After Slam final, Stephens falls again

FROM WIMBLEDON — Wimbledon has finally started, and on day one there were some fantastic wins, and some sad defeats.

Let’s start with the No. 4 Sloane Stephens went down to Donna Vecic 6-1, 6-3. The Croat jumped on the ball quickly, and she moved around nimbly and precisely, while the American could not find her feet. She made too many errors, she lost the rhythm. She did try at the end, but she could not work enough points to make a competitive match. It was pretty surprising.

Stephens won the 2017 US Open, and she reached the 2018 Roland Garros final, so the No. 4 has played some fine contests. But not this time. She was a little upset. Maybe a lot.

Her performance here was reminiscent of her tumble after her US Open victory when she failed to win a match in the fall tournaments.

“I wish I could have played better. I would have made some more balls. I could have pushed her a little bit more,” Stephens said. “It just wasn’t working. … It’s unfortunate. The same thing I said to my coach: ‘Man, that was unfortunate.’ She played well. It was not too much you can do. I’m not going to go cry, bang my racquet.”

So she will work even harder, back to the United States. Whatever she says, there will be pressure, a lot of pressure. She is the defending champion of the US Open. Now, when she rose up during the last year, a huge amount of fans took notice. During the rest of this summer, they will pay attention. And perhaps, so will Sloane.  

It was going to be, sooner or later. That is Stan Wawrinka, the three-time Slam champion, who chopped down Grigor Dimitrov 1-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4. After the first set, it looked like the Swiss was going nowhere. But in the second set, he clammed down, his head was in the right place, he mixed it up, and when he had an opportunity, he hit it in the corners. Finally, the recently injured player was back. At least on Monday. 

“Was tough. But to lose that 6-1, I still think at that moment that I wasn’t playing that bad. I was missing few things,” Wawrinka said. “The set went quick. I’ve been practicing so hard last few weeks on grass to get my level there, to be ready for big match, to know that I can count on my game. I had to put myself together again, to try to fight, try to find solution. I also knew before the match that it’s tough for Grigor to play against me in the first round, he didn’t win so many big matches recently. I was trying to stay with him, try to find my rhythm, try to make it tougher for him, try to make him think a bit more.”

That he did. Dimitrov has had a terrific 2017, winning the ATP Finals, and he rose up to No. 3. But this year, the Bulgarian has struggled, especially at the Slams. Unfortunately, he was unable to go to go very deep, which can be brutal. At the Aussie Open, he actually reached the quarters, but he lost in four sets against the improved Kyle Edmund. At Roland Garros, he won an amazing match against the young American Jared Donaldson, 10-8 in the fifth, but two days later, he was tired and he lost pretty easily to Fernando Verdasco. Now, at Wimbledon in the first round, he was confused. But he won’t give in. 
“You kind of have to stay positive, simple as that. You can’t just go down on yourself. Yeah, it’s been a rough road so far,” Dimitrov said. 

On Monday, both Wawrinka and Vecic scored a huge victories. Mr. Stan and Donna have been dating for a while. They watch each other playing whenever they can. They did it in the bright sun. 

“I think it was a good day for us at the office, that’s for sure. Was great match from [Donna]. I watched it from home before coming back for my match,” Wawrinka said. “It was a big win for her. She’s playing well on grass. It’s been good for us today.”

2017 top players: men’s 6-10 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 6: Marin Cilic
The Serbian was extremely consistent this year, even though here and there, he gets frustrated and over-hits. Still, when he is running, the big man has become a little faster moving left and right. Obviously, he is a gigantic hitter, but he has to be more patient. He did reach the final at Wimbledon, which was progress, but Roger Federer smoked him. In the last tournament, at the ATP Finals, he lost three matches and he appeared to be pretty tired. Can he win another Slam at the 2018? Possible, if he is adds to his game.

No. 7: David Goffin
This Belgian still hasn’t won a big title yet. The veteran has become more aggressive, his first serve has become stronger, and, of course, his speed is a weapon. Yes, he couldn’t like to talk at the Grand Slams, thinking that pressure will be in his head, but he has calmed down and he doesn’t give up immediately. He did stun Federer in the semis at the ATP Finals, playing nearly perfectly. The same with at the Davis Cup final at his home. He won both matches, but they lost 3-2 against France. Not easy for Goffin. Can he win a ATP 1000 and/or a Grand Slam? Yes, he will win an ATP 1000 — somewhere —  but to win a Slam? I just can’t see it.

