Ben Shelton wins his first event, grabs Tokyo

Ben Shelton

The last time that Andy Roddick won his first title, in 2001, he started to rise, and his first serve as well his forehand were massive.

On Sunday, in Tokyo, the young American Ben Shelton beat Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1. Early on, when he started on the ATP Tour, the now 21-year-old was decent, but not yet. Currently though, his forehand and his backhand are much more consistent, and his first serve is harder. He is pretty good at the net, and his return is improving, month after month.

“We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately,” Shelton said. “You see the great champions, they finish weeks off…I am really looking forward to this tail-end stretch of the year. I am looking forward to finishing the season strong.”

In 2001, for the first time in the United States, Roddick won in Atlanta, Houston, and Washington. Two years later, he won the 2003 U.S. Open when he was 21-years-old. Perhaps that Shelton can win a Grand Slam in the next  year, in 2024. He is really good, already.

Shelton still has some huge opportunities. He will play in Vienna, next week, and then in  Paris. He does have a small chance to play at the ATP Finals in Italy, the top 8, but in Vienna, he has to face the Np. 4, Jannik Sinner. That could be a brutal match, but Shelton is so enthusiastic. Even though he must be a little bit tired, he will jump into the court and race, super harsh.

Marcos Giron did lose to Shelton 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 6-4, but he was darn close. That was a positive weekend.

Alexander Bublik did win Belgium,  and he played terrific, but who about the 19-year-old Frenchman, Arthur Fils, who reached the final? He is very fast, running, and he can attack, early, but he needs to set up the points.

This was an amazing week from Gael Monfils, as the 37-year-old won Stockholm. He edged Pavel Kotov 4-6 7-6(6) 6-3, with his tremendous backhand. He has some super cool shots, everywhere. He might now win another tournament, but he look ecstatic…

Katerina Siniakova

Three of the WTA women took the titles, with Katerina Siniakova, Tamara Korpatsch, and Elise Mertens, who won his eight title, but only the six 250s. But that was very good. None of them will play the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, in the singles, but Siniakova and her partners will play with Barbora Krejcikova
 again, as well as Mertens, who works with Storm Hunter…

 During this week, I will talk a lot about Mexico, D.F., where I lived for two years, my first job,  in the early 1980s, with a newspaper, called “Mexico City.” At that point, I worked a lot with the politics, but I also loved sports, so I would go to watch, with my job, and also to talk to with the players. There was some wild matches, like in Soccer, the Bulls, and of course, the tennis Davis Cup. Soon, I can remember something, the stories, and why…  

The Olympics in Tokyo: Barty, Osaka have early exits

Kei Nishikori

In Tokyo, at the Olympic Games, many of the top women have lost, including Ash Barty and Olympic flame lighter Naomi Osaka.

With Osaka in the Olympic spotlight, it took a streaky Marketa Vondrousova to knock her out 6-1 6-2.

Wimbledon champ and No. 1 Ash Barty was quickly bounced by Sara Sorribes Torma of Spain in the first round. Definitely, a shock.

There are some players looked banged up. Garbine Muguruza is very strong, beating Alison van Uytvanck. When she is on, she can win this tournament hands down. But not this year.

Elina Svitolina also really wants to win, making up for her disappointing performances at the Slams. However, she can smash the ball. Marketa Vondrousova is slightly better, but she has to be more precise.

Kei Nishikori knocked down No. 7 Andrey Rublev. Nishikori is up and down, but he really likes playing in Tokyo. He can go much further. He is very thoughtful and can be a top player when he is very healthy, which is rare.

Daniil Medvedev continues to grow, even in the fifth set, when he is 38-18. Perhaps he is on the way, not only in Tokyo, but maybe at the US Open? The No. 2 has to charge at the net and put the ball away.

Novak Djokovic has won three Slams this year, and if he wins Tokyo and the US Open, then he might be the best player of all time. I mean that.

At the doubles, Andy Murray and Liam Broady are rocking and rolling. Out of nowhere, they emerged. But Croats Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig got them out in the quarterfinals. Kiki Bertens’ just retired, winning 10 WTA singles titles. At WTA 1000 in Cincinnati, she beat Simona Halep in the final. She also won the 2019 Madrid, defeating Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens and Halep. That was wonderful. She was very good overall, but she was never spectacular at the Slams. Good enough, though.

Who will play the Olympics? Not enough

Sofia Kenin

Will play: Djokovic, Zverev, Berrettini, Barty, Osaka and Kenin. 

Won’t play: Nadal, Thiem, Federer, Kerber, Azarenka and Serena

Who doesn’t like to watch the Olympics? Many of us do on TV, not only tennis, but gymnastics, swimming, basketball, soccer, or track and field. It will start next week at the 2021 Tokyo, and it should be a blast to watch, but there will be no fans. That could be bizarre. 

On July 16,  23 of the ATP top 50, will not play in Tokyo, including  Nadal, Thiem, Federer, Shapovalov, Raonic, Evans, Opelka, Isner, Fritz, Kerber, Azarenka, Serena, Halep, Kenin, Andreescu and Konta.  

Novak Djokovic is in, which is terrific, as the Serbian has won three Grand Slams this year. He was victorious at Wimbledon and now he has 20  Grand Slams, like Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.  At the US Open, Djokovic has a big chance to win it all four. Assuming they will be healthy, the Big Three could have some fascinating matches, long ones, some tough ones. In the second week, they will begin to bash the ball. They were confident, and ready to go even further. 

Which ones? It is early, six weeks away, so we don’t know who is playing healthy and excellent on the court. I won’t guess, but today, here are more players who will reach the second week with Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Shapovalov, Sebastian Korda, Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza, Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu and Iga Swiatek.

In Newport, this week, Jack Sock won a singles match and then he lost against Kevin Anderson. The American went way down, in singles, and in 2017, he was a career-high No. 8. And in doubles, in 2018 that was another positive signs, his a career-high No. 2. So when he is healthy, and in good shape, he can gradually go up the ladder, but very slowly. He is ranked No. 231, which is way out there, but this season, he played a lot, especially on the USTA Pro Circuit. Clearly, he really wants to try. Good luck.

Wimbledon finalist Anderson got hurt two years ago, and now, he is close to reach the top 100 again. Yes, the 35-year-old may not reach a Slams final again as he did at the ’17 US Open and ’18 Wimbledon, but the tall man hits his huge serves and forehands. Remember, in 2018, he was ranked No. 5. He was darn good. When you watch him at a match, he can be so respectable, or more so. He does believe that in the next year, he will reach the top 20. But beyond that, he will have to prove it. That is life.

By the way, Sock will play Atlanta next week. Also, his friend, Nick Kyrgios, will also play, singles and doubles.