Rome: Fritz, Paul win – how far can they go?

Tommy Paul
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It is somewhat unusual for the American men to go deep in the clay courts in Europe, but this week in Rome, Taylor Fritz  and Tommy Paul are still there. Fritz rose up in the third set and beat  Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-7(11), 6-1, while Paul mashed Daniil Medvedev 6-1, 6-4. Clearly, both Dimitrov and Medvedev looked pretty tired, given that the Russian played a very, very long match, and his legs were almost gone, but at least Paul attacked him early and often. Fritz was struggling during the first three months, but he started to be much more consistent, and to change it, more. 

Many of the American men and women don’t love in the slower clay, but eventually, if they want to really understand what they have to do, then they can be to provide.

“I think it was a pretty clean match for me, other than maybe the first or second game in both sets. I played some really good tennis,” Paul said. “I played pretty aggressive, that was the game plan coming in.”

Both of them will have to, as Fritz will take on Alexander Zverev in the quarters, a very tough opponent. Paul realizes that he will have to almost perfect, as Hubert Hurkacz won it again, upsetting the famous Rafa Nadal, and on Tuesday, he edged Sebastian Baez 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4.  He might be tired, but Hurkacz can  hit very powerful, and to  hit it deep,in the corners.

Danielle Collins is still playing wonderfully, and while she said that she will retire at the end of the year, but she has only lost one time in 2024, winning 18 matches. Her confidence is sky-high. Her forehand and her backhand are rugged, and she jumps on it, almost immediately. However, she has to face against the two-time Grand Slam champion, Vika Azarenka, who will try to dominate it, slamming it, everywhere. But the American Collins can also do the same thing, to be patient.

“I think my physicality and where I’m at mentally right now,” Collins said, “I’m just really dialed into my tactics and what I need to do against each opponent. I think I’m playing really smart tennis right now.”

She must be. The No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka is rarely tired, on the court, even when she had played for hours and hours, on the court, she just likes to run. She has to face against a fine veteran, Jelena Ostapenko, who is still addicted to try and put it away, immediately. It is possible that  Sabalenka is physically hurt, as on Monday, she needed more than three hours to edged Elena  Svitolina. Her  lower back and hip area were pretty sore, but Sabalenka might be recovered on Wednesday.  It seems like that Sabalenka loves Rome: “It’s still one of my dream tournaments.” 

Tabilo over Djokovic, Hurkacz downs Nadal

In just one day, both of the other great champion, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, were gone, losing somewhat early, in Rome. Alejandro Tabilo played a terrific match, beating Djokovic 6-2, 6-3. The No. 1 put together more than a few errors, and he also didn’t crush the ball, with his amazing backhand and his forehand. He has mentally out of it.

Nadal went down again, as he could not re-find where he needed to do,  when Hubert Hurkacz out-stroked him, winning it 6-1, 6-3. Hurkacz played fantastic, but Nadal was almost awful, very rare, that the Spaniard has won so many titles on the clay, but soon, he will retired. His body is going away, soon.

Neither Tabilo or Hurkacz have won a Grand Slam yet, but when they are on, they can beat almost everyone. Yet they have to continue to prove it, and they know that if they want to win day after day, they have to be super smart, and also, really go for it. Tabilo said, “I came on court just looking around, just trying to soak it all in and trying to process everything. I’m just trying to wake up right now.”

Well wake up, on the court, to all of them. The Chilean has to face against Karen Khachanov, a very tight match.

There is two American men still left, when Taylor Fritz beat another guy,  Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-4.  Fritz  didn’t play great, but good enough, while Korda made some so-so shots, or mediocre shots.  Korda plays almost every week, so maybe he should not play way too much during the year. Maybe he isn’t very happy.

Fritz looks better and better, reaching the semis in Madrid, so he can do it again next week in Rome.  If he does that, his confidence will shine, again, but he has to face against Grigor Dimitrov, who has been playing extremely well in 2024. That should be a long, tough match.

Tommy Paul beat Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-2, and while he has been struggling, here and there, at least he is finally liking on the clay. On the hard courts, he can be darn, good. He will face versus Dominik Koepfer, who is also smart, so just try to fool him.

