Monday, July 16, 2018

EYE CANDY: Robert Oliveira





Robert Oliveira is a beautiful Brazilian model with nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram. There he posts stunning shots of himself in all sorts of interesting settings, and often very scantily clad. Sadly, I have not been able to find any other information about him (age, height, weight) except for the fact that he is from Bahia.

He is a new entry to Eye Candy but I'm very confident he will be making many more appearances in the near future.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

2018 WIMBLEDON: Djokovic Wins 13th Major and 4th Wimbledon Over Anderson







As expected, Novak Djokovic of Serbia defeated Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the 2018 Wimbledon final 6-2 6-2 7-6(3) to win his 4th Wimbledon title and 13th career major title.  This year the semifinals outshone the finals on the men's side where all 4 competitors were over 30 years old. 31-year-old Djokovic outlasted and outplayed 32-year old Rafael Nadal to win 10-8 in the fifth set. Kevin Anderson survived an extended 6 1/2 hours on court with John Isner to win 26-24 in the fifth. That might have explained the South African's slow start in the final although he made the 3rd set competitive and had 7(!) opportunities to break serve in that set, all of which were saved by his opponent, including 5 of these which were also set points.

Djokovic's win means that he is now 4th on the all-time major men's singles list, behind Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (17) and  Pete Sampras (14). This is his 4th Wimbledon out of 5 finals: 2016 (l. Murray), 2015 (d. Federer), 2014 (d. Federer) and 2011 (d. Nadal). In fact, for the last 16 years all Wimbledon Men's singles titles have been won by one of the big 4: Federer (8), Djokovic (4), Murray (2) and Nadal (2). He will return to the Top 10 on the men's tour and since he has zero points to defend for the rest of the year he has a very good chance to end the year at #1.

2018 WIMBLEDON: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)


Novak Djokovic (SRB) [12] vs Kevin Anderson (RSA) [8]
Here are my predictions for the women's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals, correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals, 1 of 2 men's semifinals and 2 of 2 women's semifinals. Last year I incorrectly predicted Venus Williams would defeat Garbine Muguruza. 


MEN'S SEMIFINALS REVIEW

Kevin Anderson (RSA) [8] d. John Isner (USA) [9] 7-6(6) 6-7(5) 6-7(9) 6-4 26-24At 6 hours 36 minutes, this was the longest match ever played on Wimbledon's Centre Court and the second longest grand slam match of all time, exceeded only by the ridiculous 11-hour, 3-day ordeal Isner survived against Nicolas Mahut back in 2010 (winning 70-68 in the 5th set). After outlasting 8-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set Anderson maintained his composure for the second round in a row and this time won 26-24! This was quite an amazing mental performance because most players who have beaten Federer at Wimbledon have gone on to lose their next match. (In fact, this is one reason why I picked Isner to win.) One must spare a thought for John Isner who was trying to reach his first major final, and now in addition to the infamous 70-68 win he will be known for the 26-24 loss. Maybe he will be responsible for the implementation of the Isner rule, which leads to some kind of terminating mechanism for decisive sets in the majors, especially Wimbledon. I would endorse some kind of tiebreak (I would suggest it should be a 10-point match tiebreak) that would occur qt either 6-all or 9-all or even 12-all. But there must be a rule change to prevent 3 hour final sets.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [12] d. Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) 3-6 10-8. This was a very high quality match that lasted 5 hours 15 minutes played over 2 days. Since it was the second match one after the Isner-Anderson marathon there was no way that it could be completed on men's semifinal Friday. The competitors showed why the 52-match Nadal-Djokovic rivalry is even more compelling than the Federer-Nadal and Federer-Djokovic rivalries. Djokovic extends his lead to 27-25 against Nadal, one of the very few players on tour who have a head-to-head lead against Nadal after more than 4 meetings. One of the key moments of this match was the 3rd set tiebreaker. Winning the 3rd set is always important in  a 5-set match but in this match the player who won the 3rd set would know they would be able to go to sleep with a lead until the match resumed the next day. Djokovic had to save 3 set points in that tiebreaker before he was able to close it out 11-9. The fifth set was an amazing, tension-filled, high-quality affair. Djokovic had to save five breakpoints during the course of the deciding set. With the advantage of serving first, those breakpoints were not match points. It was not until the 16th game that Nadal finally was forced to save a match/break point which he did with an astonishingly gutsy drop shot winner. He had previously escaped two  or three 0-30 deficits but then in the 18th game of the 5th set he was unable to do it again and slipped (literally) to go down 0-40 and lose his serve and the match. 


