Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Expanse Season 4 Premiere Date Is December 13; Season 5 Is a Go!

There is absolutely awesome news about The Expanse, the television adaptation of my favorite space opera novels of the same name written by James S.A. Corey. The first three seasons (covering the first 3 books) aired on SyFy which then cancelled the show. But it was picked up by Amazon Prime after an energetic campaign by fans (like yours truly), The release date for Season 4, which is based on Cibola Burn (not my favorite of the books) is December 13, 2019. But also announced (today!) is that the show has been renewed for season 5 on Amazon Prime, which presumably will be based on Nemesis Games, which is probably the best book of the 9-book series. It features an "oh @!$@&*#!!" moment akin to the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones which I absolutely can not wait to see.

Meanwhile here's an official synopsis for The Expanse Season 4 from Amazon Prime Video:
Season 4 of The Expanse, its first as a global Amazon Original, begins a new chapter for the series with the crew of the Rocinante on a mission from the U.N. to explore new worlds beyond the Ring Gate. Humanity has been given access to thousands of Earth-like planets which has created a land rush and furthered tensions between the opposing nations of Earth, Mars and the Belt. Ilus is the first of these planets, one rich with natural resources but also marked by the ruins of a long dead alien civilization. While Earthers, Martians and Belters maneuver to colonize Ilus and its natural resources, these early explorers don’t understand this new world and are unaware of the larger dangers that await them.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts is the second book in the Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse that began with the award-winning Trail of Lightning (see my review). The Sixth World is set in a future/alternate United States where more than half of the land mass has been inundated and billions of people worldwide have been killed by an apocalyptic event called The Big Water. Basically everything west of Colorado and east of Kansas is destroyed in the deluge. So the setting for our story is Dinétah, the land of the Diné (which is the word in Navajo used to describe the Native American tribe).

One of the primary features of Storm of Locusts is the pleasant feeling of reading a book with characters and world building which are new and unfamiliar. After all, the book can be classified as an action-packed, post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy with a powerful, violent woman of color protagonist. You don’t read one of those days every day!

The main character is Maggie Hoskins, a 20-something Navajo woman who is known as the Godslayer and Monsterslayer for some of the events that happened in Trail of Lightning. The sequel Storm of Locusts is both better and worse than the first book, in different aspects. There’s more action in Storm of Locusts and far less of the emotional energy is centered on the romantic tension between Maggie and the handsome stranger Kai Arviso which loomed large in Trail of Lightning. To me, these were good things. However, some of the things I was disappointed by in Storm of Locusts were the too-brief appearance of the openly gay, multiracial character from the first book and the fact its problematic pacing was repeated in the second (basically most of the primary plot points in both books are resolved apparently hastily in the concluding 10 pages). I was neutral on the addition of a new, teenaged, gender-nonconforming orphan named Ben in the second book. I liked the fact that Maggie’s emotions are most often connected to Ben and her sudden in loco parentis role as Ben’s protector. However, the story is still muddled with the inclusion of a romantic relationship between two side characters. (Other readers who are more positively disposed to romantic elements might view these aspects as pluses.)

Another strength of Storm of Locusts is the reduction in the presence of gods compared to how visible they were in Trail of Lightning. In the Sixth World, people have “clan powers” which tend to manifest themselves after an extremely traumatic or near-death experience. Maggie‘s powers include super-speed, expert facility with weapons and a killer instinct. Additionally, in the Sixth World various Navajo legends, spirits and gods are walking-about real. I understand that these books are urban fantasy but as an atheist the inclusion of creatures who are actual “goods” and not just people who have god-like powers which may just be really advanced technology always irks me. (This was part of the difficulty I initially had with Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy but I would argue the supernatural/mystical elements are handled more effectively in those works than they are in the Sixth World books so far.)

Anyway, overall I would say that on balance Storm of Locusts is about as good as Trail of Lightning, and I look forward to reading the still-untitled third book in the Sixth World series when it comes out.

Title: Storm of Locusts.
Rebecca Roanhorse.
Paperback: 313  pages.
 Saga Press.
Date Published: April 23, 2019.
Date Read: July 14, 2019.

