Monday, October 14, 2019

Eye Candy: Corey Upton





Corey Upton is a model and professional body builder. He has roughly 20k followers on Instagram (@thecoreyupton).

Thursday, October 10, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Cold Blood (DCI Erika Foster, #5) by Robert Bryndza


Cold Blood is the fifth book in the DCI Erika Foster series by Robert Bryndza. Erika Foster is a Slovakian emigré to Great Britain who lost her fellow police officer husband Mark Foster in a drug raid gone wrong a few years before the events of the first book, The Girl in the Ice. Erika is a very interesting character; she tends to be very blunt and impatient with police department politics. However, she is very dedicated to obtaining justice for the victims of crimes, especially murdered women.

In Cold Blood, the primary mystery is centered around trying to find out who has killed and dismembered two bodies, placed them in suitcases and dumped then into the Thames. Although the bodies were found two weeks apart, Erika is convinced they are related, even though one of them (the unidentified male) also had numerous small baggies of drugs in his stomach. This leads to tension with her boss who wants to move the case over to the narcotics team. Through a somewhat surprising failing by a longtime character in the series, Erika gets seriously injured and the investigation stalls soon after the second body is discovered.

Bryndza uses the now-familiar technique of showing us the story from the perspective of the perpetrators. This time the mystery is in the reader trying to figure out how and whether the perpetrators will fall out with each other as well as how long they will get away with their crimes.

Eventually, things come to a head (soon after Erika returns to duty following a third body found in a suitcase!) when the manhunt is on for the perpetrators and they attempt a spectacular crime to facilitate their escape. Needless to say, things don’t turn out how they expect.

Overall, I would say Cold Blood is one of the better entries in the Erika Foster series, although I think it would have been stronger with a bigger presence by the secondary characters which provide diversity and depth to these British police procedurals. I'm hoping that these subordinate characters (Erika's erstwhile bed-partner James Peterson and lesbian friend Kate Moss) play a larger role in the sixth book in the series, Deadly Secrets.

Title: Cold Blood.
Author: 
Robert Bryndza.
Paperback: 356 pages.
Publisher:
 Bookotoure.
Date Published: September 20, 2017.
Date Read: July 20, 2019.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★☆  (4.0/5.0).

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

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

Thursday, October 03, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Raven Black (Shetland Islands, #1) by Ann Cleeves


This is the first book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland Islands series starring Inspector Jimmy Perez. The Shetland Islands are remote, sparsely populated islands north of Scotland and west of Norway that are part of the United Kingdom.

Raven Black begins with the discovery of a dead teenaged girl named Catherine. Almost a decade earlier another young girl named Catriona had disappeared and her body was never found. In both cases, a mentally challenged bachelor named Magnus Tait had been one of the last people to see the victim. Many people on the islands shunned him and there was a widespread belief he had gotten away with murder because no body had been found. When Catherine’s body is found they expect him to be arrested immediately.

Inspector Jimmy Perez is not so sure. The cases have some similarities but a lot of differences also. Both girls were parts of families who had moved to the Shetlands from “down south.” Both girls were considered independent and “high spirited.” Catherine was considered very intelligent by her teachers and popular in school. Ann Cleeves tells the story using first-person accounts from very many characters, including Catherine, her best friend Sally, Jimmy, Magnus and several others.

Raven Black is an atmospheric, psychological thriller about the effects of a violent crime in a very small community where everyone knows everything about their neighbors. However, newcomers arrive fairly often and try (and often fail) to be integrated into the community. Jimmy himself is from the community and went to the same schools as the murder victims but his family is from an even more remote island and they are clamoring for him to come home and stop this “police foolishness.”

The killer of the two girls (and the abductor of a third girl, another strong-willed outsider whose name begins with C) is revealed at the end, and it came as a complete and utter shock to me. That’s not that unusual as murder mystery novels go. However I think to maintain my interest in a series I need to be invested in the main character/detective and be intrigued/interested/amused by their sidekicks/colleagues. Jimmy Perez basically works alone. The setting of the book, in this remote small community IS the companion character. Sometimes if the setting is very unfamiliar that can provide a source of interest. Also one can be interested in a setting which is also very familiar. 

