USA’s Coco Vandeweghe charges into AO semifinals

By Jayita Belcourt
January last year, Coco Vandeweghe lost first round to fellow American Madison Brengle at the Australian Open. What followed next didn’t earn any bragging rights – with the exception of Wimbledon where she reached round R16 – the American lost second round at Roland Garros and fell flat at the US Open first round in her singles quest.
Come first slam in 2017, the bubbly Californian is a seemingly new player and oozing confidence, having recently paired up with tennis legend Martina Hingis in doubles.
Striking out some of the biggest names in the sport including world no.1 Angelina Kerber in Round 16 at the Australian Open, the 25 year backed it up with another stunning performance over French Open Champion Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-0 in 1hr, 24 minutes booking a spot in the semi-finals against her idol, Venus Williams. Unleashing 31 winners en-route with her piercing forehands and perfectly executed back-hands, the 25 year old was clearly elated by her performance and the next match-up.
“I thought it [the match] was pretty good. I thought I took care of the things that I could control, which is the most important thing: not letting outside factors affect anything that was happening,” said Vandeweghe.
“It’s a dream to play someone you grew up watching. To play an unbelievable player, future Hall of Famer, Venus, to be on the court with her, I’ve only experienced it one time before. But to do it at this stage of a Grand Slam is kind of crazy. I mean, I can’t really put it into words.”
“To definitely have two Americans against each other in the semifinal I think is pretty cool.”
Aside from the Williams sisters, the USA hasn’t had any regular stellar performers in recent times. Whilst Vandeweghe showed potential to go deep in majors beating world no.7 Roberta Vinci at 2016 Wimbeldon, we all know from the likes of Nick Kyrios that talent alone isn’t enough and can’t be judged by a single hit. So what has led to this phenomenal jump and consistency in match results?
According to former British tennis player and Commentator Sam Smith, Vandeweghe has undoubtedly enhanced her form saying “her footwork has improved and her balance – she’s taken some big leaps in the last 12 months.”
Yes big leaps indeed. But not wanting to get ahead of herself, the American is acutely aware of her next challenge saying “It’s amazing to be in a semifinal. But, you know, not satisfying. I want to keep going, keep playing. There’s more things to do out on a tennis court that I’m hoping to achieve.”
Crediting much of her success to coach Craig Kardon, Vandeweghe revealed that the match wasn’t all smooth sailing, at least from her perspective anyway.
“Before the match I was quite honest with him [Craig] that I was a little bit nervous and I was a little bit scared. He’s like, Okay, listen, that’s normal to feel like that. But go out there, you’ll be settled within the warm-up. If it’s not the warm-up, the very first game you’ll be settled.”
“It’s just the calming voice of someone you trust, you know that trusts and believes in you, was enough for me to feel better about myself just in this one situation. That happens a lot.”
So does the world no.35 have what it takes to knock out a very in-form Venus Williams? From what I’ve seen this past week, I’d say look out Venus.

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  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Craig Kardon set it up so Coco HAS to play dubs! He made it a requirement, which SI reported back in September 2016. I think Jayita hits all the right notes here, Coco is playing great.
    Amazing even, I’d say as well as Kerber and Pliskova played in their runs last year.
    The match with Venus is a blockbuster. It will be like Federer Sampras, but Venus can do a lot. Fantastic.

  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    LUCIC IN SEMIS, BEATS PLISKOVA! This really is a golden age of wta tennis. I thought no one could beat Pliskova given how she was playing and she’d be tough for anyone in QF, semis or final. Ha! Lucic does it

  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Maybe she has it in her to pull a Stan Wawrinka. She’s playing so well. It will be clash of the titans with Miss Venus!
    I think Wawrinka and Flavia Pennetta changed everything, Wawa with his Aust

  • Thomas Tung · January 24, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Wow, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, playing like the Lucic of almost two decades ago, using the deep, heavy shots, the tight angles, and the aggressive returns, but with the benefit of experience, defensive ability, and safety margin in additional spin (all of which she was missing before, apart from her previous personal issues).

    If the Camila Giorgi camp is smart, they should be scribbling FURIOUSLY into their notebooks …

  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    So true, Ms. Giorgi’s camp should do that!

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 3:08 am

    One thing fascinating about this AO will be seeing how much significance it has for the rest of the year.

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Giorgi has only 1 way to play and that is not going to change. I am mystified why people think she is a good player – she is ranked No. 81 now and has never been higher than No. 30 (and that was about 18 months ago). Occasionally making some good shots is not that big a deal when a player is so inconsistent.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Coco said that Coach Kardon ordered her to play doubles and she can only get out of doubles by reaching a certain lofty goal in singles but I forgot what the exact goal is -

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Lucic Baroni is possibly the biggest miracle surprise of all time. First Kimiko Date and now this. Lucic won the Aussie Open dubs in 98 and now two decades later here she is again knocking on the door of tennis greatness. There just are no words. We are witnessing a miracle and it’s a joy to see.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Wawrinka Rosol Pennetta Estrella Burgos Date Krumm changed the game – changed a player’s mind – Now we know anything is possible – I’m picking a Smyczek vs Golubev and Giorgi vs Larcher De Brito French Open finals :)

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Giorgi took world by storm many a us open ago. Often she wins a set off a champ, but just as often sinks to her slam the ball at all costs level. It’s too bad. She has an exciting game. Craig Kardon actually seems to be echoing the long standing dialogue here that we’ve had about most players lack of strategy and seeming inability to improve on their weaknesses. If you can check out

    The SI article online on Coco from September 2016. Kardon has quite a take on what he sees from players and how much it frustrates him and how he and Coco have approached improvement.

