Doug's 2018 Aussie Open Review
Oh yes, there were storylines to be had at this year's Aussie Open. For starters, I picked Roger Federer to win this year's Australian Open. However, I didn't REALLY think he was going to win. I just thought he was the logical person to guess was going to win, because, I really didn't have any idea. If I had to pick after the first week, I would've picked Nadal. If he had stayed healthy, and that is a really big "if", I think he would've out "physicaled" (is that a word?) Federer in the final. He was playing his physical game brilliantly until his body let him down. Some of my other inklings also bore themselves out. One, Kyrgios was terrific, until he couldn't keep his head together to tough out a five set match vs. a high quality opponent, Grigor Dimitrov. Also, Djokovic's elbow is not healed, and he wasn't able to play at a championship level yet, as I suspected. And finally, Sasha Zverev's head is still not on straight. If he gets it together, (that is, his head), he has the same "can't miss" game that Djokovic exhibited right before he went on his run of 12 majors.
I'm reluctant to produce my regular few sentences about American tennis, like I normally do at this time in my grand slam review. But here it goes: who is this guy Tennys Sandgren? And do we want him representing American tennis? I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt in regard to his mixing politics, social consciousness, and professional tennis. Perhaps his tweets misrepresented him a bit. If we can put blinders on, and just focus on his tennis, it is a "feel good" story. The kid grinded it out in the tennis minor leagues. And he has game!
Moving forward, there are opportunities out there for new names and faces to make big strides on the mens tour this year. You know Federer is going to play a limited schedule. Currently Nadal, Murphy, and Djokovic are all hurt for the foreseeable future. Who will step up? I believe that Aussie Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung is the real deal. I believe he becomes a household tennis name by the end of the year on the men's tour.
Wow, what a women's Aussie Open! I have to admit that women's matches dominated my Australian Open viewing the last two weeks! Where do we start? How about Simona Halep defeating Lauren Davis 15-13 in the final set in the fourth round? (Don't get me started on why the US Open is the only grand slam that plays a tiebreak at 6 all at the end of EVERY set.) Kerber's three set win in the fourth round vs. Hseih from Taiwan was highly entertaining. After Kerber's routs of darkhorse favorites Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys, she became the betting favorite after the first week. You thought nothing could top Halep vs. Kerber's semi-final. Both ladies held match points, Halep outlasted Kerber 9-7 in the third. Halep, known for her athletic defense, won by being the aggressor, successfully going for a little more on her shots late in the match than did Kerber. This takes us to the final, and the other half of the draw. Did you know that the ladies Australian Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki was down 1-5 in the third set to Croatian Jana Fett in the second round. I actually turned the channel to another match (enjoying my google chromecast and array of Australian early round matches on ESPN3). She won her first grand slam by defeating Simona Halep 6-4 in the third after playing for 2 hours, 49 minutes. If you followed Wozniacki's career, you would know her athleticism and retrieving skills were her biggest strength. She became the world's best "pusher" on the womens tour. So good that she was able to become number one in the world and earn millions of dollars. Pushing, however, will not win you grand slams. I define pushing as having a solid defensive foundation. She become really good at returning all balls, but not really good, at ending points by hitting very aggressive shots. She came on tour in 2008. It took her 9 years to add enough offensive skills to her defensive foundation to win a well deserved first grand slam. Her serve has become a weapon. Her groundstrokes are not just being returned in play with world class consistency, she has increased her swing speed and accuracy to dictate many of the rallies. At 27, she now has an opportunity to win several more. I predict she does, including another won later this year!
Doug's 2018 Australian Open Preview
Oh, so many story lines, and so little time and space! The Aussie Open tends to be the most unpredictable of the grand slams. After a 8-10 week break, who has been training, and who has been resting? Andre Agassi used to run Magic Mountain near his home in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. Other players were doing....well, what many young adults do on New Year's Eve!
Let's discuss a few. Nadal is the top seed and was dominant near the end of last year. But he battled nagging injuries late in the year. If Nadal is healthy, and has been healthy to train the way he likes to train - a lot and hard!, then he is the favorite. Federer was brilliant last year, and he has the heart of a champion. But he is 36! Murray, and Nishikori are already out with injuries.
My favorite player on tour right now is Sasha Zeverev. However, he has not been playing his best tennis lately. He appears to be playing with a lot of weight on his shoulders. I'm not sure why. He doesn't appear to be enjoying the process as much as he did last year.