Unfortunately, Raven Black did not fully engage my interest. I’m somewhat surprised by this because I know the Shetland Islands mysteries have been adapted into a very popular BBC TV series. However, I doubt I’ll be continuing. There are so many other detective series I’m interested in making progress on, like Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan, Val McDermid’s Tony Hill/Carol Jordan and (of course) Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae. Life’s too short to wade through books one does not connect with.

Title: Raven Black.
Author: 
Ann Cleeves.
Paperback: 374 pages.
Publisher:
 Minotaur Books.
Date Published: May 29, 2007.
Date Read: September 30, 2019.


GOODREADS RATING: 
★★½☆  (3.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: B+ (3.33/4.0).

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

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: "Hate The Belief, Not The Believer"


Monday, September 30, 2019

Eye Candy: Jaswinder Guru





Jaswinder Guru was a find by Obvious magazine (in July 2018), where they say that he is 25-years-old and 5-foot-11. He's also on Instagram (@jaswindianlion).

Friday, September 27, 2019

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Serena Williams Turns 38!


Although she doesn't celebrate birthdays due to her professed Jehovah's Witness faith, Serena Williams birthday is this week (Thursday September 26) when she turned 38 years old. She is one of only four women who have been ranked in the Top 10 over the age of 38: Venus Williams (38 years and 29 days), Martina Navratilova (38 years and 75 days), and Billie Jean King (39 years 322 days).

Amazingly, for the second year in a row, Serena reached 2 consecutive major finals (Wimbledon and U.S. Open) and lost both of them without winning a set. Regardless, I still have confidence that she will eventually win major title number 24.

Happy Birthday, G.O.A.T.!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

TENNIS TUESDAY: Europe (Barely) Wins Laver Cup; Osaka Wins Osaka; Halep-Cahill Reunion


EUROPE WINS LAVER CUP FOR 3RD CONSECUTIVE YEAR
The Lave Cup is a new team competition (begun in 2017) dreamed up by Roger Federer and his agent Tony Godsick a few years ago modeled on the very successful Ryder Cup in golf. Two teams (World and Europe) compete in singles and doubles over a weekend in host cities that move around the world. This year the competition was in Geneva, Switzerland (next year it will be in Boston, Massachusetts and last year it was in Chicago, Illinois). One of the key delights of the Laver Cup is the ability to see legends like Rafael Nadal and Federer interacting together and combining to coach younger players who they are usually rivals with (like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem). Federer is still undefeated in three years in singles. This year World came the closest to winning the Laver Cup when Jack Sock stunned himself (and everyone else) by beating Fabio Fognini. The American then teamed up with John Isner and defeated the Federer/Tsitsipas to give World its first-ever lead in Laver Cup. However, Federer beat Isner in singles and Zverev (for the second consecutive year) won the deciding match, this time in a Super Breaker 10-7 over Milos Raonic.


NAOMI OSAKA FROM OSAKA WINS OSAKA WTA TOURNAMENT
Naomi Osaka, World #4 and reigning Australian Open champion, won her second title of the year in her birthplace of Osaka, Japan. Osaka ended her title drought by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets.


HALEP ANNOUNCES COACHING REUNION WITH DARREN CAHILL FOR 2020
After winning her second major title at Wimbledon 2019 without his (official) assistance, Simona Halep has announced that she will be reuniting with her coach  Darren Cahill for the 2020 season. Presumably her focus will be to win one of the two hard court majors (and perhaps an Olympic medal?) in 2020.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 EMMYS: My Predictions In The Major Categories


Here is my predictions post for the 2019 Primetime Emmy awards for excellence in television. Last year, I predicted incorrectly that The Americans would win Best Drama Series over Game of Thrones and that Veep would win Best Comedy series (again). I was wrong about both, but I did get Claire Foy's Lead Actress in a Drama win for The Crown correct. As usual I am following the lead of  Issa Rae and will be "rooting for everybody Black!" Below the SHOULD WIN is who I would vote for her, while the WILL WIN is who I think the Academy will pick.

