Ready … Play

The Spin

These are the words that let tennis fans know that a match is about to start. For Venus Williams, she was like most of us who hear the alarm clock, decide to hit it and say just one minute more please.

There is no doubt that Venus’ first round opponent, Swiss Miss Belinda Bencic was on her game. We saw that during her Hopman Cup matches. Her net game was much improved. she was fitter than before she had her injury layoff but what impressed a lot of people was her return of serve. Prior to her injury layoff, Bencic would routinely lose matches and one key stat was her inability to return serve. One cannot forget her suffering through 15 aces by Sharapova at the Australian Open in 2016.

Venus on the other hand could not get a read on Bencic’s serve. She had multiple break point opportunities to get even in the first set and while most of those opportunities had to do with Bencic serving her way out of trouble, it also had to do with Venus’ sluggishness.

Last year another great champion got taken to task for skipping the whole clay season to focus on the grass season. This was a decision that paid off in the end as Federer ended up winning Wimbledon. Perhaps the time has come for Venus to start scheduling smarter. I am sure that Serena was quite upset about not being able to defend her title here this year but she took the view that it was better that she return when she is able to compete effectively rather than just seeking to defend points.

Venus needs to take that same view. The Australian Open is a tournament at which Venus has had some shocking losses. She has made the finals twice in her long and storied career and frankly I would not miss her if she never played it again. I think Venus and her team need to take the long view when it comes to her schedule. She is not a young player. She has health issues and in my honest opinion, if Venus expects to win big tournaments or any tournament she needs to schedule better. If that means dropping tournaments that are too close to the end of the season or too close to the start of the season then she needs to drop them. I believe she should start her season in the spring by playing smaller tournaments to get match fit.

American Carnage

They kept dropping like flies. Sloane, Venus, Coco, Falconi, Kenin, and Townsend. The men were not to be left out as both Jack Sock and John Isner were both sent packing (MAGA). Even Ryan Harrison barely made it through as Dudi Sela served for the match, but failed to do so.

Sloane Stephens has not won a match since winning at the US Open last season. In her match against Zhang, Stephens served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but would go on to lose the set in a tiebreak, get broken early in the third set and seemed to tire at the end. Reduced to chasing balls and being pulled from side to side, Stephens would try drop shots that did not make their over the net, and the constant looking at her coach for guidance became the hallmark of the rest of the match.

As someone else has opined elsewhere, the worst thing to ever happen to Sloane Stephens was winning the US Open. It is a travesty that similar to Kim Clijsters who returned to the Tour in 2009 rested and refreshed only to win the US Open that year, Stephens returned to the WTA Tour, recovering from a knee injury and returned refreshed and renewed.

Australian Open App

Usually, I never write about these things because I find it quite tiring but I have to register my disgust with the Australian Open App. It does not work. No live scoring. No results. No schedule. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Millions of dollars have been spent. A draw ceremony that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Maybe the Australian Open has lost its way. Hopefully, the same amount of effort that went into getting Sharapova to stand there and smile and answer questions about “returning” to the Tour will be made into getting an app that actually does what it is supposed to do.

Day 2 Schedule

The top half of the draw plays today and the Spin’s picks are below:

Rod Laver Arena

Pliskova (Ka) v. Cepede Royg

Barty v. Sabalenka

Halep v. Alava

Margaret Court

Witthoeft v. Garcia (picking the higher ranked player but maybe an upset in the making if Garcia is not 100%)

Maria v. Sharapova (less said about this match up the better)

Muguruza v. Ponchet


Konta v. Brengle

Kerber v. Friedsam (confidence is everything)

Court 2

Bouchard v. Dodin (while Dodin has not had much match play, Bouchard is not the picture of match toughness these days. It could very well be that Bouchard finds her game as she usually plays well in Australia. Pick at your own risk)

Petkovic v. Kvitova (which Petra shows up and has Petkovic peaked?)

Court 3

Safarova v. Tomljanovic

Mladenovic v. Bogdan (surely Kiki can get her game together on the big stage, but her first round opponent has a big game and is fearless. Look for the upset here)

Court 5

Jabeur v. Vesnina

Vikhlyantseva v. Tsurenko

Court 7

Cabrera v. Haddad Maia

Giorgi v. Kalinskaya (my dark horse pick to make it to week 2)

Court 8

Wang v. Keys

Pliskova (Kr) v. Radwanksa (it’s a Major, surely Aga will get her life together? The less famous Pliskova beat her earlier this year)

Court 10

Lucic-Baroni v. Rogers (one is injured, the other is in a bit of slump. Look for the slumping player to take this one)

Osaka v. Kucova (new coach, new outlook. Let us see if Big Sascha has what it takes to be a coach)

Court 12

Nara v. Vondrousova

Hibino v. Vekic (very tough match for Vekic who struggled in Hobart against Heather Watson. Let us see if the resurgent Vekic’s loss in Hobart was an anomaly)

Court 13

Lepchenko v. Sevastova

Putintseva v. Watson

Court 14

Ahn v. Strycova

Davis v. Cepelova (Lauren Davis has virtually disappeared since winning her lone WTA title last season in Auckland. Cepelova has been beset with injuries. This will be a match of who wants to get to the second round more)

Court 15

Gasparyan v. Blinkova

Hsieh v. Zhu

Court 19

Cirstea v. Diyas (Cirstea has been enjoying a fantastic resurgence. Can she make it past the very tough when she is on her game Diyas?)