There will 16 women players on the singles, on Monday, when there should be some marathons.

Naomi Osaka has become better, with her backhand, and when she is 100 percent, on the matches, she can pound anyone. However, she had a child, and she could not play for a while, but now she looks more powerful, both sides. She has to face the No. 7, Zheng Qinwen. That should be fascination, as Osaka is starting to understand on the dirt.

“I just wanted to play smart tennis. I wanted to play the higher-percentage ball no matter what,” Osaka said. “I think in that match, when it got tight, I did overhit maybe one or two shots. I kind of realized that and I tried to get back in the groove of things.  For me, I’m very aware that I can’t beat her defensively, so obviously I have to go for my shots. I don’t want to play flat here either.”

Yes, also with some spin, and low, or  really high. The No. 3 Coco Gauff has to find a way against Paula Badosa, who has lost to her three times. The other American, the No. 13 Danielle Collins, played terrific on the hard courts, but over the years, in the clay, she did not go super deep. Now she has another chance when she has to play against another veteran Irina-Camelia Begu. Win another match, and again, and again.

On clay, Sloane Stephens was brilliant, wins Rouen

Sloane Stephens
Ron Cioffi/TR

Month after month, when  Sloane Stephens is up and down all the time, but last week, she finally raised it again, winning a title, in Rouen. How she did that, when in the first three months, she could not turn on the lights, but this time, she went for it, earlier.

On Sunday, she beat  Magda Linette 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. That was pretty darn good in the third set. Her forehand and her backhand went deep, close to the lines. She could lose it early again, but the former 2017 US Open champion is finally satisfied.

As Stephens said, she is friendly with Linette, but she beat her anyway. “She’s one of my favorite people on tour. We spend a lot of time together and practice together a ton. We talk literally every single week . It’s so nice to play against someone I really care about in the final.”

Now Stephens will have to play against the great players, at Madrid, Rome and then, at Roland Garros. Hopefully in Paris, she will be ranked in the top 30, at least. Can she reach into the second week? Time will tell.

The other American, Taylor Fritz, made it into the final in Munich, and it was possible that he could win it all, but the veteran Jan-Lennard Struff finally won the tournament. He was so darn happy, when  he beat Fritz 7-5, 6-3. He is 33-year-old , so it took him a very long time to breath, in the final. This time, he was super consistent.

“I have been on the tour for such a long time. It’s an unbelievable feeling to win my first title [on] home soil,” the German said. “I played good tennis this week. I am very happy, as I beat many great guys. It’s just amazing to do it here in Germany.”

He did, and while Fritz couldn’t win a tournament, at least he got there.

Ruud dominates in Barcelona
In Barcelona, Casper Ruud really knew it, in the final, as eight days ago in Monte Carlo , he lost in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Yet this time, Ruud decided to win it, he was going to have to play more powerful, and push himself, close to the baseline. He did that, when he won it 7-5, 6-3 over the Greek. Ruud has won 11 titles, 10  on clay, so obviously he really likes to rally. However, if he can win a huge event, he can actually try to win at the French Open, but it is still early. The No. 6 is  thrilled.

Rybakina wins in Stuttgart
Over in Stuttgart, Elena Rybakina won the title, and once again, beating everyone when she is really on. She can be so aggressive, and she can throw it all around, everywhere. Yes, she can be ticked off, when she is not thrilled during the match, and she can toon it out. However, when she is thoughtful, and patient, then she can beat anyone.

In the semis, she beat the No. 1 Iga Swiatek  6-3, 4-6, 6-3 , and then in the final, she blasted the young player, Marta Kostyuk, 6-2, 6-2. That was the first time this year that the No. 4 Rybakina won a tournament. So now, she is very satisfied and more confident. As she said when she beat Swiatek: “I think it’s just style of the game. Iga, she moves really well and she likes to dominate in the rally. With me, it’s difficult because I play fast, I play flatter, and also like to move the opponent.

“So matchup where we are both pushing each other, both trying to dominate in the point. So I think of course also my serve helps a lot. That’s why some matches I win; some matches I lose. But it’s always tough for her to play against me and for me to play against her.”

