Taylor Fritz: ‘My goal is to move into the top-10”

Taylor Fritz

In Indian Wells it is somewhat odd that so many people can go very deep

Of course the top 10 players can go up the charts. But the reality is that outside of the top 32, the chances are somewhat slim.

Eventually, someone will rise up and have a great show. The fans can watch in a terrific, fun match.

Except for one, the American players are now gone in California, including Reilly Opelka, John Isner, Jenson Brooksby, Tommy Paul, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Cori Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Jennifer Brady and Danielle Collins.

The sole American standing is Taylor Fritz, who won two matches two days ago, winning third-set tiebreaks over Jaume Munar and Alex De Minaur. He  in the quarterfinals.
In January, Fritz began to mix it up a lot, and he almost beat Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australia, Open in a classic five setter.

When he lost, he was very upset. He should have grabbed it, but he missed on a couple of key errors.

“I think obviously chances were there. It was just one of those matches, like, literally was decided by a couple points here and there. I felt like I just need to put myself in those situations a little more so I can play better in those moments” Fritz said. “The level is there to hang with those guys. I feel like I can play at that level consistently. I just got to keep having that consistency, keep getting in those situations, and it will just get easier.”

It has this week, but physically, he might feel tired. He has to face Miomir Kecmanovic, the Serbian, who has had a fine week. Kecmanovic needed three sets to oust Matteo Berrettini in the round of 16.

Fritz believes that he has progressed because he been more comfortable, but it is more mental than anything else.

“I think just my level as a player has gone up. I think I’ve gone up several levels. I’m a way better player than I was when I was here last year and I think I’ve improved a lot. I expect a lot more of myself. Back then when I think I was ranked about almost 40 six months ago, however long ago this tournament was, and now I’m in between 15 and 20. I’m looking, my goal is to move into the top 10. So I definitely have a lot higher expectations.”

Summer swings into Washington & San Jose

Alison Riske

This week, in the United States, the hardcourt tournament continue in August. It very hot outside. The players know that in the summer, the heat is on.

The 17-year-old Coco Gauff is getting better all the time. Alison Riske said that Gauff hits a lot of terrific shots, and she is very powerful, as well as potent.

“I feel like women’s American tennis – I don’t know when it was this deep. I’ve been playing on tour for 12 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Riske said. “I couldn’t say enough amazing things about Coco. She’s an amazing competitor, and she has an amazing family behind her.”

In 2021, Riske has been hurt. She has been working to came back. It has been slow as she is trying to figure out what she has to do to improve. She has now played eight tournaments, and she only won three matches. Finally, this week, she is heathy.

She reached a career high of No. 18 in 2019, and at Wimbledon, she upset Belinda Bencic, and the No. 1 Ash Barty, before losing to Serena Williams 6-3 in the third set in the quarters. Pretty good, but she will be thrilled if she reaches a Slam semi before she retires.

How about the 23-year-old Reilly Opelka? He is ranked No. 36, and he wants to have a top 32 seed at the US Open. To do it, over the next three weeks, he has to go for it. The 6-foot-11 has a fine serve and backhand, but he is working on fixing his forehand. Also, in need of improvement are his net and return games. If he wants to eventually be at the top 20, or even the top 10, he has to find a focal point. On Thursday, he lost to John Millman. Time to pick it up.

No. 26 Madison Keys was playing in San Jose, and she lost in the second round. The American did reach the final at ‘17 US Open, losing against Sloan Stephens, who is also playing in California. Keys has won Charleston, Cincinnati and Stanford. But then, she can check out. The big hitter Keys reached No. 7 six years ago, but the 26-year-old can play great, but she gets hurt a lot.

Lloyd Harris stunned Rafa Nadal 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in Washington. Nadal just returned after a long rest. So, in a couple weeks, he should look better. Harris is on fire…

Jenson Brooksby won some matches on the grass and now on the hardcourts. No doubt, the 20 -year-old will play Cincinnati, and then at the US Open.

That was a good win by Danielle Collins in San Jose when she beat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. I am just not sure when Stephens will be more composed this year. Where is she?

16 top American women in 2021

There are 16 American women who are in the WTA top 100. That is a lot, compared to going back all the way into the 1970

Sofia Kenin

Now, there are many players who come from Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. Because of that, it is harder to beat many mediocre players, as their forehands have become so much better, including with first serves, net game and returns. The field is now much taller and superfast.

