By Jason Barron
Felix Auger-Aliassime will continue his play at Indian Wells against the 10th ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas. This will be the highest ranked player that Felix has faced in his career. Felix recently beat the 17th ranked Fabio Fognini, so he has shown the ability to rise to the occasion against higher ranked players. Because of his strong results, Felix at age 18 is already ranked at 58. By the end of 2019 Felix should reach the top 50, if not higher.
What’s impressive about Felix is that he already knows how to think the game and isn’t just playing off athleticism and instinct. Felix is able to use drop shots and come to the net at the appropriate times to flummox his opponents. Felix doesn’t just stay on the baseline and is always coming up with ways to gain an advantage during points. Some older players still struggle to think the game and as a result continue to have mixed results. Felix doesn’t have this issue, and after his coming out party last year at Indian Wells, he will want to have another great performance.
Last year, after qualifying for the main draw at Indian Wells, Felix won a match before falling to fellow Canadian, Milos Raonic. This year Felix didn’t have to qualify for the tournament because of his ranking and won his first match against Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-2. Stefanos is a step up in competition and at age 20 is already 10th in the rankings. At 6’4, Stefanos has a big serve and is a good mover for a tall player. Felix will need to serve effectively and use his court coverage to play points with an offensive mentality. If Felix plays too much on the defensive, then the match could be over quickly as Stefanos will overpower him.
Felix should be able to give Stefanos different looks when serving and returning to make it a competitive match. Felix and Stefanos gets first billing at the tournament, as it is the first match on Stadium 1. Both young players have great potential and are quickly becoming fan favorites on tour. Felix may have some trouble with the powerful ground strokes of Stefanos and will need to take chances during rallies in order to not play into his opponent’s hands. Felix has shown all around skill in his tennis game and it should be an entertaining match against Stefanos. This will be the first time on tour that Felix and Stefanos have played against each other. Tune in on Tennis Channel and the ESPN App for continuing coverage from Indian Wells.
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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