Indian Wells: Taylor Fritz vs Holger Rune

Holger Rune

Here comes the American, again, when Taylor Fritz  will have to take out against Holger Rune, who once again, he is playing more real, on the court. He has had a decent season, this year, but he has to re-figure what he must do, and stay there, if he has to.

 On Wednesday night in at Indian Wells, he will be pumped up, but he has to think about what types of his shots, and where he will go. He did it here two years ago, when he put together for 10 days, and he became super consistent. However, after that, he won some terrific matches, but he has yet to do another ATP 1000 again,  so now, he will try to go it again.

Last year, the Denmark  Rune had some fine matches, going deep on the hard courts, the clay (especially in Monte-Carlo and Rome) and the grass. He didn’t win it all, but it was close enough, so if he is feeling good, then the No. 7 can start beating against the top players. He can be super solid, with his backhand, and he can return, too.

But if Fritz can be immediately aggressive, then he can push him way back and put it away. He can bash his forehand and his backhand, and he can hit it down the line, and also go crosscourt.  Yes, Fritz can return pretty decent, and when he is confident, he can make an attempt to hit it very deep. The think is, though, is he is not terrific at the net, and his backhand could be so-so. But as he said: “I think both, it’s the same kind of thing,” Fritz said. “I’ve always felt confident here, even before winning. I feel like I always performed well and played well. It’s the same thing. I come here and from the first hit, kind of just feeling the courts, it feels really good for me.”

Rune is only 20-years- old, so he has to understand exactly what he has to do, when he returning, and mix it up. He is fast, running, and he can move forward, and trust it around. Rune’s  forehand can be  powerful, his backhand is somewhat solid, and he can throw it all around the box. But it is all about the week, and while he hasn’t gone deep this year, perhaps he is adding some more different shots.

Both Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev won there matches, and they will face off on Thursday. It has to be a tremendous match at nigh. A darn, good match.

NOTES
Also late at night on Wednesday, the No. 11 Daria Kasatkina will take on Yuan Yue. Kasatkina reached the finals at Abu Dhabi and Adelaide this year, and while she didn’t win it, she was threatening. Yuan has been quiet over the past few years, but now she is trying to hit the ball, harder. They all have to, at some point.

On Tuesday, the No.1 Iga Swiatek crushed Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-2. You never know when she doesn’t play well at all, but that is very rare. Caroline Wozniacki played pretty decent when she beat Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-2. They both were hurt, physically, a small amount, but they kept going. Wozniacki thinks she can go even further. Oh, really? Hmmm.

A stunner: Luca Nardi upsets Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells

Novak Djokovic

At the beginning of Indian Wells, the No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the best player. But once and a while, he can lose, especially early. He did, when the 20-year-old Luca Nardi shocked him, when he put together some amazon rallies.

Without a doubt, Djokovic was somewhat flat, in the third set, and Nardi ran so fast. He won it, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The fans could not believe it, but the intense No. 123 kept going hard, and he ran second after second. When he won, he was thrilled, whether he will last this week is a new question, but he did say that he was thinking what he had to do.

“I think that before this night no one knew me,” Nardi said. “I think it is a miracle, because I am a 20-year-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. It’s crazy.”

Yes it was, but now he has to face against the American, Tommy Paul, who beat Ugo Humbert, a very good player.  Paul has not had a great year in 2024 at the top 10 men, but he put some solid wins. It is time to play even better and  try to move up further.

“I’ve been working on playing aggressive, even at the most important times,” Paul said. “I’ve been doing better at that.”

On Wednesday night, the other American, Ben Shelton, has to over think against the Australian champ Jannik Sinner. In the Aussie Open, Shelton went into a fifth set, but the smart, veteran Adrian Mannarino chopped him down. But on Tuesday, at night, Shelton will have to play as well as he can as Sinner is on fire, week after week. He will have to snap on his arms, and go down on the lines. It should be a super intense contest.

The long time women players who have won so many terrific matches, when the champions,  Carolina Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, will play each other on Wednesday night. If you like to watch some long rallies, then sit down and gaze because it could take hours. That can go cross court, backhand to backhand, and also,  change it up, more. Will one of the players win another huge event, ever again?  Probably, yes, this year, but it is unsure. 

