Go big and go home (with your first title)

Jelena Ostapenko was never at Roland Garros to make up the numbers. The Latvian was ranked at 47 in the world and 19 when the tournament began now she will be ranked as high as 12 and just turned 20 and what a way to celebrate than with your first career title which is just one of the four majors in the world so no big deal!

Jelena’s style of play is what helped propel her to an unthinkable title in which she hit 299 winners in 7 matches which is unheard of in tennis, Nadal hit 118 in his first 5 matches!

Every match Jelena arrived with a ‘go big or go home’ style of tennis and she did go big from the first to last match and went big, went home but with a Grand Slam title.

There was never any pressure on Ostapenko. With respect she never came into Roland Garros with much expectation on her which brings pressure and as the tournament went on and on she continued to play more freely seeing off Puig, Stosur, Wozniacki, Bacsinzky and Halep on her way to winning the title.

She wasn’t phased by anything and the crowd got behind her and her explosive style of tennis as she went from strength to strength with no fear and this could be the start of something major.

I still don’t feel there will be too much pressure on her which we have seen in the past from young players in her position. She seems to be a young lady with her feet on the ground coached by her mother and former top 20 player Anabel Medina the future does look good for the Latvian who no matter was thrown at her these last couple of weeks in Paris played with a smile on her face!

Well done Jelena!

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Photo credit – Getty Images 

3-6 1-5, Simona Survives!

In her post match interview Simona Halep said she didn’t know she was match point down in the second set tie-break. The Romanian turned her quarter final around in incredible style and deserves a lot of credit for the grit she showed from 3-6 1-5 down in the match to turn it around at the last moment possible winning 12 of the next 13 games to keep her dream of winning her first major alive.

At the same time I do feel for Svitolina who’s game capitulated and it looks like a case of seeing the finish line before it was reached.

The whole tournament so far has shown such a big step in Halep’s mental preparation, guts and determination on the court which she has lacked for a while and even admitted herself a short break from her coach made her realise she needs to be more controlled and composed on the court and what I enjoy seeing come the end of a match is that fist pump from Halep. She doesn’t overreact to winning but she knows it’s a job gone and she is two wins away from her greatest completed job!

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Ruthless Halep wins in style once again!

Former French Open finalist Simona Halep was wasting no time early this morning as she took under an hour to see of top 20 and very tricky opponent in Carla Suarez Navarro winning 6-1 6-1 and continues to impress as the tournament goes on.

Coming into Roland Garros she had injury issues which were affecting her movement but as the week has gone on she continues to impress and was ruthless early this morning not giving away anything on route to her win.

When I think about Simona’s game being on point the backhand and forehand are her main weapons but what makes her tick is the foot work and if she is moving well she is a tough nut to crack and that is visible by the still below.

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The even think about attempting this shot from this position is just mad but this is Halep at her best and the pressure will continue to be ramped up over the coming days as she is now labelled the favourite and by producing shots like this will keep her as favourite!

 

How much does Kei Nishikori have left in the tank?

Once again Kei Nishikori has edged his way into the next round at Roland Garros with a four sets win against Fernando Verdasco which to be honest was quite messy and for the second match running lost a set of tennis 6-0.

The match was a mess and in all honesty if I had to rate Nishikori out of 10 based on the whole match it would be a 5. To me he seemed flat, uninterested and emotionless and he huffed, puffed and blew Verdasco away but how much does he have left in the tank?

Mid-way through the third set a statistic was thrown up when the set was level at 3-3 with Nishikori hitting 21 winners compared to 38 unforced errors and as the tournament progresses he won’t continue to get away with it and looked knackered by the end of his match but to become a genuine contender at one of these majors at some point you have find that level where you will have to play top player after top player day after day and potentially go to five sets and I don’t see it.

Next up for Kei is Andy Murray who has got much better as the week has gone on with a couple of perfect performances against Del Potro and Kacanhov in the last round and I’d expect a long battle between these two but how much does Kei have left in the tank? He has looked tired and flat and with this vibe he gives off it’s difficult for the crowd as well to get behind him as these crowds at the major tournaments react to you and if you’re flat the crowd is flat and to win these majors you need that extra push by the crowd.

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Photo credit – Getty Images

Roland Garros Preview – Andy Murray v Juan Martin Del Potro

Wherever these two meet they bring a crowd. Rome, New York, Rio, London and now add Paris to that list as Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Murray face off once again. Sadly someone’s run at Roland Garros comes to an end on the clay their first meeting on the surface since 2009.

