Djokovic is the favorite, but what about Zverev & Raonic?

FROM INDIAN WELLS – Novak Djokovic is standing tall. Clearly, he is the favorite as the Serb has won three straight Grand Slams. However, the ATP 1000s are very tough, as all the players want to compete — if they are healthy enough — and to win it; you have to be on top of the ball.

On Monday, Djokovic will take on the other veteran, Philip Kohlschreiber, who just knocked off the sort-of- young player Nick Kyrgios, 6-4, 6-4. The Aussie recently won Acapulco, perhaps his best week ever, but six days later, as he said, he was mediocre. But that is what happens. He couldn’t rise up, and the steady Philipp did.

Djokovic is the clear favorite against the German. His serves are much better, as well as his super deep backhand, and his intelligent returns. Kohlschreiber is still quick, and he has rarely become hurt. He knows the entire game, or close enough, and he also knows that he has to play spot on. Perhaps he will, but can he bother the 15-time Grand Slam champ Djokovic? Very doubtful.

On the top half, only one has won a Slam — Djokovic. There are a few have had a legitimate chance to grab it: Dominic Thiem, at the 2018 Roland Garros final, and Milos Raonic, at 2016 Wimbledon. Neither has won an ATP 1000 ever, but we would think that they can snap their drought this season? How about during the next week? Thiem can really hustle, even though he likes clay more than hard courts, while the Canadian can nail his serve, and crush his forehand. But they are not ranked in the top 5, which means they have to step it up.
Two others are on the top half, the No. 3 Alexander Zverev and the No. 18 Gael Monfils. Zverev has won a few ATP 1000s, which is why he is in the top 5, but he has never gone deep at the majors. The Frenchman has reached the semis twice in Paris, and he has had some fantastic wins, but he can get hurt frequently, and his backhand has been so-so for many years. But he can run forever, back and forth.

Raonic and Zverev could face off on Wednesday which is a very close contest. Whomever wins, next Friday, they will play against Djokovic, assuming that Monfils won’t stun the Serbian.
The Women
Serena Williams became hurt again, with the fever. Over the past month, almost everyone has had the fever. That stinks, on court and off. Things are changing through the world. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Remember, all the players, the women and men, exercise all the time, and that is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean you can control a fever. You just have to deal with it.

Serena hasn’t played enough this season. If she wants to win another big event, she has to push herself, a little bit more. She has won 23 Grand Slams, but the last time she did that, it was two years ago now, at the 2017 Aussie Open, winning it, and then she went to have a child.

That was the last time that she won a major – and I am sure she will get another – but exactly when? It depends on her body and why she wants to continue, but I get she wants to tie with the controversial Margarete Court, at 24 majors.

There will be some excellent matches, with the No. 1 Naomi Osaka versus the American Danielle Collins, Venus Williams against Christine McHale, and the rising Aryna Sabalenka, who will play against the vet Lesia Tsurenko. Osaka won the tournament last year, and at that point, we knew she was very good. But great? We didn’t know that yet. But she won the 2018 US Open, and then the 2019 Australian Open. While she can be very emotional, she can really concentrate. On court, she can be very cool and calm. Collins has also become substantially better, which is why she is ranked No. 25. Today, she really believes in her ability. Will it last forever? Probably not, but in United States, you can be overjoyed.

Venus Williams is aging. We all know that, but she doesn’t not give it in. She was down a set, and a break. She kept moving forward, and somehow, she fooled Petra Kvitova and won 6-4 in the third. Venus can look amazing, and then there are days when she is a little bit slow. I think that she will continue to play until she is 40 years old, and then finally, she will wave goodbye. She has had a fascinating career.

Sabalenka is the youngest player in the top 10, only 20 year olds. She loves to bang and she swings very hard. She wants to end it, quickly and fast. She knows she is so close to beating all the players, but she has to add more to her game. Like at the net, her second serve and spin.  

Top quote
The 14-time GS Pete Sampras was in the house to watch Djokovic. Novak said: “I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I don’t get to see Pete that often. I was pleasantly surprised to see him watching my match. It’s a thrill, obviously, to see someone that I looked up to when I was a kid. I think I tried too hard in the first set to impress him (with a laugh).”