Speaking of which, the  American Taylor Fritz won Delray Beach, beating Paul. They know each other well and which they go. However, Fritz did win Indian Wells two years ago, so now, if he can nail it into the corners, consistently, he will have chance to go far. However, he has to knock down over Holger Rune, who is a darn good player, when he is on. He can be super solid, with his backhand, and he can return, too. But if Fritz can be immediately aggressive, then he can push him way back and put it away. Good, luck.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic wins and wins

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic can win  so many tournaments next year. He is older, for sure, as he is 36-years-old, but in 2023, he beat everyone, especially in the fall. The young players have improved a good amount, and yes, they can upset the Serbian, but they have to jump on him, early. Or Djokovic can be patient, and really chance it up.

In the ATP Finals last week, he beat Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, in the semis and in the final, and he didn’t lose a set. He was essentially perfect.

As his coach, Goran Ivanisevic said:  “I think Carlos didn’t play his best tennis. Still you need to beat him,” he said. “Nole lift his game. He came ready. He knew how to play unbelievable matches this year.  Carlos already won two Grand Slams and he’s future of tennis. Jannik really step up this year. He showed the world and himself that he’s ready next year to win Grand Slams, and he’s not afraid of anybody.

I think they going to both of them practice hard. The season is over. I think next year’s going to be very, very competitive and interesting year.”

Yes, during the year, he lost some so-so matches, and he lost. But Djokovic kept  moving forward, striding, and still learning. He has now won 98 singels titles, which is phenomenal, not only when he has won 23 Grand Slams, but he has won many various events, in Asia, Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, ext.  The huge hitter has also won in the hardcourts, on the clay, in the grass, outside and inside. But he is smarter on court, and perhaps, off the court.  

“I knew as soon as [Novak] got into the semifinal, he’s going to win the tournament. The mentality changed,” the Croatian Ivanisevic said.  “The new Novak Djokovic arrived on the court from Saturday. When real Novak Djokovic arrives on the court, then the moment is nobody that can play with him.”

When he won the Australian Open for the first time in 2008, Djokovic ran so fast, and he was super steady, but while his backhand was absurd, his forehand, his return and at the net needed to enrich. However, even though he had some difficult seasons, he still drove himself, and he added with different strokes.

 “It’s very tough to improve with him (smiling). But he wants to improve,” the one-time 2001 Wimbledon champion. Ivanisevic said. “ That’s the good thing and bad thing for me as a coach and the rest of the team. He improved a lot his volleys, his game at the net, and his position at the net. Now when he comes to the net – okay, today  he missed some easy volleys [against [Sinner]  – but generally this week and this year he plays some amazing volleys.  His position at the net is a lot better. Is very tough to pass him. Before he was very easy to pass. Now he knows what he’s doing at the net. He’s comfortable at the net. Final of U.S. Open he played two, three most important volleys in the final against [beating Daniil Medvedev]. He’s not afraid to come to the net. He’s hitting the forehands much, much harder. He’s going for the shots. Serving, second serve, sometimes he’s hitting over 200. He’s just going for it.”

Yes he did, and he still wants to be perfect, at the net. In January, Djokovic can win another Australian Open. Clearly he will be the favorite. But eventually,  the older you get, it is hard to sprint very fast. However, in 2024, he could do it again. He will make a huge effort.

Will anyone win a Slam next year? Maybe. Clearly, Alcaraz is very young and he is improving, so he could win one Slam, or two. You can throw in with Sinner, who had a terrific fall, but he has yet to win Slam, so in December, he must be thinking about how to return, deeper, and also, at the tough, nets.
 The American men had a solid year, overall, but no one reached into the final at the Slams. OK, maybe next year. Five of them are in the top 25 with Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul,  Frances Tiafoe , Ben Shelton  and Sebastian Korda. They are still pretty young, so they could rise, higher, but to beat Djokovic, or the rest of the top eight players, they will have to be much  deeper, about exactly what to do. Please.