★★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


Sunday, July 14, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: Djokovic Outlasts Federer in 5-hour, 5-set Thriller to Win 16th Major

In one of the most exciting matches since the classic 2008 Wimbledon final, Novak Djokovic outlasted 8-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) in a match which lasted nearly five hours ad featured the very first ever 5th set deciding tiebreaker (at 12-all). For the 3rd time in a major grand slam match (following the 2010 US Open semifinal and 2011 US Open semifinal) Djokovic saved double match point and went on to win. Federer broke Djokovic at 8-all and was serving 9-8, 40-15 but was unable to win either of the points thanks to Djokovic's excellent serving (and Federer's own nervousness). This was particularly curious because the Swiss great had an amazing serving day with 25 aces (including one at 30-15 in that all important 18th game of the 5th set). Even though my prediction that Federer would win did not pan out, I feel good that my belief that Federer would confound critics (who gave Djokovic the edge) was very nearly correct.

In fact, in most aspects Federer was the better player for most of the match. He broke Djokovic twice in both of the sets he won while his serve was only broken three times: up 5-2 in the fourth set, early in the fifth set and up 9-8 in the fifth set (but two of those times were when he was serving to close out the set). Federer had 40 more winners (94 to 54) and only 10 more errors (62 to 52) than Djokovic. Often times Federer has difficukty converting breakpoint chances in big matches, but he won 7 out of 13 while Djokovic only won 3 of 8. The big problem was the 3 tioebreaks they played where every point is essentially a breakpoint. There Federer played his riskiest tennis and it generally did not pay off. That basically was the match. The third set tiebreak Federer was up 5-3 when he made some uncharacteristic forehand errors and ended up losing four points in a row and the pivotal 3rd set.

Significance of Today's Result
With his win, Djokovic improves to 26-22 over Federer head-to-head and is now only 2 majors behind Nadal's 18  who is only 2 behind Federer's 20. He has now beaten the best grass-court player of all time in three  Wimbledon finals (2014, 2015 and 2019). Federer's major final record falls to 20-11 while Djokovic's record improves to 16-9. Federer has now played 12 Wimbledon finals and won 8.

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

This is my prediction post for the 2019 Wimbledon men's final. Last year I did predict that Novak Djokovic would defeat Kevin AndersonThis year I correctly predicted the results of  2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals, 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [23]  6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2Roberto Bautista Agut had beaten World #1 Novak Djokovic two times this year but as expected the Serb was able to get through this match relatively unscathed, with the loss of one set. The problem with "Robbie Bats" as some call him is that there's nothing that he does on the court that Djokovic does not do better. The Spaniard is having an excellent year, having won  the title in Doha (beating Djokovic along the way).

Roger Federer (SUI) [2] d. Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3] 7-6(3) 1-6 6-3 6-4. 11 years  after Federer and Nadal played the greatest match of all time, the two rivals faced each other on the grass courts of Wimbledon again this year. Many observers believed that Nadal would win this match due to the fact that Nadal had dismissed Federer in the semifinals of Roland Garros less than a month before and the fact that the Wimbledon grass courts are playing more like clay courts than hard courts. However, Federer has now managed to win 6 of their last 7 meeting, and the head-to-head is now a mere 24-16, which means that on non-clay court Federer leads 14-10 since Nadal leads on clay 2-14. This match was generally of a very high quality, except for the second set, where after losing his serve and failing to break back within 2 service games Federer basically ceded the set and marshaled his energy to make a push in the third set where he was rewarded with an early break. The ending of the match was incredibly stress , with Federer needing 5 match points in the last two games of the match to close it out. At that stage of the match both players were at their peak, playing their best tennis simultaneously. It was awesome!

For the 48th time Roger Federer will face Novak Djokovic. Djokovic leads the head-to-head 25-22 and has a pretty surprising 2-1 head-to-head against the 8-time Wimbledon champion at Wimbledon, having beaten him in the 2014 and 2015 finals while Federer won their 2012 semifinal matchup. The two have not played in a major since the 2015 US Open final (also won by Djokovic) and last year's 2018 Paris Masters was viewed by many as the best 3-set match of the year (and won by Djokovic).