Dimitrov could be considered the favorite and the current hottest player on tour. However, he hasn't broken through yet. The first one is always the hardest. Djokovic is back! But he pulled out of an event just a few weeks ago. That makes you think he is not completely healthy, and perhaps hasn't been able to train as hard as he would like. And Aussie bad boy Nick Kyrgios is always a threat, and perhaps the most talented player in the draw. Until he proves me wrong, I don't think he can keep his head together for two weeks to win a grand slam. Some interesting potential match ups include Djokovic vs. Zverev, and Dimitrov vs. Kyrgios in the round of 16!
I honestly believe that our champion will come out of no where!!!! A huge surprise! But I'm committed to picking a winner, and I will contradict myself, and pick a very familiar and predictable champion: Roger Federer!
The ladies draw is also wide, wide, open!!! No Serena. The number one and two seeds, Halep and Wozniacki have never won a grand slam title. Venus is seeded 5th but is 37 years old. Defending Wimbledon champ Muguruza has been inconsistent lately and also just pulled out of a warmup tournament. American Sloane Stephens, the latest grand slam winner at the US Open, has not won a match since that grand slam. You read it correctly, not ONE MATCH.
Madison Keys wasn't ready to break through when she had the opportunity at the US Open final last fall.
But a two-time grand slam winner, and former number one, just won her first tournament since winning the US Open in 2016- Angie Kerber. She is a rock solid player and incredible athlete. She had a little "Sasha Zeverev" thing going on last year, meaning she was carrying around a lot of weight in her head, and not enjoying the process. I think last week's win at Sydney was a HUGE breakthrough for her at this stage of her career. My pick for the 2018 Ladies Australian Open champion: #21 seed Angie Kerber of Germany!
Doug's 2017 US Open Review
If you read my Reviews regularly, I hope you don’t get tired of this phrase: “The heart of a champion.” This generation of tennis players has produced two of the greatest champions with the greatest hearts ever: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal!!! My first memory of Rafa was his early round 2003 US Open loss to Andy Roddick. Andy went on to win the Open that year, his only grand slam victory. He mopped up on Rafa 6-0 in the first set. You would NEVER have known it by looking at Rafael. He had that same warrior look that he has maintained for the last 14 years. Fast forward to August in Canada. He loses to an 18 year old wild card. The following week he gets completely hit off the court in Cincinnati by Nick Kyrgios.
Rafa did not look impressive heading into New York City. However, as another great champion, Jimmy Connors, once said, “Cincinnati ain’t New York”, Rafa took his game to another level at the year’s final grand slam. What changed? Rafa is healthy! This was the best defense I’ve ever seen him play on a hard court. He was running down everything, and was somehow staying neutral on points where he had every reason to be on the defense. But most of all, he NEVER lost the belief that he could win another grand slam this year- which, by the way, was number 17, second only to Roger’s 19. Who is the best of all time? Roger, Rafa? Yes and Yes!!!
My pick was a victim of a successful early Summer. Alex (Sasha) Zeverev is 20 years old, who will win multiple grand slams in the future. I honestly thought he would break through at this year’s US Open. However, he won DC in late July, and followed that up by winning the Canadian Masters the following week. However, I think he was shot by the time he reached the final US Open tune up in Cincinnati. He lost early there, and had nothing left in his meek second round effort against former junior rival Borna Coric. After the first two rounds, I was pretty sure that Roger was not going to win in New York. He went five sets in both his first and second rounds. It told me two things: One, Roger’s game wasn’t right, and two, his 37 year old body will not be able to hold up over two weeks playing long, tough matches early in the tournament. When I saw Roger tighten up to drop the first set against del Potro in the quarterfinals, I knew he wasn’t right- and he wasn’t going to win this match. He ended up losing in four sets.
There were lots of interesting story lines on the women’s side of this year’s US Open. Serena had a baby during the event! No, she wasn’t playing or in New York! There were four Americans in the semi-finals! One of them was Venus. I think she would agree that she may have left one slip away. The ladies match of the tournament was the semi-final between eventual champion Sloan Stephens and Venus. Well, at least the third set! Each easily won a set, respectively, setting the stage for a classic third setter, which Sloan won 7-5. What a disappointment the final was. It was especially disappointing for me, as I had picked Madison Keys to win her first grand slam prior to the tournament. She was playing the best tennis of anyone prior to the championship match. It is understandable, but I was still disappointed that the occasion was too big for her- this time. Madison can NOT play successfully with nerves. She plays a big high-risk game. With little margin for error, being nervous completely throws off her game. Sloane simply kept the ball in play, and let Madison self-destruct. And that is exactly what happened in the final.