Outstanding Drama Series
  • Better Call Saul
  • Bodyguard
  • Game of Thrones
  • Killing Eve
  • Ozark
  • Pose
  • Succession
  • This Is Us
I think Game of Thrones is the clearly best thing on television and even though there were complaints that the 8th and final season was only 6 episodes, they were all amazing. The shows in bold are ones that I was every episode of and the ones not in italics I have seen multiple episodes of, but maybe not the season under consideration. I think the only show which has a chance of dethroning Game of Thrones would be This is Us (which I would be fine with winning). Bodyguard is great, but it is really a Limited Series (from the BBC); it's only 7 episodes long and it was unclear to me that the show was going to do another season. Killing Eve Season 1 was great, but Season 2 should be happy that it got nominated, I have heard great things about Ozark and Succession but I just don't need to watch another show of (predominately) Rich White People Behaving Badly. Pose winning would be absolutely revolutionary.

WILL WINGame of Thrones.
SHOULD WINGame of Thrones.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
  • Jason Bateman (Ozark)
  • Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
  • Kit Harington (Game of Thrones)
  • Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
  • Billy Porter (Pose)
  • Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)


Sterling Brown won this category in his first year on the NBC powerhouse This Is Us but this season the story has revolved more around Milo Ventmiglia's character, even though he's dead! I would really like him to win, but I suspect that people will want to take advantage of this being the last year Harington is available for the award and give it to him. It would be incredible if Billy Porter won but I just don't see that happening, although I wish it would.

WILL WIN: Kit Harington, Game of Thrones.
SHOULD WIN: Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us or Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
  • Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
  • Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
  • Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder)
  • Laura Linney (Ozark)
  • Mandy Moore (This Is Us)
  • Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
  • Robin Wright (House of Cards)

This is an absolutely brutal category. Interestingly, the only repeat nominee from last year is Sandra Oh, who would make history as the first Asian-American actress to win the prize. She does do amazing work on Killing Eve, but so does her co-star Jodie Comer (who is also 20 years younger). Kudos to Mandy Moore getting recognized. I would love for her to win. It's the last chance for Emilia Clarke and Robin Wright for two seminal, powerhouse roles. Viola Davis has won before and was not nominated last year, so she could sneak in.

WILL WINSandra Oh, Killing Eve or Mandy Moore, This Is Us
SHOULD WINEmilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Barry
  • Fleabag
  • The Good Place
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  • Russian Doll
  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Veep
I was shocked last year when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won all the major comedy prizes. I have watched a few episodes since and I am still shocked about the result. The husband and I binge watched the entire first two seasons of Fleabag on Amazon Prime and enjoyed it tremendously but to me the clear winner here is The Good Place. Veep is in its last year but it wasn't clear to me that it was critically acclaimed this year. Then again the show has won the Best Comedy the last three years it was eligible so it is very dangerous in its final season. Can it beat the Maisel and Fleabag buzz? Probably.

WILL WINVeep.
SHOULD WINThe Good Place.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Christina Applegate (Dead to Me)
  • Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
  • Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll)
  • Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series 7 times and with a win tonight sh will have the record. Hollywood loves being historic and she is incredibly popular in Hollywood. I don't see how she loses to anyone else in the list, although I would vote for Fleabag's Waller-Bridge. All hail the new hyphenate!

WILL WINJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
SHOULD WIN: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
  • Don Cheadle (Black Monday)
  • Ted Danson (The Good Place)
  • Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)
  • Bill Hader (Barry)
  • Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek)
 Bill Hader won this category last year, when it was arguably stronger, beating out his rivals Danson and Anderson. Barry still gets  alot of 

WILL WINBill Hader, Barry
SHOULD WIN: Ted Danson, The Good Place

Thursday, September 19, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: In The Clearing (Tracy Crosswhite, #3) by Robert Dugoni

This is the third book in the Tracy Crosswhite series by Robert Dugoni. In The Clearing was a nice change of pace from the previous entries, which involved a serial killer in Book 2 (Her Final Breath) and the solving of her own sister’s decades-old did appearance in the excellent Book 1 (My Sister's Grave).