Preparing to play against Juan Martin is a tough ask because it’s not about what game you are going to play but how to stop a player of Del Potro’s quality and if I were Andy Murray I’d be having a look at Djokovic’ performance Del Potro not long ago when the defending champion nullified the strength of Del Potro which is his forehand.

We did some much better tennis from Murray against Klizan despite taking four sets to get the win but after losing the first set he did react quickly taking a step back on the baseline to get more security behind the backhand which was a little rushed and found contact with the net instead of the baseline in set one but he also used that backhand slice well and is something he should deploy against the Argentine.

Murray has used the drop shot and the sliced backhand well so far this week and hasn’t really missed many of eight sets of tennis and if he can take the pace away from the rally then he has a good chance of gaining control and removing that build up to a massive forehand from the Argentine.

Del Potro did have a bit of an issue during his match with Almagro when the Spaniard unfortunately had to retire but Del Potro did suffer with what looked like a groin injury at the end of the first set.

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Who will win Roland Garros? I’ve narrowed it down to 9…

Roland Garros is in full swing, the weather has been good, the tennis has been amazing but we are still nowhere near to knowing who will win the year’s second major but who are the contenders?

Elina Svitolina

Svitolina seems to be one of the favourites and that is a lot of pressure to take. She has never been in a final before but has two Premier Mandatory titles to her name this year and is top of the table in the Road to Singapore. The Ukrainian isn’t a player who will let her feet come off the ground and get carried away she will take it match by match and we’ve seen a lot happen so far this week so don’t rule anything out…

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Karolina Pliskova

I don’t think it will be too long before Karolina wins a major but I don’t see it happening in France. I’d love to be proven wrong but I believe there are better clay court players in her last match I didn’t get the game plan as the tournament goes on and you come up against better players chances will need to be taken.

Simona Halep

Injury was a concern after falling in Rome but the Romanian looks fit and so far has been very impressive in her first couple of matches, she seems to be more focused and less frustrated on the court these last few weeks and has her feet on the ground, she has been a former finalist before amazingly three years ago now!

Other contenders…

Venus…

20 years at Roland Garros but never a champion however at the age of 37 nothing looks like stopping her anytime soon!

Kuznetsova…

A former champion back in 2009, Kuznetsova has found some exceptional tennis over the last year and could she etch her name on that trophy once more?

Muguruza…

Last year’s winner who admitted it was the best and worst thing that happened to hear. Her year went down hill after, expectations and pressure got too much and on court confrontations with her coach have been the talking point this year but if the backhand is firing she is a contender.

Wozniacki…

Still searching for that first major, she is back around the top ten but I wouldn’t say she has gotten out of third gear this year it’s been good but not great and it is something she will need to find if she is going to win in Paris, she was in an unforgiving mood against Abanda winning 6-0 6-0 but I wouldn’t write her off.

Radwanska…

With respect, you kind of forget she is playing here in Paris. Since winning the WTA Finals in 2015 it hasn’t happened and I said a while ago tennis moved on and it felt like she stood still and now has a long way to climb. She has eased her way through so far but no top 10 wins this year and just 4 in 19 months it would take something special.

The field is wide open but picking a winner is incredibly tough. Out of the ones above I fancy Svitolina to go far and will be interested in a Svitolina v Halep quarter final but also don’t rule out Mladenovic!

Forehand firing as Halep crushes Cepelova in Paris

After picking up an injury just over a week ago in Rome participation at Roland Garros was in the balance and after being drawn against Jana Cepelova in round one who defeated Halep at Wimbledon a couple of years ago it looked like being a difficult start for the Romanian but it was anything but!

With a few top players missing and early defeats for Konta and Kerber the draw has opened up and the opportunity is there for a first time winner with Halep and Svitolina top of that list.

Halep’s game has come together at the right time especially after a difficult period at Indian Wells but since she has stepped onto the clay court she has played 15 matches on the clay winning 13 and picking up her second title in a row at Madrid.

It was nice to see Halep in full flow yesterday evening she was strong coming forward, her movement at the back of the court and coming forward was exceptional, the backhand gave her safe but effective options but the main point was the forehand.

A lot of Halep’s game does come down to the forehand and it was in full flow against Cepelova and if she can keep it up we are set for an exciting fortnight in Paris.

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This still just shows the forehand in full flow from Halep, the feet are off the ground putting all the power she has behind it but the strike on the ball and the contact she gets with the bottom third of the racket flattens the ball out sending the winner cross-court as she closed out the first set.

Contender?

Most definitely!