US Open picks: Sunday, Sept. 3

Tommy Paul
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Sorano Cirstea over Belinda Bencic
This is certainly surprising, as Cirstea has been pretty decent over the past 12 years, but she never went very deep at the tournaments. But now she is, not only because she is smarter, on court, but now she can leeway harder.

Bencic really likes to have large rallies, and then when she can run closer the net, she can hop  on the ball. Both of them have been around for a long time, and they know that in order to win the match, they have to think about exactly what to do, when it is tied. Cirstea is playing as well as she can, and this time she will win it 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

Tommy Paul over Ben Shelton
At the start if the year, with the Americans, who would have thought that they will face each other in the fourth round at the U.S. Open? Almost no one. However, here they are, playing excellent tennis, on the hard courts, and sprinting side to side. Over the past year and a half, Paul began to push himself,  just running, but really to go for it. His backhand is better than he was, and his first serve is much stronger. 

Shelton is very young, and he will get better, months after month, but he still needs to be more brilliant, during the rallies. Yes, he can rake the ball, and cheer, after he hits a winner, but he need to be very focus, all the time. As Paul said: “I’m doing things I have never done; never been to the fourth round of the Open, never played on Ashe, never won on Ashe. So it’s exciting for me right now.”

Paul really wanted to be the second week, here, and while he can back off, he will swing hard. He will win it 7-6, 5-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Coco Gauff over Caroline Wozniacki
In her last set, Gauff was on inferno, with her better first serve, her terrific backhand, and her intelligent at the net. She is improving fast, even when with her now sturdy forehand. But what about Wozniacki, who just came back last month, to play again? The former No. 1 was always so consistent, and her backhand was phenomenal. However, her forehand was decent, but not great, and the reason why as she only won one Grand Slam. She did not return harder. There are different things, and now it looks like she is raring to go.

This should be a very close match, into the third set, and while Wozniacki has studied her, Gauff will attack her late, and she  will win it 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. 
 
Taylor Fritz over Dominic Stricker
The San Diego man is rolling, rolling. Fritz is not only hitting the ball so hard, but he is really mixing it up, all over the place. He can make some crazy shots, yet he can also know which way exactly to go.

The young Switzerland  Stricker is quite young, and the lefty plays all over the world, with some fine weeks.  He has not yet taken out the big boys, but at least he qualified, so he must think that he can shock Fritz. All the players want to do it, but on the court, Fritz will push him way back and win it 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

In Canada: McDonald beats Raonic

Milos Raonic

This is the first time that Mackenzie McDonald has reached into the semis at the ATP 1000s in Toronto. On Thursday, he beat Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-3, who looked very good in his two matches, but then, he was a little bit flat, or he must have been to tired. But not the American, who had decided to win the match, and he had to really go for it. He looked very good, going cross court and down the line. McDonald can  be very steady, but the reason why he has yet to crack into the top 45. Maybe he will, as  long as he can add some strategic  shots. He is 28-years-old, so this is a perfect time, on court, but you can pretend that you will survived, for years, but to go much further, he has to really push himself.

Another up and down competitor, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, won a very tough match, and the Spaniard  outlasted Casper Ruud 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4). They will play each other in the quarters on Friday.

Davidovich Fokina is still pretty young, but he has also lost some super close matches, and he lost. When he is locked in, then he can bash his forehand and his backhand. He is pretty fast, running, and his first serve and his return is decent. Yes, he did reach into one final, period, at Monte-Carlo last year. Then, when he did, he would continue to build and finally, win a tournament. He still isn’t, yet. If you look at this year, he has lost five super closes against the top players. For example, at Wimbledon, he lost against Holger Rune 7-6(8) in the fifth set.  That was brutal, but he eventually has to be more calm. If he going to win a tournament, he must be sealed in. Davidovich Fokina, will win the match, 7-6, 7-6.

Alex de Minaur beat Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7), 4-6 6-1. He will face Daniil Medvedev on Friday, another difficult match, The Aussie 24-year-old is also extremely good, when he is on, and just like the former two time champion, Lleyton Hewitt, he can be highly consistent, but not all the time. This time, he will have to grind it, as the Russian really thinks out there, many times.  Medvedev will win it in two long sets.