Right now, the Americans are in Charleston but not many from Europe. Here is a 2021 roundup after three months, one week and counting, starting from the top:

Sofia Kenin
She has won the Aussie Open. But, she is a little bit hurt now. When she is healthy, she can smash the ball and win another Slam

Serena Williams
The great players like Serena have great weapons: serves, forehands, backhands and returns. But she is aging, and she knows that she is a slowing down.

Jennifer Brady
In the last two Grand Slams, she reached the semis at the 2020 US Open and the final at the 2021 Australian Open, which means that she is locked in.

Madison Keys
When she is on, she can blast the ball. Still, she always gets injured and now, she cannot move well and is producing a lot of errors.

Alison Riske
She has come a long way into the top 30. She started loving the grass, but now she is addicted on the hardcourts.

Jessica Pegula
She has had a terrific season, showing tremendous confidence. She is gaining every week and can reach the top 20.

Amanda Anisimova
The 19-year-old is gaining ground. By the end of the season, she can be in the top 10, if she shows more maturity.

Cori Gauff
She is super young, and already, she is darn good. But, she has to be develop more strategy on the court.

Danielle Collins
She is 27 years old, and she knows what is going on. As long as she can exploit her fierce competitiveness, she could go into the top 20 this year, a career high.

Shelby Rogers
She had a wonderful second-round victoryagainst Anisimova in Charleston, 7-5 in the third. Next week, she might be in the top 45, a career high.
Sloane Stephens
Is the 2017 US Open winner ready to dance again? During the past two years, she was totally out of it.

Ann Li
She is only 20, and she really runs very well, but she needs more power and depth.

Bernarda Pera
There are some good wins, but in the past year, she barely won, so she has to change tactics.

Lauren Davis
She is a huge fighter, and she likes long rallies, but she does not have a hard serve. She needs to go for the lines, very quickly.
Christina McHale
She has been around for 12 years, and she will continue to play, because she loves tennis. But now, she must find a way to win more matches.

Venus Williams
She came into the WTA in 1997 and built a Hall of Fame career many times over. Now, she is 40 years old and looks like she will retire pretty soon.

Will Serena and Sloane dominate in Lexington?

Serena Williams
Mal Tam/MALT Photo

Next month, the players will begin to play at the important tournaments — finally. At Lexington, Kentucky, Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens will be there, two Grand Slam champions. Serena has 23 majors, while Stephens has ‘only’ one.

Serena has won everything: the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Stephens also won at Flushing Meadows. Clearly, everyone wants to play real matches because over the past fourth months, no one could play at the events, due to the contentious coronavirus.

In August, hopefully, it could begin to fly away, but no one really knows. Let us just assume that day after day, everyone will understand what to do when you go outside and battle the coronavirus.

On court, the WTA and the ATP players love to compete, and that is why they managed to become pros and play at the Grand Slams and any other events. In August, the players will be healthy and ready to go.

Serena does have an opportunity to win another major, this year or next. She isn’t as fast as she was 20 years ago, but the 38-year-old can still crack the ball off of both sides. Usually, she is so intense, but here and there, she can get frustrated and angry. Fortunately for her, Serena can recover. If they are going to upend Serena, then other players have to focus all the time.

A few have, such as SofiaKenin, who won the 2020 Aussie Open, knocking off Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza. The 21-year-old American can look tremendous, but she also can panic. The No. 4 can win a bunch of tournaments, but right now she is still trying to figure out what she should do, minute after minute. She has no choice. She has to find a balance and keep her focus under control.

That is exactly what Stephens has to do, too. In January through early March, she went 1-5. That is pretty awful for someone with her talent and athletic ability. Last year, in 2019, after Roland Garros, Stephens did almost nothing on grass and on the hard courts. Something was going on, or it was. When she is bold, she is incredibly consistent. But, when she is a little bit off, she gets negative. And she gets down on herself, slowly. Then, she disappears. Now the 27-year-old has to lift herself and move.