All the stats and history predict a Djokovic win on Sunday. (Federer is the only one of the big 3 who have never beaten the other two back-to-back to win a tournament) but I believe that Federer will take great confidence from his win over Nadal and the fact that he has been tested by playing the #3 (Nadal), #8 (Kei Nishikori), #17 (Matteo Berrettini) and #27 (Lucas Pouille) seeds in the tournament while Djokovic has only faced the #21 (David Goffin) and #23 (Roberto Bautista Agut) to reach this level. Of course I am also a huge Federer fan and would love to see him win a 9th Wimbledon and record 21st major. Federer is 20-10 in major finals while Djokovic is 15-9. However, Federer now has the most match wins on tour in 2019 and maybe this will lead him to a surprise victory. MadProfessah's prediction: Federer.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: Halep Stuns Serena To Win 2nd Major Title

To the surprise of most observers, World #7 Simona Halep put on a devastating display of accurate, defensive, propulsive tennis on Wimbledon Centre Court to defeat 23-time major champion Serena Williams 6-2 6-2 in 56 minutes to win her second major title.  The loss means that Serena is still stuck at 23 major singles trophies, the most in the modern era, but still 1 behind the odious Margaret Court, who won 24 (although 11 were from her home country's tournament in Australia, at a time when it is quite difficult to really consider the Australian Open a grand slam tournament). The 6-2 6-2 drubbing she received is her worst loss in  a major final (where she is now 23-9) since she lost the 2014 French Open to Garbine Muguruza by the same score. She has now lost 3 major finals in a row, to Kerber, Naomi Osaka and Halep.

For the second year in a row, Serena lost in the Wimbledon final after making it through the draw in dramatic fashion, but without having to play a Top 10 player before the championship match. Last year she lost to Angie Kerber in straight sets and today it was Simona Halep. In both cases the reasons for these results are complex, but I feel like in today's match too many people are chalking it up to amazing play by Halep and downplaying the weaknesses that Serena revealed. It is true Halep had a mere 3 unforced errors in 2 sets today. But Serena had double that number of unforced errors in the first two games. Her serve was NOT ready to go at the beginning of the match, and after 11 minutes she was down 0-4. Both her serve and her return, two of the best parts of her game, and probably the best in women's tennis, completely disappeared. I suppose that would be enough to rattle anyone, but there were multiple times when she was in a winning position with a ball to hit out of reach that she would overhit it, trying to bludgeon it and intimidate her opponent. Instead, she hit the ball over the line. This must have happened at least a half-dozen times. Also, Serena seemed unprepared for Halep amazing defensive skills, powered by incredible anticipation and stupendous movement. Serena would hit what she thought was a winner, Halep would get it back and Serena would hit another shot that would win the point against most players, Halep would make a ridiculous get and then Serena would hit an error. I believe these mistakes were primarily caused by her lack of match play and the fact she hadn't played a top player in the tournament up to that point and she has had almost zero match play outside of the majors since she returned to competitive tennis in May 2018. She is yet to have won a title of any kind since the January 2017 Australian Open. At age 37 (38 in September) it is becoming increasingly clear she just simply can not continue to just focus on the majors, unless she finds a way to completely overhaul her mental approach to playing  a major final, which is a very unlikely prospect. I still believe (and hope) that she will win 24 (or more!) grand slam singles titles, but even if she doesn't, there's no doubt in my mind that Serena Williams should be considered the G.O.A.T.

Friday, July 12, 2019

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

Serena Williams (USA) [11] vs Simona Halep (ROU) [7]

This is my prediction post for the 2019 Wimbledon women's final. Last year I did not predict that Angie Kerber would defeat Serena WilliamsThis year I correctly predicted the results of  2 of 2 men's semifinals, 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals


Serena Williams (USA) [11] d. Barbora Strycova (CZE) 6-1 6-2.  This was a devastating performance by Serena; she had 28 winners to just 10 errors. Although there was much ink spilled about how Strycova was replacing Roberta Vinci as the oldest first-time major semifinalist and what this might portend for Serena's chances to win this match. However, by playing first-strike tennis Serena was able to rush her opponent and not give her a chance to deploy her net-based skills and tricky spins Strycova also did not player her best. She attempted multiple drop shots that failed to clear her side of the net and suffered double faults at inopportune times. For Serena it was an awe-inspiring performance.