Each week, Jessica Pegula can look very good, early on, and then after that, she has to decided whether she can be damn loyal, or swing harder. It is hard to tell whether this season, she will win an event. She did easily beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-0, which was impressive, but last week in Washington, she went down against  Maria Sakkari. She will face Coco Gauff  or Marketa Vondrousova on Friday. That will be very intense.

Caroline Wozniacki wins first match in Montreal

Caroline Wozniacki
Ron Cioffi/TR

The former No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, is back, in Montreal, which is a little bit odd, given that she retired. It appears that she just wanted to play again and win, a lot. She has won 30 titles, which is huge and her backhand was extremely good, but the reason why she only won one Grand Slam is because her forehand was so-so, and her her second serve, too.

Today, she beat Kimberly Birrell 6-2, 6-2, and she was thrilled, as she has not play for three and half years ago, a long time.

However, the 33-year-old Wozniacki was so consistent, and fast. But why did she decide to retire, thinking that it is time to go, forever. And then, gradually, she would think sure, I can hit the ball, have some sets, have some fun, and then go home. But one day, she would wake up, and then say, alright, now I can to win another Slam. Something that is really important.

“Can I win the US Open? I think so,” said Wozniacki, who has two young children. “Can I win the Australian Open [again]? I think so. That’s why I’m doing this. And I guess we’ll see what happens.”

I would say so, but she has only won one match this week. She has to work on the shots, gradually.

Or maybe she won’t come back into the No. 1 ever again, or even into the top 10. Look at another four-times Grand Slam winner, Kim Clijsters, who came back, but she could not win a match. On court, she was a wonderful player, but then she was just too slow. So then she retired again. That it a tough pill to swallow. 

However, the former Wimbledon winner, Frederik Lochte Nielsen, said about Wozniacki, “I’ve always said, never underestimate Caroline. She wouldn’t compete if she didn’t feel she could.”

How did Milos Raonic win a match on Monday in Toronto? Yes, long ago, he looked very good, winning eight titles, and he reached in the final at the 2016 Wimbledon. Even though he lost against Andy Murray, it was possible that eventually, he could grab it, and become No. 1. But he could do it, not just because he started to be injured a lot, but also, he wasn’t that fast, running, and his return was spotty.

But now, the Canadian finally came back, and the 32-year-old look very impressive when he beat Frances Tiafoe 6-7(12), 7-6(4), 6-3. He was thrilled, but it is just only one match. Or more.

Back in 2013 in Canada, Raonic reached the final, beating Juan Martin del Potro, and then he lost against Rafa Nadal. But in Canada, he was thrilled.

“I felt I was able to do my things well,” said Raonic, who won twice San Jose, in California. “I don’t feel I’m that far off from playing tennis that was reminiscent from two or three years ago. But it doesn’t mean that those things just click and transfer to matches. I still have to continue working hard in those moments and hopefully those things do come together.”

That it true, and maybe when you are more mature, then you can adjust it when you are playing in the matches. Not only did he win eight contests, in the ATP 250s and the 500s, but he reached into the 1000’s, three times. The last time was in Cincinnati in 2020, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas before he lost against the great player, Novak Djokovic, quickly. But that is how it does.

The American men had a tough day, when Gael Monfils played terrific in the third set, when he was very confident again, beating Christopher Eubanks 7-6(3) 6-7(4) 6-1. Eubanks has had a good year, but he will has to be more efficient on court.

Gael Monfils
Mal Taam/MALTphoeo

But Monfils looked excellent, in the third set, but the former 2008 Roland Garros semifinals became injured all the time, each year. He has never won a Grand Slam before, but he is older, so to win a Slam or an ATP 1000 would be shocking. However, in the third set Toronto, the very fast runner hit some blasting shots, including his fine forehand. Whether he can stay the rest of the year, with his sore legs, is questionable, but he had a cool at night.