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Hartt –

    Giorgi – people have their favourites however incomprehensible it might seem to others :)

    Bad luck for Raonic (and you) – but he didn’t seem totally fit.

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 9:02 am

    LOL, yes I know re favourites. But some are even more incomprehensible than others!

    Milos has injured the adductor again, it may have happened in Brisbane. If that is the case it helps explain why he was so cranky in Melbourne, along with having the flu.

    The big worry now is if he will be able to play Davis Cup. He was planning on it but obviously the injury makes that a problem.

    Rafa was playing so well that I think he would have won over Milos even if Milos weren’t injured. That is a case where the winner needed to play his best tennis and that guy was Rafa.

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Andrew, thanks for the tip on the SI article. I will look for it.

    I remember all the excitement about Giorgi at that USO and I thought at the time what is the big deal? She hits the ball hard close to the lines. But there is nothing else in her game. And that style guarantees there will be lots of times when she will lose badly.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Could this Raonic injury be an alibi for losing?

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    No, I don’t think the injury is an alibi. He had to take a MTO during the match and I imagine he is very frustrated by these ongoing injury problems. To be realistic, Rafa was the favourite for that match so I don’t think losing reflected badly on Milos. Although he did let some opportunities slip by.

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Andrew, I enjoyed the SI piece on CoCo and doubles. Kardon’s approach certainly supports your idea that playing doubles would help a lot of players with their singles. And if you can learn some strategy, etc. from a great player like Hingis it is even better.

    The other way playing doubles assists young players is that if they lose in singles they are not necessarily out of the tourney. They have an opportunity for more match play and a little $.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Very winnable match for Raonic but let’s face it – Rafa is the better player – it ain’t an easy life in the ATP for anybody -

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Joyce is a terrific source and a fascinating figure – he was one of the best parts of the book I did about Rios – Joyce played all the greats of his era (Pete Andre Courier Rios etc etc) and he also coached the best (Sharapova) – he had a very good career – anything he says about tennis is a valuable read – can you please share a link about this feature by Joyce?

  • Louise Belcourt · January 25, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I saw Raonic beat Nadal in Brisbane and Raonic played nothing like that in Melbourne. You could tell his adductor injury was hampering him alot. Also he has been sick this week with flu/fever.
    Milos said in his press “It was more from the back. I just wasn’t able to sort of push him back behind the baseline like I was able to do a few weeks ago.”
    Thats nothing to take away from how Rafa played, it was a joy to watch. Nadal said in press “I received inside the court. In Brisbane I was receiving like six, seven meters behind the baseline.”
    Although some of those short forehands will surely be put away by Grigor in the semi!

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Scoop, Hartt mentioned the name of the article on Michael Joyce, “Michael Joyce’s Second Act”. It just came out. I’m wary of sending a link as the comment will be stuck in comment nether nether land!

  • Thomas Tung · January 25, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Would love to see a Coco/Lucic-Baroni final as it would be a nice change of pace from the “usual suspects”. If it did happen, I hope that it would be a good and memorable final, too.

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Scoop here is the Joyce piece. Obviously he is a good guy with a first class tennis pedigree and mind. I have seen him play twice, once in beating Stich and a second time a day before Rios smashed him (and this was at a tournament where Joyce actually habdled another good player very easily!) ive separated out the link in the event it doesnt nake it though the filter. http://www.longreads.com/2017 /01/17/ michael-joyces-second-act/

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Hartt I watched Giorgi hit around before her match with Bouchard in dc and she looked great, even when SV. But I’m afraid like Joyce and Kardon, I think this is what they said? A player needs a strategy beyond gotta play my game. I wonder if Giorgi just plays through rough patches or nervousness. Again she reminds me of Agassi the way she hits the ball, but like Blake in her go for broke every point way of playing.
    But I think like Scoop said about Blake, Blake felt it was necessary for him to play that way. And that’s how he won, he had success doing this at the highest levels of the game.

    Hartt yeah I like what Kardon said as this is definitely what Hingis did and Kardon being Navratilova knows it works. But that’s what’s amazing about the sport, here in the peanut gallery we know what a player does well or not and so do they. But making changes is fraught with peril, so players are risk averse and coaches are scared they will be fired so they play it safe too.

    The idea really comes from Wayne Bryan, but Wayne Bryan, Lansdorp, Kardon, they are all old hands at this.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Andrew: Blake often said that he tried to play steady percentage tennis but it just did not work – his very best results were the result of the attacking aggressive style which we all know and love – Blake is a high IQ court sense player and he surely figured out his best way to play despite what the critics and couch heroes said :)



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