Simona Halep (ROU) [7] d. Elina Svitolina (UKR) [8] 6-1 6-3. Each of the first two games of this match were extremely high quality and were tense, 10-minute affairs that featured over 10 deuces between them, and multiple break points and game points and very long rallies. But Halep won both of these games and did not look back from there as she served out the set quickly. In the second set Svitolina put up much more fight but once the first break happened Halep took advantage and never looked back.


Despite now holding the record for the oldest woman to appear in a major final, Serena has to be considered the overwhelming favorite to win her 24th major title. Serena has a dominant 9-1 head-to-head record against Simona Halep. But this is the third time in a year when she had an opportunity to win her 24th major title and in the first two (2018 Wimbledon loss to Angie Kerber and 2018 US Open loss to Naomi OsakaSerena was unable to play anywhere close to her best tennis. Most observers attributed these results to Serena's nervousness and tension caused by finally confirming her G.O.A.T status by winning her 24th title. I agree that the emotional/mental side was part of the reason she lost those matches (especially the  US Open final) but also she never looked like she was moving as well as she has in the past and her serve was not as effective as it has been in this tournament. With all that said, I think Halep has a non-trivial chance to win the match. The courts are playing more like a clay court and Halep is a better mover than Serena on clay (or slow) courts. She will get a lot of balls back in play and this may frustrate Serena if she has to hit 2 or 4 winners to win the point. But I think Serena will be mentally prepared and physically to do so. MadProfessah's pick: Serena.  

Thursday, July 11, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: Men's Semifinals Preview (and Predictions) #Fedal40

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [23]. Roberto Bautista Agut has beaten World #1 Novak Djokovic two times this year but the Serb has an overall head-to-head of 7-3 but the two have never played on grass. Djokovic has only lost one set this Wimbledon (a tiebreak set against Hurkacz) and is playing in his umpteenth major semifinal while his opponent is playing in his first. It's disparities like that which allow the Big 3 to continue dominating the rest of the men's tennis tour, and it frankly doesn't look like that will end any time soon, since Djokovic is the youngest of the trivalry at 32 years old. Djokovic has a 5-3 record in Wimbledon semifinals and 4-1 record in Wimbledon finals.   Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [2]. For the first time in 11 years, there will be a Fedal match at Wimbledon. The two have played 39 matches and Rafael Nadal leads 24-15 and won their last match in the 2019 French Open semifinals in straight sets.Tennis fans are salivating over the possibility of a reprise of the Greatest Match of All Time which occurred when the two met in the 2018 Wimbledon final, which was won by Nadal 9-7 in the fifth set. I seriously doubt the match will meet those impossible standards, but it is incredibly significant. Federer has 20 major titles and Nadal is breathing down his neck with 18. If Nadal wins this match and subsequently wins the title on Sunday, he will be only one behind Federer and most people think that the Spaniard will win at least one more Roland Garros title. Nadal has been relentless at this year's Wimbledon, which many people is playing so slowly it resembles a clay court. If that's the case one has to give him the edge over Federer. However, I still think it's a grass court and Federer, even at age 37 is the best grass court player in the world. Mad Professah's pick: Federer.

BOOK REVIEW: The Burning (Maeve Kerigan, #1)by Jane Casey

I’m reasonably picky about the books I read. Usually my criteria is an average rating of 4.0 or better so The Burning by Jane Casey (with an average of 3.78) is unusual. But I have been looking for a good police procedural murder mystery with  a female protagonist and the books by Maeve Kerrigan have been on my TBR pile for quite awhile so I decided to give Book 1 in the series a try. I’m glad I did!