‘Americans’ triumph at Laver Cup

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

After the Laver Cup, will the Americans, the Canadians and the South Americans win some huge events, this fall? It is hard to tell. Yes, the “‘Americans” won it, beating Europe, and they played very well, but that is different to beat they excellent competitors, such as Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

The United States with Taylor Fritz , Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton all played in Vancouver, and they had some fun matches, but they have not won an ATP Master 1000 this year, or even and ATP 500 in 2023. So yes, they are all in the top 20, so they are good, but to win a big title during the entire of the year is questionable. That is for sure.

Also, how about the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had reached into the top 10. But, this year, he began to slip, after March, and he lost very early. Perhaps he can reset.

Argentine Francisco Cerundolo can look pretty decent, and on the grass, he won Eastbourne, but after that, when he faces against the great players, he still cannot hit harder enough.

However, the 20-year-old Shelton, who reached into the semis at the US Open, that the reason was because when he arrived there, the doubles had helped him. After the Australian Open when he reached into the quarters, he was happy, but then he had a lot of work to do. It look him seven months to understand what he really needed to put in some very smart matches, when he is hitting the ball, both side to side, and then he will learn it, gradually. He did, and now he is ranked No. 19.

“Well, back-to-back singles matches, I had some success in doubles, and so that’s definitely something that gave me some confidence, going into this event. That’s singles and doubles, confidence that I could put points on the board for the team and that I had been pretty fine-tuned in doubles throughout the year,” he said. “In terms of singles, sometimes it only takes one. Still trying to find my way out on tour. I don’t think I’m perfect at all or found my game exactly the way I want to, but it’s a lot of new experiences, different places and surfaces I have never played on, but being here in North America, indoor hard court with a huge crowd, it feels like home to me.”

The next huge event will be in Rolex Shanghai Masters ATP 1000, which will start October  4,  and all of the top players have to do it, unless you can pull out, such as Djokovic, who did it last week. But perhaps one of them can grab it, like Shelton, Auger-Aliassime, or Cerundolo. That would be damn surprising, but they have to confirm it.

Down in Guadalajara, Maria Sakkari won the title. She is  a very quick player, and she can also sprint for a hours, but in 2023, she looked very decent, but at some other tournaments, she missed a lot of basic shots. However, when they arrived in Mexico, she decided that it was OK, to win or lose, but to be happy, rather than being so frustrated.  The No. 6 player Sakkari said:

“I play tennis for a living. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t give myself a chance to enjoy it in the past. I told myself, you owe it to yourself to have fun. And this is what happened this week.”

In the final, she beat American Caroline Dolehide who was ranked out of the top 100 last week,  but now she is  No. 38. What a huge event.

The top 10: the men after the U.S. Open

Frances Tiafoe
MALTPhoto

Here is my list of the men with the biggest impact from the US Open.

1. Novak Djokovic
Clearly, at this point, he is the best player, ever, now winning 24 Grand Slams. He is ahead of Rafa Nadal (22) and Roger Federer (20). The Swiss is retired, and the one thing is that possibly next year, the Spaniard Nadal will return and play in the 2024. Can he win another Slam again, maybe at the Australian Open, and of course, with  Roland Garros, who has won it 14 titles. He has to be totally healthy, but his body is breaking down, gradually.

With Djokovic, he almost never gets hurt,  which is why he can just raise his game, in the matches, and chase it up with his forehand, his backhand, his serve, his return, and with the net. Yes, he can make a few errors, but beyond that, he can re-set it again, open his eyes, and bash the ball. He has had an incredible year, but let us see if he continues to win more titles during the fall.

2. Daniil Medvedev
The Russian had a terrific tournament at the U.S. Open, but in the final, he did not push himself closer to the net. In the second set, he was so thick, but in the tiebreaker, he backed up, and the Serbian jumped on him. Yes, Medvedev can win another Slam, but there are a couple things that he needs to do, such as going closer to the baseline, and also, to work on the volleys. If he goes, he will have a chance to go deep once  again.

3. Carlos Alcaraz
The young Spaniard was playing fantastic, until the semis, and then he started to throw in some odd shots. He has won two Slams, and clearly, he is darn good, but he needs to be a little bit more calm, when he is playing. The 20-year-old will continue to improve, just like Djokovic when he was adding with some new volleys.