Here we again have a cold case which is central, about a young Native American girl whose body was found floating in the river forty years ago but the young deputy who investigated the case never believed was a suicide. His daughter becomes sheriff and brings the case to Tracy. This is after Tracy catches a complicated case where both the estranged wife and the troubled son admit to shooting the husband/father in a domestic disputes during a bitter divorce.

Surprisingly, it is the cold case which occupies more of Tracy’s time in In The Clearing. The girl who died was well-liked and was loosely connected to four star football players who despite playing for a small-town high school team had gone on to win the state championship the next day. Tracy pounds the pavement and finds leads and clues left by the original investigator.
Eventually Tracy solves both mysteries, using insights gained by seeing how relationships in families (especially parents and children) can be warped by self-interest and ego.

Overall, I’d say this third book was a bit more formulaic of a police procedural than the first two entries in the series, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the first two books the story lines are so emotionally charged and Tracy endangers herself do recklessly that it became a little exhausting to read. The romance/relationship with Tracy’s boyfriend Dan is nice and realistic. One drawback in the structure of Book 3 that there is much less interaction between Tracy and her Seattle Police Department detective colleagues, which is a shame. However, as a solid, suspenseful, nicely plotted and well-executed mystery, In The Clearing lives up to this description.

Title: In The Clearing (Tracy Crosswhite, #3).
Author: 
Robert Dugoni.
Paperback: 479 pages.
Publisher:
 Orbit.
Date Published: May 17, 2016.
Date Read: September 7, 2019.

GOODREADS RATING: ★★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

EYE CANDY: Kalmon Stokes




Kalmon Stokes is a model I initially found on Instagram (@kalmonstokes). He has been featured in Obvious magazine (in 2018) when they said he was 24 years old and 6-foot-3. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


I have been procrastinating reading The Sparrow for a very long time. I have been curious about this 1997 book because of the over 50,000 ratings on Goodreads with an average well above 4.0/5.0 (53,447 at 4.17 as of 9/1/19). I was aware of the acclaim and many plaudits (The Clarke, Tiptree and BSFA awards) it had received and was intrigued by a blurb which describes a first-contact mission organized by Jesuits and reviews which mention that the book will be loved by “believers and non-believers” alike. I’m here to tell you that I seriously doubt the last assertion is true. While I do appreciate the overwhelmingly positive reviews for The Sparrow and though I have multiple reasons for not enjoying the book as much as the average reviewer, my disappointment was not rooted in religion but science, i.e. not my lack of belief in God or a higher power but my inability to suspend belief about (micro)biology. 

My review of The Sparrow is not intended to be a negative one; the writing is excellent, the plotting brilliant (the two time lines set in 2019 and 2059 are devastatingly executed). The structure of the story is such that we see the events leading up to discovery of the existence of intelligent life, the details of the preparation and journey to their planet, and the meeting between humans and aliens on the planet of Rakhat in the Alpha Centauri system. All of that is well done and quite compelling, if a little unbelievable due to the notion it would be spearheaded by the Society of Jesus in the 21st century. However it is the second, future time line (after the ultimately catastrophic and tragic events of the first time line) which really elevates The Sparrow; it transforms the book into a moral mystery novel, because the reader is constantly trying to reconcile the main characters’ behavior in the early time line with how they are (achingly slowly revealed) in the later time line. That dramatic tension alone may be enough for some readers to satisfy and thrill them. Sadly, for me it wasn’t, although it did provide me with enough energy to complete the book.