If The Burning is the lowest rated book in the DC Kerrigan series then I am in for a treat as I read this series because I thought the first entry was fantastic! In The Burning we are introduced to Maeve Kerrigan as a first person character, a tall,  female Police Detective of Irish descent in an all-male, chauvinistic murder squad trying to find the “Burning Man” serial killer who is bludgeoning women all over London to death and then burning their bodies. Maeve is an interesting character and when the book starts she gets assigned the case of a murder which initially appears to be the 5th Burning Man corpse but may be an attempted copy cat. The victim is Rebecca Haworth, a rich, young beautiful 
woman who everyone thinks “had it all.”

In addition to Maeve's we also have chapters that are POV’s of Louise North, Rebecca’s best friend, who is suspicious of Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend Gil Maddick. Gil definitely sets off Maeve’s police intuition as NOT being a good egg and we (the reader) have an interesting set up for an intriguing puzzle.

I quite liked The Burning. It is a bit simplistic in the way it fulfills it’s genre trappings but I’m quite okay with that. (I love the police procedural British murder mystery genre!) However, I was a bit annoyed by the seemingly inevitable romantic sub-plot (with one of her co-workers, no less). Although I didn’t guess who the murderer was  before it was revealed (even though it’s really not that difficult since there really are only two options to choose from ) I’m quite looking forward to reading the other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, and I believe other fans of Peter Robinson’s DCI Alan Banks, Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan & Tony Hill or Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae will enjoy these books.

Title: The Burning.
Jane Casey.
Paperback: 354 pages.
Date Published: November 1, 2010.
Date Read: July 4, 2019.

★★½☆☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: Women's Semifinals Preview (and Predictions)

Here are my predictions for the women's semifinals at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships This year I correctly predicted the results of  4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Last year I correctly predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals and 2 of 2 women's semifinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [11] vs. Johanna Konta (GBR) [19] Barbora Strycova (CZE).  This is definitely not the semifinal Britain expected (or wanted) to see. British #1 Jo Konta led 4-1 in the first set against the crafty Strycova but somehow managed to lose her lead and then a tight tiebreak (7-5). For some reason, instead of buckling down and summoning another come-from-behind victory like she had done against two major champions, Konta unravelled completely and lost in straight sets 7-6(5) 6-1. Meanwhile Serena was locked in the most exciting match of the tournament so far with fellow American Alison Riske, who had taken out the reigning World #1 in straight sets the round before and used her burgeoning confidence and grass-suitable game to go toe-to-toe with the G.O.A.T. The result was a highly entertaining (and high quality) 6-4 4-6 6-3 win for Serena. The 23-time major champion is trying to reach her 32nd major final by playing in her 37th major semifinal and become the oldest woman in the modern era to reach a major final (older than Martina Navratilova was in the 1994 Wimbledon final by 33 days!) She faces Strycova who is now the oldest player to become a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist (older than Roberta Vinci who did it at the 2015 US Open). These records are a bit ominous for Serena but the good news is that she has played 3 matches (6 sets) against her semifinal opponent and has won all of them. I expect that streak to continue on Thursday. PREDICTION: Williams.

Elina Svitolina (UKR) [8] vs. Simona Halep (ROU) [7]. Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep are beginning to develop an interesting rivalry, which Svitolina leads 4-3 (but Halep won their last meeting earlier this year in Doha). Halep is playing in her 7th major semifinal (4-2 record) while Svitolina has finally made her first one here at Wimbledo this year. Halep definitely has  experience on her side while Svitolina has current form on hers. This semifinal will probably be the more exciting of the two matches and I would be surprised if it does not go to three sets. When matches are this tight unless there is some external factor (like an overly lopsided head-to-head) I usually go with the person who I think is the better "athlete." In this case, I think that is the Romanian former #1 and major champion. PREDICTIONHalep

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: Men's Quarterfinals Preview (and Predictions)

