Sunday, 16 July 2017

Wimbledon 2017 : The grand finale



I am a huge fan of Roger Federer and trust me, even before the draw had come out, I had a feeling that Marin Cilic is the one who will be the most difficult to beat for him. When the draw was finally out, I looked at it and had a sigh of relief, seeing that Cilic is not in Roger's half, even though Dimitrov, Raonic and Djokovic were potential opponents for him. Cilic though, turned out to be the last man standing in Federer's way in his quest to capture his 8th Wimbledon trophy. 

As a tennis fan though, I am happy that two of the most in form players on grass managed to overcome all the hurdles and make it to the finals. But as a person trying to predict the outcome of this one, this is as tough as it gets.

HEAD TO HEAD : FEDERER - 6, CILIC - 1
LAST MEETING : 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-3 (WIMBLEDON 2016, QF)

Federer might have a superior head to head against the big Croat, but the last two encounters are the most significant ones by far. Cilic got his first victory over the Swiss in the semi finals of the US Open in straight sets, where he went on to win the title too. More recently, they faced in the quarter finals of Wimbledon last year, where Federer narrowly won after being down 2-sets to love and then match points down in the 4th set. So saying that this title is Federer's to lose, is not a spot on analysis in my opinion.

Federer version 2017, is though a different beast to lock horns with. His tennis has been nearly flawless in all departments, including the once relatively rather weaker, backhand. In terms of recent form, both of them have been immaculate. Cilic has tasted just one loss in the grass court season, that too in a close encounter with Feliciano Lopez in the finals of Queen's. Federer on the other hand has fared even better; 11 wins in a row, and yet to drop a set, after his surprise loss to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart. 

In Wimbledon, both of them have served out of their skins. While Cilic has won 84% of his first serves, Federer is close behind at 83%. Federer though, has defended his second serves much better. He has won 66% of his second serve points, while Cilic is under 59% in that department. 

What makes recent form a little more difficult to read is that Cilic hasn't had to face a top 15 opponent so far (Gilles Muller, his highest ranked opponent was seeded 16th). So how will his game differ when facing arguably the best player this season on grass, remains to be seen. 

What I feel is that Cilic is in a great form, as good as his form was when he went on to lift his maiden US Open title in 2014. But Federer has the tools, especially looking at his form this year, to disrupt Cilic's game as and when he wishes. He has looked the better player so far, and unless nerves gives it away for him, or he loses rhythm completely, I see no reason why Federer will lose this one. I predict a clean first set, with one break of serve to Federer sealing the deal. 2 close sets after that, which both take apiece. And then Cilic'c game dipping to give Federer an easy 4th set, the match and his 8th Wimbledon title.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-2

Friday, 14 July 2017

Wimbledon 2017 : Semi final predictions


While Roger Federer and Marin Cilic were among the favourites from the very beginning, not many would have put their money on Sam Querrey and Tomas Berdych to make it to the last 4 of Wimbledon. But here we are, destined either to witness a new champion, or Federer's 8th Wimbledon trophy. So let's have a look at each of the semi finals and try and predict what we might have on our hands today.







[24] SAM QUERREY VS [7] MARIN CILIC

HEAD TO HEAD : 0-4
LAST MEETING : MARIN CILIC 7-6(2), 7-6(3) (WASHINGTON 2015, RD. OF 16)

Sam Querrey has had a fairy tale run this year, and as I mentioned before, nobody would have expected him to make it to the last 4. To his credit, he has knocked out big names such as Tsonga, Kevin Anderson and the reigning world number 1, Andy Murray. He has been excellent with his serves, leading the pack with 126 aces in this tournament. He has won 84% of first serve points and it goes to show that big servers are rewarded at the All England club. Cilic has been equally destructive with his serve, blasting 105 aces and winning 83% of his first serve points. Cilic, though has had a more comfortable path to the semis, playing just 169 games and 3 tie-breaks in 5 matches, while Querrey has played 217 games and 5 tie breaks. I feel the winner of this match will depend on who defends his second serve better, unless one of them plays the game of his life, and takes the match in 3 sets. I don't suppose that will happen though, so I pick Cilic to edge Querrey out in 4 closely fought sets.