We have already discussed Madison Keys and Alison Riske. But, how about the 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who reached the semis at Roland Garros. She does seem to be lethal, but she can also over-hit. She has lost to a variety of people. But, since the passing of her dad and coach, Konstantin last August, she seems settled. So, assuming that, she will get better and better, Anisimova be more rational. She was working with the famous coach, Carlos Rodriguez, but she parted ways. Then Anisimova hired with Andis Juska, a former player from Latvia. He has a lot of work to do to make her the champion she can be.

Sloane Stephens believes, shocks Serena

We started TennisReporters.net in May 2001, 20 years ago. We have posted well over 1,500 articles.

As coronavirus began to strike the tennis world, Indian Wells cancelled the tournament on March 9. Right after that, the tournaments pulled out quickly, including Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Now, the WTA and the ATP have shut down until June 7. Or even further. No one really knows.

However, if you love tennis, you can reminisce with TennisReporters.net. We are resurfacing many of our best stories, written by Matthew Cronin.

MELBOURNE – There was almost no one going into Sloane Stephens’ quarterfinal at the Australian Open against the great Serena Williams who thought she had a serious shot to pull an upset. 

Oh sure,  the 19-year-old Stephens had played her tough enough in a straight-set loss in Brisbane two weeks ago for analysts to think she could stay competitive for two sets. 

But an upset of a five-time Australian Open champion who was on a 20-match winning streak, who had won the last two majors, and the Olympics, and who had only lost one contest since late May? 

Nearly unthinkable. 

Except to Stephens and her USTA Player Development coaches David Nainkin and Troy Hahn. “I think deep down she believed she had a shot and so did I,” said Nainkin after Stephens 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 stunner over Williams in the quarterfinals. “Everyone thought if she played well she’s going to push her, but you can’t just orchestrate that kind of win overnight. That goes back to the practice courts, going over shots time and time again, getting your body strong and eventually it happens. But you can’t just give someone a pep talk the night before and expect that kind of win to happen.” 

Stephens had put in the hard yards in the off-season at theUSTA Training Center – Westin Carson, Calif. For more than two months, six days  a week from Monday to Saturday, she did fitness, drilled and played practice matches. Nainkin said that if it rained or she happened to miss a day for any reason, she would have to show up on Sunday. 

She didn’t miss a day. 

Stephens’ talent level has been obvious since she reached the third round of the US Open in 2011. But she has had trouble staying healthy and missed the entire fall of 212 season nursing an abdominal injury. So Nainkin and the USTA fitness crew first made sure she was healthy and then they worked on polishing up her very bright and sharp gem of a game. Stephens is very fast and has ample power, and has a lot of variety for her age. 

But she needed a better understanding of how to win matches. She had to develop a Sloane Stephens-style of winning. Nainkin’s approach was appropriately general,getting her to dictate with her forehand, being more aggressive with her second serve returns, and coming to net more.

 “She’s great to work with,” he said. “She doesn’t have any weaknesses so  to speak. It was giving her a clearer idea what to do with her game and keeping it simple.” 

When Stephens stepped on court against Williams, she began to listen to the PA announcer listing Serena’s many titles. But she did not lose her focus like young Assume Bernard Tomic said he did early against Roger Federer. “I was like, Do they really have to read all of her championships?,” Stephens said. “I literally was thinking in my head, ‘Is he seriously reading every single tournament she’s won?  It was okay.  I thought about it for two seconds, but it was fine.” 

Serena started fast, but Stephens stayed with her off the ground in the first set. She couldn’t find a way to break her, but patiently waited for  an opportunity and it came when Williams aggravated a back injury in the second set. Stephens grabbed the set as Serena had trouble serving and the teenager was running everything down and sending it back with authority. 

In the third set as Serena began to recover, Stephens didn’t back off. When they met in Brisbane it was Serena who kept coming forward and who took control of the match. On Wednesday in Melbourne Stephens wanted to show her Fed Cup teammate that she could be use her legs to defend and be fierce on offense. Nainkin pointed out two things he wanted Stephens to do in the match: hit her second serve bigger, which she did as she averaged a respectable 91 MPH, and  try and take over the net, which she did brilliantly, converting 18 of 20 of her approaches. “I wanted her to come forward to the net as far as bringing an intimidation factor, so she could put pressure on Serena,” he said. 

As she always does, Williams battled gamely and as her back injury began to feel better in the later stages of the third set, she took it right  to Stephens with a massive ground attack and big retruns.“Serena raised her level and Sloane responded  100 percent,” Nainkin said.