No. 8: Jack Sock
Who would have though that the American was about to play extremely well, match after match? There was a long stretch of six months when he couldn’t get into it, losing early, week after week. But in November, he began to turn it around. Suddenly, he won the ATP 1000 in Paris. Somehow, he made it to the ATP Finals — a shocker, as he said — and in London, he beat Goffin and Alexandr Zverev, before he lost in the final against Grigor Dimitrov. Look, he is not very young, and he isn’t very old. Right in the middle. I would think that in 2018, he will continue to lift it  — like his returning — and in the summer, he will be ranked No. 5. Pretty good, huh?

No. 9: Stan Wawrinka
After Wimbledon, the three-time Grand Slam champion was done. His body had collapsed and he was unable to play the rest of the year. But before that, he was pretty darn good, losing a classic match at the Aussie against Federer in a very fun five sets. At Roland Garros, he took down Andy Murray in the semis, but in the final, Rafa Nadal over powered him. Without a doubt, over the past three years in the Slams, he has been so exciting, displaying so many different strokes. Assuming he is healthy, he will win a Slam in 2018. Wow.

No. 10: Pablo Carrera Busta
The Spaniard has improved a good amount this season, reaching the US Open semis, the quarters at Roland Garros and the final at Rio. Plus, he won Estoril. Pretty good. Over the past decade, he has been very steady, but he decided that when he got an opportunity, he would go for it, both with his forehand and backhand. Sometimes that worked, but he still wants to be very steady, which often slows down his progress. In order to win a major, he has to rush at the net, improve his second serve and, when he is feeling good, go for his shots. Can he win a Grand Slam? I doubt it, but he can reach the final.

Pro tennis: too many male players are injured


Fix it, please.

Who knew that they could snag a Grand Slam again, considering that they were aging, and the chances to dominate was very slim.   

But somehow, someway, they had improved their strokes and when they came on court, they were better and smarter. Federer won the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, and Nadal won Roland Garros and the US Open. They were back, and much better. 

Unfortunately, “everybody” is injured. Federer decided not to play on clay, because he though that if he did, he could get hurt again and once he came on grass, he could be very tired or very sore. Nadal played about as well he did on clay — once again, he won Roland Garros, 10 times — and the same thing on the hard courts in the end of the summer in New York. 

But three weeks ago, Nadal’s knees started to get extremely tender, and two days ago, he pulled out at the ATP Finals.

Now, it’s the middle of November. While there are some terrific matches at the ATP Finals played by Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev, four multiple Grand Slam champs who are not there: Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. Those four have combined to win 33 majors; but they aren’t in London town. For the fans, that hurts.

It is not just them. Three excellent competitors also became substantially injured this season: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios. 

The 36-year-old Federer says that now, you can play longer and you don’t have to retire so early, such as Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf. Perhaps so, but one of the problems is the length of the year; they have to start at the beginning of January and continue until the middle of November. Essentially, in pro tennis, you have to play the entire year. 

Yes, they can relax for a week or two. Players begin to practice in December. Within a second or two, it is time to get back on court, and play the matches. 

This has been going for many years now. If it was up to me, I would reduce the schedule. I know it’s all about the money, making more and more money all the time, but what I see — and this is totally true — lots of people stop watching tennis in the fall. It is too much, too many tournaments, too many days, and eventually, the fans get bored. So they stop.
That is why pro tennis is still struggling.

Hopefully, in 2018, they will fix it, at least a little bit. 


Grand Slam season culminates in US Open

After another spectacular Wimbledon tournament moves into the history books, we can’t help but start to get excited about the US Open just around the corner. The incredible Rodger Federer won his record-extending 19th major Open title after overcoming Marin Cilic in straight sets on Center Court. It was another phenomenal accomplishment for the 35-year old, as he finished the tournament without dropping a single set, becoming only the second player to do so in the Open era.