PREDICTION : MARIN CILIC 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5



[11] TOMAS BERDYCH VS [3] ROGER FEDERER

HEAD TO HEAD : 6-18
LAST MEETING : MARIN CILIC 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6) (MIAMI MASTERS 2017, QF)

Tomas Berdcyh hasn't had the best year so far in 2017, as he dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in more than 6 years. In Wimbledon this year though, he has served exceedingly well, winning 85% of his first serve points. In comparison, Federer is just marginally behind, with 82%. But Federer clearly has the edge when it comes to defending his second serve. While Berdych has been winning below 60% of his second serve points, Federer is way ahead at a ridiculous 68%. If we look at their history, Federer has dominated Berdych with 18 wins over him out of 24 matches, but has faced defeat in big matches, including one in the quarter finals of Wimbledon 2010, where Berdych beat him and eventually made it to the finals. Interestingly though, Berdych's last victory over Federer had been way back in the semi finals of Dubai in 2013, after which, he has taken just 2 sets out of 18 from the Swiss in the 7 consecutive defeats which followed. If form is anything to go by, Federer is clearly the favourite, and is yet to drop a set in this tournament. After Djokovic and Murray's exit, people say that it's Federer's tournament to lose, but two big hurdles are still to be overcome, and none are pushovers. This one though, should be the more comfortable of the two, where I see him knock Berdych out with ease, barring maybe a set, in which the Czech will put some fireworks on display.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4




So there we have it then. If my predictions are right, we will have

[7] MARIN CILIC VS [3] ROGER FEDERER 


Let me know if you agree with my predictions. Have a great day!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Wimbledon 2017 : Quarter final predictions



So we are down to the last 8 in the men's draw, and just 3 victories from here will ensure a title at Wimbledon for one of them this year. In my post about the 4th round predictions, I got 7 out of the 8 winners correctly. Any guesses on which one I got wrong? Well, you would be lying if you saw this coming, but I did not think Nadal would be knocked out by the 34 year old Luxembourg veteran, Gilles Muller. Sure, I thought he might trouble Nadal for a set or two, but the latter's game was looking ominous throughout the tournament. Anyway, it was an epic, which I enjoyed watching as a tennis fan, and I hope Rafa continues to play awesome tennis for the rest of the year.

The quarter final line up has 3 of the big four still alive, and not surprisingly, only those 3 are former Wimbledon champions. Will they progress to the semi finals though? Let us look at the matches one by one, and see what can be expected out of each.



[1] ANDY MURRAY VS [24] SAM QUERREY

HEAD TO HEAD : 7-1
LAST MEETING : ANDY MURRAY 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 (AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2017, RD. OF 32)

Andy Murray has performed really well so far, but there have been visible chinks in the armour. He dropped a set to Fognini in the 3rd round, and had to battle back in the first set with a break down against Paire. Querrey might be seeded 23 places below the Scot, but he can rattle any opponent with his big serves. Ask Djokovic if you don't believe me. Anyway, I feel Murray is still the better player in this contest, and barring a complete breakdown in confidence or concentration, he should be able to weather the storm in 4 sets.

PREDICTION : ANDY MURRAY 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)



[16] GILLES MULLER VS [7] MARIN CILIC

HEAD TO HEAD : 2-0
LAST MEETING : MARIN CILIC 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 (QUEEN'S 2017, SF)

17 years after turning pro, the world is suddenly taking notice of Muller, who is undoubtedly playing the best tennis of his career, vanquishing Nadal 15-13 in the final set in the 4th round. On the other hand is Cilic, who I had considered a serious contender to the title even before the tournament began, and still do so. He is in superlative form, as good as, if not better, than in his run to the US Open triumph back in 2014. Muller has a great serve, but I feel that it will fall short of Cilic's more complete all round game, most notably, his big serves and destructive groundstrokes. Cilic will probably take this in 3, but Muller might take a set off, so I will go with 4 on this one.