Doug's 2017 US Open Preview
The public is yearning for a Nadal-Federer semi-final. (They have NEVER met at the US Open.) I’m sorry guys, I don’t see it happening. There are too many landmines along the way. I think Federer has a better chance of making it through than Nadal. Federer’s hiccup could be Kyrgios in the round of 16. If Nick is healthy, and feels like playing, he can easily take out Federer. I would call this a toss up, with the winner making it through to the semi-final. I see Grigor Dimitrov looming in Nadal’s quarter. Dimitrov just won his first Master’s Series in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. He is feeling as confident as he ever has. I think the time is right for Dimitrov to make a big splash in New York. I see Grigor not only knocking off Nadal in the quarters, but beating either Federer or Kyrgios in the semi to make his first Grand Slam final. In the other half, with Murray dropping out late, it has become wide open. However, I had my new favorite player making it all the way through, regardless- Alex, Sasha, Zverev. The time is right. This is the tournament that Zverev makes his big splash. I see no one in his half to stop him, and also plays in his first grand slam final. So, could it be the changing of the guard during the last Grand Slam of the year? I think so! Zverev defeats Dimitrov to win the 2017 US Open. The next new superstar in men’s tennis: Alex (Sasha) Zverev, at 20 years old.
With Serena playing, everyone is mostly looking to try to come in second. Without Serena, it is wide open, and almost anyone has a chance. That leads us to a chance for a breakout winner on the womens side as well. And that is exactly what I see happening. Wimbledon champion Garbi Muguruza is the hot player of the season. She also tends to be inconsistent, especially in early rounds. If Muguruza can make it through the first week, she has a good shot in the second week. She is a big match player. However, its been a long summer for her, and I see her getting upset early. So my breakout player? Madison Keys. She is coming back from some wrist surgery early in the year, and is just coming into form. I see her playing an English Bulldog names Joanna Konta in the final. American, Madison Keys, a first time Grand Slam champion is your 2017 Ladies US Open champion!
Doug's Wimbledon Review
Well, pat me on the back. I called it. May be it wasn't a big reach, but going into Wimbledon, I saw no one who had a better chance of winning than Roger Federer. And EVERYTHING broke his way! He needed to get through his matches quickly. One or two five-set matches would have worn him down. That didn't happen. In fact, he finished the tournament without LOSING A SET. Made to order for a 35 year old to win a grand slam. Second, the draw broke great for him. Three of the big four failed to make it to the semi-finals! That is, Murray, Nadal, and Djokovic. Any of those three are capable of beating Federer on a good day. Fed didn't have to meet up with any of them on his way to the championship.
It was a bizarre final. I don't know if we will every know exactly what was wrong was Marin Cilic during the final. I believe it was primarily mental. I even suggest that he was hyperventilating at his chair during a changeover. That comes from anxiety. We have seen nerves from Cilic in the past. One exception being his incredible run during the 2014 US Open. I believe nerves overcame him during this final.
The ladies tour will continue to be extremely unpredictable while Serena is not playing. This held true during this year's Wimbledon. I predicted a dark horse winner, Simona Halep. She has come so close to winning a grand slam. She also has struggled with nerves in big moments. I thought maybe she could break through at an event where she was not expected to win. Once I saw some big hitters hitting players off the court, I knew Simona had no chance. Venus had a great run at Wimbledon, losing in the final. If I had known that the situation involving her traffic accident was not going to affect her play, I definitely would have picked her to win the event. Gabi Muguruza is a terrific talent. No reasonable person would have picked her to win Wimbledon this year, however, based on her results coming into the event. In her two warmup grasscourt events, she lost in the second round 6-1, 6-0!, and also lost in the semifinals of another warmup event to the #77 player in the world.
Gabi put it all together at this year's Wimbledon. She was able to overpower players from the baseline. She was able to come to net and end points with volleys. And she was able to control her nerves when it got to the end.
