enjoy and try to win the match.”


Wozniacki: ‘Clay isn’t my favorite but … I’m hitting the ball well’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 4 – The former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki crushed the Canadian Francoise Abanda 6-0, 6-0 in the second round. While she has never loved clay, she has learned to mix up her shots. She has never gone deep in Paris, but the veteran wants to shake the stigma of being No. 1 without a Grand Slam trophy in her case.

She’s 26 years old, and she has reached the final at the US Open. What has held her back? Her forehand is so-so, and her second serve is pretty weak. Beyond that, her backhand is tremendous and she is incredibly fast — still.

But can she win a major here? I doubt it, but at least she is changing her strokes. At least today.

“I played consistent, aggressive when I needed to and mixed it up,” she said.

In the past three weeks, Wozniaki’s body almost disappeared. But she has recovered so now, she could actually reach the semis for the first time.

“At the end of the day I feel good, came in here feeling comfortable and confident,” she said. “Clay isn’t my favorite surface, but at the same time, I feel like I’m hitting the ball well.”

Two days ago, Kristina Mladenovic was exhausted after she came through her first match in three hours. Today, she blew out Sara Errani 6-2 6-3. Now the Frenchwoman has a real chance to go very deep but … she has to face American Shelby Rogers, who beat Cagla Buyukakcay. Rogers has been around for a while, but without a doubt, her fine-tuned game is there and she was a shot to upended Mladenovic.

How about the 18-year-old CiCi Bellis who beat Kiki Bertens 6-3 7-6(5)? Bertens had just won a title a few days ago and she thought she could reach in the second week. Uh, uh. The American Bellis is getting better daily and she has already cracked the top 50. The top 40 is coming soon.

Before the start of the tournament, many people thought the 2016 Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza was going to lose early. In the past year, she has not won any tournaments at all. But when she arrived in RG, she became very excited again and on court, she ran as fast as she can and ripped the ball. She overcame Anett Kontaveit in three tough sets and now, she is finally confident again.

Is she the favorite? She is very close, but first she has to beat Yulia Putintseva in the third round, which won’t be easy.

The vetrean Bethanie Mattek-Sands upset Petra Kvitova 7-6(5) 7-6(5). This ends the fairy tale comeback of Kvitova, who won her first match here after recovering from the in-home attack that seriously injured her playing hand.

The Arizonan was very aggressive off both sides, as was Sam Stosur, who beat Kirsten Flipkens. Both the 30-years-olds will go up against each other on Friday. They know each other very well. Massive forehands will be teed up …

The Canadian Milos Raonic thinks he has a chance to win RG. But, even though he has a number of big wins on the hard courts and grass, he has struggled on clay. Maybe it’s time. Raonic beat Rogerio Dutra Silva 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4. Roanic is quite confident now, even as he could face Grigor Dimitrov, who upended Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-4 7-5. He is pretty confortable.

Rafa Nadal trounced Robin Haase 6-1 6-4 6-3. The nine-time RG champ is favored to win the event, but there are plenty of challenges ahead.

Novak Djokovic looked very steady, blasting Joao Sousa 6-1 6-4 6-3. I would be stunned if he doesn’t reach the semis again. We all know that Djokovic crushed Dominic Thiem two weeks ago, but maybe the Belgian will change everything. Perhaps.

A great win by Steve Johnson over Borna Coric 6-2 7-6(8) 3-6 7-6(6), and a bad loss by the Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who fell in four sets vs. Renzo Olivo. Tsonga should have made a statement here.

The women: Who can actually win the women’s RG trophy?

NOTE: Before we printed here, we decided to hold off until Sunday night, assuming most of them top players will win anyway. Some did not. The No. 1 Angie Kerber lost, as did Roberta Vinci. Within seconds, everything change. 

1st quarter
How about Petra Kvitova? She has won two Slams, but at the end of last year, two crazy people came into her house, attacked her and ran way. It has taken a long time to recover, but now she is back because she just wants to play tennis. Even if her body isn’t healthy, at least she can walk on the court and hit the heck out of the ball. That makes her happy.

On Sunday here, she took out Julia Boserup in straight sets. And she cried again — happy. 

Can she win it? I doubt it, although a few years ago, she reached the semis at RG But, she is so enthusiastic that she could reach the second week. And then?