PREDICTION : MARIN CILIC 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-3



[6] MILOS RAONIC VS [3] ROGER FEDERER

HEAD TO HEAD : 3-9
LAST MEETING : MILOS RAONIC 6-3, 6-7(3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 (WIMBLEDON 2016, SF)

The biggest match in the quarters by far, is this semi final rematch from last year's edition, where Raonic upset Federer in 5 sets to make it to his maiden grand slam final. Federer is really good against big servers, as he is so good at disrupting their rhythm with chips and slices. But Raonic has been relatively successful against the Swiss, mainly because of his consistency in serve, and a much improved court movement and net play over the years. Federer is in beast mode this year though, and even the powerful Raonic game doesn't seem to be good enough on paper for the man vying for his 8th Wimbledon title this year. This one just might go the distance, but I pick Federer to win comfortably in 3 sets.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 6-3, 7-6(5), 7-5



[11] TOMAS BERDYCH VS [2] NOVAK DJOKOVIC

HEAD TO HEAD : 2-25
LAST MEETING : NOVAK DJOKOVIC 7-6(6), 6-4 (CANADIAN MASTERS 2016, QF)

With one of the most lopsided head to heads in the modern era, one would argue that a Berdych vs Djokovic clash is usually a foregone conclusion. Yes, Djokovic is not in the best form of his life, but he is yet to drop a set in Wimbledon this year. Does that mean Novak is back to his best? Maybe not just yet. But I feel he is close. Add to it the fact that Berdych is out of the top 10 this year, means even he is not in great form either. It won't be an annihilation, but Djokovic should come out victorious from this one quite comfortably. This match will also be a strong indicator of where Djokovic stands now, because Berdych is a tough opponent, even for Djokovic. If Novak beats him here comfortably, he might just get the confidence back and ride on it to lift the title. Before getting that far ahead though, I say Djokovic in 3.

PREDICTION : NOVAK DJOKOVIC 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(5)



According to my predictions then, the semi final line-up should look like this


[1] ANDY MURRAY VS [7] MARIN CILIC

[3] ROGER FEDERER VS [2] NOVAK DJOKOVIC


Let me know what you think of the predictions. I will post my predictions for the semi finals and the finals before match day. Stay tuned and have a great day!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wimbledon 2017 : 4th round preview and predictions


Arguably the most prestigious tennis tournament in the calendar year, with the final 16 players battling it out to win the coveted trophy.. It has to be the most fascinating week of tennis to look forward to in the entire year. I cannot wait for the round of 16 clashes later today, hence, I will give a little preview of each of the matches along with my predictions.




[1] ANDY MURRAY VS BENOIT PAIRE

HEAD TO HEAD : 1-0
LAST MEETING : ANDY MURRAY 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 (MONTE CARLO MASTERS 2016, RD. OF 16)

At a similar stage earlier this year, Andy was to face Mischa Zverev in the Australian Open, and in my predictions post, I dismissed the challenge, and predicted Murray to come out in straight sets. I was wrong though. Andy couldn't find an answer to Mischa's relentless charge to the net, and was sent packing in 4 sets. So could Paire pull another upset on the world number 1? I wouldn't put my money on that though, especially when Andy is feeling so much at home on his favourite surface, grass. Paire might take a set off, but I see this going just one way, all the way.

PREDICTION : ANDY MURRAY 6-3, 6-4, 7-5


[24] SAM QUERRY VS KEVIN ANDERSON

HEAD TO HEAD : 8-5
LAST MEETING : KEVIN ANDERSON 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 (MIAMI MASTERS 2015, RD. OF 64)

A clash of big servers, expect this one to have a few tie breaks. While Anderson defeated Verdasco, Seppi and Bemelmans on his way to the last 16, Querrey took down Fabbiano, Basillashvili and Tsonga. This one could go either way, but I pick Querrey, the guy who beat an invincible Djokovic last year in the lawns of Wimbledon, to beat Anderson in 4 sets.

PREDICTION : SAM QUERREY 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 7-5


[4] RAFAEL NADAL VS [16] GILLES MULLER

HEAD TO HEAD : 5-1
LAST MEETING : KEVIN ANDERSON 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 (INDIAN WELLS MASTERS 2016, RD. OF 64)

Gilles Muller is exactly the kind of opponent that Nadal would have wanted to avoid in the first week of Wimbledon when the draw came out. The reason being that more the grass wears off towards the latter part of the tournament, the more dangerous Nadal gets, as the surface keeps getting slower. But looking at the way he is playing, I doubt it would have mattered. Muller might give the Spaniard some trouble with his big serves and hurrying him with some net play, but the ominous Nadal will come out unscathed in 3, or just maybe 4 sets.

