Who will win Roland Garros?

Over the last 9 Grand Slam tournaments there have been 6 different winners on the ladies tour; Serena Williams, Angie Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and Caroline Wozniacki. The ladies game is so open at the moment which is fantastic so let’s have a look at who could be there?

Simona Halep 💪🏻

The world number one has a lot of pressure on her shoulders. She has been playing some good tennis over the last few weeks but the real pressure will come in the second week as it will increase match by match but staying in the moment is vital for the Romanian.

Caroline Wozniacki 😕

The world number two has not been in great form for a while. Her clay court season has been sat at 2 wins and 1 loss for every tournament she plays. She usually does get to grips with Roland Garros quickly and adjusts but that consistency in matches can just disappear at times. Watching Caro win the Australian Open was a beautiful moment for her and tennis but I don’t see her pushing for this one.

Garbine Muguruza 🤨

I don’t really know what to expect from Garbine. I said in a piece not long ago she can turn up with little momentum and still do well. Even in her defeat against Gavrilova in Rome a week ago she hit her ground strokes well just her game plan seemed confused. Contender? I think so but she needs to start matches good!

Elina Svitolina 😎

Watch out for Elina. Her game is looking solid right now. She seems composed and confident and her wins against Kasatkina, Kontaveit, Kerber and Halep have put her in a contenders bracket for Roland Garros. She doesn’t have that big Grand Slam experience but it will only come with performances on the big stage. I think she will be one to watch out for. Her attitude and commitment in her match against Halep was exceptional.

Jelena Ostapenko ☹️

Defending champion. Do I think Jelena will defend her title? No.

I don’t really see what Jelena has done since winning the title to convince me that she will replicate that. Her attitude has been a problem in matches and she just seems contempt with this game style which is a bit hit and miss!

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Karolina Pliskova 🧐

You wouldn’t usually put Pliskova’s game down as a clay court game but her form on clay since the beginning of last year has been very good. Pliskova plays a style of tennis which on its day is difficult to stop. She does move better now but I think there are better players on clay but I wouldn’t rule her out going far here.

Petra Kvitova 🏆

Form player this year. I’ve always enjoyed watching Petra but it has emotion and feeling attached after her horror attack. The issue with Petra is consistency and sometimes there is those random performances where things just go wrong. Since making the semi-final of Roland Garros in 2012 she hasn’t been back in the second week. Surely this is her year?

Angie Kerber 🤩

Don’t count Angie out, she turns up at the big stage and her game suits all surfaces and this year she has built up her ranking once again especially after a write off 2017 season. Seeded at 12 she could face a tricky draw and likely to face a top player in an early round.

Maria Sharapova 🏅

I don’t think Maria will win Roland Garros but I think she will provide a challenge especially following her run in Rome where she played her best tennis since returning over a year ago. The experience and stubborn style of tennis will be tough and if you are going to beat Sharapova you will have to bring you’re A game if she plays as she did in Rome.

Vika Azarenka 😎

Vika is on route around the world now with her son however she was quickly knocked out by Osaka in Rome. Vika has a presence which is so infectious and the crowd gets behind her. I hope Vika puts on a good performance and should be looking at the second week.

Serena Williams 👑

Where else do I end? Serena is playing her first major since giving birth. Since returning to the tour in March a plan and programme has been put in place to work on things that need improving and as her coach Patrick says she plays to win. Just the fact of playing Serena Williams can be a daunting prospect.

Who takes it? I don’t know, what I do know is it will be a fortnight full of stories, surprises, emotion and at the end achampion!

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Why Ostapenko’s style of tennis is unsustainable if you want to stay at the very top.

During the final of Miami between Jelena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens the Latvian called on her coach mid-way through the first set and he gave her advice but there was one bit of advice I didn’t get and didn’t think gave her the right message, he said;

‘That’s your game. You won Roland Garros hitting 54 errors but you hit 54 winners”

This advice in my opinion wasn’t ideal in the final especially as the errors were running off her racket. He went on as well about commitment but it should have been about finding a way to take control of the match.

