On Court
1 On Court Sources: Twitter

Sharapova has bucket-list hit with Nadal

For a couple of minutes, after Rafael Nadal’s practice in Rome on Monday, two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova got to hit with him on court. It was an item struck off the bucket list, Sharapova wrote on Twitter. In 2012 and 2014, Sharapova and Nadal both won the French Open. Sharapova also has won Rome three times, most recently in 2015. Nadal has won it seven times, although not since 2013. Her referring to Nadal as the GOAT (the clay GOAT – she obviously meant) predictably had Roger Federer fans (among others) rushing to their keyboards to take offense.  

2 On Court Sources: Sport360

Wawrinka returns, out in Rome 1st round

The main thing for Stan Wawrinka is that he’s back on the court. After a brief return earlier in the season following knee surgery, and a few setbacks, he finally took the court Sunday in Rome. Wawrinka lost to Steve Johnson, 6-4, 6-4. But at least the machine is running again. “We can see with other players coming back from long and tough injuries, it’s never easy. … It’s not only about physical or tennis, but also mentally to find confidence. I need to patient. But I’m positive because my level is really high,” he told the media in Rome.

3 On Court Sources: Tennis.Life

Aleksandra Krunic – WTA career ender

Poor Aleksandra Krunic, a lovely human being and a super tennis player – but a player in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe, just the right player. The 25-year-old from Serbia, a “lucky” loser, was the opponent for Roberta Vinci’s career finale Monday at her home-country event in Rome. Just eight months ago, Krunic was in the exact same situation in Tokyo, as Japanese tennis icon Kimiko Date said ‘sayonara’. She even made a speech. “I’m sorry,” a sheepish Krunic gestured to the crowd after winning 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 against Vinci, followed up by copious hugs.

4 On Court Sources: Tennis.Life

Venus, Keys team up for Rome doubles

Heading into the French Open, Venus Williams and Madison Keys are a little shy of match wins on clay. Why not team up for doubles in Rome? It’s notable on two fronts. Keys has hardly played any doubles recently – just two completed matches in 2017. Since winning Wimbledon with sister Serena in 2016, Williams has played just two doubles matches (in Rio, and at Fed Cup in February – both with her sister). Other than Olympics/Fed Cup, Williams has played just one tournament in her entire career with a partner other than her sister: Doha 2008 with Caroline Wozniacki.

5 On Court Sources: ATP Tour, Tennis Channel, YouTube

Steve Johnson looks back on tough year

Steve Johnson lost his father Steve Sr. in May, 2017. A year on, the American won the clay-court event in Houston. Opponent Tennys Sandgren knew how he felt. “I know our dads are watching in the crowd,” said Sandgren, who lost his own father some years ago. On the ATP Tour website, Johnson writes about the year. “I’ve panicked. There have been times when my anxiety spiralled out of control. Some weeks it is easier and I can’t explain why,” said Johnson, who was in and out of the hospital for a week after Wimbledon.

Off Court
1 Off Court Sources: Instagram, WTATennis.com

Mouratoglou – Serena should make Paris

Serena Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou says his charge needed five weeks to be ready, after arriving at his academy April 30. “After her pregnancy, Serena had to rebuild her body. … That is the reason why we decided to skip Madrid and Rome,” Mouratoglou said in an exclusive interview with the WTA Tour website.  “She is improving in all the areas fast. I am very satisfied and confident that she will be ready for Roland Garros,” he said. Williams also was spotted with tape on her left knee. An Instagram post by Williams Monday had her in Rome Monday.

2 Off Court Sources: Tennis.Life, Twitter

CiCi Bellis still out of action

It’s been a fairly quiet absence for CiCi Bellis. But the 19-year-old American has been out since Miami with an elbow issue. Bellis actually made it to Rome. But she withdrew. Her ranking hasn’t been too affected so far. But she has more than 400 points to defend over the next month (worth about 50 ranking spots). And she has withdrawn from Strasbourg next week. (On a personal note, did you know she’s dating fellow 19-year-old Northern Californian Sam Riffice? Riffice is playing the pros this year, but has committed to the University of Florida for 2018-19).

3 Off Court Sources: Instagram

Gamblers and haters? Shapo sees you

Nearly all tennis players get at least a moderate amount of nasty messages via social media, mostly from the gambler types who have lost a bet. Once the expectations are set, it usually kicks in. For Shapovalov, it came through first-round losses in both Monte Carlo and Budapest, the 19-year-old’s first career ATP Tour main draw tournaments on the red clay. After a week off, Shapovalov returned and reached the semis in Madrid. He leaped to a career high No. 29 in the rankings. Haters? Shapovalov sees you. And he’s happy to prove you wrong.

4 Off Court Sources: Instagram

Madrid trophy passes airport test

There are plenty of opinions about the … unique trophies given out to the  champions at the Mutua Madrid Open. Opinions range from “unique” to “ugly” to … “a little pervy”. This year, the men’s trophy went to Alexander Zverev, who had little time to waste before heading to the airport for the ATP Tour’s next stop in Rome. You have to wonder what the Madrid airport employee in charge of the scanner thought, when he spied this thing in Zverev’s carry-on luggage (pic from Zverev physio Hugo Gravil). Looks like a king-sized razor blade – the old-fashioned kind.

5 Off Court Sources: YouTube

Patrascu starts petition to save ITF tour

Canadian Maria Patrascu isn’t a player you’ll have heard about. The 21-year-old has been struggling at the low levels of the pros in 2018. But last weekend, she won her first main-draw matches of the season – and went all the way to the doubles title at a $15,000 event in Cairo, Egypt. The changes that the ITF and ATP have planned for a “transition tour” in 2019 will affect hundreds of players. And Patrascu lays out reality in a video that accompanies a petition she has started to fight the proposed changes. Sign it!