Doug's Wimbledon Preview
What a wide-open field this year's Wimbledon is! On both the mens and women's side. There are good reasons for and against many of the top players. Let's start with the hottest current player on tour: Rafael Nadal. The freshly annoited French Open champion has to be a factor in this year's Wimbledon. But I believe the days are gone where Rafa can dominate the tour for a long time. I don't think he will be able to complete the "cross the English Channel double". That is, winning the French and Wimbledon a few weeks later on completely different surfaces. I believe he has to be tired by all the matches and victories from the spring clay court season. Murray has to have a chance, being spurrend on by his home country. But Murray is not completely healthy, and is not extremely confident. A semi-final run is what I expect from him. Djokovic's bubble of invincibility has popped. He feels it on the inside, and the rest of the tour feels it on the outside. He may still have the game to win Wimbledon, but I don't think he has head back on straight to do it. That leaves us with one name left, and leaves me scratching my head: Federer. Can he do it? Win two grand slams in one year at age 35? I keep thinking of reasons that he can't. And, you know, I can't think of any. He does have the intangible that Murray and Djokovic may lack at this time- CONFIDENCE. He truly believes he can win here. He obviously has the game to win. He must stay healthy, and he can't get hung up with a lot of long matches over the two weeks. Just one long match early on may be enough to bring him down. However, he stands out to me as the best choice heading into the All England Club. My pick for 2017 Wimbledon Men's Champion: Roger Federer.
Let's start with this: Can you name the French Open Ladies Champion from last month? I didn't think so! It was Jelena Ostapenko. So now you know what we are dealing with in trying to handicap the ladies field at this year's Wimbledon. Normally, I would say the field is breaking for Venus. However, she has a personal issue which I believe will overwhelm her during the course of the event. I am going to select a darkhorse to win this event: Simona Halep. She is good enough to win a grand slam. She just lost a long three-setter in the French Open final last month. She will be ticked and motivated. Halep will not feel any pressure as she is not expected to win at Wimbledon, probably her least favorite surface. She will loosen up and play unexpectedly high quality tennis on the grass. Your 2017 Wimbledon Ladies Champion, Simona Halep, winning her first grand slam when least expected. Just like a young man named Andre Agassi did 25 years ago.
Doug's Australian Open Review
Wow, what a crazy and unpredictable Aussie Open! It's even amazing to call a Federer-Nadal final unpredictable! But that's where we "were" based on the previous years' results. For the last two years, Djokovic has been in 7 of the last 8 Grand Slam finals! Murray has been in 5 of the last 8- plus winning the Olympics! What are the chances of NEITHER making it to the quarterfinals in Australia! Nadal has not been to a Grand Slam final since the French in 2014. And Federer hadn't played an official tour match since Wimbledon last year! That is what made this year's Australian Open crazy and unpredictable. Here is my final take on the Open: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE HEART OF A CHAMPION. In this case, CHAMPIONS- Federer and Nadal. They need to take extra care in pacing their schedule and staying healthy. If they do that, we are in store for a memorable year on the men's tennis tour. Possibly Roger's farewel tour, but then again, never underestimate Roger.
I always like to add some updates on American success, or lately, lack thereof. Jack Sock seems to have the biggest upside in the short term. Sock has one of the biggest forehands, and first serves in the game. His backhand drive is getting better. He must get fitter, and he must become a better competitor to make it to the top ten, and to contend for grand slams. He continues to be a mental roller coaster during matches with huge mental and emotional swings. He must improve that area of his game in order to become a champion. I was dissapointed that some of our American junior prospects did not break out down under. I still think Taylor Fritz could break out. Others include Jared Donaldson, Francis Tiafoe, and Noah Rubin. Keep an eye on these names as the tour continues this year.
Yes, a Williams sister final was a BIG surprise, but for different reasons. Venus has showed us flashes of greatness in recent Grand Slams, but has never been able to make a multi-match run like she did in Australia. I would call Serena's win at age 35 a mild surprise. However, consider these stats: Serena has been to 8 of the last 10 Grand Slam finals, winning 6 of the last eight. Maybe I shouldn't even be mildly surprised. Remember that phrase I used in the men's review: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE HEART OF THE CHAMPION. Those who read my previews and reviews know I am not a big fan of Serena. However, I will ALWAYS admit that she has the heart of a champion. It appears the pressure of being #1 in the world, and being "the hunted" has taken its toll on Angie Kerber. She does not have any extremely big weapons. She depends on that fighting spirit for much of her success. She must get that fight back, or you may see a surprising slide backwards in her results this year.
A young American female breakthrough occurred at this Australian Open. Coco Vanderweghe beat #1 Kerber in the quarterfinals losing to Venus in a three set semi final. Vanderweghe, along with currently injured Madison Keys, gives American tennis fans some realistic hope as the Williams sisters near the end of their history making careers.