Jelena’s style of tennis is very much go big or go home but sometimes you can too big and end up going home anyway and that’s what happened. Jelena likes to go big off the forehand and it cost her, it may have won her Roland Garros but it isn’t sustainable as we saw against Stephens as her performance was dreadful.

osta

This point is before the on-court coaching and in this particular rally Ostapenko went to the Stephens forehand time and time again but didn’t go forward once to close the point off and from this position lost the point.

If she had gone forward as shown above she could have closed the point off cross-court into the open space but Stephens defended well throughout the whole match and won this point but it could have been a different story if Jelena decided to go forward more!

Jelena of course won Roland Garros last year and this year was struggling with form before Miami but I do not think that the consistency she is looking for to become a solid top player on the WTA will come by persisting with the same style without adding some variety to it.

54 winners and 54 unforced errors won her Roland Garros but she hit 46 unforced errors in a two set loss to Sloane Stephens who only hit 6 winners in the whole match to win a major final. This style can be effective but sustainable over a long season? Definitely not.

Sloane Stephens 7-6 6-1 Jelena Ostapenko – Just 6 winners in 20 games enough for Sloane to take Miami title!

Winning titles doesn’t get easy than that.

After exchanging break after break in set one the advantage went to the American who took a 5-3 lead but was pegged back to 5-5 before breaking again and then being broken again and we finally got to a tie-break which Sloane dominated and from there on in it was one way traffic.

The match was tense right from the off with the crowd all over every error Jelena produced cheering double faults from the Latvian who managed to keep her cool but her tennis left a lot of questions.

Jelena plays with a go big or go home style of the tennis and the forehand which she did produce some good winners off but the errors in the match were incredible. 48 unforced errors in 20 games is 2.8 a game and it was awful to watch. It looked like a given up performance especially in that second set.

Jelena finished the match with a forehand error which was a recurring theme and shook her head and rolled her eyes as game, set and match was called! During a on-court coaching session she told her coach ‘I’m playing the worst tennis ever’ but she never looked like turning it around.

Credit as well to Sloane Stephens who was shaky as well in the first set but in set two she pulled that variety and nerve together pushing the Latvian around the court as she continued to reel off game after game to pick up her 6th career title having not lost a final and a first title since her win in New York only having to hit 6 winners in 20 games to claim her first title of the year after a difficult year.

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Ostapenko 6-3 6-1 Pliskova – Karolina must ditch the casual approach going forward!

There is no such thing as a dead rubber in Singapore anymore. After their respective second round robin matches in the group Karolina Pliskova had qualified for the semi-finals where as Jelena Ostapenko was going home but you wouldn’t have thought that when these two met earlier today.

From the beginning Ostapenko looked more up for it and maybe you could see this match as a free hit for Jelena as her fate had been sealed but for Pliskova to become a top champion performances like that need to be ditched as you could look on and say I’ve won the group already but looking at that performance you won’t be putting opponents off.

After the first set Karolina called on her coach and to be honest the decision making got worse in set two, it was rushed and had panic written all over it! A point in the third game of the second set summed up the performance which I will take a look at below. Pliskova began with a good backhand cross court on the service return of Jelena forcing the Latvian to play that high backhand slice and Karolina approached it poorly.

KP smash...

 

This is just before Karolina is to hit it, there is no power on it, no conviction just made contact with the ball and you can see Jelena on her bike and she made it to hit a forehand down the line winner.

Going forward Karolina has to find that ruthlessness on a consistent basis and that  is what was so surprising taking into her consideration her two previous wins and her form over the last few months to be a top player mistakes in rallies and a lack of ruthlessness for a player who can be very ruthless but was too casual and casual only ends in one result in Singapore.

WTA Finals Day 3 – Pliskova’s spring & Venus’ marathon 

Day 3 saw a sprint and a marathon in Singapore.

Karolina Pliskova who has been highly tipped by many to succeed in Singapore due to her game suiting the court perfectly has played perfect tennis so far. To begin with she saw off Venus 6-2 6-2 and now Garbine Muguruza by the same score line.

The performance was exceptional and really does lay down a marker. For Muguruza it was a worry, the performance was flat and despite how well Pliskova played Muguruza looked defeated early on and was sluggish with her movement and ground strokes and on this court against this player you can’t do that! 