4. Ben Shelton
The American came out of nowhere, in the semis, as after he looked very good at the Australian Open, but after that, he lost a lot, all the way until August. Then in Flushing Meadows, he looked much stronger and more potent. He could not handle Djokovic, but he really does want to catch him, and beat him, pretty soon. That is a vast  challenge.

5. Taylor Fritz
He looked pretty good, although into the quarterfinals, and then he stopped thinking exactly what to do. There were moments at times against Djokovic, but he missed so many basic shots. He can be a darn good player, but if he wants to go further, into the top 5, he was to return better, his second serve, and also, at the net.

6. Frances Tiafoe

He is another person that he lost early during the summer, and then once he came into the U.S. Open, he was fresh and ready to dance. He did, all the way in the quarters, and then against Shelton, he looked pretty decent, but when he was way to the right and on the left, he was there, and he is thought he could put away, close to the lines, but he missed a lot. Then he was gone. He can smile a lot, and he has improved over the last two years, but will he actually win a ATP 1000 at some point? Possibly, but who knows.

7. Andrey Rublev

The other Russian can look so efficient, and he can also be forceful, but then he will to start sliding. He has beaten a lot of very good players, but not against the top ones. Maybe he is good enough, but not to win a Slam.

8. Alexander Zverev
It is almost impossible to see where he is going. He played some wonderful matches, but then in the quarters, he looked really tired, again. Sure, he can play great, but in the fall, he is going to have to attack early, and try to stick it away, or just sit there, point after point, and hope he can grind them down. Maybe he will, but if the German does the same things, he might never win a Slam.

9. Jannik Sinner
The Italian can look spectacular, and he is a huge hitter, but in the fifth set against  Zverev, he lost himself. He is only 22-years-old, and in August, he won Toronto. That was a big positive, but he need to be much more fitting in the fall.

10. Alex de Minaur
The Aussie had a solid summer, winning Los Cabos, reaching into the final at Toronto, and then in the quarters at the U.S. Open, he was pumped up, but in the last two sets, Medvedev crushed him. Good bye, and quickly. He is rational and he has to improved his return and his backhand, but if he can reach into the top 5 next year, he must think about where he should go, and trick the other people.

US Open picks: Tuesday, Sept 5

Jelena Ostapenko

Coco Gauff over Jelena Ostapenko

Many people are thinking that Gauff is ready to win the U.S. Open for the first time. She is playing wonderful ball, with her terrific backhand, and at the net, where she really reads it. She has lost a few sets, but in the third set, she jumps on the ball, and she focuses. It is possible that she can be shaky, in the match, but she is maturing.

Ostapenko actually won Roland Garros years ago, and she put in so many winners, as she went for it, all the time. But now, while she can crush the ball, currently, she can wait, here and there, until she can go for the right shot. Yes, she can make some crazy shots, and it will go out. That is her, but Ostapenko really likes to play in front of the massive crowns. However,  Gauff will challenge her, backhand versus backhand, and she will win it, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic  over Taylor Fritz

The American Fritz has played much better at the U.S. Open, with some intense strokes. Before that, he was somewhat confused, and his return was spotty. However, over the past two years, his forehand and his backhand has been concisely powerful. However, he has only won one ATP 1000, and he has never gone deep in the Slams. But maybe he is finally more mature, point after point.

But he has to face against Djokovic, who has won 23 Grand Slams, as well as a huge amount of the ATP 1000s. Clearly, the 36- year-old is better than just about everyone, as his backhand is the best ever, and his intelligent serves. He can also run very quickly. Yes, it will be above 90 degrees on Tuesday, so they will eventually be tired, if it goes long, more than three hours. Djokovic has beaten him all seven times, including  at Cincinnati, when he crushed him 6-0, 6-4. Yes, two year ago, at the 2021 at the Australian Open,  Fritz looked very good, but in the fifth set, the Serbian raised up, and Fritz fell.