“Every moment are tough. When you get on the court, it’s tough,” Monfils said. “Then when you know your tactic is not working, it’s tough. And then I don’t know what is worse, to miss completely the game when I was about to serve it out [in the second set], or when I choke with this forehand on the match point, or when I couldn’t even get this double break. So are tough. And at the end, the easiest one is when I won and I shake his hand. I never take granted any moment. So I just tried to stay the most positive that I could and try to be as cool as I can. And to be honest, it’s amazing. After 20 years, I can choke in a way. It means so much for me to win one match. And it was actually fun.”

Grand Slam before, but he is older, so to win a Slam or an ATP 1000 would be shocking. However, in the third set Toronto, the very fast runner hit some blasting shots, including his fine forehand. Whether he can stay the rest of the year, with his sore legs, is questionable, but he had a cool at night.

“Every moment are tough. When you get on the court, it’s tough,” Monfils said. “Then when you know your tactic is not working, it’s tough. And then I don’t know what is worse, to miss completely the game when I was about to serve it out [in the 2nd set], or when I choke with this forehand on the match point, or when I couldn’t even get this double break. So are tough. And at the end, the easiest one is when I won and I shake his hand. I never take granted any moment. So I just tried to stay the most positive that I could and try to be as cool as I can. And to be honest, it’s amazing. After 20 years, I can choke in a way. It means so much for me to win one match. And it was actually fun.”

The Washington final: Who will win. Maybe Maria Sakkari?

Maria Sakkari
Ron Cioffi/TR

Neither Coco Gauff or Maria Sakkari have won a bunch of titles, but they have had some excellent matches. In fact, Gauff  has won three titles, while Sakkari has one no titles. It is for her to finally explode in Washington.

Both of them played fantastic over the past six days, hitting some muscular shots. They are both very fast when they are running, and they can also grind it, point after point. However, when it is very deep, in the weekend, they can fold. They are definitely positive, when they are playing great, but when they don’t, they can become very frustrated, inside there heads.

Sakkari has had an up-and-down year, winning a number of matches, in the first three months, and then she started to slip, week after week, even on the grass. But somehow, she recovered, so now she is more secure.

Gauff is also trying to add a few shots, especially with her forehand. It will certainly take her a while, but this week it appears that she is stepping and swinging with her legs, with her forehand, and also, with her arms. She is very young, still, so it will take her even more time to add with her game.  

However, Sakkari holds a 4-1 lead versus Gauff, 4-1. She beat her  in 2022, in Doha, on the hardcourts, and also, on the clay, in Rome. When Sakkari is playing so intense, and she doesn’t become so angry, all the time, then she is locked in, just like she beat Jessica Pegula  in three sets in the semis. She is right there.

However, Gauff is also looking to win another title, the fourth time. Is it a pick-em? No, because Sakkari has been better than she is, although in the finals, Gauff has been more thoughtful. This time,  Gauff will win it in three sets, when she nails her delicious backhand.

The picks at Wimbledon: Friday, July 14

Jannik Sinner
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Novak Djokovic over Jannik Sinner
Remember that last year, at the 2022 Wimbledon, Djokovic was down 0-2, but then he came back and he roared, grabbing it 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The Italian was clearly tired, and then he broke down with so many errors.

But the Serbian has done it so many times at the Grand Slams, owning 23 majors. He knew what to do, and while Sinner is improving, he still isn’t playing excellent, match after match. He has won seven titles, which is fine, but he has yet to win it at the Slams, or  the ATP 1000s. He is very good, but the 21-year-old has to set it up, ASAP.

Djokovic thinks that he has improved, but even when he beat him in Monte Carlo, it was pretty easy. However, he does think that eventually he can be more consistent.

“He’s playing on a very high level. He likes to play on grass,” Djokovic said. “He likes to play on quick surfaces because he likes to be aggressive and take control of the point. From both forehand and backhand, he’s smashing the ball really, really hard, trying to be the one that is going to dictate the point from early on. I know his game well. He’s so young, so of course it’s expected that he’s going to improve. He is improving, no doubt, I think with the serve, he’s been serving better. On grass, it obviously makes a difference. He’s a very complete player.”

