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.

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.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2018: Sharapova to face Angelique Kerber in Rd. 3

Sharapova is to face Angelique Kerber in the third round of the 2018 Australian Open after victories over Tatjana Maria (6-1, 6-4 Rd. 1) and world number 15 Anastasija Sevastova (6-1, 7-6 Rd. 2).

Germany’s Kerber, meanwhile, is on a roll as she chalked her 11th consecutive win for 2018 after beating Donna Vekic (6-4, 6-1 Rd. 2) and would likely be another tough match for Maria Sharapova who still seems to be finding her way since her return nine months ago.

See, though Sharapova if you recall had been fantastic at the recent US Open as she reached the fourth round while beating now world number 1 Simona Halep in the opening round, the farthest that Sharapova has gone in her next tournaments was just the semifinals — well of course, she won a non-grand slam in Tianjin against unseeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus that time. But then, that was just Sharapova’s first WTA title in two years!

In round 2 of this Australian Open, while Sharapova had her moments against Sevastova of having more net points won, the bulk of her points were actually just the result of her winners wherein she had 30 against Sevastova’s six.

Match Summary: Sharapova v Sevastova round 2

Still, if Sharapova wants to get past world number 16 Kerber, she better take note of her unforced errors (31) wherein she was either a little slow to the ball or just had less control over her shots. Regardless if she only made two more double faults than her next opponent Kerber, the German only had 17 unforced errors against Croatia’s Vekic. So, time for your A-game, Maria!

Their third round match will be on January 20 at 4 in the afternoon.

2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers: Gilas Pilipinas Lineup

If you are still unaware, Gilas Pilipinas has already released its 23-man pool where they would select their final roster that would compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia) against Japan on November 24 and Chinese Taipei on November 27 of this year.

And as expected many did also have their own say on whom they would wish for the Final 12 — in which we actually considered 9 of their choices, namely: Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, RR Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, and Japeth Aguilar while dropping out June Mar Fajardo, Kiefer Ravena and Calvin Abueva.

Why?

While it’s good to have Blatche back, consider excluding Fajardo

While Fajardo is a tall and talented 4-time PBA MVP — this basketball-loving country just has to accept that he is slow for international competitions. Maybe he could be useful against less talented teams but against much better ones, they could just play small ball to Gilas’ demise if Fajardo is on the floor.

Okay, Ravena may have lots of international experience — then again, those were just against fellow southeast Asians, weaker opponents or just in 3-on-3 tourneys — but just like Fajardo, he’s pretty slow. In fact, he’s interestingly slow for a player of his height. Comparing him to 6-foot players back then — Samboy Lim has some hang time which makes him tough to defend while his father, Bong Ravena, was quicker and more athletic than he was. With that, Kiefer’s attacks that were effective against most competition he has faced would, more often than not, find its way to the hoop only through luck especially against Australia whom they are also grouped with.

Gilas is scheduled to play Patty Mills and the Australians on 22 February 2018

Now, Calvin Abueva. Despite his years in playing the game, he is still like awkward — he’s even got poor free-throw shooting; and the only thing that’s actually carrying him in the game is his rough style which suits the Filipino audience but surely not outside the country. Still, if only to choose between him and Ravena, he’d be a better choice since he’s a little taller while his roughness could somehow scare the opponents.

Asian Groupings: 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

In the end, to achieve some measure of success, Gilas should learn to adapt to the international brand of play which is about speed and perimeter shooting more than post presence. And don’t forget defense. These then should be the guide in finalizing their lineup.