Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SHOCK! Federer Out For The Rest Of 2016 Season (Will Miss Olympics & US Open), Returning In January 2017

Tragic announcement from Roger Federer today. He has decided to rehabilitate his knee for the rest of this year's tennis season and will skip the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2016 US Open and the 2016 Year-End Championships.

Federer was within one set of reaching the 2016 Wimbledon final earlier this month but lost to Milos Raonic of Canada. This will be the first year since 2001 that Federer will not win an ATP tour title of any kind. He only played 28 matches in 2016 and had a record of 21-7, although he reached the semifinals of both major tournaments he played in (lost to Djokovic at the 2016 Australian Open) this year.

Here's the official announcement:
Dear Fans,
I’m extremely disappointed to announce that I will not be able to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Rio and that I will also miss the remainder of the season. Considering all options after consulting with my doctors and my team, I have made the very difficult decision to call an end to my 2016 season as I need more extensive rehabilitation following my knee surgery earlier this year. The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover. It is tough to miss the rest of the year. However, the silver lining is that this experience has made me realize how lucky I have been throughout my career with very few injuries. The love I have for tennis, the competition, tournaments and of course you, the fans remains intact. I am as motivated as ever and plan to put all my energy towards coming back strong, healthy and in shape to play attacking tennis in 2017.

Thanks for your continued support.
I'm devastated! The opportunities to see Federer play live are becoming fewer and fewer...

TENNIS TUESDAY: Monfils Wins DC; Serena+Big 3 Skip Rogers Cup, Konta Beats #6 Venus

I visited the Citi Open in Washington, DC for the second time this weekend. In 2013 I saw Juan Martin del Potro beat Joh Isner in the final. This time I saw Gael Monfils beat Sascha Zverev in the semifinals. Monfils then faced Ivo Karlovic in the final the next day, which was played in brutally hot conditions (90-plus degrees, 50-plus percent humidity, court temperatures exceeding 140 degrees). I elected to stay home and watched on TV while Gael faced a match point but managed to win the match 5-7 7-6(6) 6-4 to claim the biggest title of his career. Gael had previously lost 8 of his 9 previous finals and has now won only 6 of the 25 finals in his career. The win jumped Monfils to World #14 (and #9 in the Race to London).

The summer tennis  schedule this year is overly packed and something had to give. It looks like it is the Rogers Cup tournament in Canada. The men's tournament was hit by a raft of high-profile withdrawals: three of the Big Four: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The  women's draw was hit by the withdrawal of the World #1 player Serena Williams.

36-year-old Venus Williams has reached the WTA ranking of #6 after a good run at the Bank of the West Classic on the campus of Stanford University. Even though she was the Top seed, Venus lost in the final 5-7 7-5 6-2 to Johanna Konta of Great Britain, who won her first WTA title, and is now ranked at #14.

Monday, July 25, 2016

EYE CANDY: Demetrius Jenkins

Demetrius Jenkins is another phyne brother I found on Instagram (@demetrius_jenkins). It looks like he is in the Army, but I have no other information about him. If anyone knows his age, height or weight, let me know! Is he a model? A famous (not to me!) athlete? Not sure, but he has 65,000 followers on Instagram. I think you can see why!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

FILM REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

I had heard that Star Trek Beyond was not getting great reviews, but since I have been a longtime fan of the franchise (beginning with watching the original series reruns in the early 1970s as a kid and continuing with the Star Trek: The Next Generation series in college). I think I have seen every Star Trek movie there is (except perhaps one of the last movies with the ST:TNG cast). I've also seen and enjoyed) the first two Star Trek movies 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness and 2009's Star Trek with the rebooted cast starring Chris Pine as  Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as Bones. Anyway, with me, it was not whether I would see this movie, but when. And after hearing that John Cho's version of George Takei's Hikaru Sulu would be depicted as openly gay (having a male partner he's raising a daughter with) I got tickets to see it opening weekend!

My worries about reviews were unfounded since Star Trek Beyond is certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with an 85% rating. This is (slightly) lower than the first two movies, which had 95% and 86% ratings, respectively.