The primary source of my dissatisfaction for The Sparrow is not (entirely) based in its attempt to make one of its central plots revolve around the faith (or loss of faith) of a handsome Jesuit priest, Father Emilio Sandoz, the main character of the novel. I simply was unable to completely disregard the likely existence and presence of microscopic pathogens on an alien planet. When the humans meet the aliens they interact with them like they are “First World” colonists visiting “Third World” lands on Earth. There’s no breathing apparatus, concern that flora and fauna that is alien may also be deadly. It’s such a fantastical and facile choice that it took me out of the story so dramatically that I was unable to return. I was very surprised by this choice because there are so many examples in classic science fiction where the dangers of alien microbiology are key plot points (The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky are just a few that come immediately to mind.) It is very possible that I may be one of the few readers that feel this way. 

In fact, I would barely call The Sparrow a work of science fiction. It’s aims and contexts are sociological, anthropological and philosophical, not scientific. (Of course there exist works of science fiction which share some or all of these aims.) That’s fine, but that’s not the reason why I read science fiction. "Science" is right there in the name! The Sparrow completely ignores vast segments of scientific knowledge in pursuit of telling a particular story. (I would explicitly name microbiology and engineering as areas the author, or at least the text, seems to deliberately ignore.) I am somewhat curious about the sequel, Children of God, and will probably read it at some point. However, even though Father Sandoz's story arc in The Sparrow  is compelling and life on Rakhat is intriguing I’m also in no hurry to return there any time soon.

Title: The Sparrow.
Author: 
Mary Doria Russell.
Paperback: 416 pages.
Publisher:
 Ballantine Books.
Date Published: May 27, 2008 (First Published 1996).
Date Read: August 28, 2019.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★★☆☆  (3.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: B+/B (3.16/4.0).

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Nadal Wins 19th Slam, 4th US Open Title


As I predicted, Rafael Nadal won the 2019 US Open title, by defeating Daniil Medvedev in a surprisingly tight 7-5 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-3 in nearly 5 hours. This is Nadal's 19th major title (1 Australian Open, 12 French Open, 2 Wimbledon, 4 US Open), putting him just one behind Roger Federer's total of 20 and increasing his lead over Novak Djokovic's 16.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) [5] vs Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2]
Here are my predictions for the men's final between  Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships. I also (incorrectly) predicted the women's final between Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 1 of 2 men's semifinals,  4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I incorrectly predicted Serena Williams would defeat Naomi Osaka.

MEN'S SEMIFINALS REVIEW
Daniil Medvedev (RUS) [5] d. Grigor Dimitrov (BLR) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-3.  Despite having fewer winners, more errors and a winning fewer points in the first set, Medvedev was able to steal it in the tiebreak.  He was able to continue his improbable winning streak by ending Dimitrov's even more improbable run at the U.S. Open. The 6-foot-6 23-year-old Russian played the bigger points better and was rewarded with his very first major final appearance.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2] d. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) [24] 7-6(6) 6-4 6-1. Matteo Berrettini  made a lot of fans with his play in the first set of his very first major semifinal. He was up 4-0 and 6-4 in the tiebreak but somehow Nadal was able to win the last four points and the set as the young Italian got tight at the sight of the finishing line. After that, Nadal was able to squeeze out the second set and run away with the 3rd to reach his 5th major final in New York City (3-1 record).

MEN'S FINAL PREVIEW
These two met in the final of the Rogers Cup just over a month ago and Nadal won easily (6-3 6-0). Although no one expects the final to be that one-sided, Nadal is a clear favorite to grab his 19th major title (in his 27th major final), and become the first man over 30 years old to win 5 majors. He has only lost one set so far (to 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic) and also had a walkover. Medvedev has had a much tougher path to the final; only his first round and semifinal round were straight set victories.  MadProfessah's pick: Nadal.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Andreescu Wins 1st Major, Delaying Serena's Quest For 24






Defying my prediction, Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams in the women's final of the 2019 U.S.Open 6-3 7-5 to win her first major final. The 19-year-old Canadian became her country's first major title winner (of any gender) and the first player born since 2000 to win a major title. (There is still no player born in the 1990s or the 2000s who has won a major title on the ATP tour.)