However, we now look forward to the last of the four major events that comprise the Grand Slam, the highly anticipated US Open. It’s always a terrific competition and the last chance in the calendar year for tennis lovers to get their fix and see the best of the best in action. The magnificent spectacle takes place in New York and will kick off on Aug. 28 and come to a close on Sept. 10, ending another thrilling Grand Slam season.

With Federer winning Wimbledon he will undoubtedly be heading into the tournament as one of the favorites and the latest tennis odds price him up at +150 to win his sixth US Open. The last time Rodger won the event was back in 2008 after defeating Great Britain’s Andy Murray in straight sets.

His form recently suggests that Federer has no intention of slowing down as he gets older, and some could even argue that he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career. His display at Wimbledon was nothing short of remarkable and he played with a hunger that has been lacking in recent times.

The 2016 champion Stanislas Wawrinka, or Stan as he’s more commonly known, defeated Novak Djokovic in four sets that year after coming back from one set down to deny the Serbian consecutive US Open crowns. But, injuries have plagues the Swiss and he has dropped out of the US Open, along with Montreal and Cincinnait.

The major omission from the list of competitors this year is, of course, the hugely successful Novak Djokovic. He has recently announced that he will not be playing any competitive tennis for the rest of 2017, after an elbow injury forced him to retire from his quarterfinal matchup with Tomas Berdych. He has met with several specialists and it appears that he has sustained a “bruised bone due to excessive playing.” His physicians have recommended that he rest for a period of at least 12 weeks, which means his run of 51 consecutive Grand Slam appearances will unfortunately come to an end.

Two-time US Open winner Rafael Nadal will also be plying his trade at the championship. He is definitely a player to watch and always plays with that gritty determination that has made him such a consistent performer over the years.

Andy Murray will hopefully be there, too, but the Brit is racing against the clock to be fit after receiving a troublesome hip injury. His doctors are confident that it won’t be a problem, though, and Murray will be ready to play before the tournament begins.

Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Everybody hurts, sometimes

It is August now, which is wonderful, because in the United States, it can be very sunny and warm. Almost everyone loves the summer. Who wouldn’t?

However, the players have played on court for six months. They have played on the hard courts, on clay, on grass. It’s taking a toll on some of the marquee players, who are resting their legs, arms, stomach, back and eyes. If you are very tired, then why not stop for a month? Many players, men and women, will continue to practice almost every day. For the entire year. That is very risky. 

The top men are pretty darn hurt. Stan Wawrinka announced he would not play Montreal, Cincinnati and defend his US Open title, due to a knee injury. The former No. 1 Novak Djokovic is done for the year. Andy Murray withdrew from the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The same goes with Marin Cilic. Only Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will play Montreal, which is great, because they are the best two players ever. But, can they be healthy when the US Open begins in a month?

At Stanford, Maria Sharapova won a match, but the next day, her left arm was super sore, so she had to leave. She won’t play at Toronto, or maybe not in Cincy. She returned in April, and she really wanted to play again. On court, she looks pretty good. But immediately, her body froze and she couldn’t play on grass.

Her arm has to be 100 percent to play, or she will get hurt again and she won’t be able to win another Grand Slam. She is a great player, but Sharapova has figure out what is wrong with her health.

The two-time Slam champ Garbine Muguruza says she can be consistent and super powerful this summer on the hard courts. At this point, she’s the favorite at the USO. 

In Washington, Nick Kyrgios retired with a shoulder injury. He retires all the time. He is great to watch — when he is on — but he doesn’t take advice.

Milos Raonic versus Jack Sock should be a terrific contest. … Kevin Anderson is playing extremely well as he upset Dominic Thiem 7-6(7) in the 3rd. … Some pretty decent players are in Los Cabos, with Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey.

CoCo Vandeweghe once reached the final in Stanford. Can she do it again? As long as she concentrates … We would assume that Petra Kvitova can win the tournament, but it will take a few weeks until she locks in again. 

Cilic to bounce back from Wimbledon tears

Photos source: Marin Cilic via Facebook.