One interesting difference of the latest entry into the Star Trek movie franchise is that it was co-written by Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty, primarily as the comic relief) and  JJ Abrams has relinquished the director's role to Justin Lin but still is listed as a producer.

The most compelling aspect of the film is the killer casting and the nuanced performances as updates of the original characters. The three leads are (mostly) excellent, but in the smaller roles, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Cho as Sulu and and Pegg as Scotty all standout. As with most summer blockbusters, the effectiveness of Star Trek Beyond is dependent on how good (or bad) the villain is. The villain in Star Trek Beyond is Krall, played quite well by a mostly unrecognizable Idris Elba. There's also a new female character named Jayla played by Sofia Boutella (last seen as the woman with the crazy blade legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service).

The story this time is built around central themes of loss as we see Spock learning about the death of Ambassador Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy of course) who actually represented Quinto's Spock from a different timeline that intersected in the 2009 Star Trek. We also learn that Spock is thinking of leaving Starfleet and has broken up with Uhura again because in light of the destruction of his homeplanet he is feeling compelled to try and go to New Vulcan to find a Vulcan mate and contribute to rebuilding Vulcan society and culture. Unbeknownst to Spock, Kirk is also thinking of leaving the crew of the Enterprise, and has applied to become a Vice-Admiral at a huge space station near a mysterious nebula.

Of course, the Enterprise ends up exploring the nebula where it gets attacked by a huge swarm of powerful alien spacecraft that forces the crew to abandon ship as the saucer section is forced to separate and crashes on a planet. Krall captures most of the crew (with Uhura and Sulu) but Bones and Spock, Chekhov and Kirk and Scotty land on the planet in separate groups. It was good to see that Chekhov had a larger role than in previous films due to a freak accident that killed the 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin last month which means he will not be appearing in any more sequels.

In the end, the crew is reunited and we learn that even Starfleet officers can become corrupted and that people will come up with all sort of rationales to justify horrific actions. The visuals are exciting and the action is frenetic but overall this was a better than average entry into the Star Trek movie franchise.

Title: Star Trek Beyond.
Director: Justin Lin.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Release Date: July 22, 2016.
Viewing Date: July 23, 2016.

Writing: A-.
Acting: B+.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B-.

Overall Grade: B+ (3.33/4.0)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 CITI OPEN: I saw Monfils Beat Zverev

I'm in Washington, D.C. For the summer and so I decided to check out the CitiOpen.

I have attended the final before but it was supposed to be 100 degrees (and 60% humidity) so instead I went no the semifinals and saw Gael Monfils put on a clinic against Next Gen phenomenon Sascha Zverev (the youngest player ranked in the Top 30).

Gael won 6-4 6-0. He broke on the very first game of the match and only faced 2 break points (in the same game), which he saved with good serving and excellent movement.

After losing the first set Sasha was very disconsolate and just started going for too much and lost easily.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hate Don't P(l)ay: North Carolina Loses 2017 NBA All-Star Game Over Anti-LGBT #HB2 Law

Well, well! The backlash over North Carolina's discriminatory HB2 continues to build, as today the National Basketball Association announcing a decision to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina because that hateful law is still in effect in the Tarheel State.

The NBA released a statement:

"The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019.
"Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.
"Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community -- current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
"We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons -- including members of the LGBT community -- feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.
"We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.
"The NBA will make an announcement on the new location of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in the coming weeks."
Let's hear it for the good guys!

Hopefully the NBA moves the game (and its estimated $100 million in economic impact!) to a city and state with LGBT protection.s New Orleans, which appears to be the top contender, is in Louisiana which has no statewide ordinance banning LGBT discrimination.

Meanwhile North Carolina has two years to get its %*%#@ together and Repeal HB2!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

Last year The Three-Body Problem became the first book not published in English to win the Hugo award, the most prestigious award in science fiction and  fantasy last year. The sequel to The Three-Body Problem is The Dark Forest. This book builds more slowly than the first one and parts of it did not resonate for me. However The Dark Forest ends very VERY strongly. The last section of the book rescues it from being in the 3-4 star range and brings up to the 4-5 star range (on the Goodreads five-star scale).