Is that true? Yes, Sinner is concise, and his forehand down the line is can be very impressive. His hard backhand can slap it, and his first serve is flat and inhuman. However, he doesn’t return that well, and he isn’t fabulous at the net. Likely, that is because he has yet to reach into the Grand Slams final. But it is time to do it this year.

Sinner thinks that he is going to play 100 percent to upset with Djokovic.

“Physically, I have improved,” Sinner said. “I’m much stronger. I can stay on court for many hours without suffering. Also, mentally, you’re going in with a slightly different mental side on court knowing you are also top 10 player. It is a little bit different.  I have some good things now in my game, and hopefully I can use it in the right way. I’m going to stick with my game plan. Hopefully I can execute it in the best possible way.”

He sounds that he really wants to do, but the Serbian will chuck in some his amazing backhand, and because of that, while Sinner will push it into the fifth set, at the end, Djokovic will win it in once again. Ka-boom.

Carlos Alcaraz over Daniil  Medvedev
The Russian has had a really good year, winning a number of the tournaments, but also, he can let down. Medvedev won in Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai, Miami on the hardcourts, and in Rome, on the clay. But on grass, he began to struggle, yet 12 days ago, he switched at Wimbledon, and he became more patient. That has been good, but when he beat five players, and he clapped and cheered. Yet none of those were in the top 30 players, so to beat the No. 1 Alcaraz, he will have to play unreal. He knows that in March at Indian Wells in the final, Alcaraz jumped high, and he won it 6-3, 6-2.

“I think Indian Wells is not going to count a lot here. It was so slow in Indian Wells,” Medvedev said. “It’s not going to be the same. At  Wimbledon, the ball bounces lower. The serve is more important. There, I felt like I couldn’t get free points with the serve.”

There will be a number of the points where they can hit both sides, with there forehand and there backhand. When they are into it, they can also hit a number of aces, in the first serves, as well as when they can spring on the second serve.  

“It’s interesting to play someone like Carlos,” said Medvedev. “He is an amazing, amazing player. What he continues to do is just unbelievable. He doesn’t stop. I don’t think he will, but I’ve played a lot of great players in my career. I managed to win many times. So I’m going to try to do my best. If I show my best, I’ll have my chances.”

Believe it to not, at the 2021 Wimbledon, they played each other for the first time in the round 64, and Medvedev crushed him 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. An early blow out. And then in 2022 at the U.S. Open, Alcaraz waxed up, quickly, and he won it.

Just like Rafa Nadal when he won it the first time at Roland Garros, the Spaniards began to beat everyone. Perhaps the 20-years-old can eventually win all four Grand Slams . But he has a long way to go.

“[Medvedev’s] really a complete player,” said Alcaraz. “I’m going to say, like I think [Andrey] Rublev said a few times, he’s an octopus. He catches every ball. He’s an amazing athlete… He does almost everything well.”

This will go into the fifth set, and there will be some great points, into the corners, and changing it up, too. Neither of them have reached into the final at Wimbledon, so it is crucially important. Whoever can put together more than a few shots close at the end with his terrific forehand, then he will win it. It has to be Alcaraz, who will win it with an amazing dropshot.

The picks at Wimbledon: Thursday, July 13

Aryna Sabalenka
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Elina Svitolina over Marketa Vondrousova
There are certain people forget that Svitolina had some strange losses when she started to play the WTA. She was very good, and she won a lot of matches, but at the Grand Slams, eventually, she would freak out, and she would disappear. Her forehand and her backhand was usually deep and hard. She was fast, but her serve and also at the net, was marginal. She did not win the Slam or even reach the final. She was so good, but that was pretty odd.

But now, when Svitolina came back after she had a child in April. Now she had a new perspective. Win or lose, she will rethink, and mix it up even more.

As Svitolina said, “It’s different right now… I think it’s less years that I have in front than behind me. I have to go for it. I don’t have time to lose anymore. I don’t know how many years I will be playing more.”

At Wimbledon, the Ukrainian reached the semis in 2019, when she looked good, but a very fit Simona Halep took her down. Then two months later, she reached the semis again at the US Open, and she was cracking the ball, but the great Serena Williams out-hit her. Now she has another chance to right the ship.