As Marin Cilic tried, but failed, to hold back the tears on court during the Wimbledon final, most of the viewers sympathised with his plight. The meeting with Roger Federer marked one of the biggest moments of the Croat’s career, and his inability to deliver his best game because of injury was devastating on both a personal and sporting level. Yet the drama of the tears should not divert attention from what was a terrific tournament for Cilic.

Cilic was at the top of his game for most of the tournament, carrying on the form that took him to the final at Queen’s a couple of weeks previously. He battled past Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Gilles Muller, and powered past Andy Murray’s tormentor Sam Querrey. In the final, conditions conspired against Cilic and he was unable to add a Wimbledon trophy to his US Open title from 2014. However, he will be emboldened by the knowledge that his top level is as good as anyone else’s on tour currently.

Cilic is available at odds of around 15/1 across bookmakers, marked as the leader of the pack behind the big five players. That five could become four with Novak Djokovic sparking rumours of missing the US Open due to injury, but nevertheless, the prices available suggest that a likely winner will come from the usual suspects of Murray, Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Federer. Therefore bettors could be advised to treat the longer shot of Cilic as a risk-free punt by utilising the free bet no deposit offers detailed by Oddschecker. Yet it looks the stranglehold of the fantastic five on the sport is loosening its grip.

Whilst Federer has had an unprecedented resurgence to the peak of his game, his fitness will inevitably catch up with him soon. Nadal is a different proposition on clay courts compared to other surfaces, such as the hard courts of the US Open. Djokovic has his aforementioned physical worries, and Murray appears to be suffering from similar fatigue. As for Wawrinka, on his day he is unbeatable but his days are few and far between. Therefore the stage is set for an outsider such as Cilic to surge to glory.

Cilic has the benefit of being a Grand Slam winner already, an honour only shared by Juan Martin Del Potro outside of the game’s elite. Del Potro is a magnificent player but his fitness is always a concern. Meanwhile, the younger prospects like Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Lucas Pouille seem to be slightly short of the mental fortitude required to triumph at a slam. Their time may well come, but for now it looks like there is an opportunity for Cilic to add to his Grand Slam collection. If he were to meet Federer in the final at the US Open, then Cilic will not be intimidated. Federer at Wimbledon is almost legendary, but Cilic will back himself to take down any opposition at the US Open if he can turn up in top form.

Jennifer Carson is a recent sports journalism graduate and an avid follower of squash, tennis and lacrosse. She has previously written for publications including the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad and the Derby Telegraph.

Djokovic announces he’s taking rest of year off

Novak Djokovic is now gone this year as his elbow is way too sore and he can’t hit as hard as he can. So, next year, he will return in 2018 — we think. When he gets used to playing again, the 12-time Grand Slam champion can eventually win another major.

He hopes.

In the past year or so, all the great players pulled out for quite a while. In 2016, Roger Federer stopped playing after Wimbledon and and needed to rest his body. In October, Rafa Nadal decided to stop playing the rest of the year. His legs were super sore. This season, Andy Murray might pull out of the US Open. He is hurt, too, with a lingering hip injury. Only Stan Wawrinka is physically OK, but it has happened before, and it could happen again.

All of them are 30 years old and above. All of them are fantastic players. Since 2003 — 14 years ago — they have combined for 52 Grand Slam titles. That is a phenomenal.

But eventually, all of them will retire. It could be soon, it could in a few years, or possibly longer, but at some point, it is time to go.

You cannot be perfect all the time. Not just the strokes, but your legs and arms will break down … and the wrists are event more susceptible.

The good thing is that the great 35-year-old Federer has rarely been hurt. At the start of this year, he was fresh, fast and oh-so quick. He won the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. Then he stopped for two months — on clay — just to rest. That was a great move, because when he returned on grass, he was as fresh as a daisy. He won Wimbledon without dropping a set.

The same goes with Nadal. He came back at the start of this year, and he looks very fast and strong. His legs and his arm were muscular and, once he got on clay, he was ready to race. He easily won Roland Garros, his 10th.

Djokovic never looked great this year. He was mediocre at the Australian Open, Roland Garros (he almost gave up) and Wimbledon, he was mentally out of it. Today, he is pretty upset. However, when he gets his surgery, he will eventually heal. Will he return to his championship form? He can, if the doctor will do it the right way. But we don’t know that yet. 