The Dark Forest is a very different story from the first book. The central character, Luo Ji is a much more interesting main character than any of the main character(s) from the first book (except for the despicable Ye Wenjie of course).

In The Dark Forest there are other characters we get to know and identify with whose fates are known by the end of the book and whom the reader becomes invested in and sympathetic towards.

The author does an excellent job of portraying the far future in The Dark Forest and depicting what world reaction would be as human extinction became more and less certain depending on events that are revealed in The Three-Body Problem.

One of the key ideas of The Dark Forest is the idea that despite what is usually believed, alien intelligences in the galaxy are actually not sparsely  distributed and may actually  be malevolent towards humanity. Liu Cixin explains the  idea like this:
The universe is full of life. Life in the universe functions on two axioms : 1. Life's goal is to survive and 2. That matter (resources) are finite. Like hunters in a dark forest, life can never been sure of alien life's true intentions. The extreme distances between stars creates an insurmountable 'Chain of Suspicion' where the two civilizations cannot communicate fast enough to relieve mistrust, making conflict inevitable. Therefore, it is in every civilizations best interests to preemptively strike any developing civilization before it can become a threat.
This is such a unique and interestingly original idea that it makes the book a compelling read in my eyes. I look forward to seeing what will happen in the next one, called Death's End.

Title: The Dark Forest.
Cixin Liu.
Paperback: 512 pages.
 Tor Books.
Date Published: August 11, 2015.
Date Read: September 19, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.50/4.0).


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New Study Shows Zero Transmission Between Serodiscordant Couples With One Undetectable Partner

Great news! A recently published very large research study of sexual activity (58,000 examples of condomless penetrative sex) between serodiscordant couples (both heterosexual and homosexual, where one couple is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive) has demonstrated that undetectable people have a near-zero probability of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners.
Over the course of two years, the study tracked 888 serodiscordant couples — that is, couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative. This included 548 different-sex couples and 340 same-sex male couples. The HIV-positive partners maintained undetectable viral levels with antiretroviral therapy (ART), but the HIV-negative partners did not use PrEP. 
There were 11 cases in the study in which partners contracted HIV, but they didn’t get it from their partners. Researchers tested the virus in each case and confirmed that what they had contracted was not phylogenetically linked to their partners’ virus. In other words, it was conclusively proven that they only contracted HIV because they had sex outside the relationship. 
Simon Collins, a member of the PARTNER study steering committee, described the results as “simple to understand.” In a statement, he explained, “This provides the strongest estimate of actual risk of HIV transmission when an HIV positive person has undetectable viral load — and that risk is effectively zero.”
The implications of this result for public policy around HIV stigmatization in the United States are profound. There are numerous HIV-positive Americans who are serving draconian criminal sentences for having sex with other people due to misguided laws (combined with overzealous prosecutions and bigoted juries). Oftentimes, it is people of color who are disproportionately impacted, as exemplified by one of the most (in)famous of these cases, the so-called "Tiger Mandingo" case where a 23-year-old African-American man named Michael Johnson was sentenced to 30 years in jail after being convicted of multiple felonies in Missouri.

Hopefully, this new scientific evidence from the PARTNER study can be used to help organizations like the SERO Project support the repeal of some of these pernicious laws around the country.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Vika Pregnant, Davis Cup Semis Set, Rio Withdrawals, Sharapova Appeal Postponed

The United States started their quarterfinal David Cup tie with a surprising comeback win by Jack Sock over 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and led 2-0 after the first day after John Isner bludgeoned Borna Coric with his big serve. Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. The Bryan Brothers were unable to beat the doubles team of Cilic and Ivan Dodig, so then on the final day either Isner had to beat Cilic, or Sock had to beat Coric, and neither happened. France defeated Davis Cup stalwarts Czech Republic 3-1 when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated young gun Jiri Vesely. Defending Davis Cup champions Great Britain defeated Serbia without either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic playing for their respective countries. Argentina outlasted Italy as the South American country made it to the semifinals for the 11th time but still has never won the Cup. The semifinals will be played the week after the US Open.

