Tuesday, March 20, 2018

TENNIS TUESDAY: Federer Has 1st 2018 Loss; Delpo Wins 1st Masters; Osaka Wins 1st Title, Will Face Serena 1R in Miami

Defying my prediction to the contrary, Naomi Osaka of Japan defeated Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-2 to win her first WTA tour title on the big stage of the BNP Paribas Open. Both players had impressive runs to reach with final, with Osaka taking out World #1 Simona Halep, former World #1 Karolina Pliskova and 5-time major champion Maria Sharapova (in round 1!). Kasatkina took out 4 major champions in a row Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, 2018 Aussie Open champ Caroline Wozniacki and 2017 US Open champ Sloane Stephens!

In one of the best matches of the year, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina demonstrated his fearlessness against Roger Federer by outlasting him 6-4 6-7(8) 7-6(2). This was the 25th match the two have played and is Delpo's 7th win, which have often come in the finals of tournaments (Delpo leads 4-2). Delpo saved an amazing 3 match points (and Federer saved 2 himself) to beat the World #1 and win his first Masters series title after playing in 4 finals (interesting he lost these finals to the other members of the big 4: Nadal, Murray and Djokovic). At 7, Delpo has more wins against World #1 players than any other player who has not become World #1 themself.

Osaka's prize for winning Indian Wells? In addition to doubling her career prize money with a $1.3 million check she was drawn to face 8-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams in the first round. Serena lost to sister Venus last week, will she now lose to Osaka this week? I think she might, but my prediction mojo has been weak recently. If she does lose, I do think it will provide excellent motivation for Serena to double her efforts to reach top shape sooner rather than later.

After eking out a win against Borna Coric to reach his 17th win of 2018, Federer was not able to do so against Juan Martin del Potro despite actually playing better and having more chances to win in the final. He lost a 3rd set tiebreaker and is now a dismal 1-7 in championship-deciding tiebreaks for his career. His 5th set record is not great either. The reason for this (many believe) is that even though Federer is the greatest player of all time, he so rarely is put in positions where he has to REALLY fight in high stakes situations that he has less experience and is less suited to performing his best when it happens. Still, a 17-1 record to start 2018 must be something Federer is happy with; at age 36 he is tied with most wins on tour this year. Interestingly, Juan Martin del Potro is 17-3 for 2018 and Dominc Thiem is 17-4.

ATP RANKINGS MOVERS: DEL POTRO, ANDERSON, POUILLEFederer remains #1 despite not defending his title at Indian Wells and will need to defend his title in Miami if he is to keep the #1 ranking for the entire clay court season. Del Potro is now at World #6, Kevin Anderson is pu to World #8 and Frenchman Lucas Pouille enters the Top 10 for the first time at #10.

2017 French Open champion Jelena "Alona" Ostapenko is at #5 while Kasatkina is just outside the Top 10 at #11 (career high) and Osaka cut her ranking in half to a career high of World #22. 22-year-old  African-American Sachia Vickery ousted Garbine Mugruza before losing to Osaka and is now up to World #89.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 INDIAN WELLS: Osaka-Kasatkina, Federer-Del Potro Finals

The finals of the 2018 Indian Wells are now set. The men's final is exactly what I predicted on Friday. Roger Federer versus Juan Martin del Potro.

This is their 25th meeting and Federer leads 18-6, although Del Potro famously defeated Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final and also last year in the 2016 U.S. Open quarterfinal last year. However, Federer survived an amazing 3-set match with Borna Coric, coming back from losing the first set and being a break down in the second set and twice in the third set to win 5-7 6-4 6-4.

 MadProfessah's pick: Federer.

 The women's final is exactly the opposite of what I predicted would happen. This time youth was served, with 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina defeating Venus Williams in one of the most hard-fough 3-set matches of the year while fellow 20-year-old Naomi Osaka blitzed World #1 Simona Halep 6-3 6-0. Whoever wins this match will have the best result by a player born in 1997 on the WTA tour since Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open last year. The two have never played before but I think that Kastakina has shown more mental toughness although Osaka has the more powerful game.

MadProfessah's pick: Kasatkina.

