Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's A Hot Day In Melbourne!

I remember a ritual involving writing predictions for every tennis Grand Slam. But my, 2010 is shaping to be quite a busy year, and we're just in the first 20 days of it. Missed out on the prediction from the get go, but here's what I got right: breakthroughs for Vika, Marin and Jie; and what I did not get right: Kim's demolition, and Sharapova's flameout. Plus, Dementieva's spirited loss against Henin. It's shaping to be an excellent tourney yet again in Australia, so let's get the predictions on.

Federer vs Davydenko
I've never rooted for Davydenko, and I would've cheered for him (tout him as a favorite, even). Tough part of the draw as he meets Federer as early as the QF; this could've been a final, IMO.

While Davydenko showed chinks in his armor, Federer upped his game against Hewitt. Sure does pay to know each other's game very well. Same fate lies for Davydenko, but expect a fight. Four sets for Federer.

Djokovic vs Tsonga
Has anyone noticed that no one has noticed Djokovic? He's one of 3 ex-champs here in Melbourne, but all eyes have been on the comeback ladies and the question marks on Nadal (fitness) and Murray (when is that slam coming?). Nole takes on a rematch of his 2008 win against Tsonga, who looked demoralised fending off streaky Almagro in the previous round. A tired Tsonga will bounce his way out of the tournament thanks to a fine straight set win from Djokovic.

Roddick vs Cilic
If I'm going to call an upset, this would be it. While the tall lanky Croat stringed a mature win over US Open champ JMDP, Marin's method was still shaky and unconvincing at some points. Roddick's style has gone from one-sided to consistently explosive, and using maturity now as an added weapon.

Both players won their warmup tourneys in Brissy and Chennai, and someone will end his streak here. I call Marin to step up tp the plate, and defeat Roddick by out-acing and out-pacing him. Roddick, now faster than ever will catch up with some of them, but expect those backhand returns to be dealt with pain. Another 5 setter in the works.

Murray vs Nadal

This round's marquee match. A blazing Nadal will square off a bulked-up (yet again) Murray. Will Murray choke (Hopman Cup anyone), or have a repeat of his run to the final? Speed-wise, it's a pretty even match, but for power, the advantage belongs to the Spaniard. I would like to vote Nadal here in 4, but why do I get this sinking feeling that this'll end in straight sets for Andy?

Semis and Final
Federer. Djokovic. Grand Slam semifinal. Didn't we see this before? Yawn. Murray-Cilic? Well that's new. And so is this: Novak will make the finals, and so will Murray. Only because I've been waiting for this matchup for quite a while now. Maiden slam for Murray? Nah, Australia's not really his strongest suit.




Serena vs Vika
This should be an explosive match. Serena is playing untouchable tennis, serving impeccably and demolishingly precise. Vika is a true firecracker, clawing her way out of a big hole to make it to the quarters.

We'll see a lot of rallies here, and a side to side wiping of both players. If Azarenka can manage to get past the Serena serve, she'll have a chance (like she did last year, before retiring due to food poisoning). However, from Serena form of late, everyone is just scrambling for that runner-up plate. I say straight sets. If Vika gets past Serena, then it's Azarenka FTW.

Na vs Venus
Venus could've tumbled earlier, but she didn't. Must be the wisdom of maturity that's anchoring her fantastic run in Oz. She never tends to do well here, but I'll give her a shot at the all-Williams clash by getting past China's Na in 3 tight sets.

Justine vs Nadia
With so many people to choose from this quarter, did we really end up with this match up? Drat, should've put my money on Justine instead of Elena for my FL picks.
I'd love to see Nadia breakthrough here. Anyone who humiliates the the last GS winner by surrendering only 1 game, deserves some praise. Nadia also took our reigning RG winner Sveta in the previous round. I want to see how that hot streak fares against this Grand Slam episode's comeback queen Justine. I'll vote on the Nadia train for 2 sets; if goes to a third expect Henin to squeak out of that.

Jie vs Maria
Wow, who would've thought it. China represent! No ide where this one will go, but I'm hoping that Jie makes a second SF appearance in a Grandslam. Besides, it's the slam of the Asia-Pacific; nice to see two Chinese players out there.

Semis and Final
Serena. There's no denying that she's head and shoulders above the pile, and enjoying it. And oh, welcome back Justine. I smell a rivalry revived.

