Friday, July 21, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Female Fields Medalist, Has Died

Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford mathematics full professor and Fields medalist, died last Friday July14 of breast cancer at the age of 40.  The Fields medal is the highest international honor in Mathematics (the equivalent of a Nobel prize) and Mirzakhani was the first (and only woman) to have received the award.

The loss of Mirzakhani (at such an early age) has stunned the mathematics community and resulted in a deluge of press. Here's an excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who was the only woman ever to win a Fields Medal, the most prestigious honor in mathematics, died on Friday. She was 40.
The cause was breast cancer, said Stanford University, where she was a professor. The university did not say where she died.
Her death is “a big loss and shock to the mathematical community worldwide,” said Peter C. Sarnak, a mathematician at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study.
The Fields Medal, established in 1936, is often described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. But unlike the Nobels, the Fields are bestowed only on people aged 40 or younger, not just to honor their accomplishments but also to predict future mathematical triumphs. The Fields are awarded every four years, with up to four mathematicians chosen at a time.
She will be  missed!

Monday, July 17, 2017

EYE CANDY: Micquel Wright

Micquel Wright is a British bodybuilder. He has his own website at and is also on Instagram and Facebook. His website seems to suggest that he is 30 years old but I can't find information on his height and weight, although it probably varies widely depending on whether he is in training for  a bodybuilding competition or not. Regardless, I think you can see why he would be a good choice for this week's Eye Candy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 WIMBLEDON: Federer Wins Record 8th Wimbledon (19th Major!)

As I predicted, Roger Federer defeated Marin Cilic in the Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles championship match. Federer  at age 35 won the match  6-3 6-1 6-4 to claim his 19th grand slam title and record-setting 8th Wimbledon title. Even more incredibly, Federer became the oldest Wimbledon champion in the modern era and the second man (after Bjorn Borg did it  1976) to win the title without dropping a set.

Federer has now won 2 majors in 2017 (2017 Australian Open and 2017 Wimbledon) and has an astonishing record of 31-2 for the year and added 5 ATP tour titles (Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami, Halle, London)  to bring his career haul to 93 titles.
He is 9-0 against fellow Top 10 players and will rise to #3 in the ATP rankings on Monday. He is #2 in the year-long race to the year-end tour championships in London, a mere 500 points behind Rafael Nadal and has zero points to defend for the rest of the year, which means if he really wants it, he could very likely end the year at World #1. If he does so, he would become the oldest player to reach #1, eclipsing Andre Agassi who was 33 when he was #1, and he would tie Pete Sampras' record of six year-end #1's.

2017 WIMBLEDON: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Here are my predictions for the men's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted Andy Murray would defeat Milos Raonic in the men's final.  This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 this year's women's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals. I also incorrectly predicted that Venus Williams would beat Garbine Muguruza in the women's final this year.

Marin Cilic (CRO) [7] d. Sam Querrey (USA) [24] 6-7(8) 6-4 7-6(3) 7-5. Sam Querrey was playing in his very first major semifinal after defeating the World #1 and defending champion Andy Murray in the round before. Unfortunately, in this important match he had to face someone in Marin Cilic whom he had never beaten before (in four meetings). Although Cilic ended up losing that first set tiebreaker because his backhand started to going off, he was able to get an early service break in the second set. The third set was key and when Cilic was able to win it fairly easy in a tiebreak you thought that might signal quick end to the match. However, Querrey broke early in the 4th set and a fifth set seemed imminent until out of nowhere Cilic broke back to level the set at 4-all and eventually broke Querrey to reach his first Wimbledon final.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] dTomas Berdych (CZE) [11] 7-6(4) 7-6(4) 6-4. This scores does not quite reflect how ultimately competitive this match was. Federer was up a break in the first set and was expected to maintain the lead and run away with the first when Berdych surprisingly broke back and it was only through very good luck and opportunistic aggression that Federer won the first set tiebreak. In the second set, Berdych was actually the better player but again somehow Federer was able to sneak out the second set in a tiebreaker. Then with a 2-0 set lead Federer was able to up his aggression and earn a break which he could use to ensure success in the 3rd and final set.