MEN'S FINAL P
REVIEW

Djokovic can exult that it appears as if he has returned to his old form, as evinced by his ability to defeat Nadal in a tough 5-set match. His reward is that he has an excellent opportunity to continue to add to his haul of major titles. From 2011-2016 Djokovic won 11 of 22 majors but he had not even reached a final since. If he beats Anderson in the championship match (where he is the prohibitive favorite after the South African survived two consecutive ultra-long matches in the last 4 days) Djokovic will get to 13 major titles, which is only 4 behind Nadal and 7 behind Federer. There's still a possibility that if he returns to the level which earned him 4 the Nole slam in June 2016 he could exceed Federer's major total before his retirement. Most people are not giving Anderson any chance to win but I am not one of them. I think it will be closer than people think, and I would not be surprised if Anderson wins a single set, probably because I think there will be a tiebreaker or two. Anderson will be surprised by the number of his serves that are returned into play, and its hard to imagine his movement will be even 50% of its usual level as a result of the extended time he has spent on court this fortnight, which should be dispositive.

MadProfessah's pick: Djokovic.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

2018 WIMBLEDON: Kerber Outplays Serena To Win 3rd Major






Upending most observer's predictions including my own, Angelique Kerber outplayed Serena Williams 6-3 6-3 to win her 3rd major title and first Wimbledon title (on her second attempt).

The 30-year-old German became the first of her countrywomen to hold up the Venus Rosewater dish as Wimbledon champion since 22-time major champion Steffi Graf won the last of her 7 Wimbledon titles in 1996. By doing so, she denied Serena her 24th major and extended the American's quest to match (and then exceed) Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 major single titles won. The 36-year-old amazed many by returning to a major final in just her 4th match back from a year-long absence from the tour due to a successful pregnancy and difficult aftermath. Due to a historic flurry of upsets, the 25th seed did not have to face anyone in the Top 50 of the WTA until the semifinal, when she dispatched  Top 15 player Julia Goerges in straight sets. Meanwhile, Kerber did not drop a set despite facing a slew of talented and up-and-coming youngsters: 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko, Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina and 2018 Indian Wells champ Naomi Osaka. This disparity in the competition was one reason some people suspected Kerber might win, but very few would have thought that Serena would fail to win a set in the final. Her loss brings her record to 23-7 in major finals and Kerber becomes the first woman (other than Venus Williams) to beat Serena in two major finals.

2018 WIMBLEDON: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Angelique Kerber (GER) [11] vs Serena Williams (USA) [25] 

Here are my predictions for the women's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals, correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals, and 2 of 2 women's semifinals. Last year I incorrectly predicted Venus Williams would defeat Garbine Muguruza. 


WOMEN'S SEMIFINALS REVIEW

 Angelique Kerber (GER) [11] dJelena Ostapenko (LAT) [12] 6-3 6-3. This was a much more complicated match than is reflected by the score. The result was ultimately decided by Ostapenko's refusal to stop aiming for the lines and making far too many errors (in addition to blasting dozens of winners). Basically, Kerber's defense was more effective than Ostapenko's offense. However, Kerber was up 5-1 in the second set and started making errors, Ostapenko stopped missing and suddenly things got complicated when serving for the match in the 9th game, but ultimately she held and won the match.

 Serena Williams (USA) [25] d. Julia Goerges (GER) [13] 6-2 6-4This was the match that demonstrated to most observers that Serena is almost back to the level she was at before she left the tour to have a child. Although she lost as many games as Kerber did in her match, the result of this one never really seemed in doubt. In other words, the result of this match was not as close as the score indicates. Goerges acquitted herself well and did not seem negatively affected by the occasion of playing in her first major semifinal. The main reason she lost was because Serena was simply the better player that day.

WOMEN'S FINAL PREVIEW

This match-up is a reprise of the 2016 Wimbledon final which was won be Serena after the two had met at the Australian Open where Kerber had stunned Serena to win in three sets. This is Serena's 30th major final and she has a superlative 23-6 record. She has only lost major finals to 5 people, and only her sister Venus Williams has done it twice (2001 US Open, 2008 Wimbledon). The others are Maria Sharapova (2004 Wimbledon), Sam Stosur ( 2011 US Open), Angelique Kerber (2016 Australian Open), and Garbine Muguruza (2016 French Open). The two have played 8 times on tour and Kerber has won twice (2012 Cincinnati Open and 2016 Australian Open). Kerber at least has had the experience of beating Serena in a final so she knows its possible, Serena is also very aware of this fact and has great respect for the German's counterpunching skills. 

