2018 French Open: Interesting Matchups to See

Time again for another round of Grand Slam tennis and as you know late May is always about Roland Garros or more popularly known as the French Open.

In this year’s edition, Jelena Ostapenko is the defending champion; and below are the current rankings on women’s singles tennis.

Still, while everyone has their favorites, let’s tackle on some interesting matchups that we would like to see — Halep v Wozniacki, Ostapenko v Svitolina and of course, Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova. But whether these would actually happen depends more on whether they could win their matches rather than being grouped in the same section as some could be in a collision course even before the quarterfinals.

SIMONA HALEP v CAROLINE WOZNIACKI

Halep is grouped at the top half in section 1 while Wozniacki is at the bottom half in section 8, so this meeting would not happen until later in the tourney which is but fitting since they are ranked 1 and 2. And this is exactly why it would be interesting to watch them play against each other because while Halep is ranked number 1, she has actually never won a Grand Slam.

Wozniacki (L), Halep (R)

On the other hand, while Wozniacki has won the recent Australian Open, earlier this decade, she also became number one even without winning a Grand Slam yet. Anyway, her 2018 performance so far has catapulted her back to the top but then, she just has to show consistency that she deserves to be up there. And this makes a Halep v Wozniacki finale real interesting.

JELENA OSTAPENKO v ELINA SVITOLINA

The 20-year-old Ostapenko and the 23-year-old Svitolina are the future of women’s tennis. Hard-hitting Ostapenko is like the European version of a Serena Williams while the crafty not to mention the model-like features of Svitolina makes her something like the younger version of a Sharapova.

Ostapenko (L), Svitolina (R)

Svitolina is currently ranked number 4 while Ostapenko sits at number 5 which only shows their promise. Now if they could remain relatively free of major injuries throughout their careers then this would be a great rivalry to keep tabs on. As of now, Ostapenko is 2-0 against Svitolina but these were close matches — besides it’s still two matches between them.

SERENA WILLIAMS v MARIA SHARAPOVA

Now who would not want to see these old tigers face each other again? While Serena practically owns Sharapova, let’s not forget that it was against Serena that the then 17-year-old Sharapova won her first Grand Slam in 2004.

2004 Wimbledon: Sharapova (L), Williams (R)

So what actually happened to these two? Although both had their share of injuries, Serena was able to recover much better than Sharapova has had. See, Sharapova who used to have ‘powerful’ first and second serves early in her career was not really able to get back to that level after successive shoulder injuries even before the turn of the decade; and throughout her career she has had three notable ones. Finally, her 15-month suspension on the ‘sensationalized’ 2016 doping scandal caused her to miss a lot of time making it tougher for her to get back to form as evidenced by her stamina.

2017 Australian Open: Serena’s 23rd Grand Slam title

Meanwhile, Serena has remained that powerful tennis player — winning 23 Grand Slams, the most in the Open Era — despite some injuries along the way yet until she had to take a break from the game due to motherhood.

Incidentally, both players have won the French Open in alternating fashion. Sharapova in 2012 and 2014 while Serena in 2013 and 2015 — though she won her first of three back in 2002. Serena that is.

The avalanche of matches begin today at 5pm Singapore time.

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2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League: Week 2 Update

Two weeks into the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League, we find 5 teams tied at the top as far as win-loss records is concerned at 5-1 — with world number 11 Argentina as the only winless squad at 0-6.

Yet so far aside from the regular powers, three teams are worth watching.

VNL week 2 standings

South Korea. If you thought the Koreans just got lucky beating a Zhu Ting-less China, think again. In week 2, they rode their momentum as hosts and blanked world number 5 Russia (25-19, 25-14, 25-17) while beating 13th ranked Germany in four sets (23-25, 26-24, 25-16, 25-16).

Lee Jae-yeong (#17), heir to Kim Yeon-koung as Korea’s best spiker

Still, what kind of surprised us was their fall against world number 7 Italy where the Koreans lost in straight sets, 17-25, 21-25, 21-25. Part of this was obviously due to not fully using super spiker Lee Jae-yeong (#17) who has truly emerged as a great force but was used sparingly in favor of taller players for blocking purposes. Bad strategy that time and it showed in their loss to Italy (as the taller Koreans on the court were not as quick as the hustling Italians) when utilizing Lee Jae-yeong could have given them a ‘variation’ in offense and quickness in defense at the same time.

Thailand. Their record might be 2-4 but if you have really been watching their games, the Thais could have won a couple more of them like the ones against #5 Russia (week 1, fourth set was even decided at 30-28), #3 Serbia (lost 1-3 but reached 18+ in all lost sets, meaning they were competitive throughout the match) and against #1 China whom they could have even beaten in straight sets (23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 17-25) if only they had power spiker Ajcharaporn especially in the early, critical stages of the second set.