“I try to tell myself that I have to be decisive. Today, as I walked to Center Court, I saw so much history along the way. You understand that you are training for this,” Svitolina said. “I said that you need to go out and act decisively, you need to give all your strength. It really helped me and also calmed me down a bit.”

Over the past 10 days, Vondrousova has lookd very calm, too. However, she had to really push herself, and drive the ball, crosscourt and down the lines. She is brisk, and she can also attach with her harsh return. Certainly she has not had a great year, but week to week, she can explore when she has a chance.

As the lefty said: “I never thought I could play so good here because I didn’t do well on grass before. For me, it’s just amazing feeling. I don’t know, I’m trying so hard in every match.”

Four years ago, she reached the final at Roland Garros, and she was so darn good, but the now retired Ash Barty took her down.

“I never thought I could play so good here because I didn’t do well on grass before,” Vondrousova said. “For me, it’s just amazing feeling. I don’t know, I’m trying so hard in every match. Every match is incredibly difficult here.”

Yes it is, especially because Vondrousova beat her twice, but Svitoina grabbed it three times. However, this is the first time that they have played each other on the grass. Vondrousova will not be nervous for a few minutes, but whatever the reason this time, Svitoina will out her in three dramatic sets.

Ons Jabeur over Aryna Sabalenka
Two years ago at Wimbledon, Sabalenka beat Jabeur 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. They have played each other four times, and they have split it, with the Belarussian recently beat ingher in the WTA Finals, 7-5 in the third.

Yes, Sabalenka has blown up over the past year, but when the Tunisian is mentally sound, she can really change it up with her rare strokes. She has yet to win a Slam, but last year here Jabeur almost won it in the final as Elena Rybakina was more consistent, at the end. However, she has a chance at the tough match in the semis.

“I don’t regret last year,” she said. “I believe last year I wasn’t ready to play this kind of match. It happened for a reason. I have learned a lot from the final. Definitely very proud of myself for the improvement that I did mentally, physically, and with the tennis racket.”

If you look at Sabalenka, when she serves, right after it stays in, she will look where it is, and if it is deep enough, then she can start where she wants to go. She is competent, and she hits it extremely merciless. She is not very good at the net, and she can rarely spins it with her backhand, but with her forehand, she can wreck it, and try for a winner. She won the 2023 Australian Open, and that was the best two weeks ever. But that has left now, so this time, she is going to have to throw her thought, on court.

Even if she does, Jabeur will hit her fantastic backhand, and she will win it in three competitive sets.

Matt’s yesterday picks at Wimbledon

Correct: Aryna Sabalenka over Madison Keys
Correct: Daniil Medvedev over Christopher Eubanks
Correct: Carlos Alcaraz over Holger Rune
Elena Rybakina over One Jabeur

Matt’s picks from Wimbledon

14 out of 19. 73.6% correct

The picks at Wimbledon: Monday, July 10

Stefanos Tsitsipas over Christopher Eubanks

Christopher Eubanks

The hard-running Greek Tsitsipas is finally playing very well, outstanding when he beat Andy Murray in five wonderful sets. He has been there before, but the American Eubanks has suddenly become much better. Over the years, he could not beat the top players, but this year, he has become much more powerful. He is the only American who has made it into the second week at Wimbledon. When they started to play at the event, they thought that they had a chance to go very deep, but they all went down, day after day.  But not  Eubanks, who is thinking on court, and really to go for it. However, he might be aggressive. Tsitsipas will push forward, and change it up with his massive forehand and his potent backhand. Tsitsipas will win it in four stellar sets.

Petra Kvitova over Ons Jabeur
The two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova is barreling again with a tremendous confident. On the hard courts, she can look wonderful, but she can also play awful. But, not now, as she is running all over the place. She can be so rugged, and she will scream after she just slapped a terrific winner.

Jabeur finally began to guess on the court again. Clearly, she has so much variety, and she also loves to hit drop shots. She also likes to spin it and fool her opponents. However, Kvitova knows exactly how to play against her. Yes, she can mentally check out, but right now, she has checked in. As she said: “I love playing on grass, for sure,” said Kvitova. “When my serve is working I love it even more. I don’t think it was the case today but somehow I found a way, which I’m very happy with.” Kvitova will win it in three demanding sets.