Caro Wozniacki has never liked clay over the past decade. At RG, the former No. 1 can get extremely upset when she cannot hit the lines and slide all over the place. She could reach the third round, but then she will likely have to play against Kiki Bertens, who just won Nuremberg. The Netherlander will out-run the frustrated Wozniacki. 

Sam Stosur also just won a small tournament at Strasbourg, beating another Aussie, Daria Gavrilova, in three tight sets. Stosur has reached the final at RG before, and the veteran believes that she can dominate with her heavy forehand. She might have to play against Kvitova in the third round. They know each other well and without a doubt, it should be a classic. 
The No. 8 Sveta Kuznetova has won RG before and even though she is up and down, she knows how to grind her opponents down. If she reaches the second week, watch out. 

Second quarter
The defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza can be destructive on clay. But, in the past year, she has been upset much too often, gets hurt all the time and doesn’t understand why she isn’t perfect. That’s why she hasn’t won a tournament since then. Will she get on a roll? Well, at least she reached the semis at Rome, beating Venus Williams in the quarters. Against Elina Svitolina, she retired, hurt, believe it or not. Can she rise in rebellion? Perhaps, but she has to stop thinking that her legs will fail her. 

Kristina Mladenovic has advanced this year, but the Frenchwoman has to deal with RG, which is difficult because the entire world will be watching her. She is a tremendous hitter, and she is quicker than she used to be, but on court on Paris, you have to lock it in and don’t listen to the crowds who are yelling for you. If she does, she can actually reach the semis — or even the final. And then … exactly what?

The super veteran Venus Williams has never won Roland Garros, but she has come close, and this time, while she is aging, she is very smart. However, she is a little slow now; so the only way she can go super deep is going to the net once in a while and attack at the net. She won her first round on Sunday, and she might have to face a true grinder in Daria Gavrilova in the third round. She might also have to face Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round, assuming the Slovak gets her game back on track. 

Third quarter
After winning Rome, Svitolina now she has a real chance to go far at RG. The No. 5 has never gone deep at the Grand Slams, but it is time. There will be pressure, but she has the tools. She might have to face the tough Croatian Ana Konjuh in the third round, and maybe Madison Keys in the fourth … if the struggling American manages to best No. 17 Ana Sevastova. Tossup.

After Simona Halep won Madrid, it looked like the Romanian was ready to roll. Then she reached the final at Rome, and ka-boom, she got hurt, pretty seriously, and now it’s impossible to tell whether she will retire this week. So, if Halep gets better quickly, then she could actually win it all. But, if she can’t, she could lose in the third round, against another young player, the Russian Daria Kasatkina.    

Fourth quarter
I have always thought that Karolina Pliskova is going to win a major. The Czech just crushes the ball on her forehand and her backhand, plus her first serve is gigantic. But she is so up and down, and on clay, the No. 3 slips a lot and she can’t recover. Without a doubt, though, she is smarter and faster that she used to be.
There is only one other player in this quarter who has played on very well clay this year: not Aga Radwanska, not CoCo Vandeweghe, not Lauren Davis, not Johanna Konta and not Carolina Garcia.

It’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who has played much better than last year. She won Monterrey over Garcia and Kerber; and then, she won Rabat. She lost two three-setters early in Madrid and Rome, but once she gets there, the 25-year-old will push as hard as she can. The Russian isn’t fast, but she can find the lines with her forehand and backhands. She could actually reach the semis. Imagine that.

Mladenovic v. Halep set for Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS. March 12 — A couple years ago, Simona Halep became No. 2. She reached the final of Roland Garros. There she was very close to her first Slam win, but Maria Sharapova stepped on the gas, winning to 6-4 in the third.

Halep had lost, and cried, but she believed that she could win at the Grand Slam.

She hasn’t yet. 

In 2016, she was on fire, racing around, hitting hard and crushing balls. She won Madrid, Bucharest and Montreal. But guess what? At the Slams, her head wasn’t into it.

She lost early at the Aussie and Roland Garros. At Wimbledon, she managed to go into the second week, beating Madison Keys, but she fell against Angie Kerber in two tight sets.

At the US Open, she reached the quarters again, losing another very tight match, going down to Serena Williams, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

She wasn’t quiet there.