Friday, March 16, 2018

2018 INDIAN WELLS: Semifinalists Set Halep-Osaka, Venus-Kasatkina; Federer-Coric, Raonic-Del Potro

The roster of  players in the men's and women's semifinals of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is now complete. The #1 seeds are still in the hunt on both sides of the draw.

On the men's side these are the matchups:

Roger Federer [1] versus Borna Coric
Juan Martin del Potro [6] versus Milos Raonic [32]

MadProfessah's pick: Federer and Del Potro.

On the women's side these re the matchups:

Simona Halep [1] versus Naomi Osaka
Venus Williams [8] versus Daria Kasatkina [20]

MadProfessah's pick: Halep and Venus Williams.

On my visit to Indian Wells on Wednesday I saw both women's quarterfinals featuring Halep and Osaka and was quite impressed with both players. I think Halep likes this court a bit more and this is Osaka's first time at this stage of a big tournament. Kasatkina demolished Angie Kerber on Thursday (6-0 6-2) and can give anyone fits so I would not be surprised to see her win, but after Venus beat Serena on Monday in a solid 6-4 6-3 performance I think her confidence is sky high.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Cold Welcome (Vatta's Peace, #1) by Elizabeth Moon

This is my first book by Elizabeth Moon and I was quite impressed. 

I am aware that Cold Welcome is the first book in a new series called Vatta’s Peace featuring Moon’s popular character Kylara Vatta, who is the star of the five books which make up the Vatta’s War series. That series is also on my burgeoning TBR (to-be-read) list but I didn’t feel like making a 5-book commitment so this book seemed like a good place to start instead. One problem with this choice is that this series  (Vatta's Peace) is not finished yet since Cold Welcome is Book 1. The second book the in Vatta’s Peace series, Into The Fire, was only released very recently (February 2018).

These books are definitely space opera, with familiar elements of the genre: space travel in human-controlled vehicles (i.e. space ships), interesting technological developments (cranial implants which allow direct wireless communication with others and interfaces with computers, genotype and phenotype treatments which allow radical body changes and the ability to travel faster than light), human colonization on multiple planets and a military milieu.

In some cases, the military elements of the story are a little bit too prominent, but not as overwhelmingly familiar as I experienced in David Weber’s Honorverse series (my bigger complaint about that series is that it seemed to me that it’s basically just 18th century naval stories moved into space, with the addition of potentially sentient cats). It is very clear (from the verisimilitude of the situations in her writing and from her brief biography)  that Moon has a lot of military experience and one of the high points is seeing the internal monologue of someone who is responsible for leading a military unit and the issues and concerns that arise.

It’s also very cool to have a female protagonist in this role (of military commander) and I very much enjoyed spending time with Ky Vatta in Cold Welcome. I did find it odd that for what is ostensibly a military space opera novel we spend most of our time on a cold barren part of the planet (Milksland) instead of in space. However, the other characters in the book, her great-aunt (who is the head of the military on Slotter Key, the Vatta home planet), her sister Stella (who runs the huge Vatta interstellar shipping conglomerate) and even her erstwhile boyfriend Rafe Dunbarger are ALL far less interesting than Ky. Another curious aspect of the book is the decided lack of curiosity that Ky displays at the discovery of materials, machines and other artifacts clearly left behind by intelligent aliens. She is always very much focused on the mission of saving the troops who are trapped with her in a perilous (definitely life-threatening) situation. I am definitely looking forward to see how Moon develops the plot and reveals more aspects of Ky's character as this new series progresses.

Overall, I would recommend this book to other space opera fans, particularly those who like the work of David Weber, Peter F. Hamilton and Marko Kloos. 

Title: Cold Welcome (Vatta's Peace, #1).
Elizabeth Moon.
Paperback: 464 pages.
Date Published: April 11, 2017.
Date Read: February 20, 2018.

GOODREADS RATING: ★★  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.5/4.0).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

REPORT: Boys and Girls Equally Interested In STEM; Boys More Prepared

In a new report from ACT (yes, the organization that runs those other college readiness tests) there is a result that states that all though boys and girls have an equal interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), it turns out that boys are generally more prepared for them.