Madison Keys over Mirra Andreeva
The 16-year-old Andreeva came up really fast, as she knocked out Anastasia Potapova to reach in the fourth round. Some people knew that she can swing away, and she can sprint side to side. Clearly, she has a lot of work ahead, but she is very focused, even at her age.

“Honestly, after Paris I just had quite a long talk with myself, just me and myself, and that’s it. I talked to myself. I just talked,” Andreeva said. “I don’t know, just in my head I realized some things. I took some decisions that I think are now important for me.”

She might, but Keys really likes to shorten points on the grass. When she puts it in her first serve, then she sets with the points. She has been around for a while, and she has become hurt,physically, but when she is healthy, she can go very deep, like when she did at the Australian Open and the US Open.  Keys is hard to read, but at least over the past eight days, she is secure again. Therefore, Keys will beat the young player in two tight sets.

Carlos Alcaraz  over Matteo Berrettini

This is almost a standard analysis that the Spaniard believes that he can win every match. Even if he misses some odd points, when it can go for a few hours, he will change it up and not to try and nail down the line all the time. Alcaraz is growing, not just that he runs so fast, but week after week, he can see what he is really doing.

The Italian Berrettini can be darn hard opponent, and his backhand can also be strong as he bashes it down the line. However, he was hurt a lot this year, and while he has had a few very good wins here, he is not ready to rise up, yet. Alcaraz will win it in three physical sets.

Matt’s yesterday picks at Wimbledon

Andrey Rublev over Alexander Bublik
Iga Swiatek over Belinda Bencic
Novak Djokovic over Hubert Hurkacz
Elina Svitolina over Victoria Azarenka

Matt’s picks from Wimbledon

7 out of 9. 77.7% correct

The picks at Wimbledon: Sunday, July 9

Hubert Hurkacz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Andrey Rublev over Alexander Bublik

The Russian continues to try at the Grand Slams, not only that he can crush the ball, but also, over the past two years, he has been more intelligent. Yes, Rublev can play some bad mistakes, but he can nail with his heavy forehand, and with his backhand, to put it down the lines.

Believer it or not, they just played against each other in the final, at Halle, when Rublev edged the other Russian, Bublik, 6-3 in the third set. Yes, the tall man can knock his first serve and his forehand, but he isn’t quite fast when he is running. For sure, he has had a very decent year, but not enough, so Rublev will win it again, in four tough sets.

Iga Swiatek over Belinda Bencic
This should be an intense match. Both of them can split the ball, and they can also jump early to try to put it away, fast.  Swiatek recently said that on the grass, she is feeling much more comfortable than she did recently. Swiatek  is very please after she won Roland Garros, recently, but that is on the clay, not on the switch grass. But now she can go low and find where she will go, low and hard.
As she said,“ I feel like last year was a little bit different, especially coming back after winning Roland Garros. It wasn’t the easiest moment for me. I try really not to come back to that. I’m just taking experience from just this period of time of playing on grass, and that’s all. It’s just a totally different chapter.”

Bencic can beat anyone when she is feeling good. Her serve isn’t that great, but her forehand and her backhand can be jolly sharp.   The Swiss does believe that she can finally win a Grand Slam, and maybe she can, but how can she out-last versus the Polish person?  She does have a chance, but Swiatek returns better, as does her serve, so once again, the No. 1 will win it in three brute sets.

Novak Djokovic over Hubert Hurkacz

It is pretty clear that Serbian better than him, beating Hurkacz all five times. In 2019 at Wimbledon, Djokovic lick him in the third round, in four decent sets. He is just faster, and his backhand might be his best ever. Djokovic can mix it up a lot, and he can stay there until he has a real shot to put it away.

Hurkacz has had a decent year, but not great, losing pretty early.  Djokovic will win it in four easy sets.