HOW THE TITLE WAS WON
For the fourth time in a row that she has played in four major finals since returning after getting married and having a baby, Serena was unable to play her best tennis. Despite winning the first point with an ace, Serena still got broken in her very first service game, by hitting a double fault on breakpoint. In fact, this was an augur of things to come, because Serena had an awful serving performance today, with only 44% of her first serves going in (compared to 66% of Andreescu's). But even from the back of the court, Andreescu was able to match (and at time, outmatch) Serena's power, and most definitely consistency. For the second US Open in a row, Serena played a player more than a decade younger who had won the Indian Wells tournament and who was completely unfazed by playing in her first major final. Some people say that Serena lost these matches to Osaka and Andreescu because the younger players played the "best match of their lives." I strongly disagree. They played well, but not extraordinarily so. Andreescu is always aggressive and today was no different. After losing in the first round of qualifying last year (and the year before), the 19-year-old won the entire tournament in her first maindraw appearance. In fact, she has won her first 8 matches against Top 10 players and will make her debut in the Top 10 herself at #5 on Monday. How many more majors will Andreescu win? Time will tell, but she appears to be the multi-slam winner women's tennis has been waiting for.

2019 US OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Serena Williams (USA) [8] vs Bianca Andreescu (CAN) [15]
Here are my predictions for the women's final between Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships. I will also predict the men's final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 1 of 2 men's semifinals,  4 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I incorrectly predicted Serena Williams would defeat Naomi Osaka.


WOMEN'S SEMIFINALS REVIEW
Bianca Andreescu (CAN) [15] d. Belinda Bencic (SUI) [13] 7-6(3) 7-5.  This was the first meeting between these two players and the score doesn't reflect the level of drama that resulted. Bencic was the better player for most of the first set; she had 6 break points to go ahead but Andreescu was able to win all of these pivotal points. Then in the tiebreak Bencic had her one double fault--a devastating mental error. However she rebounded strongly in the second set, quickly racking up a 4-1 (double break) lead. But in the very next game she inexplicably got broken at love and although she was able to break Andreescu again, the 19-year-old raised her game and from 2-5 down she was able to win 5 consecutive games (three service breaks!) to reach the US Open final in her major draw debut.

Serena Williams (USA) [8] dElina Svitolina (UKR) [5] 6-3 6-1. Serena continued the focused, destructive play she showed in her 6-1 6-0 quarterfinal to dismiss the World #5. The pivotal point of the match was the very beginning, when Serena fought off three break points to hold serve and then a 9-minute tussle occurred on Svitolina's serve which resulted in a 2-0 lead for Serena. Fron that point on the tension from the match was removed as Svitolina's shoulders slumped and Serena's eyes glittered with menace at the inevitable victory.

WOMEN'S FINAL PREVIEW
This is the fourth major final Serena has reached in the last 6 majors played; she has lost the 2019 Wimbledon final (lost to Simona Halep), the 2018 US Open final (lost to Naomi Osaka) and the 2018 Wimbledon final (lost to Angie Kerber). Since she returned to the tour after getting married and having her daughter Olympia Ohanian she has not won a single tournament and has been so overwhelmed by emotions she has been unable to player anyway near her best tennis in these finals and has yet to win a single set! I believe that will change today, but she it may be that for the first time in one of these finals she may be considered the underdog! That seems insane when you compare the 37-year-old 23-major champion facing a 19-year-old playing in her first major final but it is true. Bibi Andreescu has played 7 Top 10 players in her career and has won all 7 of them; Serena will be her 8th, and both will be in the Top 10 when the rankings come out on Monday. A year ago, Andreescu was not yet in the top 100 and since then she has won Indian Wells and Cincinnati. The last time she lost a completed match was in March!

All that being said, I think Serena will finally be able to play her tennis unencumbered by emotional baggage and in that scenario I still give her the edge against any active player.