Will keeping Andre Agassi in his camp help lift him out of this funk, even though Agassi has no coaching experience?

Murray has had a tough year. His first serve is OK, but it is not great and his second serve is right down the middle. His backhand is phenomenal, but his forehand lands too short. He is confused and he might stop until his arm is powerful again.

Wawrinka seems to be OK, but he was pretty flat at Wimbledon. Whether he can mentally rise up again and win the US Open once again? We will know when he returns to the courts of Flushing Meadows.

Look, the elders are the favorites until they retire, but maybe someone else can win the US Open in six weeks: Marin Cilic, who won the tournament in NY three years ago. Juan Martin Del Potro, who won it in 2009. All four of the big guys have won the USO: Federer, Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka. It could be them again.

There are a few outsiders who have a chance: Thiem, Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov and Zverev.

But not Djokovic, who will not play in August in New York. That is too bad, because the Serbian loves to slide on the hard court. He must rest and let it heal.

Who to reach the semis: Murray? Federer? Nadal? Djokovic? Wawrinka? Raonic? Kyrgios?


Andy Murray is the top seed, but clearly, he has not been playing great this year. Yes, he definitely knows how to win Wimbledon, but he is struggling and he can be mentally confused. Can he actually grab it again? I doubt it, but the No. 1 always tries as hard as he can. 

He should reach the third round, but then he will likely face Fabio Fognini, who has played very well, but he does not love grass, and Murray will hurt him.

In the fourth round, he will have to go up against either Nick Kyrgios or Lucas Pouille. That is almost a toss-up. Pouille is getting better and better, but we all know that when the Aussie is totally on, he can blast it into the corners. Yes, Kyrgios is up and down and he gets hurt frequently, but when he is into it, he can crush it.  

Kyrgios and Murray like each other, and the Brit knows how to compose himself. However, the Aussie will hit ace after ace and stun Andy.

Who will reach the semis here? Maybe Stan Wawrinka, who just reached the final at Roland Garros, but the Swiss has never gone very deep at Wimby. Yet this time, he realizes that he has to move in, rather than going back. Wawrinka will reach the quarters, but in the fourth round, he will have to take down Jo Tsonga or Sam Querrey. It’s all about aces between those two, but this time, Wawrinka will out rally him.

Rafa Nadal hasn’t played since Roland Garros, when he won in his tenth title. He is back — finally — and his backhand has gotten substantially better. However, clay versus grass is much different and for the Spaniard to win Wimbledon, he must be quicker and shorten the points. Over the years, Nadal’s body was exhausted after clay. But he looks pretty healthy again, so during the first week in England, he should win pretty easily. However, in the second week on Monday, he will have to face either Ivo Karlovic or Gilles Muller. Both are huge servers, and both love coming into the net. However, they can be a little bit slow, and they don’t move well enough, which is why they have not won a major before. Rafa has — 15 times, in fact. 

In the quarters, he will have to go up against either Marin Cilic or Kei Nishikori. Cilic is pretty consistent this year, and the Japanese is intelligent, but he cannot contain himself. Cilic will try to paint the lines against Nadal, but his shots be called “out” game after game.
Rafa will reach the semis.

Roger Federer has won Wimbledon so many times it will make your head spin. He badly wants to go super deep at Wimbledon, and given that he just won Halle, he is ready to climb the mountain. 

However, in the first round, he will have to play against the tricky Alex Dolgopolov, who has tremendous variety, but deep in the fifth set, he can become nervous and fall down, which he will.

In order to reaching the semis, Federer might have to pass two very good competitors: Grigor Dimitrov, who has reached the semis at Wimbledon, and Milos Raonic, who reached the final last year. Yes, the 20-year-old Alex Zverev will win the tournament someday, but he still need to improve quite a bit. However, he is already a fine player. 

In the fourth round, Federer will face Dimitrov, which should be a classic. It will be five sets, and at the end, the 18-time champ Federer will out-think him. 

In the quarters, Fed will confront Raonic, who was so close to be winning this event last year. But he could not. Now, the Canadian will hit him as hard as he can. Raonic will jump up and down and reach the semis once again.     