2-time major champion (and current World #6) Victoria Azarenka announced via Twitter last Friday that she found out after Roland Garros that she is pregnant and that she intends to have the baby and then resume her tennis career afterwards. Interestingly, Kim Clijsters returned to tennis after having a kid and came back a much more mature player, and ended up winning three major titles as a parent (and had only 1 major win before getting pregnant).

2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic joins the long list of highly ranked tennis players who will skip the 2016 Olympics in Rio due to fears of the Zika virus. In addition to Raonic,  fellow elite players Tomas Berdych and Simona Halep have also announced that they will not be making the trip down to Brazil for the prestigious sporting event. Previously, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and John Isner have also said they are skipping the Olympics.

The decision on Maria Sharapova's appeal of her two-year ban for her use of the banned substance of meldonium has been postponed to September 19th, which means the 5-time major champion will miss two huge events: the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2016 U.S. Open.

Monday, July 18, 2016

EYE CANDY: Donnell Whittenburg

Donnell Whittenburg is a member of the 2016 United States Olympic Committee Men's Gymnastics team. He is on Snapchat as DonellW and Twitter as @D_whittenburg and Instagram as @donnell_whittenburg. Donnell is 21-years-old (born 8/18/1994) and according to the USOC, he is 5-foot-4 and 165 pounds. The Rio Olympics will be held from Friday August 5 to Sunday August 21, so hopefully he will celebrate his 22nd birthday with a great performance.

I think if you look up "built like a fireplug" you'll probably see a picture of Donnell!

Friday, July 15, 2016

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Hikaru Sulu is Gay in Star Trek Beyond

Next Friday, Star Trek Beyond, the latest entry in the Star Trek movie franchise will be released and the blogosphere is buzzing with the news that the character Hikaru Sulu (played in the original by now openly gay actor George Takei and by John Cho in the recent rebooted series) will be revealed to have a male partner with whom he is raising a child.

Entertainment Weekly reports:
It’s been a long walk, but this year, there will be an openly gay crew member on the Enterprise bridge. According to Australia’s Herald Sun, this month’s Star Trek Beyond will casually reveal that John Cho’s Sulu is in a same-sex relationship – and that Sulu and his partner have a daughter. (Sulu’s daughter actually appeared in Generations, as the helmsman onboard the Enterprise commanded by Cameron Frye.) “I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it,” Cho says, “Which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.”
Takei, however, is not actually pleased by the development, which was intended to be an homage to him.
Takei first learned of Sulu's recent same-sex leanings last year, when Cho called him to reveal the big news. Takei tried to convince him to make a new character gay instead. "I told him, 'Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.'" (Takei had enough negative experiences inside the Hollywood closet, he says, and strongly feels a character who came of age in the 23rd century would never find his way inside one.)
Not long after Cho's bombshell call came another, this one from Lin, again informing him that Sulu was indeed to be gay in Star Trek Beyond. Takei remained steadfastly opposed to the decision.
The Geeks Out organization, thinks Sulu being gay is a good thing, but it's not enough.
With openly gay producer Bryan Fuller at the helm, this is the perfect opportunity to feature queer heroes and villains, romance, and even (gasp!) sex in a way that's more than tokenism and more than just a background detail. To geeks like me, a gay Sulu is an inspiring beginning. But hopefully, not the final frontier of LGBT characters in Star Trek.
Regardless, I'm probably going to see the movie opening weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

And Now His Watch Is Rewarded! Game of Thrones Gets 23 Emmy Noms!

Woo hoo! It seems like just yesterday that Game of Thrones finished what was probably it's best season yet on Sunday June 26th with the blockbuster (most watched episode of the show) Season 6 finale "The Winds of Winter." Today comes word that last year's winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Drama series (and the most nominated show of 2015) is again the most nominated show this year, with 23 nominations.