MadProfessah's pick: Serena.

Friday, September 06, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Men's Semifinals Preview


Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships I will also predict the men's semifinals. This year I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 1 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals correctly and 2 of 2 women's semifinals correctly

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [23] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) [5] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [3] Grigor Dimitrov (BLR).  After bludgeoning the World #1 in the round before I (like many people) would have thought that the 3-time major champion would be able to eliminate the #5 seed in their quarterfinal, but Medvedev keeps on winning, fueled by the enmity of the New York City crowds. The other quarterfinal was even more shocking, with Dimitrov finally earning his first win over 20-time major champion Roger Federer, whose 38-year-old body let him down against his 28-year-old opponent in the last two sets. So the result is that we have two first-time US Open semifinalists competing to reach their first major final. 23-year-old Medvdev has been the hottest player on tour for the past two months, losing only two matches (in the finals of the Citi Open to Nick Kyrgios and in the Cincinnati Masters to Rafael Nadal). He has risen to World #5 in the rankings. Dimitrov and Medvedev have split their two previous meetings, both of which occurred in 2017. Dimitrov is the better athlete and has had the (much) easier route to the semifinals, including a walkover from Borna Coric in the second round. But 6-foot-6 Medvedev has a huge serve and a big game, so even though he must be tired he may have enough firepower to make his way into his first major final. Dimitrov will certainly be the crowd favorite, and the sentimental one.  Mad Professah's pick: Dimitrov.

Gael Monfils (FRA) [13] Matteo Berretini (ITA) [24] vs Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2]. Gael Monfils was up a set and a break before the wheels came off and he lost the next two sets but was able to fight off numerous match points to bring the match to a deciding fifth set tiebreak. In which he inexplicably double faulted, not once but twice! These mental errors basically were the deciding factor as he lost the tiebreak 7 points to 5 when his 23-year-old opponent was able to hit a serve on his 5th match point which Monfils could not return into the court. In some sense it won't matter, because the title is now Nadal's to lose, with Federer and Djokovic and Wawrinka being eliminated it is hard to see anyone preventing him from winning his 19th major on Sunday.  Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview


Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships I will also predict the men's semifinals. This year I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 1 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals correctly and 2 of 2 women's semifinals correctly

Belinda Bencic (SUI) [13] vs. Bianca Andreescu (CAN) [15].  Bianca Andreescu is the real deal. The Canadian teenage phenom is playing in her first major draw at the US Open and is in to the semifinals without playing her very best tennis. How? She has a big game, and she is incredibly mentally tough. She outlasted Angie Kerber to win the biggest title of her career at Indian Wells in March and she won another major tournament in her hometown of Toronto when Serena retired with a back injury. Speaking of injury, Andreescu will jump from outside the Top 100 to the Top 10 on Monday despite being injured for nearly 4 months this year! Bencic has her own amazing story. She reached the quarterfinals of the US Open way back in 2014 when she was even younger than Andreescu is now and a horrible sequence of injuries generally prevented her from achieving the results that were expected. The two have never played each other before so it is hard to know what will happen. Bencic has the guile and tennis IQ of  a Latter-Day Hingis but Andreescu has a supernova-hot desire to win and a powerful game to back it up. It should be an incredible match. PREDICTION: Andreescu.

Serena Williams (USA) [8] vs. Elina Svitolina (UKR) [5].  Serena was devastating in her 6-1 6-0 demolition of Wang Qiang in her quarterfinal match, while Svitolina was just a bit better on the big points to ease past Jo Konta 6-4 6-4 in her quarterfinal. Serena and Svitolina have played 5 times and Serena has only lost once, but it was the last time they played, at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Svitolina is a much better player since then, and is playing in her second consecutive semifinal. Serena is playing in her 13 US Open semifinal and has a 9-3 record at this stage. I am hoping that she is mentally prepared for this match, because Svitolina is similar to Halep (whom Serena lost badly to in the 2019 Wimbledon final) with great movement and the ability to not make errors while retrieving a lot of attempted winners. Hopefully Svitolina will not be affected by the fact that her boyfriend Gael Monfils lost his chance to reach another major semifinal in a soul-sucking 5th set tiebreak due to not one but two double faults against Matteo Berretini. It should also be noted that Svitolina beat Venus Williams in the second round, so if she were to beat Serena she would be one of the rare people to beat both sisters in the same major tournament. Regardless, if Serena is focused and patient, which she has basically looked in every match (except for the Round of 16 against Petra Martic) she should prevail. PREDICTION: Williams.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Dimitrov Earns First Win Over (Injured) Federer