So, it is possible that Serena could lose this match, but it is unlikely. If she does win, it will be an amazing achievement to come back and win a major title after more than a year's absence from tennis, having a baby and experiencing life-threatening consequences. With 24 major titles, Serena will have as many major titles as anyone who has ever played tennis and will most likely go on to win more to cement her status as the Greatest of all Time. 

MadProfessah's pick: Serena.

Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 WIMBLEDON: Men's Semifinals Preview (and Predictions)


Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 2 of 2 women's semifinals. I also predicted this year's women's semifinals.

Roger Federer (SUI) [1] Kevin Anderson (RSA) [8] vs John Isner (USA) [9].  Things were going so well for the 8-time major champion Roger Federer in the tournament right before he was shockingly dismissed in a 5-set thriller, losing 13-11 in the decider. He had equaled his record of 34 consecutive sets won after taking the first two sets of his match with Kevin Anderson, who had never won a set against him, and he sported a 266-2 record in majors when up 2-0. However, somehow Anderson maintained his composure and won the last 3 sets and the match, to reach his first Wimbledon semifinal. There he will face a familiar opponent, John Isner who will also be playing in his first Wimbledon semifinal which is also his first major final. Isner has not had his serve broken through 5 matches, the best of any of the semifinalists. Of course this means that he has played a lot of tiebreakers in this tournament, but Isner plays a lot of tiebreaks in every tournament. At age 33, Isner is clearly playing the best tennis of his career. And instead of facing the best grasscourt player of all time to reach a major final, he will face Anderson, someone with whom he has a 8-to-3 head-to-head lead. There's also the statistic that the last 3 people to beat Federer before the final went on to lose their next match (Raonic in 2016, Stakhovsky in 2013 and Tsonga in 2011). Aderson is serious enough that I believe this will be at least a 4-set match and *probably* not a reprise of Isner's 70-68 match with Mahut, but there are going to be a LOT of aces between the two, and not a lot of rallies. PREDICTION: Isner.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) [12]. Although the Federer-Nadal rivalry is more heralded, but the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is at least as significant to men's tennis. The two have played 51 times and Djokovic leads 26-25. But this doesn't tell the entire story because they have met 13 times at majors and Nadal leads 9-4. Nadal-Djokovic LII is happening in the semifinals of Wimbledon, where Djokovic is a 3-time champion (he has never lost a final here, even despite playing Federer twice!) and Nadal has won twice in 5 finals, with this year being the 10th anniversary of his very first win here (over Federer) in the Greatest Match of All Time. I am fairly confident whomever wins this semifinal will win the 2018 title over whomever wins the other semifinal. The real question that will be answered by the result of this match is whether Djokovic is back and ready to compete at the very top of men's tennis again. From the looks of things, that answer is yes. We know Nadal is already at the top of his game (after all he is the World #1 ranked player, and will probably end the year at #1 unless Djokovic manages to win both of the last two majors of the year or Federer wins in New York. Regardless, this should be a battle of epic proportions. PREDICTION: Djokovic.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2) by Jane Harper


Force of Nature is an interesting psychological thriller based around familial and work relationships and the feelings, slights and resentments that can result. The basic facts are that five women (2 of whom are sisters, 2 of whom went to school together and all of whom work together at a private financial services firm) go on a 3-day hike in a remote national park and one of them (the pretty, obnoxious, “most successful” one) doesn’t make it out (alive). Overall rating: 3.5 Stars.

Force of Nature is the second book by Australian author Jane Harper featuring Aaron Falk, an officer of the Australian Federal Police (I guess the Aussie version of the United States’ FBI) specializing in financial crimes. Harper's first book, The Dry, was a sensation, and ended up winning the prestigious Gold Dagger award from the Crime Writers of America. It tells the story of what happens when Aaron goes back to his hometown after his childhood best friend’s entire family is gunned down in a deserted town in the middle of nowhere.

In my opinion, Force of Nature is a more interesting book than The Dry, but that’s not because of Aaron Falk, it’s due to the power of the mystery and suspense of the central question of “what happened between these women in the park?” It turns out that Alice Russell, the woman who does not make it out of the park with her co-workers, was acting as a confidential informer to Aaron and the AFP as they tried to build a substantial money laundering case against the employer of the women on the hike. Aaron and his partner go up to the park when news reaches them that Alice is missing to try and see if they can discover if her disappearance is linked to their investigation of her bosses. It turns out that the reason for her death is something much closer to home.