15 Slams for Roger? We'll see who's got more in a couple of years...

Welcome back!
Now that the rundown of 2009 is over, it's time to look ahead of what we should be looking forward to in 2010, music-wise. I'm a big fan of BBC's Sound Of... series, and judging from last year's list, it's quite obvious.

While the Sound of 2010 has stepped away from last year's electro-frenzy (Little Boots, Lady Gaga, Frankmusik), this year's mix is a bit more varied, though still with a bias for synth. You've heard about Two Door Cinema Club, and everyone has been rapt with Owl City, so let's proceed with artists that not a lot of people have heard of yet. From the long list of 15, here are my favorites.

1. Stornoway - This probably fits my kind of alternative. Clever lyrics, hints of folk, and a good ambient sound done live. They should - this ensemble features an ecologist, Russian lit specialist, and trumpets! Looking forward to see more of them this year.

2. Elie Goulding - Winner of the critics' list, radio-friendly and a continuation of the 2009 electro-princess trend.
3. The Drums - Summer soundtrack, get ready, it's the Beach Boys for Gen Z.
4. Delphic - This year's version of Temper Trap, or an updated New Order. Less cheery, and darker undertones, but definitely interesting still.

Look who's back, they're the follow up albums we might see this year:
1. LCD Soundsystem - A raving masterpiece that Sound of Silver was. The anthemic All My Friends needs an encore, so welcome back James Murphy.

2. Vampire Weekend - Contra has already been released, and their Africa-tinged melodies are filling the airwaves once more.

3. Justin Timberlake - You got to admit, that FutureSex/Lovesounds album was groundbreaking, and established that JT has talent. Let's see what other tricks he's got on his sleeve.
4. Gorillaz - It's been quite a while Damon Albarn. Blur reunion take up mnost of your time?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Best Tennis Matches Of The Aughts

This is Sports Illustrated's best matches of the past decade. I have been fortunate enough to see 8 of them, and I do agree that they were truly the crowning glory of the sport. A bit of American bias though, Ivanisevic's championship win over Rafter at Wimbledon 2001 should've been here.

1. 2008 Wimbledon men's final
Rafael Nadal def. Roger Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7

Saw this in HK. There was strawberries and cream (thanks Mida!) for the duration of the whole match including rain delays. Phenomenal stuff, saw the crack of dawn to cap off the best match of all time. I probably won't be hearing a lot of disagreements with this one.

2. 2001 U.S. Open men's quarterfinals Pete Sampras def. Andre Agassi, 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 7-6(5)

Four tiebreaks, and two legends battling it out. A carryover of the 90's, this was to usher in the new age of tennis.

3. 2005 Australian Open men's semifinals
Marat Safin def. Roger Federer, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 9-7

I remember being in a party in BKK, and skipping out to watch this. Further proof that Safin is next to Federer as best natural ball striker out there. During Federer's prime, where no one could come close to his dominance, only one man stood out to steal a hardcourt major from him, the mercurial Marat Safin.

4. 2005 Wimbledon women's final
Venus Williams def. Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 7-6(4), 9-7

Most heartbreaking match on the list. A spectacular 25-shot rally drained the life out of Lindsay costing her the match.

5. 2009 Wimbledon men's final
Roger Federer def. Andy Roddick, 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14

Almost, almost. By 12-all in the fifth, I was saying 'ridiculous, shades of Aussie 03 again, Andy?". Wimbledon, though not as fan-friendly, never fails to disappoint turning out with the best matches.

6. 2002 Australian Open women's final
Jennifer Capriati def. Martina Hingis, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2

The match that transformed me from casual viewer to all-out addict. This will be the last time Hingis will contest a Grand Slam championship. I miss you Martina!

7. 2004 French Open men's first round
Fabrice Santoro def. Arnaud Clement, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14

No, I didn't see this, though I probably did see clips of it, since it went on for more than 6 hours and over 2 days.

8. 2006 Rome Masters men's final
Rafael Nadal def. Roger Federer, 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5)

No, I don't remember this, but I know I saw it. I wonder why.

9. 2003 U.S. Open women's semifinals
Justine Henin-Hardenne def. Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4)

The match the gave Hawkeye the critical mass to be implemented. JHH was gone by the end of the match, but still able to recompose herself and win the whole thing.

10. 2005 Tennis Masters Cup final
David Nalbandian def. Roger Federer, 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3)

Ha, I was at this event! Yey. Though I did not see the final itself as I was in transit, at least I was able to attend most of the tennis.

See the match highlights compiled here.