Williams actually broke the youngster to 4-3, but Stephens didn’t quiver as she was winning most of their forehand battles and was more consistent off then ground. It’s nearly impossible to get a ball past her when she’s on.

Three games later, a mentally tired Serena committed  slew of errors and  at 19 years, 10 months and three 3 days old, Stephens became the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam singles semifinal since Serena advanced to the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals at 18 years, 9 months and eight days old. After she came off court, she and Nainkin exchanged a hearty high five.  

“Last night I was thinking about it and someone asked me, ‘Do you think you can win?  I was like, Yeah, I think so,’ but I wasn’t like too clear about it,” Stephens said. “Then this morning when I got up, I was like, Look, dude, like, you can do this.  Like, go out and play and do your best.” 

Stephens may have played like a veteran, but when later discussing the win, she went into teenager mode Her twitter followers had more than doubled from 17,000 followers to more than 35,000 in a matter of a few hours. 

Singer John Legend tweeted her as did NBA standout Dirk Nowitski. “I’m just excited,” she said with a wide smile. “I want John Legend to sing at my wedding.  I was like, Oh, my God.  He tweeted me.’”But there is business to be taken care of on Thursday, as she has to face defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the semis.  Back- to-back wins over Serena and the world No. 1 would be mind blowing. Stephens said she’s going to do what she does best Nainkin thinks that the quick turnaround won’t bother her.“She won’t lose her focus,” he said. 

Summer not warm for Stephens

At what point will Sloane Stephens begin to play great in January? I would imagine that the 2017 US Open champion will turn it around, very soon, because in the fall, she essentially collapsed. Something has to be in her head, not thinking, spacing out, not focusing. 

However, clearly when she is on and locked in, she can beat anyone. He movement side to side is excellent and her strokes can go very deep. She can be very funny, and hilarious, but then she can be muddled. She just lost at Brisbane against new player Liudmila Samsonova. I would imagine that the young Russian will continue to grow, gradually, but Stephens has to shake it off and be more calmer. Right now.

Will the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard begin to turn it around this year? She didn’t last year, and she is currently ranked No. 152. A few years ago, she was ranked No. 6, and after that, she fell again and again. She has yet to climb up, with so many errors, and she is very erratic. Hopefully, she can be smart and intelligent. Bouchard did win her first round in Auckland and shot through the second round, taking out Caroline Garcia? Time will tell …

Jennifer Brady is flying high down under. First, she bounces former No. 1 Maria Sharapova and then dispatches current No. 1 Ash Barty in straight sets.

Fifteen-year-old American Coco Gauff just won a match on Monday. Clearly, all ready, she is very good, ranked No. 67.  “I felt confident, I feel like I’m moving well,” said Gauff. But, service breaks were her downfall against Laura Siegemund 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. 

It is pretty incredible that she is so young and that she has beaten a number of good players. But, to defeat the best players, she must become better and better. She is fast, powerful and she sprints. It will be very interesting how she will hold up.

The former No. 1 Serena Williams has returned and she is playing in New Zealand. Four other Americans won – in Australia and China – all over the place: No. 25 Amanda Anisimova, No. 27 Danielle Collins, the No. 19 Alison Riske and the No. 13 Madison Keys?

Which if the four will go very deep this month at the AO? Pick-em, based on their mental games. However, when they get to the Australian Open, other than Serena, who is always the favorite, can Collins will reach the semis again?

The US Open: Keep the momentum, please

In the first round, at the US Open, there have always been a number of terrific players who have lost early. On the hard courts in the hot summer, it can be difficult and keep up the momentum built during the North American swing.

Look what happened to No. 4 Dominic Thiem who lost to the Italian Thomas Fabbiano, 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2, with 48 unforced errors. Ugh.  

Then, Stefanos Tsitsipas went down, losing to another very good young players Andrey Rublev, 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (7) 7-5. It was almost four hours, but Rublev hung in there, and he battled, constantly. But, then the Greek, Tsitsipas said he does not “feel inspired.”  He should not have said that.

Another top-10 player, Karen Khachanov, went down 4-6 7-5 7-5 4-6 6-3 to Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The Russian can be erratic, while when he is healthy. Pospisil can be extremely intelligent.