Here are my predictions for the men's quarterfinals at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships I have also predicted the men's quarterfinals. Last year I predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly. I also correctly predicted 3 of 4  women's quarterfinals this year.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs David Goffin (BEL) [21].  Djokovic has yet to lose a set at this year's tournament and is currently on 31 of 32 Grand Slam winning streak. His only loss since winning Wimbledon 2018, US Open 2019 and Australian Open 2019 is a semifinal loss to Dominic Thiem on clay at last month's Roland Garros. He holds a 5-1 head-to-head lead over David Goffin but the two have never played on grass. People are saying the grass courts this year are playing like clay courts, which is Goffin's best surface. The big 3 have been putting on a clinic on how to dismantle opponents; Djokovic only gave up 8 games in his previous round. I don't think the score will be that lopsided in the quarterfinal but the result will be the same. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

Guido Pella (ARG) vs Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [23]. Before the tournament started the draw (and who should be seeded #2, Federer or Nadal) was a large point of contention. Djokovic was the winner in both respects because both of his fellow members of the trivalry are in the other half this year, and his top half of the draw has collapsed. To reach the final, the world #1 will face opponents who he has a 13-4 advantage against. Guido Pella did amazingly well to outlast 2016 finalist Milos Raonic. Amazingly, Pella has defeated 3 former Wimbledon finalists in the last 2 years (2017 Finalist Marin Cilic last year and  2018 finalists Kevin Anderson in the 3rd round this year). Bautista Agut is having a great year and he has already beaten Djokovic twice this year already. Mad Professah's pick: Bautista Agut.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3] vs Sam Querrey (USA). Sam Querrey and Rafael Nadal have not played for more than 2 years, but the American's last meeting was a victorious one on the hard courts of Acapulco. Querrey is putting on a serving clinic in this tournament and has only had  his serve broken once! He knows that he can beat the very best at Wimbledon, having done so in 2016 when he defeated Djokovic, who had just achieved the historic Nole Slam. That defeat lead to a 2-year spiral for Djokovic which he only pulled out of at last year's Wimbledon. The problem for Querrey is that the courts are resembling a clay court and that is a bad sign for anyone not named Nadal. Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.

Roger Federer (SUI) [2] vs Kei Nishikori  (JPN) [8]. Kei Nishikori has a respectable head-to-head of 3-7 against the Greatest of all Time, and even won their last meeting in straight sets at the 2018 Year-End Championships in London. Federer won their only grass meeting in Halle. Nishikori has done something unusual for him at this year's Wimbledon: he lost only 1 set and won 12 to reach the qurterfinals. Typically the Japanese #1 gets caught up in long 5-set matches in early rounds of majors and thus doesn't get very far in the second week. Will it matter the way Federer is playing at the moment as evinced by his demolition  of young excellent grass-court player in Matteo Berettini? Probably not.  Mad Professah's pick: Federer.

2019 WIMBLEDON: Women's Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions

Here are my predictions for the women's quarterfinals at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships I have also predicted the men's quarterfinals. Last year I predicted 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) [8] Alison Riske (USA) vs. Serena Williams (USA) [11]. Alison Riske is one of the closest things tennis has to a grass-court specialist. Her winning percentage on grass is 20+ higher than it is on all other surfaces. She has the most grass court wins of any player (14!) on the WTA tour this year. So it was an upset but not exactly a surprise that the 29-year-old American was able to oust the #1 seed Ash Barty from the tournament today. It hasn't been easy for Riske; all 4 matches she has won have gone three sets. excellent tennis. Serena has (again!) played her way into excellent form in a major again, and her last two matches have demonstrated the qualities which always make her a threat at SW19: best serve of all time in the women's game and her overwhelming power combined with deadly accuracy. Happily for Serena she played Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the Round of 16, a player who has lost every set the two have played, never having won more than 3 games in those sets. Serena won 6-2 6-2 this time. Riske and Serena have never played before, but the two do know each others games, somewhat, having played doubles together. I do think Serena will have much more trouble with Riske than Suarez Navarro, but I don't see her losing a set on her way to yet another major semifinal. PREDICTION: Williams.