Wow! Yesterday was a rough day for my predictions of the men's draw at the 2019 US Open. Grigor Dimitrov (currently ranked #78 in the world) defeated Roger Federer for the first time in 8 meetings. Prior to yesterday Federer had won 17 of the 18 sets they played. Dimitrov was able to win 3, after Federer went up 2 sets to 1 he got broken early in the 4th and when he broke back late in the 4th he was unable to capitalize on numerous break chances in the fourth set. Federer's back appears to be hurting him and he went down 4-0 in the 5th set very quickly and ultimately lost the decider 6-2.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

2019 US OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview


Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships I have also predicted the men's quarterfinals. Last year I predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly

Naomi Osaka (JPN) [1] Belinda Bencic (SUI) [13] vs. Donna Vekic (CRO) [23].  Belinda Bencic has now completed a hat trick of victories in 2019 over 2-time major champion (and current World #1) Naomi Osaka. For some reason, Bencic's clever all-court game just matches up well against Osaka's power. The implications of this win are many: We are guaranteed a new US Open champion, there will be four different winners of the last four Grand Slams this year and Ash Barty will return to World #1 despite losing to Wang Qiang in the fourth round. Vekic plays similarly to Osaka (but doesn't move as well) but has also been having good results this year. Bencic has a slight 2-1 head-to-head lead over Vekic is playing in her first major quarterfinal, Bencic in her second. PREDICTION: Bencic.

Bianca Andreescu (CAN) [15] vs. Elise Mertens (BEL) [25]. Andreescu is playing in her very first main draw of the US Open and has made it into the quarterfinals. She overpowered Taylor Townsend 6-1 4-6 6-1 in the fourth round, ruthlessly dispatching the tournament's feel-good story with power and resolve. There are only 8 players in the history of the tournament have achieved this feat and some of them have surnames like Williams, Evert and Austin. Brad Gilbert has picked the 15-seed to win the tournament and after watching that match I'm starting to become a Bibi-liever. PREDICTION: Andreescu.

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [3]  Johanna Konta (GBR) [16vs. Elina Svitolina (UKR) [5].  I was courtside on Louis Armstrong court on Sunday when Johanna Konta upended her 1-6 career head-to-head against World #3 Karolina Pliskova to score a tough 3-set win and reach her 3rd consecutive major quarterfinal of 2019. Svitolina is also playing in her 3rd major quarterfinal of the year and 9th of her career. Prior to Wimbledon she had previously lost every major quarterfinal she played in. This will be an even tougher ask for Konta than the Pliskova match because she has an 0-4 record against Svitolina but I think her game matches up well. This should be the best match of the four. I want to say that  I think Konta will win but somehow I think the fact that both Monfils and Svitolina are doing well simultaneously in New York will carry them both over the finish line. PREDICTION: Svitolina.

Serena Williams (USA) [8] vs. Wang Qiang (CHN) [18]. Serena won her fourth round in straight sets but roller her ankle during it. It was a rolled ankle (while holding match point) which led to a colossal collapse in Australia against Pliskova earlier this year (losing from 5-1 up in the 3rd set!) However, now she has had two days to recover and even with 75-80% physical fitness as long as she is mentally tough Serena should be able to win. She's now the only player remaining in the draw who has ever even been to a major final, making this a great opportunity to win another major title, her first as a mother. PREDICTIONWilliams

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