I have no doubt that Marin Cilic will indeed win Wimbledon someday. The question is, will that day be Sunday July 16 2017? It is very possible. He has impeccable grass bonafides. Cilic had 4th set match points against Federer last year in the quarterfinals but lost that set and then the match in the fifth set. He is playing excellent grass court tennis and has reached the quarterfinals or better for four years in a row here at Wimbledon and had very deep runs in both grass court warm-up tournaments he played in. However, Federer is clearly the most accomplished grass court player of all time. he has the most grasscourt victories of any active player and he has planned his entire year (by missing the entire clay court season) to maximize his chances at winning Wimbledon. He has reached the final by not dropping a set, although he has played 5 tiebreaks and won all of them. I suspect there will be at least one tiebreak against Cilic and hopefully Federer's luck will hold or else things could get complicated. However, I do think that if it does get deep into a 5th set Federer will prevail (even though overall Federer does not have a great 5-set record, primarily because he  usually wins his grand slam matches easily enough so that he doesn't have a lot of experience playing them). But Federer's 2009 win over Andy Roddick and his 2017 win over Rafael Nadal are evidence that Federer can do well in tight situations. I didn't like how irritated Federer got when he got so much resistance and excellent play from Berdych. I suspect he will be mentally and physically prepared for Cilic to do well and does not expect this match to be easy. If you had told Federer that he would be able to reach the Wimbledon final without having to face any of the other members of the Big Four he would take that bet in a second. Although lots of people expect Federer to win this match to win his 8th Wimbledon title and 19th major, it must be noted that he has lost the last two Wimbledon finals he played, in 2015 and 2014 (both to Novak Djokovic). However, there's a reason why Federer has a 6-1 head-to-head lead over Cilic, but it must be noted that they have only played once since Cilic won his major title at the 2014 US Open which included a blistering straight sets win over Federer in the semifinals. That being said, I believe Federer will find a way to prevail.  PREDICTION: Federer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017 WIMBLEDON: Muguruza Wins 2nd Major, Denying Venus her 8th

In a surprisingly one-sided result, Garbiñe Muguruza won her first Wimbledon singles title by defeating 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams 7-5 6-0. It's Muguruza's 2nd major title, and curiously both have come with victories over Williams sisters (in 2016 she beat Serena in the French Open final). Bizarrely, the 23-year-old Spaniard has only won four WTA titles in her career and not even reached a final since winning the French 13 months ago. Many people have noted that Muguruza was coached here by the only other Spanish woman to win Wimbledon, Conchita Martinez, who won her title by denying Martina Navratilova her bid to become the oldest Wimbledon Ladies champion in 1994 at age 37, which just happens to be the age of Muguruza's opponent today.

The match was an odd one. For the first 8 games it was nervy but high quality tennis, with both players saving multiple breakpoints. Finally in the 10th game Venus had two breakpoints which were set points at 4-5 15-40 and they had a 19-stroke rally where they exchanged forehands. Up to that point Muguruza had been spraying forehands by several feet out of the court but she bore down and it was Venus who blinked, hitting a shot into the net. On the second set point, Muguruza got a great first serve and Venus missed the forehand return long. Once those set points were gone, Muguruza continued with the strong serving, won that game and, as often happens, once she had saved break points she earned opportunities to break in Venus' next service game. However, now the Venus of LAST year had returned, and her forehand form started breaking down, as she was hitting it both VERY long and also into the net. As Garbiñe's form went up, Venus' went down and Venus ended up not winning another game, losing 9 in a row in the stretch to lose her 9th major final 5-7, 0-6. There have only been 5 bagel sets in women's final in the Open era.

Although the final result was disappointing for her,  it was still an amazing result for Venus to reach 2 major finals in the same year, after an 8-year drought of numerous first round losses. For Muguruza, she will return to World #5 in the WTA rankings, with Venus returning to World #9. Having won two majors in two years, Muguruza has demonstrated that she has the game (and mental strength) to be a force in women's tennis as the end of the Williams era of domination comes closer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 WIMBLEDON: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) [14] d. Magadalena Rybarikova (RUS) 6-1 6-1. This match ended up being more of a mismatch, as Muguruza was ruthlessly aggressive, repeatedly approaching the net to control the outcome of the point. The result of the match was also negatively impacted by the fact that Rybarikova was a bit overwhelmed by the occasion of playing in her first major semifinal and thus was unable to take advantage of her excellent return game. It was over in under an hour.

Venus Williams (USA) [10] dJohanna Konta (GBR) [6] 6-4 6-2This was expected to be a hard-fought, high-quality match with an uncertain outcome. For the first set it lived up to that billing, with Venus sneaking out the set after boldly saving two breakpoints (one with a 106 mph second unreturnable serve!) and an untimely Konta wobble.  Although Venus had one one ace (compared to Konta's 9) she won far more points by using well-timed body serves that Konta could not seem to handle at all. Some people said it was Venus's most impressive match of the tournament (I would argue that her straight sets dismissal of the reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarterfinal was even more significant.) Venus is still hitting winners from every part of the court, but her error count was strikingly low, which demonstrates how well she is playing.