Elina Svitolina over Victoria Azarenka

This is risky, as Azarenka has beaten Svitolina all five times. Certainly, when the two time champion Azarenka is totally bolted, and she can hit some cruel  shots, down the lines, and cross court, too. However, Azarenka has retired a lot over the past few years, which is why  she has not won a big tournament since 20? Yes, Azarenka destroyed Svitolina at the 2023 at the Australian Open, but she was just returning. There is no doubt that when Azarenka  is totally shut it in, she can find the lines. However, Svitolina looked very good on the clay, at Strasbourg and Paris. She absolutely has to be very consistent, and drove her back. As the Ukraine said: “I will go out there and put the fighting spirit on and just really fight for every single point.” She will, when Svitolina will defeat Azarenka in three tough sets.

Matt’s recent picks at Wimbledon

Andy Murray over Stefanos Tsitsipas

Matt’s picks from Wimbledon

3 out of 5, 60% correct

Chris Evert’s Wimbledon predictions and Rybakina’s chances

Elena Rybakina

At 2022 Wimbledon, the aggressive Elena Rybakina won the tournament. During those two weeks, she was totally focused, and she dove on the lines. Her forehand and her backhand were very heavy, and she was also powerful. She finally understood what she had to do and not think about the pressure.

She is not the only one. Petra Kvitova just won a tournament and the Czech grabbed The Championships trophy twice. Iga Swiatek just won the 2023 Roland Garros and Aryna Sabalenka took it at the 2023 Australian Open.

But can Rybakna win it back to back in London? The former 18-Grand Slam champ Chris Evert says that Rybakina has to be more flexible.

“I think any time there’s an injury this close to Wimbledon, it gives anybody pause. You definitely have to be 100% physically to play seven matches and to do things with your body that you’re not accustomed to doing versus a hard court or a clay court,” Evert said. “You have to be adaptable, flexible, you have to be able to move on some slick courts. It all kind of screams you better be careful with your body and you better have that good balance.”

Not too many women have won it back-to-back. Venus and Serena Williams have done it, as has Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, among others. Evert did win it three times on the grass, as she was so steady, especially with her terrific backhand. She knows that when you had won at the Slams, in the next year, it could be totally different.

“[Rybakina] has going against her, it’s always tough to defend your title. I just feel like she’s shown a little vulnerability this year,” Evert said. “She’s got the perfect game for grass when everything is working, but everything has to be working. She played a great, great match when she won the tournament, but at the same time I don’t know if she’s at that top form right now. I see [Aryna] Sabalenka and Iga [Swiatek]. I only see the other players getting better and better. I wouldn’t put her on the top of my list, even though she’s defending champion. I wouldn’t put her on the top of my list. At the same time there’s a little bit of an unknown as to what her health is, what her fitness is like. I really can’t make a definitive statement on that.”

She is probably correct. This year, Rybakina won Indian Wells and Rome, and also reached the final at the Australian Open, but she lost in a few key matches, including verses Sabalenka.  

There are other people who can very deep, such as Kvitova and the 2017 Roland Garros champ Jelena Ostapenko, who is playing great again.

The No. 1 Swiatek has yet to win at Wimbledon, but her forehand and her backhand are phenomenal. Yet she has to re-think what she is going, to be more patient on the grass. Evert things that she could be vulnerable.
 
“It’s her best Wimbledon result I believe was the fourth round. She’s won tournaments on hard court,” Evert said. “Swiatek won tournaments on clay courts, Grand Slams, majors. She has such great court coverage in the sense of she can slide, her legs are very crucial, the court coverage is very crucial in her game. In order for her to really get set for the ball, she has to know how to move and she has to be very comfortable and her footing has to be solid. Footing is not necessarily solid on the grass. Plus the fact with that extreme western forehand, when I’ve been watching her on grass, anybody has trouble with. Even Coco Gauff has trouble with that low slice forehand when you have that extreme grip to hit up on the ball. It’s very awkward.”

When she was talking, she discussed about Gauff, as the American is very good, but the young player still has to work on the court.

“I think that Coco, and Iga for that matter, like the waist high balls and the balls around the shoulder with that western grip. But the short ones will give them trouble. So I think that and the fact that she can’t really at this point feel super confident on the grass. I think she feels confident. She’s No. 1 in the world, the best player in the world, but this surface may take away a little bit of her strength, which is her moving because of the sliding.