Hercog v. Alexandrova

Court 20

McHale v. Sasnovich

Court 22

Arruabarrena v. Hogenkamp (neither player has shown good form over the past 12 months. Arruabarrena has regressed to obscurity. If she is on Hogenkamp will be sent packing, but I don’t see it)

French Open Day Results and Day 2 Picks and Pans

Day 1 Results (Spin’s Results are in Blue).  Of the 16 first round matches played today, Spin had a 68.75% accuracy rate.  Good going for the first day of play.

Serena Williams [1] v Anna Tatishvili
Caroline Garcia [WC] v Yuliya Beygelzimer [Q]
Sorana Cirstea[26] v Kiki Bertens
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [19] v Andrea Hlavackova
Petra Cetkovska v Olga Puchkova
Galina Voskoboeva [Q] v Grace Min [Q]
Mallory Burdette v Donna Vekic
Mandy Minella v Dinah Pfizenmaier [Q]
Venus Williams [30] v Urszula Radwanska
Virginie Razzano [WC] v Claire Feuerstein [WC]
Ana Ivanovic [14] v Petra Martic
Nadia Petrova [11] v Monica Puig
Irena Pavlovic [WC] v Shelby Rogers
Sabine Lisicki [32] v Sofia Arvidsson
Ayumi Morita v Yulia Putintseva
Sara Errani [5] v Arantxa Rus

Day 2 Picks and Pans are below.  Spin’s Picks are in red. 
Na Li [6] vs Anabel Medina Garrigues – tough one but Li should pull through in straights
Su-Wei Hsieh vs Maria Sharapova [2] 
Agnieszka Radwanska [4] vs Shahar Peer – how is the shoulder feeling Aga?
Caroline Wozniacki[10] vs Laura Robson – big match but Woz should pull through
Stephanie Foretz-Gacon vs Roberta Vinci [15] – 2 veterans but Vinci is playing great tennis
Flavia Pennetta vs Kirsten Flipkens [21] – Flavia, if only because Flipper does not do clay very well
Chanelle Scheepers vs Mathilde Johansson – home crowd advantage 
Mona Barthel vs Angelique Kerber [8] – battle of the Germans. Mona has been MIA but is Kerber  healthy?
Julia Goerges [24] vs Zuzana Kucova – how is Julia’s wrist? If healthy should be fine
Melinda Czink vs Francesca Schiavone – veteran battle, but Fran with memories should pull through
Simona Halep vs Carla Suarez Navarro [20] – this was a tough one as both ladies are playing really well
Varvara Lepchenko[29] vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – when Lucic is on she is devastating. this will be a battle
Eugenie Bouchard vs Tsvetana Pironkova – Bouchard has been playing great tennis recently. Should be a good one
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs Bojana Jovanovski – this will be a battle to the death or an easy victory for the Serb
Jie Zheng vs Vesna Dolonc – Zheng has been having good results on the clay
Tatjana Maria vs Paula Ormachaea – have not seen the young Argentine since the USO qualies last year.  Should be a good battle
Madison Keys vs Misaki Doi – Keys in straights
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Ekaterina Makarova – this was a tough one as Sveta should have great memories of her victory here 
Pauline Parmentier vs Magdalena Rybarikova – again, another tough one but the French woman will prevail
Karin Knapp vs Sloane Stephens [17] – has Sloane got her head sorted out? We will see
Jana Cepelova vs Christina McHale – Same for McHale?  is she healthy?
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor vs Julia Glushko – the young Spaniard impressed recently in Madrid, losing a tough 3 setter.  Look for her to play lights out here in Paris
Karolina Pliskova vs Garbine Muguruza – the young Spaniard has impressed everyone with her fight on hard courts. She was beaten handily by Sharapova in Rome recently.  Remains to be seen how she does against an opponent who does not have the weapons of Sharapova
Monica Niculescu vs Johanna Larsson – the wily Romanian will outfox the defender
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs Lourdes Dominguez Lino – this is a toss up as BMS has been playing great on clay, however, Lino will frustrate but BMS should be able to come through
Vania King vs Alexandra Cadantu – Vania came through qualifying and is match tough but I just don’t see her getting past Cadantu
Romina Oprandi vs Elina Svitolina – the wily veteran lost a tough 3 setter in Brussels. Look for her to make amends here
Tamira Paszek [28] vs Melanie Oudin – I am shocked that Tamira is ranked that high enough to be actually seeded. I think Oudin takes her out in straights. 

The Match that Broke my Heart on Day 1 

She served to take a 5-4 lead in the first set and got broken. She was 0-4 down in the second set tiebreak after serving for the second set on 2 occassions and having set points.  She was 5-1 down in the third set and stared defeat in the face. She eventually lost the match 5-4 in the third against Ula Radwanska, but today Venus Ebony Starr Williams showed us that when healthy, or even something remotely resembling healthy, it will take a special player to bring her down, and bring her down without a fight. 

Those of us who watched the match from beginning to end stood and applauded the shots from both ladies.  While I am still upset that she lost, I can only bow down to the younger Radwanska as she never gave up and she continued to fight. 

For her part, the veteran holder of 7 Grand Slam singles titles, too many other singles titles to mention, Olympian extraordinaire and fighter of life and tennis in general showed us why the women deserve to be paid equally with the men.  For over 3 hours she showed why she is a threat despite not being at her best. 

Venus, this fan salutes you.  My only hope is that you continue to play until I get to see you on the green lawns of Wimbledon. You did well.