Women's Final Preview
The Williams sisters have won the Wimbledon title 12 of the last 17 years with only Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo and Marion Bartoli breaking up their dominance. However, Venus has not been here since 2009, while Muguruza last played in the Wimbledon final in 2015. Head-to-head, Venus leads 3-1 but lost the last time they played, on clay in Rome. This was the first match that they played after Muguruza had become a major champion in her own right. 

Most people think that this is a very hard match to predict and I agree that I believe it will be close but I still think the person who is playing in their 16th career major final  (7W-8L) has an edge over the person playing in their 3rd career major final (1W-1L record). It is true that the last time there was such a sentimental favorite playing in a surprise Wimbledon final was 1994. That was Martina Navratilova against Conchita Martinez. In a shock, the Spanish clay courter beat the 9-time Wimbledon champion, denying Martina her 19th major title. Interestingly, Martinez is now coaching Garbine as she tries to deny a 5-time Wimbledon champion her 8th major title.

Looking at the x's and o's Venus is simply playing better tennis than Garbine. She is hitting more winners and aces than her opponent in the first six rounds and her forehand, which used to be a liability is now her weapon. Look out!

MadProfessah's prediction: Venus.

2017 WIMBLEDON: Men's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's quarterfinals. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 this year's women's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals

Andy Murray (GBR) [1] Sam Querrey (USA) [24] vs Marin Cilic (CRO) [7].  For the second year in a row, American Sam Querrey pulled off the biggest upset of his career on tennis' grandest stage, by defeating the current World #1 and defending Wimbledon champion. Last year it was Novak Djokovic and this year it was Andy Murray.  He became the first America male player to reach a major semifinal since Andy Roddick did it here in 2009 when he lost an epic final to Federer. Querrey can now make a claim to being the most successful American male player of his generation. He will face Marin Cilic, who took 5 sets to eliminate Gilles Muller, the lefty serve-and-volleyer who had cracked open the draw with a 15-13 5th set win over Rafael Nadal on Monday.Cilic is a dangerous grass court player and although he owns an undefeated 4-0 head-to-head lead over Querrey, the two played the second longest men's match in Wimbledon history 5 years ago when Cilic prevailed 17-15 in the fifth. Despite never having beaten Cilic, Querrey has a reasonable chance to cause the upset. No one expects him to win, so he really should be able to play the tension-free tennis which saw him beat two World #1's at Wimbledon in two years (altough to be fairthere is no question that Murray was literally hobbled by a hip injury which reduced his mobility and service power). Querrey's matches with Cilic have actually been rather closely fought affairs, and although Cilic has been playing well, so has Sam, and he's got the firepower to defeat the Croat, who realizes this is an amazing opportunity for him to reach a second major final and perhaps "pull a Stan Wawrinka" and sneak another major title. PREDICTION: Cilic.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1]Tomas Berdych (CZE) [11]. This is quite an unlikely match-up since basically everyone had pencilled in a Djokovic-Federer clash in this semifinal when the draw came out, an expected reprise of the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals. But after going down a set and a break, Djokovic retired with an arm injury, giving Berdych his 3rd win in 28 matched played against the Serb. Berdych also has a pretty horrible head-to-head record with Federer too (6W-18L) but he does have a win over Federer at Wimbledon (in 2010) and has beaten Federer in majors at important moments. But Federer beat Berdych in Australia (in the 3rd round) and the ease with which he did that was the signal to his myriad fans that  he was not going to take long to resume his place at the top of men's tennis after his 6-month sabbatical. I would be shocked if this semifinal is the more interesting of the two. Federer has yet to drop a set in this year's tournament, but that is primarily because he has had a lot of extraordinarily god luck in tiebreakers. Almost certainly Federer will be making records again, reaching his 11th final at Wimbledon (7-3) and 29th overall (18-10) record. He is playing in his 42nd major semifinal (and has a 28-13 record).  PREDICTION: Federer.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017 WIMBLEDON: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's quarterfinals. This year I correctly predicted 4 of 4 this year's women's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Magadalena Rybarikova (RUS) vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) [14]. This is the first time Rybarikova has been past the 4th round of a major and she is all the way to the 6th round, which is quite impressive. She has previously been a runner up in the Girl's Wimbledon title (losing to Caroline Wozniacki) its so she clearly knows her way around a grass court.  Data shows that even though she does not have a huge serve she has one of the most effective return games, winning more than 50% of breakpoints.The problem with that is if she faces an excellent server (like Muguruza) she may not get very many opportunities to break. In fact, Muguruza has already dispatched two 2-time major champions in her last two round (Angie Kerber and Sveta Kuznetsova) so I seriously doubt that an unseeded player having the match of her life will prevent the 2015 Wimbledon finalist from returning to the Ladies championship match again this year. PREDICTION: Muguruza.