PREDICTION : RAFAEL NADAL 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2


[19] ROBERTO BAUTISTA AGUT VS [7] MARIN CILIC

HEAD TO HEAD : 1-2
LAST MEETING : BAUTISTA AGUT 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-5 (AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2016, RD. OF 32)

Bautista Agut took out Nishikori in the 3rd round, but Cilic is another beast altogether. He has served excellently throughout the grass court season and is looking in great form. I actually feel he is a legitimate contender to lift the trophy too. Agut doesn't have the game to weather the storm that Cilic will conjure today.

PREDICTION : MARIN CILIC 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4)


[6] MILOS RAONIC VS [10] ALEXANDER ZVEREV

HEAD TO HEAD : 0-1
LAST MEETING : ALEXANDER ZVEREV 7-6(4), 6-1 (ROME MASTERS 2017, QF)

This one, for me, is going to be the match to look forward to the most in this round. Raonic, last year's runner up here, will ride on that confidence, and will look to go one better this year. Zverev on the other hand, is improving with every match he is playing, and I see him as a definite (near) future number 1. In fact, both men have an outside chance to lay their hands on the trophy and neither will bow out without a fight. I am really torn on this one, but I think Raonic will narrowly edge out the German with his superior serve and volley game.

PREDICTION : MILOS RAONIC 5-7, 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 8-6


[13] GRIGOR DIMITROV VS [3] ROGER FEDERER

HEAD TO HEAD : 0-5
LAST MEETING : ROGER FEDERER 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 (AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2016, RD. OF 32)

Dimitrov is playing decent tennis this year, and made the semi finals of Queen's, losing out to the eventual champion Feliciano Lopez. That being said, Federer is playing ruthless tennis this year, and is yet to drop a set in his 8 victories on grass since his loss to Hass at Stuttgart. Dimitrov's game is similar to Roger's in many ways, but whatever Dimitrov does, Federer does it better. On paper the Bulgarian does seem like a threat to Federer's bid to win his 8th Wimbledon, but I think the Swiss maestro will brush him aside with ease.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3)


[8] DOMINIC THIEM VS [11] TOMAS BERDYCH
HEAD TO HEAD : 0-1
LAST MEETING : TOMAS BERDYCH 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, (US OPEN 2014, RD. OF 16)

This one is also not as straight forward as it seems. I would have picked Thiem on clay or even on hard courts, but on grass, he is still improving. Berdych is a dangerous opponent, who can outhit most of the players on tour. I back him to do so against Thiem today, and feel he will come through in 4 sets.

PREDICTION : TOMAS BERDYCH 7-6(5), 6-3, 4-6, 7-5


ADRIAN MANNARINO VS [2] NOVAK DJOKOVIC

HEAD TO HEAD : 0-1
LAST MEETING : NOVAK DJOKOVIC 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5), (WIMBLEDON 2016, RD. OF 64)

Mannarino did upset Monfils in the previous round, coming through in 5 sets, but Djokovic is quietly starting to find some form. Whether he will be able to come back to his absolute best in time to win Wimbledon this year, is something that remains to be seen, but Mannarino will be no match to even a lesser Djokovic today. I say the world number 2 annihilates the Frenchman in 3 sets.

PREDICTION : NOVAK DJOKOVIC 6-1, 6-3, 6-2



So according to my predictions, here is what the Quarter final line up will look like


[1] ANDY MURRAY VS [24] SAM QUERREY

[2] RAFAEL NADAL VS [7] MARIN CILIC

[6] MILOS RAONIC VS [3] ROGER FEDERER

[11] TOMAS BERDYCH VS [2] NOVAK DJOKOVIC



Do let me know what you think of my predictions. Stay tuned for the predictions for all the matches from here on till the finals. Have a great day!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Travel diaries : Japan (Part II)


[Click here to check out Travel diaries : Japan (Part I)]

When you are traveling in a large group (17 of us in our case), things cannot be expected to work at a super fast pace. We checked in at the hostel at around 3 PM on the 20th of April'17, changed quickly and came down to the reception area. Obviously, not everybody got ready at the same time, so I decided to go exploring again. I had a couple of friends with me, so I left my Wifi device in the hostel and we started walking in the direction we felt like going to, took turns we felt like taking. No internet, no calls, no gps to guide us to a destination.. just us, wandering aimlessly, soaking in all aspects of the foreign city, unfiltered, unhindered, unprejudiced.