Interestingly, the actors playing Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) were all nominated. So was Max von Sydow (for playing the Three Eye Raven).

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister)
  • Kit Harington (Jon Snow)

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

  • Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
  • Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister)
  • Maisie Williams (Arya Stark)

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Game of Thrones
These nine just represent the Emmy nominations presented at the Primetime Emmy Award ceremony on September 18th on ABC. The show also got another 14 Creative Arts Emmy Nominations. See the full list at Winter Is Coming.

Monday, July 11, 2016

EYE CANDY: Derek Keeton (black/white)

Brian Keeton has appeared as Eye Candy once before (Monday June 20). He is an African-American male model, estimated to be 30 years old right now. Not exactly sure when the pictures were taken but I think you can see why he's here on Eye Candy day!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Murray Wins 3rd Major (2nd Wimbledon)

As expected, Andy Murray defeated Milos Raonic to win his 3rd major title. The score was 6-4 7-6(3) 7-6(2).

2016 WIMBLEDON: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN) [6]
Here is my prediction for the men's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2016. Last year I incorrectly predicted Roger Federer would beat Novak Djokovic in the final.  This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals, and 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 1 of 2 men's semifinals. I also correctly predicted Serena Williams would defeat Angelique Kerber this year.

Milos Raonic (CAN) [6] d. Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. 6-3 6-7 (3) 4-6 7-5 6-3. The 17-time major champion was so close to his 11th Wimbledon final, he could taste it. After losing concentration and double-faulting on break point in the first set, Federer did well to come back and win the second set tiebreaker. After sneaking out the 3rd set, Federer was up 40-0 serving at 5-6 to reach a 4th set tiebreaker when the unthinkable happened. Federer lost his serving rhythm and hit two consecutive double faults, and another missed first serve and ended up blowing his game points and when faced with break point (set point) he made a tactical error and Raonic hit a winner  to force a fifth and final set. In the fifth set, some people thought that maybe Federer would be able to sneak out a win due to his experience, but as a huge Federer fan I was distraught because I knew that he actually has a rather pedestrian record in 5th sets (probably because he so rarely meets a player that provides enough resistance to take him to a 5th set) and would probably lose. I was correct; basically Raonic got a service break and continued his excellent serving to win the match and reach his first career major final.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [10] 6-3 6-3 6-3. Ever since, the #1 seed (and 2-time defending champion) Novak Djokovic was removed from the draw by Sam Querrey in the third round, Murray has, for the first time at a major tournament has become the favorite. As I expected, he was never in danger in losing this match, despite their relatively close career head-to-head record. There's nothing that Berdych does better than Murray, and there's plenty that Murray does better than Berdych (movement, service return and mental toughness). 

This is Murray's 11th major final and he has a rather disappointing 2-8 record, and every single one of his 10 previous finals has been played against Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. For the first time, he will be playing a major final against someone he should be expected to beat, since they are lower ranked. How will he handle the pressure? Raonic is playing in his very first major, but as a student of the game, and with John McEnroe in his corner, I believe he will be prepared and will be able to play his best tennis.

However, there's a reason that Murray has a 6-3 head-to-head record against the Canadian player. He simply has too much game (primarily defensive resources) for Raonic to handle. Just a few weeks ago, the two met on grass at the Queen's Club final and Raonic was up a set and a break but ended up losing that match 6-7(3) 6-4 6-3. Murray is simply in better shape than Raonic and can outlast him. However, this does not mean Raonic has no chance. Anyone who can serve 140 mph first serves and 120 mph second serves is definitely in with a chance. But Raonic would have to have the service day of his life, against one of the best service returners of all time in order to win this match. Unless, something equally unlikely happens, I expect Murray to win his 3rd major title. 

MadProfessah's pick: Murray

Saturday, July 09, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Serena Beats Kerber To Win 22nd Major Title (7th Wimbledon)

As I expected, Serena Williams defeated Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3 to win her 7th Wimbledon title and 22nd major title, tying Steffi Graf's open era record, and cementing her status as the greatest female tennis player of all time. (Technically, Margaret Court has 24 major singles titles, but only 11 of those were in the open era which began in 1968 and 7 of her 13 titles won before 1968 were in her home country of Australia, when not every top player competed in the Australian Open.)