To me, there’s a fundamental flaw in Harper’s choice of protagonist for her mystery series. Falk is simply not that interesting a character. He’s almost nondescript. It’s really a testament to Harper’s writing and plotting that both books she has written so far, especially the second one, are captivating thrillers. Part of this is the exotic nature of their setting (Down Under) where in both books Harper takes full advantage of the lay of the land to enthrall the reader. I hope that the author takes a page out of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books and considers having other main characters in subsequent books. Or she could keep on using Falk as the ostensible protagonist of the books but then also depict the other characters in a more compelling and complex way as she does in Force of Nature.

Title: Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2).
Author: 
Jane Harper.
Paperback: 272 pages.
Publisher:
 Flatiron Books.
Date Published: February 26, 2018.
Date Read: June 29, 2018.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

PLOT: A-.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: B+.
WRITING: A.

2018 WIMBLEDON: Women's Semifinals Preview (and Predictions)


Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 2 of 2 women's semifinals. I will also predict this year's men's semifinals.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) [12] vs. Angelique Kerber (GER) [11]. This should be a great match; the two major champions have never met before on the WTA tour! Kerber played one of the best matches of the tournament in her straight sets win against Daria Kasatkina. Ostapenko has reached her second career semifinal (first at Wimbledon) by not dropping a set and blasting winners into the corners over and over again. Can she continue to do this against one of the great defensive players in the game? We shall see. My default position is usually that great offense wins against great defense, which would indicate Ostapenko has the better chance to reach her first Wimbledon final but I just think that Kerber has shown that she has what it takes to get to major finals, having reached three of them in the same year (2016), winning two, just two years ago. However, she hasn't face Ostapenko before, so maybe all our expectations need to change. PREDICTION: Kerber.

Julia Goerges (GER) [13] vs Serena Williams (USA) [25]These two played a rather good match at the French Open just a few weeks ago and many of us were actually surprised Serena was able to come away with the win because it demonstrated just how quickly she was returning to a high level of play. Goerges has become one of the top players on tour; she reached the Top 10 this spring has been hovering just out of that circle for the last few months. But appearing in the Wimbledon semifinal is the first real tangible result of her rise in the rankings to show itself at the majors. I think it is very likely the occasion of being there will provide enough of an impediment to her playing er best tennis that it will make what should be a tough matchup for Serena not as complicated as one would expect. PREDICTION:  Serena.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 WIMBLEDON: Federer Suffers Shock QF Upset Against Anderson


Atfer going up 2-0 in sets (after basically stealing the second set in a tiebreak) after going down 0-3 in games, Roger Federer had a break point that was a match point in the third set (on Kevin Anderson's serve) but failed to convert and then lost his own serve in the following game. He had multiple opportunities to break back to get to a 3rd set tiebreak but eventually Anderson held serve and won the third set 5-7. That was not any reason to panic but when Federer lost the fourth set 4-6 on one break of serve horrible memories of his similar 2011 loss from 2 sets up to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga started to creep into my mind and must have crept into his as well.

Eventually Federer lost 13-11 in the final set, despite serving first, he never got to a breakpoint/matchpoint in the final set, and finally in the 23rd game was broken himself and then lost the match in the very next game.

2018 WIMBLEDON: Men's Quarterfinals Preview (and Predictions)


Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. I also predicted this year's women's quarterfinals.

Roger Federer (SUI) [1] vs. Kevin Anderson (RSA) [8].  The defending champion has looked nearly flawless so far. He has not dropped his service in any match and has faced less than a handful of breakpoints in four matches. However, those  breakpoints did all come in his last match against Adrian Mannarino so maybe he is getting more vulnerable? One thing that may take him off his stride against Anderson will be the fact that he is playing on Court 1, not his beloved Centre Court. But I expect this will actually redound to his favor because the crowd will be so appreciative to be getting a Federer match I suspect it will be like a home Davis Cup venue in favor of the Swiss. The fact that he is playing a big server is somewhat problematic, but Federer has taken dow big servers before, especially when they have movement issues. However despite the fact that Federer is 4-0 against Anderson I suspect this match will be tighter than expected and  I would not be surprised if the South African wins a set in his very first major quarterfinal at Wimbledon. Despite playing the best grass court player of all time, I believe Anderson has some confidence earned from his 2017 US Open final run to believe he at least has a chance of winning the match and he does. But I still think that he won't  PREDICTION: Federer.

Milos Raonic (CAN) [13] vs. John Isner (USA) [9].Somewhat surprisingly, the older Isner has a 3-1 head-to-head advantage on Raonic. Unsurprisingly, 7 of 9 sets the two have played so far have gone to tiebreaks, with Isner leading 4-3. Raonic has better pedigree at the all-England Club, having reached the 2016 Wimbledon final (losing to Murray but beating Federer in the semifinals) while Isner is playing in his first Wimbledon quarterfinal and only the second in his career while Raonic is in his 8th. However, at age 33 Isner is playing some of his best tennis, having won his first ATP Masters shield in April in Miami and has been demonstrating a more aggressive style of play that his coaches have been urging for years. This will certainly not be the most scintillating of matches, but one of of these players will be reaching a Wimbledon major semifinal. PREDICTION: Isner.