Ed Week reports:
To determine readiness, students were assigned a STEM score based on combined results from their ACT math and science tests. ACT test scores range from 1 to 36. A student earning at least the benchmark score of 26 has a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in first-year college STEM courses, and a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher, according to the report. The student is also more likely to stick it out with a STEM major and earn a bachelor's degree.  
The report revealed that just 18 percent of females, compared to 24 percent of males, earned a score of 26. 
The disparity is even larger among students with an interest in STEM: 22 percent of females earned a score of 26 compared to 31 percent of males. Even more surprising, females interested in STEM were less likely than all males (including those with or without an interest in STEM) to meet or surpass that benchmark score (22 percent versus 24 percent). Meanwhile, the overall level of interest in STEM between females and males is nearly equal at 47 percent versus 50 percent, respectively.
The source of the data is from the 2 million students who took the ACT in 2017.

INDIAN WELLS 2018: Order of Play For My Visit Today

I am going to visit Indian Wells today and will be seeing some interesting matches on Stadium 1:

  • Morning Session -- 11am
  • Taylor Fritz vs Borna Coric
  • Simona Halep vs Petra Martic
  • Roger Federer vs Jeremy Chardy
  • Juan Martin del Potro vs Leonardo Mayer
  • Evening session -- 7pm: 
  • Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova
  • Marcos Baghdatis vs Milos Raonic
I'll be doing updates during the day on Instagram (@ronbuckmire) and Twitter (@madprofessah).

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 INDIAN WELLS: Venus-Serena XXIX, Azarenka Loses To Sloane; Nole, Sascha, Grigor, Petra, Garbi All Out Early!

The 2018 Indian Wells, the first ATP Masters series event of the year, is underway. I will be attending  the tournament all day (and night) on Wednesday. Sadly, it is not clear who I will see because there have been a number of upsets early on. World #2 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Sunshine double and will not return t the tour until the clay begins.

World #3 Grigor Dimitrov lost to a resurgent Fernando Verdasco, World #4 Sascha Zverev lost to Joao Sousa (losing 5 games in a row from up 4-1 in the 3rd!) and Novak Djokovic lost #109 Taro Daniel.  There have also been upsets on the women's side with Petra Kvitova's win streak ended at 14 with a loss to teenager Amanda Anisimova and World #3 Garbine Muguruza lost to American Sachia Vickery. 2-time Indian Wells champion Victoria Azarenka lost to Sloane Stephens in her first comeback match in nearly a year.

However, the marquee comeback was that by Serena Williams of course. With her ranking currently in the 400s having not played a serious match since winning the 2017 Australian Open, giving birth and getting married, Serena managed to win her first two matches at Indian Wells. Her reward is that she will play her sister Venus. This will be the 29th meeting  and Serena leads 17-11. It will be around 7pm tonight. I'll be watching!

EYE CANDY: Jirrell Jacobs

Jirrell Jacobs is today's Eye Candy model. There' not much information about him on the web, but he is apparently a musician.

Friday, March 09, 2018

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: 4 Out Of 5 Americans Can't Name A Living Scientist

Hmmm! A recent poll suggests that Americans are pretty clueless about famous living scientists. According to Science AF:

Of the paltry 19 percent who can actually recall a living scientist, 27 percent named Stephen Hawking, 19 percent named Neil deGrasse Tyson and 5 percent named Bill Nye.
Jane Goodall — apparently the only living female scientist the American public can remember — was mentioned by 2 percent of those surveyed.
So, for today's Celebrity Friday, I will name TEN famous living scientists:
  1. Stephen Hawking (physicist)
  2. Brian Greene (astrophysicist)
  3. Neil deGrasse Tyson (astrophysicist)
  4. France Cordova (director of the NSF)
  5. Marcia McNutt (former editor-in-chief of Science, President of NAS)
  6. Bill Nye (science celebrity)
  7. Kip Thorne (astrophysicist & Nobel Laureate)
  8. Terence Tao (mathematician and Fields medalist)
  9. Ingrid Daubechies (mathematician)
  10. Jane Goodall (primatologist)

In the comments, feel free to add the names of other famous scientists a well-read person should be aware of.

Hat/tip to Research America.


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