Serena's win today means that she is 22-6 (79%) in major finals; it took her 346 grans slam matches to win 22 major titles, while it took Graf 303. Serena has won 304 grand slam matches (which is second behind Martina Navratilova's 306 grand slam match wins). At age 34, Serena is the oldest major champion ever, Graf won none of her titles over the age of 30, while Serena has won 10 (so far!) Serena won her first title at the age of 17 in 1999, but Graf won 9 of her titles before her 20th birthday.

The match was a high quality affair, with both women hitting far more winners than errors. The key weapon in he match was Serena's serve. She had 13 aces, and only faced one break point (which she saved with an ace). From the back of the court, Kerber was superior, and when they got into long rallies the German was often the victor. However, with Serena holding serve relatively easily, most of the action was in Kerber's service games, and eventually the breaks came (in the 12th game of the first set) and the 8th game of the second set. Serena served out the match with 3 unreturnable serves and on championship point hit a duck volley into the open court.

Friday, July 08, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Women's Final Preview and Semifinals Review

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs. Angelique Kerber (GER) [4]
Here are my predictions for the women's final at the Wimbledon Championships for 2016. Last year I correctly predicted Serena Williams would beat Garbine Muguruza in the final.  This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals, and 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 1 of 2 men's semifinals.

Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams (USA) [1] dElena Vesnina RUS 6-2 6-0. Ever since Serena was pushed to the brink in her much-delayed 2nd round match against Christina McHale last Friday she has looked exceedingly sharp, and has handed out a bagel 6-0 set in three of her four subsequent matches. (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova actually did quite well to only lose 4-6 4-6 in the quarterfinals.) Serena was ruthless in this semifinal, racking up 4-0 leads in both sets. In the first set, Serena let off the gas slightly, but after winning that set, she decided to get stingy and refused to lose another game. She ended the match by hitting winners at will, ending up with 11 aces (28 winners overall) to just 7 unforced errors. 

Angelique Kerber (GER) [4] d. Venus Williams (USA) [8] 6-4 6-4.  Not all 6-4 sets are the same. For example, the first set of this match involved many more service breaks than service holds, although in the end Kerber held her service just one more time more than she lost it. There was palpable uncertainty about who would win the first set until the very end. However, in the second set (which ostensibly had the same score, there never really seemed to be any doubt that Kerber would win the set, it was just a matter of time.) Although Venus did quite well to reach her first major semifinal in six years but she did it at this tournament by only beating one player who was a (former) Top 10 player, in Carla Suarez Navarro. Once Venus had to face someone who was clearly more highly ranked, she was unable to bring out her best tennis and her tournament was over.

Women's Final Preview
Both players understand the historical ramifications of this match. Serena is obviously trying to write her name in the record book as the best player of all time by winning her 22nd major. Kerber is trying to prevent that from happening, and just so happens to be from the same country (Germany) that the current recordholder, Steffi Graf is from. Head-to-head, Serena leads Kerber 5-2 and despite the fact that she lost to her in their very last meeting (which was in the 2016 Australian Open final), she is definitely the favorite in this match. She has already won six Wimbledon titles (and lost 2 other Wimbledon finals) in her career and her game is very well-suited to grass. However, she has also lost the last two major finals she has played, either of which if she had won would have ended her race to #22 already. 

We all know that tennis success is a melange of physical and mental prowess so physically, this should not be any problem for Serena, but the mental challenge clearly trumped the physical in the 2015 US Open semifinal as well the 2016 Australian Open final. (In the 2016 French Open final it was Muguruza's physical prowess, more than Serena's emotional frailty which resulted in her win over Serena.)

Some champions love to win, while others hate to lose. I'm pretty sure that Serena is one of those people who hates to lose. She definitely hates to lose to the same person twice in a row. That will be enough of an impetus to pull her through to a win tomorrow.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena.