On the other hand I said Venus had to call on all of her experience to see off Ostapenko and she performed incredibly well in a match lasting 3 hours 17 minutes. 

Ostapenko pushed with the forehand but Venus has that power back in her game that was missing against Pliskova.

Going forward we now have Venus v Muguruza to see who will go to the semi final where as Pliskova has qualified but Ostapenko won’t make things easy for her.

Venus must call on all her experience to see of Ostapenko in Singapore!

The youngest player in Singapore this year is Jelena Ostapenko. At 20 years old she is set to return to the WTA finals for many years to come and the Latvian now brings her no fear game to play the oldest in the field in Venus Williams who has been on the tour 23 years, longer than Jelena has been alive! After a 6-2 6-2 thrashing from Pliskova the American now must call on all her experience to see of the youngster who isn’t afraid of anyone!

A slow start in Singapore is never a bad thing, I think a couple of years ago Radwanska was a game from going out in the group stage and won the tournament but a slow start does make it trickier.

Watching Pliskova take on Venus I’d have to say that Venus’ performance was flat and at times naïve. In a previous piece I said to the court suits Karolina because of how slow it is however there wasn’t any emphasis from Venus to dictate the tempo, just because the court is slow it doesn’t mean you can’t play fast if anything the slow court helps Pliskova as she has longer to line up on the baseline.

I thought Venus’ best chance would have been coming to the net but she made a mess of it in all honesty, lets’ take a look.

 KP FH 2 V DEFENDING

Leading to this shot by Pliskova Venus did play a smash at the net but it lacked conviction and it came back and interestingly you can see Venus lean to the right which surprised me as Pliskova rarely from the forehand corner goes crosscourt, she usually does aim down the line from that corner but from the other side (backhand corner) usually does open up her body to play that inside out forehand cross court and Venus looked defeated at that point and this was in the first point on Venus’ serve in the match.

Venus now faces a tougher challenge in Ostapenko. She is not scared and if you give her time on that forehand she will take it. Venus has to look to go after the serve of the Latvian but also target the backhand corner with pace which is what she lacked on day one and with what is now must win day three will require her to call on all her experience.

WTA Finals Day 1 – Delight for Pliskova & Muguruza!

The 2017 WTA Finals in Singapore kicked off with a bang. It may be missing some of the world’s most well-known names in tennis this year but names are being made and for two time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza and the no nonsense Czech Karolina Pliskova it was a straight forward start to their campaign.

Pliskova 6-2 6-2 Venus

Easily one of Karolina’s best performances over the last 6 months. Coming into this tournament there is pressure on Karolina as her season has fallen a little flat after Roland Garros but this performance against Venus will boost confidence.

The court plays to Karolina’s strengths. Indoor hard courts suit her game especially when it is a slow court like in Singapore. I think this is where Karolina has struggled lately is the fast courts catch out her lack of anticipation, movement and when things are going well conviction behind shots but it was on par against Venus.

KP FH 1 V

What I liked about Pliskova’s performance was the conviction and confidence was there behind her shot making. She opened up the court well with the forehand, the backhand was sharp and she introduced the drop shot at good times but that crushing forehand did the trick throughout the match. You could sense the nervousness even after winning the first set 6-2 she called on her coach but she quickly found her rhythm once again in set two to win with a routine performance.

Muguruza 6-3 6-4 Ostapenko

As a debutant in Singapore the Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko held her ground very well but Muguruza wasn’t in a forgiving mood.

The Wimbledon champion had that no nonsense look on her face from the beginning of the match and used her power and determination behind the baseline to dictate play.

A criticism of the Spaniard at times has been the lack of movement and poor footwork but she definitely had that bounce in her footwork and it propelled her to victory. She never stood still against an opponent she knows can unleash a stunning forehand.

 

Day one saw convincing wins for two of the four, day two will see the other four in action but day three is already so vital in Singapore as Venus takes on Ostapenko in a must win for both players and Muguruza and Pliskova will not only be aiming for that semi-final spot but also yearend number one is on the line this week as well.