This time at the U.S. Open,  Fritz will win a set, but Djokovic will bury him, stroke to stroke, and he will grab it 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Karolina Muchova over Sorana Cirstea

Three years ago, the Czech beat Cirstea at the U.S. Open in the third round in a massive match, grabbing it 7-6(7). Will they do it again on Tuesday? Sure, why not? They are both hitting deep, into the corners, and attacking it. They can bash the ball, and they also can be steady. Yes, Cirstea can back off, and the reason why is because she has yet to win a huge tournament, but at this year, the veteran has changed her tactics. So she has won a bunch if matches.

However, Muchova is one of the best players when she can lock it in. She has yet to win a Grand Slam, but at least she came close at Roland Garros. However, she can collapse, when she isn’t playing well.
The 33-year-old Cirstea is finally understanding that if she wants to go further, she will have to take the gloves off. She will, and the Romanian will win it 6-4, 5-7, 7-6

Frances Tiafoe over Ben Shelton

The 20-year-old Shelton has already had a fantastic tournament,  and he is growing, day after day. He is physically strong now, and he is faster, running, too. Also, he can mix it up, and down the line. He will improve a lot over the next 10 years, but right now,  Tiafoe believes that he can actually win it at the U.S. Open. That is a huge task, as he has yet to win a Slam, or an ATP 1000. Maybe he is ready. He can look stellar when he is on, trying to paint the lines. His forehand and his backhand are darn stout, but he is going to have to do it against Shelton, who will be pumped, up. As Patrick McEnroe said: “This is the biggest match like this in a long time. A very long time.”

However, Tiafoe  will control him, and he will win it 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

US Open picks: Friday, Sept. 1

Caroline Wozniaki
Ron Cioffi/TR

Caroline Wozniacki  over Jennifer Brady
The former No. 1 Wozniacki played pretty well when she knocked off Petra Kvitova. Her backhand has always been excellent, and her returns were terrific. However, her forehand is pretty good, but not great, which is why she has only won more than one at a Grand Slam. Can she do it again? That would be a huge challenge.

Brady was very good for a long time , but in 2021, she got hurt, physically, and she could not play in the WTA for two years. That is very long. Before that, she made it in the semis at the 2020 U.S. Open,and in 2021, she reached into the 2022 Aussie Open. Yes, she was darn good. However, Brady still is trying to get back, physically and mentally. She does really like to crush the ball, but Wozniacki is more in control. The Dane will win it in two tough sets.
 
Karolina Muchova over Taylor Townsend
The Czech can look so good, when she is sprinting, and slap it back. Over the past three months, she reached the final at Roland Garros and Cincinnati. She didn’t win it, but she is right there. Muchova appears to be healthy again, so the American Townsend has to play great to upset her. She is quite good in the doubles, but in the singles, she has improved this year, but she has not beaten a lot of top 10 players. Yes, the veteran wants to show the fans that she is legitmatety very good, but to watch it, she is going have to play great. She will at times, but really, Muchova is a better player. She will win it in two basic sets.

Tommy Paul over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
This should be a terrific, wild match. The American Paul beat him in Miami in straight sets, but the Spaniard wants to play much better at the U.S. Open. At the Australian Open on the hardcourts, again, Paul edged him 6-4 in the fifth set. Davidovich Fokina pushed himself back, and Paul attacked him, with some excellent shots. His forehand is a little bit better, but Davidovich Fokina has a more consistent backhand. Paul is more comfortable at the net, while Davidovich Fokina likes to add some different shots.
They will have another long five sets, and once again, Paul will beat him again, 7-5.

Taylor Fritz over Jakub Mensik
The 17-year-old Mensik qualified, and he has played almost every week, going to a bunch of small events. However, the teenager can be pretty steady, and also, he is tall, so when he gets a chance, he can swing hard and try for a winner.  He beat a number of juniors, but this time, he has to play substantially better to upset Fritz, who has gone deep in a lot of events. Fritz once won Indian Wells, but he has yet to go into the second week at the U.S. Open. The San Diego native really wants to, so he has to be super consistent.  As he said, the American Andy Roddick won the title in 2003, but that was it. Will it be this time?

“We’ve all been hearing about who’s going to be the next American (after) Andy Roddick 20 years ago our entire careers. We all want it so bad,” said Fritz. “Hopefully it’ll be one of us soon.”
He will win it over Mensik in straight sets.