Do you want another seed who was ousted on Tuesday? Why not? Tenth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut was defeated by Mikhail Kukushkin 3-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3. Bautista Agut was physically tired.

How about a good one today: the struggling No. 6 Alexander Zverev, who won, when he beat Radu Albot 6-1 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-2. While the big hitter Zverev, has played so many five setters at the Slams, eventually, he can go down, when he is exhausted. If he wants to reach the second week, he had to bare down. They all have to.

Stephens gets bounced
When Sloane Stephens is feeling good, she can defeat anyone. But this year, her head is in trouble. In the first round, she lost to Russian Anna Kalinskaya 6-3 6-4. Stephens won the tournament two years ago, but now she didn’t survive the first round, at least in singles. She is just so confused. Who knows what her future will bring?

The No. 1 Naomi Osaka won, beating Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-2. Good enough. … Caroline Wozniacki won and she will now play American Danielle Collins. Quiet a toss-up. … The powerful Aryna Sabalenka upended Vika Azarenka 3-6 6-3 6-4, a tight match. Where Azarenka will go from here, nobody knows. … That was a gigantic win by American Alison Riske, who beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-1 6-3. She can be really focused when she wants.

Women: Can Osaka can win the US Open again?

Naomi Osaka

Here we are, waiting to see which woman is going to be dominate at the end of the US Open?

Could it be the defending champion Naomi Osaka? The No. 2 Ash Barty? The 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams? The 2017 winner Sloane Stephens? The other Grand Slam winner this year, Simona Halep at Wimbledon? Or a vet like Petra Kvitova? Or how about the very young and the rising Bianca Andreescu from Canada?

Early on, everyone can win. But in the second week, then the pressure will be enormous. Not only do you have to think hard, but you have to be totally focused. Then, there is a real chance a player can wear someone down and you can seize the day.  

Since Osaka won this year’s Australian Open, she went down for a few months. She was overwhelmed and confused. She hasn’t won a tournaments since then, but who knows, at the Slams, she was been composed on the hard courts.
In the fourth round, she might face the Swiss Belinda Bencic, who gets injured a lot. Over the past few months, she has been healthy and when she plays, she is definitely a top-10 player. She is a huge hitter.

Still, Osaka will move on and in the quarters, she could face Aryna Sabalenka, Vika Azarenka {they have to play against each other the first round) or Donna Vekic. All four will crush the ball and go for the lines. For sure, they can go right in the face versus Osaka, but how do you contain her? That is the biggest question, for all of them.

In the second quarter, it will be a bunch of players who could reach the second week: Halep, Stephens, Kvitova, Andreescu, the former two-time champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, and the other Americans: Danielle Collins and Alison Riske.  
Between all of them, Andreescu has risen so quickly that she refuses to know fear. She is already so smart, and composed, but during the event, she has to be healthy and brilliant. I bet she will.

In the second half, here is the list of the people who will reach the second week at Flushing Meadow: Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, Jo Konta, Serena, Anastasija Sevastova, Qiang Wang and Barty.

All the Americans playing right now who have reached the US Open final — Venus, Serena and Stephens — have won it before. Except for Keys. Two years ago, she did reach the final, but she froze against Stephens. This time, if she gets there again, Keys will be very comfortable.

Who’s the favorite the French Open?

Simona Halep

“Who’s the favorite for fabulous France? There are a lot, which is another way of saying there isn’t one at all.

One day, the two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova might actually become No. 1 — she has been so close over the previous 10 years — and it could be on the clay courts. The Czech just won Stuttgart and rose up to No. 2. She doesn’t always love clay, but with three clay titles since 2018, these days it seems she does. Kvitova is very strong and now can play for many hours, and she can really hit some hopping serves.

She has never won the French Open, but she did reach the 2012 semis against Maria Sharapova, when the two-time champion and Russian out-slugged her.

Though Kvitova has won twice at Wimbledon, on clay in Paris, you have to slow down and wait and wait until you get an opportunity, and then strike. Having improved her fitness, she’s starting to do that.