Venus Williams (USA) [10] vs. Johanna Konta (GBR) [6]This has a strong likelihood of being a scorcher of a match. Konta leads the head-to-head 3-2 but the two have never met on grass. In their very first meeting in November 2015 these two played one of the best matches of the year in Wuhan, and it was his performance that put Konta on the map for me, which was compounded when she summarily dismissed Venus in the first round of the Australian Open a few months later on her way to reaching her first major semifinal. Konta has had many of her biggest career moments mediated by a showdown with Venus. She won her first WTA title at Stanford beating Venus and she beat Venus (in the semifinals) on the way to winning the Miami Open this year. So it is probably not surprising she has to get through Venus to reach her first major final. Prior to last year Venus had never lost in a Wimbledon semifinal, but she still has a pretty impressive 7-1 record as she is trying to reach her 9th Wimbledon final (5-3 record). One interesting factor will be the British crowd, will they really be able to rot so heartily against a 37-year-old 5-time Wimbledon champion for an Australian-born player who just became a citizen 3 years ago? I suspect some in the Centre Court audience will be torn, and then the  question will be what impact will less than unanimous support have on Konta? Just looking at the level of play to reach this point one would have to give an edge to Venus since she still has not lost a set, while Konta has repeatedly had to come back from deficits to remain in the tournament. I do worry that if Venus loses a set (which I am almost certain that she will do) she won't have the wherewithal to gut out a 3rd. Hopefully, she won't have to, and she will continue to play the majestic tennis that has gotten her to this point. PREDICTION: Venus.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 WIMBLEDON: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals. I also predicted 4 of 4 this year's women's quarterfinals.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] vs. Sam Querrey (USA) [24].  The defending champion has looked stronger every round (except for when he faced an on fire Fabio Fognini in the 3rd round and nearly dropped two sets). His draw is actually not too bad, since he plays Sam Querrey, a person he has not lost to in nearly 7 years, instead of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga[12] or Stan Wawrinka[6]. And with Nadal's absence from the draw he will not have to face another member of the Big 4 until the final, which is something no one would expected at the beginning of the tournament. Somehow Murray is finding a way to get to the business ends of these slams even though he is not playing anywhere near his best tennis. Hopefully, he can summon his best when he needs it.  PREDICTION: Murray.

Marin Cilic (CRO) [7] vs.  Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4] Gilles Muller (LUX) [16].The veteran from Luxembourg just had the biggest win of his career, beating the 15-time major champion in a 28-game deciding fifth set where he outhit, outplayed and outlasted Rafael Nadal! There's no doubt he will have a letdwn, the only question is will it matter. Cilic is playing some of his best tennis, reminiscent of the form he displayed in 2014 on his way to claiming his first major in New York City. There's no question that he is good on grass (he has not dropped a set so far) and he is in his 3rd consecutive quarterfinal at the all-England Club. Muller has not beaten Cilic in two meetings, and even lost to him just a few weeks on grass in the semifinals of Queens. I expect a similar result  on Wednesday. PREDICTION: Cilic.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN) [6]. This is a reprise of last year's blockbuster Wimbledon semifinal, which despite Federer's distinct head-to-head advantage (which is now 9-3 but last year was 9-1). This year Federer is in a very different position than he was last year. He has only lost two matches all year (and had a match point in every match he played). Last year, he had barely recovered from a freak knee injury which  is very different from where he is this year. And Raonic is also in a different position. He has not had a very good 2017, and he has a huge number of points to defend since he reached the final here last year. He has been playing as if he has a lot to lose, not like he has a lot to gain. Federer has still not dropped a set in the tournament, and with Nadal out of the tournament I believe he will feel less pressure to succeed.  PREDICTION: Federer.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [11]. The head-to-head is overwhelmingly in Novak's favor, an astonishing 25-2 (which includes)12 in a row spanning back to 2013. It's amazing these two have met so often on the tour and pretty surprising that Novak has such a decisive edge. One thing which could raise some doubts is that Berdych has beaten him at Wimbledon before, in 2010 but at this point the match-up is mental and that's unlikely to change in a hurry. PREDICTION: Djokovic.


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