2016 WIMBLEDON: Men's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2016. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals. This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals. I also predicted this year's women's semifinals.

Roger Federer (SUI) [3] vs. Milos Raonic (CAN) [6]. The 17-time major champion is very lucky to be still in the hunt for his record 8th Wimbledon title. He went down by 2 sets to none against 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. After falling into a perilous situation (2-3, 0-40) in the third set, Federer was able to miraculously hold serve and was finally able to break Cilic's serve and run away with the third set. However, in the fourth set things were extremely tense with respective service holds until the tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Cilic had two match points and Federer had multiple set points and eventually won the fourth set tiebreak 11-9. Raonic had a much easier time in his quarterfinal, dispatching the giantkiller Sam Querrey in four sets. The Canadian has made his intentions of trying to win Wimbledon crystal clear with his hiring of John McEnroe for the grass court season. Interestingly, this semifinal is a repeat of the 2014 Wimbledon semifinal, which was won (relatively) easily by Federer in three tight sets (6-4 6-4 6-4). Overall, Federer has a 9-2 career head-to-head over his opponent, but Raonic won their last meeting, in the Bribane final earlier this year. I still think Federer has not shown his best tennis at Wimbledon this year yet, but I believe he will rise to the occasion, and will need to do so, in order to reach his record 11th Wimbledon final on Sunday.  PREDICTION: Federer.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [10] Jiri Vesely (CZE). For the first time, Andy Murray is the favorite at a major tournament, as the highest remaining seed. This is a very different situation, since this is occurring at Wimbledon, a tournament he has won before, and which is his home slam. Murray had a tougher than expected tussle with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their quarterfinal, after winning the first two sets, the Frenchman came back and won the next two sets and raised the possibility of upsetting Murray. However, Murray dug deep and won the fifth and final set very easily, 6-1. In the semifinal, he will face Tomas Berdych who has excellent grass court bona fides (as a 2010 Wimbledon finalist). However, despite having a relatively close overall head to head of 8-6 between the two players in the favor of Murray, no one expects him to have much difficulty winning this match. In their recent meetings, Murray has won  pretty easily and even though the two have never met on grass, there is every expectation that the Briton will reach his 2nd Wimbledon final, and 11th career major final. PREDICTION: Murray.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

2016 WIMBLEDON: Women's Semifinals Preview

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships for 2016. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals and correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals. This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals. I will also predict this year's men's semifinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1]  vs. Elena Vesnina RUS. Serena is playing in her tenth Wimbledon semifinal (8-1) while her opponent is playing in her first major semifinal. She has never lost to Vesnina, who is quite an accomplished grass court tennis player, as the Russian demonstrated on Tuesday with her dispatch of Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets 6-2 6-2. Vesnina is one of the lesser heralded Russian players, but has had significant success in doubles. Serena, despite her protestations that she doesn't even think about getting to 22 majors to tie Steffi Graf and cement her status as the greatest of all time, knows that she just has two more matches to win, on her best surface, to basically end this conversation. There's some caution in that Serena has been here before, and blinked, but I believe she will learn from those experiences and use them to eventually reach her goal, probably on Saturday. PREDICTION: Serena.

Simona Halep (ROU) [5] Angelique Kerber (GER) [4] vs Venus Williams (USA) [8] I really, REALLY want to see Venus Williams win another (6th) Wimbledon, but even though anything in sports is possible, there are results that are way more probable than others. Head-to-head, Kerber leads 3-2 and has even beaten Venus here on grass at the All-England Club (although it was during the 2012 London Olympics). The two also played a very famous match in the second round of the U.S. Open later that summer where Kerber pipped Venus 7-5 in the 3rd. Kerber is now a major champion herself, having outplayed Serena in the Melbourne final earlier this year, and she is playing like it. She dismissed her putative rival for the pole position behind Serena, Simona Halep, relatively easily in their quarterfinal in two relatively tight sets and now firmly has set her sights on the Queen herself. PREDICTION: Kerber.


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