We randomly found a park after walking about 10 minutes. Named Yokoamicho park, it was opened in 1930 as a memorial to the Kanto earthquake which occurred in 1923. It also became the main memorial for the victims of the bombing of Tokyo in 1944-45. Ashes of more than 100,000 people were interred in the park during that time, and a memorial for the victims was opened in 2001. We were totally unaware about its history at that moment, but we found the park to be very peaceful and serene. It has a gravel pathway on one of the entrances leading up to the central part, which contains a shrine, benches right in front of it, the memorial, and a pond. The path which leads to the other entrance has a small boulevard of trees, leading out to the road. There were a couple of cherry blossom trees next to the benches, where people would sit, and I spotted a few one or two year olds, playing on the gravel with their mothers. It was so heartwarming, it felt like a happy ending to a movie or something.


Yokoamicho park, Ryogoku

Half an hour later, we started ambling towards Asakusa, which is about 2 kilometers away. The walk helped us look at the city more closely, and all we could discuss was how awesome Tokyo is, and how we love it so much, and how I don't want to come back to India, ever!

Our friends were in Sensoji temple already, so even we decided to go and have a look. The way to the temple is through a 250 meter long street, called Nakamise Dori, which has shops on either side of it till the temple itself. The temple has o-mikuji stalls, where you can pick a stick out of a metal box with hundreds of them inside it, and then retrieve your 'fortune' written on a piece of paper, from one of the drawers with a sign similar to that on the stick. I think mine had an okayish fortune.


Nakamise Dori, or the street leading up to the Senso ji temple



Senso ji temple



Anyway, we then went to the Asakusa culture and tourism centre. I remember using it as a reference for one of my projects, and seeing the same building right in front of my eyes, felt a little surreal to be honest. What impressed me a lot about the design of this building is that it is not just a tourism centre where you go and get pamphlets regarding the places of interest of the place. Each of the 8 floors has a distinct section, purpose and role. In addition to a conference room, a multipurpose hall, and an exhibition space, there is a terrace next to the cafeteria on the top floor, which overlooks the Kaminari-mon (the gateway leading to the Senso ji temple). Even the Skytree is visible from the terrace.


Asakusa culture and tourism centre


The view of the Skytree as seen from the Asakusa culture and tourism centre


By the time we left, I was starving. So when we reached Akihabara, I was more interested in finding food, than absorbing all the strange things unfolding around me. I found food quickly though; some chicken, some beef, some octopus. And only then did I start observing my surroundings. Akihabara is unlike anything I had ever seen before. The streets are lined up with pretty, young, costumed girls, probably handing out menus or coupons for maid cafes. The place is known for electronic goods, but I didn't care about that! There were animations or installations everywhere, and most of them featured 'provocative content' in the most creative of ways. It was overall quite fascinating, strange and a unique experience to say the least.

I did not opt for the metro, but decided to walk back to the hostel. It was probably a 45 minute walk, but in my opinion, walking gives me the opportunity to delve deeper into the layers of a place. I did not have the wifi device, and I did not know the way to the hostel, but figured it out by talking to people on the streets. They did not speak English, I did not speak Japanese, but they were always nice, and tried their best to help me out. These kind of interactions might not count in the list of places I visited, or things I did in Japan, but it definitely adds an extra dimension to my experience of the city and of its culture as a whole.

So that was my first day in Tokyo, and I was already in love with, as I might have mentioned it 300 times already. The experience of the rest of my trip will be up soon, as opposed to the ridiculous amount of time I took to upload this post. Apologies for that, and have a great day everyone.