“Also I think if you’re going to win Wimbledon, you’ve got to have a big serve, you’ve got to win free points off that serve. The players have been attacking her second serve a little bit. She doesn’t have that big Sabalenka, Rybakina first serve. I’m nitpicking here because she’s No. 1 in the world and she’s great, and I think she can win Wimbledon, don’t get me wrong. But there’s some little nuances in her game that might hurt her a little bit on the grass court that don’t affect her as much, that help her actually, on the other surfaces.”

The big basher Kvitova certainly can win it for the third time, and yesterday, Madison Keys won the Rothesay International beating Daria Kasatkina, which was huge.

You can throw in who have a chance to reach into the quarterfinals, like Jessica Pegula, Caroline Garcia, Barbora Krejcikova, Ons Jabeur, Karolina Pliskova and Donna Vekic. They can win in all, or fall down. As Pliskova said, “If you believe in yourself, you can beat anyone.”

On the grass: Will Carlos Alcaraz rise again?

Carlos Alcaraz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

The Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz can be totally be on fire. He is a huge hitter, as is with some strong forehands,  and his phenomenal backhand. However, the very young player can be nervous, once and a while, and he knows that when he has to face against Novak Djokovic, he has to really concentrate. Unfortunately, in the semis at Roland Garros, he stopped thinking, in the third and the fourth set. He began to get hurt, and he lost,  6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, and he was quickly gone. Also, his brain was collapsing.

“The tension of the match. I started match really nervous,” he said. “The tension of  the first set, the second set, it was really intense two sets.  Really good rallies, tough rallies, dropshots, sprints, rallies. It’s a combination of a lot of things. And I started to cramp, in my arm. At the beginning of the third set I started to cramp every part of my body, not only the legs. The arms, as well. It was really tough for me to move at the third set, and in the fourth set let’s say I had a little chance, but it was really tough.”

Alcaraz  did win the 2022 U.S Open and in May, he won Barcelona and Madrid. It looked like he had a good shot, in Paris, but he fell down. Just like the other Spaniard, Rafa Nadal, when he was 20-years-old, he began rise, fast, winning RG in his first Grand Slam title. However, his forehand was amazing, but his backhand was too short, and his serve was pretty good, but not great. Of course, he worked and he worked all the time, changing his tactics, and adding to it. Now, he has won 22 Grand Slams, at RG, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. The now 37-year-old figured it out, but it took him more many year. 

The same thing goes with the No. 1 Djokovic, who won his first Slam at the Aussie Open, and while he was running so fast, and his backhand incredible, his forehand was good, but not great, and his second serve and at the net needed to grow, more. Alcaraz also needs to be more consistent.

“Is not easy to play against Novak. Of course a legend of our sport. If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies,” Alcaraz said. “ Yeah, next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.”
 
NOTES
The teenager Ben Shelton  lost against Lorenzo Musetti  6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The Italian can look terrific, but there are times when he forgets what to do. But this week, he will try to push even harder.  Shelton is ranked No. 34, so he does have a small shot to be seated at Wimbledon, but he may not, as a few people can get injured and they pull out before, but you never know.

Sebastian Korda beat  Frances Tiafoe, who just won  an event, but he looked tired. He has looked very good on the hardcourts, but before last week, he was struggling. This time, he was much more CONSISTENT.

The Floridian Korda has improved over the past few years, but he is still young, so he 22-year-old can miss it a lot. Yes he really goes, but also, he can mix it up. At the Cinch Championships in London, we will see how well he is playing against Cameron Norrie, a very competitor. They are very close…
Taylor Fritz  looks very decent, but on the grass, he needs to really lock it in, like he did in 2022. Last year, he won Eastbourne, and then at Wimbledon, in the quarters, he was right there, but Nadal edged him 7-6(4) in the fifth set. He has to be thinking about it a lot, but he has another chance over the next month… 

Where is Reilly Opelka? He is still injured but he hopes to resume in August as he is recovering from a wrist injury. Very good luck, but on the court, it will take a long time  to be 100 percent again.