Thailand’s top spiker Ajcharaporn Kongyot (#18)

Key points for the Thais. Utilize Ajcharaporn (best spiker) and Nootsara (best setter) especially in critical moments, like when the opponent’s score hits 20, bring them back to court if they were resting. Malika has deteriorated as a spiker, just have her for floor defense, setting up or serving if ever.

While it’s good to have Onuma back, it’s quite noticeable that she can’t really jump anymore, so go to her as 3rd or 4th option instead behind Ajcharaporn, Pimpichaya and Chatchu-on. Meanwhile, Pleumjit still has it as a premier middle blocker, however, continue giving Hattaya more confidence as she would eventually replace Pleumjit when she slows down. It would have helped if Thatdao Nuekjang was around though especially in blocking since she’s tall and strong enough for international competitions.

Poland. Ranked 22nd in the world and in fact the lowest among those participating in this tournament, who would have thought that they could put up a good fight in just about every game they played? In week 1, the Polish may have lost 1-3 to #2 USA but look at the scores — 26-28, 22-25, 25-22, 15-25! Then they beat #7 Italy in 5 sets, 21-25, 25-14, 19-25, 25-17, 15-12 before going down against #12 Turkey 21-25, 17-25, 23-25.

In week 2, the Polish dismantled #1 China in a 5-set marathon then took #3 Serbia to four sets (25-20, 25-27, 24-26, 15-25) before finally losing out to Thailand in another grueling match with the decider ending at 14-16!

Looking closely, #22 Poland actually had a chance to win in all the games they have lost. Thanks to the hard-hitting 21-year-old spiker Malwina Smarzek (#17), they are certainly bound to rise in the rankings very soon.

Get ready for week 3! #enjoyvnl

2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League now on Week 2

In case you are wondering what happened to indoor volleyball, well, one of the major tournaments for the year – 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League – has in fact already begun. May 15 to be exact.

So first leg down, now the second leg is just about to start…

VNL week 1 standings

Today. Yes, today. This tourney of the world’s best women’s teams would actually run for about a month and a half (until July 1) and that would be played in 21 venues where the final round would be in Nanjing, China.

Here are the schedules for the next three days.

NOTABLES: After the first leg, one of the more interesting results I should say was the match where world number 1 China got walloped by world number 10 Korea in three, yes, three straight sets — 15-25, 15-25, 13-25. Then again, while Korea’s star player Kim Yeon-koung was playing, her counterpart in Chinese superstar Zhu Ting was just not around.

Okay, let’s just #enjoyvnl on its second week for now!

2018 Italian Open: Maria Sharapova wills her way to the SF

They have never met before and what a match! Hard hitting, world number 5 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Russian superstar Maria Sharapova took 3 hours and 10 minutes before completing their quarterfinal match with Sharapova prevailing in the end, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 7-5.

Ostapenko raced to an early 5-2 lead in the first set that saw Sharapova fighting back and taking the Latvian to a tiebreaker before losing 6-8.

While the whole match had its share of aces and winners, it was also filled with double faults — and unforced errors especially from Ostapenko.

World number 5 Jelena Ostapenko and her unforced errors

Key Points of the Match: While Ostapenko showed signs of cramping, it was not bad enough to hinder her physically — nor strain her will power. At any rate, while Ostapenko is a hard hitter, she still lacks control of her shots that it either goes out or the ball just can’t get over the net. Seems like she’s just always looking for winners — that is why those unforced errors to go along with her double faults. Still, with her solid backhand, she’s got a good future — all she needs to do now is to improve on her strategy, her control.

Sharapova: In-game meditation and focus

Sharapova, meanwhile, just showed the 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko what control is all about. Yes, Sharapova could have taken the opening set and even finished off Ostapenko early in the third set as she led 5-2 but the Latvian just bounced back to tie it at 5-5 before Sharapova’s competitiveness helped her battle through fatigue. Wow, even the audience looked stressed! This was a great gauge of her stamina and certainly she passed it with flying colors.

Is the old Maria Sharapova back?

2018 Italian Open results

Up next is her semifinal match against the winner of the Simona Halep (world number 1) and Caroline Garcia (world number 7) quarterfinal match.

2018 Mutua Madrid Open: Sharapova’s run stopped by Bertens in the QF

Just watched the live quarterfinal match between one of tennis’ most popular players Maria Sharapova and world number 20 Kiki Bertens at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open, and I tell you, it was just exhausting. I mean, you could actually feel the ‘drain’ in Sharapova catching up on her in the second set since she just played, what, 16 hours ago against Kristina Mladenovic?? Wow!