Kei Nishikori (JPN) [24] vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) [12]. It's hard to believe that just two years ago, Djokovic had just completed the Nole slam, having won 4 consecutive slams and he bestrode the tennis world like a Collossus, with a gaudy haul of 12 major titles before the age of 30. However, it was here at Wimbledon where he suffered a stunning upset to Sam Querrey in the third round as the defending champion. Remember, Djokovic has won this tournament three times (2011, 2014, 2015) and it looks like he is starting to get his groove back after a long injury break from the game. Luckily for him, he plays someone who he has an excellent head-to-head of 13-2 although of course one of those losses came famously in the 2014 US Open semifinal. Nishikori is playing in his first Wimbledon quarterfinal and he just looks to me that he is happy with that result and is not hungry to go further, while Djokovic is very motivated to return to his pedestal at the top of men's tennis. PREDICTION: Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [5]. The head-to-head is strongly in Nadal's favor at 10-5 which includes 2 grass courts win. Many people have been saying Del Potro has a good chance of beating Nadal but they said that at the US Open after he beat Federer in the quarterfinal and the Spaniard just rolled over the big Argentine on his way to his third US Open title. Del Potro did not look mentally tough in his match against Gilles Simon, needing 5 match points and an extra day to dispatch the tricky Frenchman to reach his first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2011. Nadal is playing exceptional tennis and is in his first quarterfinal here since 2011 as well. It's amazing that a decade after they played the Greatest Match of all Time here in 2008, Federer and Nadal are just two matches away from a reprise. PREDICTION: Nadal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 WIMBLEDON: Women's Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions


Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2018. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals. I will also predict this year's men's quarterfinals.

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) vs. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) [12]. This should be a great match of pint-size powerhouses. Both of these players have reached major finals before. 21-year-old Ostapenko did it in last year's French Open, outlasting Simona Halep, to win her first major. Cibulkova did it way back in the 2014 Australian Open final but also won the 2016 Year-End Championships. These are both elite layers and Cibulkova was miffed when the All-England Club bumped her from the seeded players list by inserting Serena Williams at #25.  And she has a 2-0 head-to-head lead over Ostapenko, although bot meetings came before Alona became a major champion. . PREDICTION: Ostapenko.

Daria Kasatkina (RUS) [14]  vs. Angelique Kerber (GER) [11]. To me, this is a "pick-em" match. The two have split their previous 6 matches, including the two they played this year. In fact, they played in Eastbourne just a few weeks ago and the winner (Kerber) was decided by a 3rd set tiebreak! Unfortunately Wimbledon requires a 2-game advantage in the deciding set so this match may become a marathon. If it does, I give the ultra fit German the edge. However, Kasatkina is the modern-day Martina Hingis with her court sense and shotmaking ability and this may drive her opponent crazy.This is the 20-year-old Russian's first major quarterfinal, and I think experience may be the decider here. PREDICTION: Kerber.

Kiki Bertens (NED) [20] vs. Julia Goerges (GER) [13]. Surprisingly, the lower ranked player, Bertens, holds the 2-0 head-to-head lead here and has been having an amazing run, beating Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova in consecutive rounds to make her career-first major quarterfinal. Both players are very near their career-high rankings so they are both brimming with confidence. Goerges is at or near the top of the tour in numerous important serve statistics categories, including aces hit (257 for the year). On grass serve is so important that I think that will be the deciding factor here. PREDICTION: Goerges.

Serena Williams (USA) [25] vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA). I'm much more worried about this match then other commentators. I have seen Giorgi play in person and she demolishes the ball, as often as she can, with absolutely no plan B (sorta like a diminutive Madison Keys). Serena is definitely getting closer and closer to her pre-pregnancy form and if she does, no one in the draw has much of a chance to stop her from claiming another title. But she's not there yet, and if she has a serious lapse in any of her remaining matches, she could definitely lose. That being said, she has a 3-0 head-to-head against Giorgi and thus should not be surprised by the Italian player's game even though the two have not played since 2016. (They couldn't have played in 2017 because Serena was basically AWOL all season long after winning the Australian Open.) However, here again experience should help Serena and hurt Giorgi, who is playing in her very first major quarterfinal. PREDICTION: Serena.

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