Simon Halep finally won a Grand Slam when she beat the American Sloane Stephens in the final at the 2018 French Open. During the third set, she was consistent and forceful, while her opponent checked out. Halep can do it again, and actually, so can Stephens, who won the 2017 US Open. Even though she seems very confused and hasn’t won a tournament this season, she just hired the very smart coach, Sven Groeneveld, and might right herself as she does so often. Regardless, it’s the 2018 winner Halep who’s seen as the current favorite. “

Osaka in the top line
The No. 1-ranked Naomi Osaka is a tremendous player, upsetting Serena Williams in the final of the controversy-laden 2018 US Open, being so peaceful and lethal at 5-4 in the third set. There were no nerves, just blasting the ball. K-boom — Osaka grabbed it. The same occurred during the Australian Open final against Kvitova, and she edged her 6-4 in the third. She really believes in herself, and she can blast the ball in Paris. But Osaka does not love clay yet, so she has to learn to slide and return before she starts swinging hard.

Serena Williams has won the tournament a couple times, and the 23-time Grand Slam champion can play anything she wants — except at the net — so when she is feeling fantastic, she can win it again. But right now, she is still hurt — if she goes to the French Open, she has to step up quickly, or she will get knocked down.

Caro Wozniacki loves hard courts, but like over the years in Roland Garros, she gets pretty angry because she cannot hit enough winners, especially with her forehand. When she is happy, she is really happy, but when she loses, she clams up. She will likely do it again.

Muguruza, Sabalenka slumping
Garbine Muguruza has won this tournament before, in 2016, which was surprising, but the Spaniard can smash her forehands and backhands and knock the ball on the lines. Mentally, she can go down fast, but when she does not do that, she can raise her game. In Paris? That is a toss-up, but if she’s healthy, she has a small chance to produce another surprise and win it again.

It was in 2018 the young Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka eventually cracked the top 10. She is very intense and strong, but on clay, she is still learning to figure out how to play. There are a few other excellent established players — Angelique Kerber, Karolina  Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Ash Barty. The German veteran Kerber has won three Slams — at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. But in Paris, she has never reached the semis, not because she is not super steady — which she is — but because she doesn’t go for the corners or punch the ball returning second serves. But when she is rock solid, she can go very deep.

Pliskova should win a major, but the 27-year-old hasn’t yet. She did reach the semis in Paris in 2017 and she faced Halep, but right towards the end, she wasn’t steady enough. Regardless, she has improved a good amount, and she is thoughtful, so perhaps she can do it for the first time on the gorgeous clay. It wouldn’t seem like the most obvious place.

Elina Svitolina never gets tired, and she has won some big tournaments, but at the Grand Slams, she gets very nervous and loses fairly early. But she is so good with her first serve, her forehand and backhand, that it seems she has to have a breakthrough sometime. This year?

The young Australian Ash Barty is getting better all the time. She is steady and thoughtful and she never gets tired, too, playing both singles and doubles. But she doesn’t like clay and has to grind it for many hours in the French Open. At least she can aim to reach the second week.

There are still more players who can reach the second week and beyond: the again-rising Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, the new and excellent Canadian Bianca Andreescu — who is currently hurt — the steady Qiang Wang, and the other Americans — Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin and the long time veteran Venus Williams. Some American will go deep in Paris, but exactly who is an extremely big toss-up.

The Draws: ’19 Aussie Open women

Elina Svitolina
Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

1st Quarter –
No. 1 Simona Halep can be super solid, her legs are strong, and her forehand and backhand have a lot of variety. That is why she is No. 1. But. the reality is she has only won one Grand Slam. Yes, last year, she looked spectacular at Roland Garros, breathing deep in the third set in the final. She won, and she cried and tears of joy. So now, she is smarter and more experienced. In the first week at the AO, there likely will be some very tight match. In the third round, she will likely play against Mihaela Buzarnescu or Venus Williams. Buzarnescu had a solid year and when the aging Venus goes on court, she could still be a damn good player. But she couldn’t play during the fall, and the 38-year-old has to rest as much as possible. Early on, in the first round, Williams can knock off Buzarnescu with her gigantic backhand, but even if she wins, Venus could face Halep in the third round. It could be a marathon, and at the end, the Romanian will beat the seven-time GS champ Venus in three sets.