Johanna Konta (GBR) [19vs. Barbora Strycova (CZE).  Johanna Konta is Great Britain's great hope to win a major on the women's side. She is coming off of a semifinal run at Roland Garros, which since it is her worst surface, should provide her great confidence that she can at least reach that level here at her home major. Mental toughness is becoming a hallmark of Konta's resurgence. She has won 14 of the last 15 three-set matches she has played, including two against two major champions in Sloane Stephens in the 3rd round and Petra Kvitoba in the 4th. To reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the second time in 3 years she will need to outlast the tenacious Barbora Strycova who likes grass and has defeated Elise Mertens and Kiki Bertens, two seeds, in the last two rounds. Hometown advantage should prevail. PREDICTION: Konta.

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [2] Karolina Muchova (CZE) vs. Elina Svitolina (UKR) [8]. Elina Svitolina has reached 5 major quarterfinals but has never been able to win a match to reach a major semifinal. She will be facing a first-time major quarterfinalist in Karolina Muchova who won an epic match of the Czech Karolinas by defeating #3 seed (and 2019 Eastbourne champion) Karolina Pliskova 13-11 in the third-set. This is Svitolina's best chance to finally breakthrough at a slam, and I suspect she will make it count. PREDICTIONSvitolina

Simona Halep (ROU) [7] vs. Shuai Zhang (CHN). Halep finally ended the fairy tale run of 15-year-old American Coco Gauff who made the round of 16 in her major tournament debut, becoming the youngest player to reach this far in well over 20 years. Halep won relatively easily, 6-3 6-3, and is now the highest seed remaining in the draw. She earlier dismissed 2-time major champion Victoria Azarenka surprisingly easily, in a match many observers expected her to lose. Shuai Zhang has completed multiple upsets, having beaten Caroline Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia in straight sets earlier in the tournament. I doubt that she will be able to complete another one and expect Halep to reach her second semifinal at Wimbledon. PREDICTION: Halep.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: R16 Matches Set For Manic Monday

The best day in tennis is tomorrow; the round of 16 at Wimbledon, where every player in both the men's and women's singles draw takes to the court! Here are the matches on offer:

Men's Draw
  • [1] Djokovic v. Humbert
  • [21] Goffin v. Verdasco
  • [26] Pella v. [15] Raonic
  • [23] Bautista Agut v. [28] Paire
  • Querrey v. Sandgren
  • Sousa v. [3] Nadal
  • [8] Nishikori v. Kukushkin
  • [19] Berrettini v. [2] Federer
Women's Draw
  • [1] Barty vs. Riske
  • [11] Serena v. [30] Suarez Navarro
  • [21] Mertens v. Strycova vs.
  • [6] Kvitova v. [19] Konta
  • [8] Svitolina v. [24] Martic
  • [3] Pliskova v. Muchova
  • [7] Halep v. Gauff
  • Zhang Shuai v. Yastremska
The matches to watch are Kvitova-Konta, Halep-Gauff, Barty-Riske, Berrettini-Federer and Goffin-Verdasco. In those 5 I pick: Kvitova, Halep, Barty, Federer and Verdasco.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

2019 WIMBLEDON: 1st Round Complete (Osaka [2], Thiem [5], Zverev [6], Tstitsipas [7] Upset!)

The first round of the 2019 Wimbledon is over and there have been a surprising number of upsets, especially in the men: fifth seed Dominc Thiem, sixth seed Alexander Zverev and seventh seed Stefanos Tsiptsipas all lost! Additionally, the second seed Naomi Osaka lost on the women's side. Osaka lost to Yulia Putintseva, who beat her for the second time in two weeks and now has  a career 3-0 record on the 2-time major champion.

Thiem lost to Sam Querrey in 3 sets, Zverev lost to Jiri Vesely in 4 and Tsitsipas lost to Thomas Fabbiano in 5.

On the women's side former Wimbledon champions Garbine Muguruza (2017), Venus Williams (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008), Maria Sharapova (2004) all lost in the first round. American teen phenom Cori "Coco" Gauff became the youngest player to make it to the draw via qualifying and dispatched 39-year-old Venus Williams in straight sets (6-4 6-4).

Favorites Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Angelique Kerber all won their first round matches relatively easily. Serena Williams looked a bit rusty but also won in straight sets 6-2 7-5.


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