By Editorial Team
This season has been a series of ups and downs for many on tour. The black male component has taken a back seat for the most part with the exception of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Gael Monfils.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of a second (and in some cases a third) chance for several black players on the tour with the French Open Qualifying Draw getting under way. The question still remains: who will advance on the men’s tour?
With seven players all in the same ranking category it can be difficult to know who exactly will break out and become the next rising star or “bounce-back” story. Our editorial staff has put together a brief run-down on each player with his chances of at least making it through to the main draw at Roland Garros.
Donald Young is always in contention (as the top rated junior who never seemed to break out) keeps up the good fight with strong family backing and athletic ability. Facing fellow American Marcos Giron in the first round is definitely a challenge, but Donald should be up to challenge on the slower surface.
It will be critical for Donald to apply pressure and force the California college star to make errors early in the match. If Donald is to have a chance he must play aggressive and go for his shots. If he is able to advance here, it should be smooth sailing into the final qualifying round even with a possible match-up against Thanasi Kokkinakis in the next round.
Darian King has a favorable draw going up against the 14th seed Peter Polansky whom he defeated 6-4, 6-1 recently on red clay in Houston, Texas at the Men’s Clay Court Championship last month.
With a probable first round win, Darian’s road to the main draw does not get easier with Muller and Triocki in his path. However, Darian’s ability to stretch points and pull out tough 3 set matches puts him in good position to earn a qualifying spot next week.
Mikael Ymer and Elias Ymer both have great chances of qualifying and making a splash at this year’s French Open. With good draws against players that they have recent wins over, it should be a family affair in the main draw.
Dustin Brown has an uphill battle against Denis Istomin without being as active on tour as usual. It will be nearly impossible for Dustin to pull off the upset here, but the red clay does work in his favor. If Dustin is able to push Denis deep in the 3rd set anything can happen, but the odds are definitely against him in this early round match.
Michael Mmoh should be able to rise above his opponents as a seeded player here in Paris and earn a spot in the main draw. Michael has the potential to upset some top ranked players if he is able to maintain a steady baseline pattern against some of the best clay court specialist on the ATP Tour.
Chris Eubanks may struggle a bit as his dynamic serve may be tapered by the red clay surface. Chris’ backhand has improved dramatically with the help of new coach Chris Hill, but having to put three matches together in a row on such a slow surface may prove too challenging for the 6’7″ for the Georgia Tech star from Atlanta.
Jay Clarke has an all court game and with a determined professional approach to his game anything is possible for him this week. The only hindrance could be a tough draw against players in top form (including American Noah Rubin) that he would have to defeat in each round. Built for the faster surfaces, we look for Jay to make a big impression this season. However, the French Open red clay may not be his best surface.
In conclusion, Michael Mmoh and the Ymer brothers have the best changes of qualifying in this year’s French Open and we look forward to seeing more of them as the season unfolds.
Gauff wins first WTA title in Linz
By Editorial Team
Cori “CoCo” Gauff made a huge turnaround at the Linz Open this week after losing in the final qualifying round to now reach the main draw finals.
Putting the “luck” in lucky-loser, CoCo was able to inherit Maria Sakkari’s draw and defeat the number one seeded, KiKi Bertens in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.
Coco was the favorite going into today’s final against Jelena Ostapenko, but it was not easy as Jelena had been playing inspired tennis over the last couple weeks after defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-5 in the third set at the R64 China Open last month.
CoCo had to grind out the win in three long sets to capture the final round against Jelena 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
This was the first encounter for these two on tour, but CoCo had the slight advantage as the more steady player. Jalena is known for up and down roller coaster play from match to match making the former French Open champion the underdog in this final.
Jalena must now recover in Linz as she must face CoCo’s doubles partner, Caty McNally, next in the first round of the Luxembourg Open early next week. Its assumed that this doubles team (Linz Open semifinalists) will definitely be sharing notes on Jalena’s game over the next couple of days.
The key to CoCo’s success were mixed balls with flat power and slices, a high first serve percentage and being calm under pressure. With this win today, Coco became the youngest American WTA Tour title winner since Jennifer Capriati in Puerto Rico (1990).
Coco is sure to break more records while on her path to winning her first grand slam, but for now she can celebrate a huge Tour title win before she prepares for the holiday season.
When asked about her recent success in Linz, CoCo’s response was accurate and simply put,
How Naomi Got Her Groove Back
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka seems to have found her rhythm late in the season after letting go of her most recent coach, Jermaine Jenkins. After several rumors, now it appears that her Dad, Leonard Francois, has the right formula for success after winning two major WTA events in a row – Japan Open and China Open.
Naomi did it in dramatic fashion as she defeated the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and world number 1 Ashly Barty both in tough 3 set matches.
Many feared that coaching changes and off-court distractions may have ruined what appeared to be a great season for Naomi after winning the Australian Open in January. The sports community questioned the decision to part ways with Sascha Bajin after back to back wins in an abrupt fashion after leaving Australia with the championship trophy.
The general media was not informed of any scandal or rationale for the change. Jermaine was thought to have been a good substitute after being the right-hand man for Serena over the last several years on tour. But not all was peachy for Naomi as she was not able to fulfill her true potential under the direction of Jermain.
Rolling into the Asian swing, Naomi appeared to have been mailing it in and preparing for her next coaching transition heading into the 2020 season – choosing her Dad as a bridge.
It was evident that maybe Naomi needed time to unwind from the structure of a tradition coaching team. Unforced errors and patience were added to her stellar shot making ability especially down the stretch late in the third set.
Regrouping after being a set down and making adjustments when needed against the Tour’s top ranked players are definite signs that Naomi has her sights set on regaining her position as world number one.
The way forward should be filled with opportunity for Naomi. With a new home in Los Angeles, CA and some time off after the WTA Finals should enable her to totally regroup for the 2020 season.
Osaka and Keys in QF at Japan Women’s Open
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka is on pace for a much needed title after an early R16 loss in the US Open. Her quest for the first title of the year began with a win over Viktoriya Tomova 7-5, 6-3 today. With a inconsistent ground game, Naomi is looking to iron out weaknesses with new coach Wim Fissette who is a proven WTA professional with Azarenka, Kerber and Clijsters as former students of his. Recent news broke five days ago on Twitter announcing the split with Jermaine Jenkins after a slew of poor results in major grand slam events this season.
Sloane Stephens is also riding the coaching change wave after accepting Kamau Murray back into her team. The two have earned multiple titles in 2017/2018 so it can only be upside from here as she now faces Camila Giorgi in the R16 of the Japan Women’s Open. This will be a tough test for Sloane as the aggressive Italian has been on a roll with her most recent final run (losing to Magda Linette in 3 sets) at the New York Open that lead into the US Open late last month.
Update: Sloane fell 6-0, 6-3 to Camila in the R16 match which did not live up to the hype. Sloane will look to recover quickly as she prepares for the WTA Finals later this year.
Madison Keys is a favorite to win here in Osaka Japan, but she has to get past the high ranking vet, Angelique Kerber. Madison has a 8:2 win/loss record against Kerber and is healthy enough to get her third win against such a quality opponent. Madison most recently defeated Kerber in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last month 6-4 in the third set.
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