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.

Venus out-hits Ostapenko, to face Konta in semis

Wimbledon, Day 9 – Who would have thought that Venus Williams would keep her cool and dominate with her forehand? We all know that Venus has won five Grand Slams at Wimbledon, but she hasn’t won since 2008, which is a long time.

However, Venus never gives up, and I mean never, ever gives up, because in the past 20 years, even when she wasn’t playing well at all, she continues to try. It is so, so true. Others bail, but not Venus, who figures that once in a while, when her form returns, and she can crack it deep, touch the lines, crush a first serve, then she can beat anyone, which she did on Tuesday.

Williams defeated the Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in two sets. Ostapenko is super young, and she still needs to learn the nuances of grass. Eventually, she will win Wimbledon someday. But not yet.

Venus has to face Britain’s Jo Konta, who overcame Simona Halep in three fantastic sets. There is a good amount of pressure from Konta, but when she is playing, she doesn’t listen to the fans yelling when she is hitting the ball; she locks in and she focuses. That is why she has reached the semis, the first time for her in ages.

Can she beat Venus? Possibly, as she is much younger than the 36-year-old Williams, and we all know that the British fans will be jumping up and down for Konta. They will be celebrating Konta reaching Wimbledon’s second week — for the first time ever. The fans are learning who she is. Is Konta fast, super aggressive, happy, smart, erratic, super nervous, in trouble? We will find out on Thursday.

We have been watching Garbine Muguruza pretty closely over the past eight weeks. Yes, for a year, her brain was all over the place. But eventually, at Roland Garros, she rose, she didn’t get angry. Now, she is more patient and has begun to she believe in herself again. She bested two-time Grand Slam winners Angie Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova, and now, she is in the semis.

Muguruza is favored to reach the final, but you never know. Not with her. She can rip her forehand and backhand, but there are days when she doesn’t like her racket and could snap it. If the Spaniard is calm, she will win. She is that good.

She will play Magdalena Rybarikova, who upended the American Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets. Rybarikova has never reached the semis before, but the veteran plugged on. Against Vandeweghe, she hit it deep and she mixed it up all over the place. It took her eight years to reach the semis at the Slams, and finally, she understood that she needs to be patient, and also, swing away when the opportunity rises. She better do all these things, or Muguruza will crush her.

For the second time in two Slams, Halep had one match to win to ascend to No. 1. But, with the loss to Konta, following the slip in Roland Garros’ final to Ostepenko, Karolina Pliskova will be ranked No. 1 next week. She will be the 23rd top player in WTA history.

Djokovic folds, rising Thiem to face Nadal

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 11 — Without a doubt, Dominic Thiem played incredibly well to stun Novak Djokovic 7-6(5) 6-3 6-0 in the quarters. The most amazing thing was two and half weeks ago, the Serb blew him out 6-1 6-0 in Rome. Last year in the semis in Paris, Djokovic easily beat Thiem in three sets.

It’s one thing to lose, but why the heck did Djokovic look so awful in the third set? Over the past four years, the former No. 1 has been so consistent, so smart, so on the ball — all the time. But not anymore, as his head is spinning around. In the third set, he didn’t want to play anymore. He was done.

Can the 12-time Grand Slam champion recover soon? I doubt it. But, by the end of the year, Djokovic have calmed down. It’s very hard to say. That is exactly what he is thinking.

“In the last couple of tournaments, I have had some great matches. It’s unfortunate to finish Roland Garros the way I have done today,” Djokovic said. “I obviously always expect a lot from myself, but it’s a fact that I’m not playing close to my best, and I know that. I’m trying, as everyone else, to work on the game, and work on things. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a whole new situation that I’m facing, especially in the last seven, eight months, not winning any tournaments, which hasn’t happened in many years. All the top players have been through that. So, I guess you’ve got to go through it, try to learn your lessons and figure out the way, how to get out of it stronger. It’s a big challenge, but I’m up for it.”

Instead of facing Rafa Nadal in the semis, it will be Thiem going against the Spaniard. Nadal got through when Pablo Carreno Busta retired in the second set. Nadal has sailed through the tournament with very little time spent on court.

Nadal and Thiem have played a bunch of times, with Nadal blasting him in Barcelona, and then Thiem out-lasting him in Rome. It should be fairly close, but the 14-time champion Nadal is the favorite for sure. Nadal will try to crush Thiem’s one-handed backhand by applying his heavy spin. If he does, Nadal will waltz into the final.

We saw a fine win by Stan Wawrinka, who destroyed Marin Cilic 6-3 6-3 6-1. The Swiss is so good right now that he has a legitimate chance to reach the final, if he manages to upend Andy Murray.

Last year in the semis, Murray out-though Wawrinka 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2. This time, Wawrinka has to be patient, and wait for his opportunities.

New women’s No. 1 could be crowned

What a comeback by Simona Halep, who was down 6-3, 5-1 to Elina Svitolina before she recovered, and Svitolina became super nervous. Halep won 3-6 7-6(6) 6-0. The Romanian stood tall, while Svitolina cracked under pressure.

On Thursday, there will be a gigantic match with Halep facing Karolina Pliskova. If Pliskova prevails and moves on to the final, she will become No. 1. If Halep wins the semifinal, then the Romanian needs to win the tournament to become No. 1. If neither of those things happen, Angelique Kerber stays on top.

Imagine that. Maybe a new No. 1.

Stan Wawrinka working to win another major

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 9 — There were a couple great contests on Monday, with Stan Wawrinka out-hitting the Frenchman Gael Monfils, 7-5 7-6(7) 6-2. Earlier, Elina Svitolina out-lasted Petra Martic 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Wawrinka has won the tournament here in Paris, but Svitolina has yet to come close. Without a doubt, the Swiss is playing extremely well once again. His backhand is scary and his forehand is very heavy. Wawrinka really wants to grab it again, but now, he is pushing back against the top players. He will face against Marin Cilic in the quarters, then maybe against Andy Murray in the semis, and very likely, Rafa Nadal in the final.

The Swiss knows how to play, but his body is pretty sore. We would think that he will yank Cilic from side to side, but if he has to play for a solid three hours. On Thursday, his toes will be cranky. Then he will find out whether he can last the distance.

Svitolina hasn’t gone deep at the majors before, but she has improved a ton. Now,she will have to face Simona Halep, who trashed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-1. Halep is a serious favorite.

No. 3 Karolina Pliskova overcame Veronica Cepede Royg 2-6 6-3 6-4. This is the first time that Pliskova has reached the quarters at RG. Finally, she’s showing some ability onclay.

Spaniard Caroline Garcia took out Alize Cornet 6-2 6-4. Garcia played extremely next up is Pliskova. Toss-up for sure.

Murray is playing better and better and against Karen Khachanov, he was explosive, with his backhand and forehand. He will be the favorite against Kei Nishikori, who sprinted past Fernando Verdasco 0-6 6-4 6-4 6-0. It looks like Murray and Nishikori will go to five sets, with some fun, long rallies. Murray believes he can grab it. Nishikori thinks that, too. Murray rarely gets nervous, but Nishikori does. If the Japanese wants to win hisfirst major, he is must step in and go for it. That is the only chance he has.