Novak Djokovic is concerned that he isn’t playing as well as he can, but at least on Saturday, he won Eastbourne, which is better than nothing. As he said, now, finally, he is getting a little bit better so when he walks on to Wimbledon, he will be smiling, rather than smirking. 

If the 12-time Grand Slam Djokovic can reach the semis, then he will raise up high. But first in the third round, he will likely face Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine knows how to play him, and at the Olympics, he bested against the Serbian with some gigantic shots. But, this is grass. While it is critical to hit big first serves, del Potro cannot hit his backhand with enough authority, while Djokovic’s backhand is incredibly well.

That’s why he will reach the semis, unless Dominic Thiem learns how to play on grass (he did thrash Djokovic at RG on clay) and/or Tomas Berdych wakes up. (The Czech reached the final here in 2010.) Either way, Djokovic will get to the semis. And then, is the question.  

The champion: Nadal wins Paris again, crushed Wawrinka


During the past three years, Rafa Nadal was struggling. His body was messed up, he lost a lot of confidence, and frequently, he pushed the ball around.

But, this year, he began to feel substantially better. He started to believe that when he had the opportunity, he could belt the ball.

And he did, crushing Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1 to win Roland Garros for the 10th time.

How good was he during the past 15 days in Paris? How about amazing, as he only lost 35 games in seven matches. 

“It’s the most important event in my career without a doubt so to win again here is something I cannot describe,” said Nadal.
This season, his backhand has improved tremendously. It used to be land in the middle of the court, but now it is substantially deeper, with more action. We all know that his forehand if so heavy, so strong and lands with so much depth.

But his backhand was, well, it was very decent over the past 13 years. However, it wasn’t hard enough and many times, it was too short. Just fading away.
In 2015, Nadal’s body was breaking down. He couldn’t run as fast as he used to on the clay. 

He lost in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and, at RG, going down against Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the quarters.

In 2016, at RG, Nadal retired in the third round. Obviously, he was pretty hurt. At the US Open, he was knocking out in the fourth round in five sets against Lucas Pouille. In the fall, he barely played. 

But this year, he was finally healthy. His doctors helped him a tremendous amount. It took a few months, but in April, he was ready to rock ’n’ roll.

He crushed everyone, including Wawrinka. After the first set, the Swiss had no idea what to do. He couldn’t out-hit Nadal’s forehand, backhand, his serve, his movement, basically everything. The three-time Grand Slame champ Wawrinka was desponded.

“When you play against him, he’s amazing fighter. On clay he’s just tough to play,” Wawrinka said. “There is always one ball coming back. There is always spin on the ball. There is always a different bounce that’s what the other player make on that surface. He creates a doubt that you cannot have if you want to beat him. And on clay especially, because the way he’s moving, it’s even more difficult.”

Nadal was extremely happy. He is now ranked No. 2 again, and in the next few months, he could snare the top spot. 

The great positive is that Nadal isn’t tired and he can actually go to England and seriously compete at Queens and Wimbledon.
But right now, he is only thinking about RG. He was thrilled.

“It’s about the work of every day. Yeah, happened 10 times here already,” Nadal said. “Have been magical all the things that happened in this tournament for me. So very happy. Today was a very important day for me. Have been some tough moments last times, injuries, so it’s great to have big success like this again. Happy because I have been working a lot to be where I am today.”

Very few people knew who was Jelena Ostapenko when she came into Roland Garros on the first day. But, at the end, the entire world saw she can crush the ball.

Latvian Ostapenko was never very nervous, and even when she was down in the second set, she had to keep pushing, harder and harder, and camping out inside the line. She was down 3-0 in the second, and she was very close, but she couldn’t keep the ball inside the courts. Within seconds, Ostapenko changed the dynamic, and Simona Halep couldn’t do a darn thing.

Ostapenko won the tournament 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, grabbing the title. Now she is ranked No. 12. It is possible the 20-year-old can sneak into the top 5 — or higher?

The key to her progression is she is so driven. 

“I was losing 6-4, 3-0, and then in my mind I was just, I’m just going to enjoy the match, andI will try to fight until the last point. And then I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way,” she said. 