Now she will face KiKi Mladenovic at Indian Wells.

As Halep said, “I’m here, and she’s here.”

Mladenovic beat her in Paris and Birmingham, but Halep topped her in three long sets at 2015 Cincinnati.

Mladenovic is rising, while Halep is struggling.

One way or another, at Indian Wells, it should be a classic.

Australian Open picks for Monday, January 19

The 2015 Australian Open is here and ready to roll. Here are our picks for the opening day.

Rod Laver Arena

3-Simona Halep v Karin Knapp

The Romanian believes she is ready now to win a Slam. She played excellent ball at the WTA Final, very aggressive, fast and full of life. She will out steady Knapp, but she cannot be conservative against the big women.

5-Ana Ivanovic v Lucie Hradecka

For the first times, you can feel Ana playing smartly and not becoming nervous. She has improved a ton overall and will be heard from during the tournament, bashing the huge server Hradecka.

kerber 2013 pre champs

Kerber should get by Begu.

3-Rafa Nadal v Mikhail Youzhny

Who knows how well Rafa will play, saying that he isn’t right yet and still a little sore during the last half of 2014. But as he says that should he reach into the second week, then perhaps he will be competitive again. You know he will, nailing Youzhny side to side.

2-Roger Federer d Lu Yen-hsun

Here goes Roger again and in Brisbane towards the end he looks very, very good. Federer does not lose to the smaller guys in the Slams, so he will out think Yen-hsun, but Roger will have to be spot-on to win another Slam, as it’s been two-and-a-half years since his last triumph.

2-Maria Sharapova v Petra Martic

Sharapova had added a few new things, such as coming into the net more (I know, I know: it’s taken 10 years) and drop shots. She hasn’t played great in the past two years at the Aussie, but she is ready to rumble and knock the Croatian right off the court.

Margaret Court Arena

Jarmila Gajdosova v Alexandra Dulgheru

The Aussie Gajdosova looked very well in Sydney and while she can become wild, she wants the fans to see her again and take down a couple of seeds. She will begin run down Dulgheru in straight sets.

6-Andy Murray v Yuki Bhambri

Murray isn’t sure whether or not he can take out the best yet, but he doesn’t want to tell the big boys that, at least not yet. The young India Bhambri looked very good as a junior but isn’t strong enough. Murray will beat him down.

9-Angelique Kerber v Irina-Camelia Begu

Angie is all over the place. She tries super hard, but she doesn’t commit enough, which is why she can be had. But not yet, as the lefty will outlast Begu.

7-Eugenie Bouchard v Anna-Lena Friedsam

The Canadian has come a long way over the last year and wasn’t afraid to go after anyone, but she struggled the last four months in 2014. Now everyone knows who she is, which means it’s going to get even harder. Genie will hit through against Friedsam, but right now, she could be in for a fall.

Nick Kyrgios v Federico Delbonis

The Aussie Kyrgios is only 19 so he still has a long to go, but he has a gigantic serve and can crack his forehand. His back in hurting, meaning it is going to be very tough to reach very deep into the tournament. However, he could win a few rounds, like over the Argentine in four tough sets.

Hisense Arena

32-Belinda Bencic v Julia Goerges

I really like the Swiss teen overall as she is very smart and mixes it up, but she is a little up and down. The German Goerges has fallen in the singles but she can crush her forehand. How about an upset, stunning the Swiss in three long sets?

28-Sabine Lisicki v Kristina Mladenovic

I am not sure exactly where Lisicki is going (if she’s not on grass), but she will win in three long sets, as neither the German nor the French Mladenovic moves well enough.

Bernard Tomic v Tobias Kamke

The Aussie Tomic has been very good at times in Brisbane and Sydney, but he has not been able to take down the good boys. He is rising again, but he doesn’t want to get caught by a ton of up-and-coming Aussies like Sam Groth or Thanasi Kokkinakis. We don’t know yet, but Tomic will be good enough to best Kamke in straight sets.

Sam Groth v Filip Krajinovic

Speaking of which, Groth was also pretty darn good in Brisbane and Sydney. He has improved quite a bit over the past year or so. He has a massive serve and consistently charges to the net. The problem is, will he be too nervous at the AO? Perhaps, but not yet as he will edge Krajinovic in five sets.