Halep has no idea who she will face in the fourth round. Perhaps the 23-Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, Carla Suarez Navarro, or Sam Stosur? Suarez Navarro likes to hustle. Aussie Stosur has played great at times, but not in Australia, where she has lost early for many years. Nerves. Serena might be a little bit rusty, as she just started practicing a couple weeks ago, so she will struggle for a while. But, against Halep, she has to focus and be calm, seriously, because in 2018 she became very irritable. She cannot do this year. Serena will mentally where down Halep to reach the quarters.
This part of the draw is unbelievable. Three players with real game are very dangerous: Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Daria Kasatkina. They can all play great, or they can play lousy. It just depends. The two-time GS champ Muguruza did not play well in 2018, but if she is healthy, she can hit it so deep. Pliskova has a huge serve, she has so many aces, plus she can smack it down on the lines. Kasatkina is very young, and she hustles, too. Between all three, Pliskova will get through, and against Serena in the quarters, the American will rise up when she needs it to.  

Second Quarter
Naomi Osaka won last year’s Miami and the US Open. While she can be a little bit crazy on court, she is so wonderfully good. There are times when she over-hits, and she needs to return better, but she moves well, and she can jump on her forehand and her backhand. Without a doubt, she is one of the favorites. She could face Daria Gavilova in the second round, and if Osaka starts making errors, that could be a grinder, because the Aussie can bang it up. Still, Osaka will smack her in the third set. She will beat Su-Wei Hsieh in the third, and also pound Anastasija Sevastova to reach the quarters. 
The other 16 players in the bottom have a incredibly equal shot to reach the quarters. It will be either Elise Mertens, Madison Keys, Dominika Cibulkova or Elina Svitolina. Belgian Mertens has improved over the past year, and while Keys gets hurt a lot, but when she is healthy, she is very powerful, reaching the semis here a few years ago. Cibulkova likes to pump his fist and reached the final at the AO. Outside of the Slams, Svitolina is one of the best players out there. While I realize that Svitolina has been shaking at the Slams. With last year’s WTA Finals win, the No. 6 has become mature. We hope. Svitolina will reach the semis, beating Osaka with some amazing rallies.

Third Quarter
At some point, Petra Kvitova will win another Grand Slam, but this is on the hard courts in Australia when it can be very hot. The Czech has won Wimbledon on grass twice, blasting the ball, and recently in Sydney, she grabbed it, edging past Ash Barty 7-6 in the third. She prevailed even though she was cramping. So, maybe when she gets to Melbourne she will find another level.

In a couple days, perhaps Kvitova will feel better, and push past Belinda Bencic in the third round. Then in the fourth round, it is likely that she will face Aryna Sabalenka, who rose up high last year. The 20-year-old is very aggressive, and she thinks well, too. She will upset Kvitova to reach the quarters. Barty rarely gets tired, because she legs are robust, so once again, she will take out the big swinger Jelena Ostapenko. 

And guess who in the fourth round? Either Maria Sharapova and the 2018 AO champion Caro Wozniacki. The five-time GS champion Sharapova is hurt once again, which is not surprising considering how little she has played since coming back from a drug suspension. While Wozniacki is slightly injured, she will play more consistently and trip Sharapova. Even though Barty can panic at the Slams, but this time, she will slice Wozniacki until she drops down. Every day, the Aussie will surge, but in the quarters, Sabalenka will pound her again and again. The Belarussian will reach the semis.

Bottom Quarter
Angie Kerber has won two majors, at Wimbledon and here at the Australian Open in 2017. She can win it once again, as she goes to the left, the right, and forward. However, she’s hard to read. Will she be directed, or will she stop thinking about which way she is going? If she does, she certainly go deep again. In the third round, Kerber will likely play Donna Vekic, who is climbing now. Kerber will twist her around and reach the fourth round against Julia Georges. The German has upgraded a lot over the past two years. On clay, she could stun Kerber, but not here on the hard courts and move into the quarters.

Even though Sloane Stephens started a little off, in the first two weeks, still she has won a major at the 2017 US Open and also she reached the 2018 Roland Garros final — and she lost to Halep. She was upset, pretty darn upset, but even though she can be cagy, in the press conference, you can tell that she dissects her game. So on the hard courts, she is dangerous. She should be just fine until the fourth round, likely against Kiki Berntens. That is very tough match, that both have to scrape, ball after ball. Stephens will finally push her way back and win it. Now she will have to go up against Kerber, reduce to power and she has to commit that the contest could take hours. Somehow, at the end, the American will nail it into the corners and snag it. Another semis in the majors for Sloane.