Nonetheless, pinpoint baseline shots got Maria Sharapova the first set at 6-4; however, fatigue then started to tell (along with some bad breaks) as she fell 0-3 at the start of the second set that ultimately cost her a 2-6 result.

With the third set underway and Sharapova just gasping, she again had to play catch up but defeat was just inevitable with the hole she just got into.

Sharapova showed promise despite the defeat

So obviously the bottom line here is not that Sharapova is regressing, but it’s her stamina. She’s already moving better but since it’s not even been a day from her third round match then onto her QF match — she just lost steam.

Can’t live on a consolation that at least it’s not a first round exit

But that’s just how it is, so she just has to start picking up somewhere.

NBA BLITZ: The Shot, who’s better, MJ or LeBron?

It’s funny how the NBA and even some renown media and sports personalities put so much hype in the game-winning shot LeBron James made against the Indiana Pacers (98-95, Cavs 3 Ind 2) in Game 5 last Wednesday, 25 April. Yeah, even to the point of comparing LeBron’s shot to MJ’s! Wow! The NBA is indeed a business…

Or are there some who just doesn’t really know how to look in-depth?

What’s True

  • First round. Game 5. Series tied 2-2. The 1989 playoff series between Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Cavs as well as the 2018 matchup between the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers against the Pacers had the same three facts that we just mentioned.
  • 3 seconds. Top of the key shot. And just as MJ had 3 seconds from which he took a top of the key shot to win the game, LeBron also had a ‘similar’ shot where his jumper won the game for the Cavs.

But this is as far as it goes.

Incomparable

  • The 1989 first round series was a best of five. The 2018 first round series is a best of seven. This means even if Oladipo made his layup then LeBron misses his shot and loses the game, the Cavs are still in it. On the other hand, if MJ missed his shot, the Bulls are out of the mix — they go fishing.
  • While LeBron took a 3-pointer compared to MJ’s jumper, the 1989 Bulls were down by 1 (99-100) and the series tied at 2-2 that if MJ missed his shot, the Bulls gets eliminated. On the other hand, when LeBron took ‘the shot’, the score was tied at 95 apiece. This means, if LeBron missed his shot (whether it’s a 3-pointer or a dunk), the game would still go into overtime.
  • And just look at how harassing the defense was in MJ’s time where he really had to go through a gauntlet compared to LeBron’s 3-point shot?

In short, MJ’s shot simply had so much weight compared to LeBron’s 3-pointer who — if you really think about it — had nothing to lose. So it’s just ridiculous to call LeBron clutch if only for that Game 5 shot.

The Shot? (Photo: Apr 25, 2018 David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

NBA BLITZ is a segment of Consumer Live Reports that frankly tackles NBA stuff based on facts and in-depth analysis in a jiffy.

Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

It’s the Holy Week and while many people has gone on vacation, we decided to just watch a movie instead. And as the title suggests, it’s Tomb Raider. Yes, the new version.

Okay, this is one movie that is actually intriguing; you know, it used to be Angelina Jolie in the title role and now we got Swedish actress in Alicia Vikander taking her spot. And so, we just wondered how she would fare — and what kind of story would the creators make out of this transition.

Synopsis. Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination — a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown.

Let’s go through some critical action scenes first, and starting with Lara’s sea travel. Well, how computerized can you get? It was just obvious guys. The mix of the rough seas, those rocks and ship, and especially when Lara jettisoned. The river scene was good though and a bit more realistic. Meanwhile, the tomb scene was so-so, altho the falling of the “flooring” where the characters were standing was good. Still, Lara’s clinging to the secret tomb’s “door” was not really an awesome stunt. Yeah, just not that believable.

Clinging on rocks is more believable since it’s less slippery compared to hanging on metal that is not really shaped for holding (and while trying to catch something at that)

Now, the impact of these action scenes were sort of wanting mainly because of the lead character’s physique and aura. Her frame or stance was just not molded for such genre. In short, her aura was a bit soft. Hey, she did not even have impressive fighting skills (to think that she was into boxing in the movie) while her aura just did not convince us of her being a strong-willed heroine.

Does she look a convincing Lara Croft? In character roles, it’s especially important

On the other hand, the villain somewhat failed to project “cleverness” in his role but basically relied on guns and goons to scare those who oppose him. And from the start, it was already predictable that Lara’s father was still alive; and we somehow knew this movie fact because Alicia is not a big-name movie star, so she needs a father character to support the story as she may not be able to carry the movie alone unlike Angelina Jolie. We’re right.

Angelina Jolie may be more sexualized as Lara Croft but her aura had a lot of impact

In all, it’s not so exciting. Yes, it may have earned a lot but that is because of its predecessor in Angelina’s series. Meaning, people just remembers the impact that Angelina gave the character and so, they were interested in seeing the film. Still, good news to fans, clearly, there would be a sequel.