Ostapenko is so incredible powerful that, while she can miss it here and there, she will continue to go for it, on her forehand, backhand, first serve, at the net — almost anything. Of course, she has been poor at times, but this year overall, she has become very consistent. It’s not all about crushing the ball, but winning.

Ostapenko had hit 54 winners on Saturday against Halep. Talk about aggression.

“I hit quite a lot of winners from that ad court down the line, so I was trying to put it in, of course,” she said.

Of course.

The sad thing is that the 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is out for the rest of 2071 because she is pregnant. The five-time champ Maria Sharapova just pulled out at Wimbledon because she wrecked her back and she won’t be to play until late July, or longer.

The No. 1 Angie Kerber isn’t playing well at all this year, and the No. 3 Pliskova is inconsistent to tell. 

So maybe by the end of the year, Ostapenko can become No. 1. Who would have thunk that?


Halep vs Ostapenko in final: ’It’s very fast court, so it really fits me’

At ROLAND GARROS, DAY 13 — How good is Simona Halep? Is she great? Fantastic? Nearly great? Over hyped? Up and down?

We will find out tomorrow as she returns to a final in Paris.

The same questions can be posed about the 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, even though her career is ahead of her.

We all know that Ostapenko is incredibly aggressive, that she can crack the ball from both sides, and she can come into the net when needed. But even though she has had a very good year overall, she is still learning. She can nail the corners for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, slap it way wide. But as she said yesterday, she needs to be a calm, composed, driven.

On the clay, she reached the final at Charleston, upsetting Caro Wozniacki and Mirjana Lucic. In the final, she quickly lost against Daria Kasakina. So, so many errors, but at least she got there.

She qualified in Stuttgart and Rome. In Paris, she was ready go play ball.    

“I’m playing pretty well on clay. But here I think it’s very special, said Ostapenko. “It’s very fast court so it really fits me. … Since I probably
started to play tennis, I had a possibility to play aggressive. So, I was always trying to play aggressive and that’s my game style.”

Halep says that everyone knows that she is right there to grab No. 1 for the first time. But she has never played against Ostapenko, and she’s a little worried. She has to decide: Can she just stand and wait for the ball, or does she need to attack the Latvian immediately?

“It’s tough to know what to expect against Ostapenko. She’s hitting very strong the balls,” Halep said. “It’s going to be the same plan. But I will focus more on myself. I’m not focusing on herself too much. I just want to do my game, to be there, focused, to move well.  It’s going to be a big match, tough match. I know that she can play her best tennis. She has nothing to lose. So, I’m going there and I will be ready.”

The guys

What an amazing match by Stan Wawrinka, who overcomes Andy Murray 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1 in the semis.  The Swiss won the tournament two years ago. He believes that if he plays great, he could stun Rafa Nadal.

Wawrinka and Murray ran side-to-side, up and down, back and forth. It was all about the backhands, and Wawrinka won, going very deep and super heavy. He rarely looked tired.

“There are two ways of seeing things and I chose to be positive, knowing that I was dominating,” said Wawrinka.

The No. 1 Murray looked a little bit better over the past two weeks, but he has struggled this year, at least for a No. 1. Will it go away this year? It’s hard to say, but we do know that he will always push himself. Very hard, or too hard.

“Maybe the lack of matches has hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match,” Murray said. “A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, over four, four and a-half hours, that can catch up a little bit. … Physically I didn’t feel my best at the end.”

Wawrinka has won the three major finals he has played. Here is the most important thing: If Wawrinka wins, he will own four Grand Slams titles. Murray has three majors. If the Swiss passes the Scot, does that mean that Wawrinka is better than Murray? Day to day, over the past 10 years, Murray has been better than Wawrinka, more consistent, but over the past three years, Wawrinka has risen.

When they retire, then we can find out exactly who was better.

Nadal destroyed Dominic Thiem 6-3 6-4 6-0 in the semis. Clearly, Nadal is the favorite. His lefty forehand is phenomenal, and he has actually improved his backhand, finally hitting it deep. If Nadal wins, he will have 15 Grand Slams. Then, possibly, Roger Federer’s 18 will be in his sights.