“Speak” ‘Book 1’; Comfort in Isolation

An overarching theme in ‘Book 1’ of Louisa Hall’s “Speak”  is loneliness. The characters  that narrate the chapters in the first book have all expressed longing for someone or something, but are held back by their own complacency. When left to their own devices the character’s in this novel find solace in isolation.

Pilgrim Mary Bradford doesn’t like that her parents are forcing her to marry someone she doesn’t love so she withdraws herself from everyone else to be with her dog Ralph and her diary. Alan Turing doesn’t know how to get through to his friend Chris so he writes Chris’s mother very long confessional letter hoping she will fix it for him. Ruth Dettman lost her whole family in the holocaust so she withdraws herself from her husband and buries herself in her work.

The only character that seems to be consciously aware of his isolation is Stephen Chinn. He not only recognizes his loneliness, but uses it as fuel to further his experiments. “I had always been completely alone. And yet, even then, I could console myself with the fact that I was a programmer, and a brilliant one at that. Cold comfort, yes, but it was still comfort. My sadness metastasized into pride.” By the end of Book 1 he believes his shortcomings with women can be solved by inventing the seduction equation. In essence, he is burying himself deeper in his indulgences to stop being lonely.

Gaby signifies what happens when these vices are taken away. After her babybot is taken away she shuts down mentally and physically. She loses her sense of touch, and becomes more and more closed off until she stop leaving her bedroom.

 

A Look Back at Monte Carlo

470339074

There will come a time when things may not be going as you would hope them to be and the best way to fight through it is to make the most of the opportunities given to you.  And for a few players, that opportunity was known as The Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. While the usual Djoker found his way to the trophy at the end of the day, several players can take their inspired performances this week as platform to move forward through the clay court swing.

Eighth seeded Marin Cilic, made only his second tournament appearance of the season having been sidelined with a persistent shoulder injury. Winless since his title run in Moscow, Cilic fought hard to overcome Florian Mayer in three sets to win his first match of the season. He then went on to edge 11th seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets before being dismissed 0-6 3-6 to world number one Novak Djokovic. The Croat walks away having contested his first quarterfinal at a masters since March of 2013, and will look to build off that heading into Bucharest.

I think it can be argued that for the past few years nobody was really considering Gael Monfils as a top 10 contender. While he had a brief stint at number 7 in the world in 2011 he never had the consistency or the game that could keep him anywhere near the top 10. Remember were talking about the same man that nearly made two major semifinals last year. The 14th seed entered Monte Carlo asking if it was too late to still make a claim for it. After battling through his first two rounds, he edged world number 2 Roger Federer in straights followed by sweeping past 9th seeded Grigor Dimitrov to reach his first masters semifinal in almost 5 years. The Frenchman will look to carry his momentum joining Cilic in Bucharest next week where he enters as the number two seed.

As the French Open draws closer, Rafael Nadal will be put into question on why he is still a huge threat to win the slam where he has been virtually unbeatable at for the last 10 years. The Spaniard has been going through one of the roughest patches in his entire career where he has won virtually nothing of importance since his title run in Paris last year, but is that enough to give Nadal just his second loss at the French Open? Maybe, but his performance in Monte Carlo may be a good sign of what’s to come. The Spaniard toughed his way to the semifinals before falling to Djokovic 3-6 3-6. While walking home with the title is normally considered a good week, considering the circumstances he’s been going through, even Rafa is pleased with the turnout. “For me, is a very positive week. The most positive week of the season, without any doubt,” said Nadal. “I think, if I am able to keep doing that in the next tournament in Barcelona, and I have a tough draw, I will say that I am very well again.”  The Spaniard had notched his first top 10 win since May of last year with his win over Ferrer in the quarterfinals, and may potentially have a rematch his compatriot as they head into Barcelona this week.

Having had a start to the season similar to his dominant season in 2011, Novak Djokovic is relentless as he continues to chase more history.   With the title win, Djokovic has won his last 11 masters finals, became the first player to ever win the first three masters tournaments of the season, and drew level with Roger Federer on the all time leader list for most masters 1000 titles. After another dominant showing this week he now rides on a 17 match winning streak, but for the Serb wins won’t mean a thing until he is standing on the podium in Paris holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

“The fact that now I won (the first) three Masters 1000 in a row and nobody ever has done that, of course I’m aware of that. That has given me more motivation. I’m very proud of what I have achieved. It can only serve as an incentive, imperative for what’s coming up.”

A Tournament That can define America’s 2015 season

john isner and sam querrey(1)

American tennis hasn’t looked so hot in quite some time. And by American tennis I mean American Men’s tennis. And by American Men’s tennis I mean men’s singles. The declining trend over the last decade has gotten so bad that we don’t even expect to take home the biggest events anymore, and if we get one player who manages to make a deep run we can call it a success. So with that being said, what makes Miami of all places such an important tournament?

Well for starters, we have all up and coming players who in the first three months of the season have produced some of the best tennis in their growing careers. The results speak for themselves with five American players being in the top fifty.  Something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. Before you fall out of your chair after that revelation there’s a catch. 4 of the five are sitting at 42-45, and John Isner’s poor performances as of late have seen him fall out of the top 20.

Top American, John Isner comes into Miami seeded 22nd, and is in the best quarter of the draw where he can go deep. His bracket consists of a potential meeting with Grigor Dimitrov, who has failed to reach the Quarters of an event since early January. Milos Raonic could potentially be waiting for him in the 4th Round who Isner holds a 2-0 head to head lead. Should he win he would a Quaterfinal date with Kei Nishikori who he has never faced off against before.

World No. 42 Sam Querrey, could benefit the most from a good showing in Miami.  He comes in this week of a three match losing streak with his last win coming over Isner in Memphis.  He has a stern test in the opening round against Estrella who won his first career title in February. Should he win he’ll meet No. 17 Kevin Anderson whom Querrey actually beat in their last encounter.  Should he win that encounter he would next possibly be pitted up against No. 24 Leonardo Mayer.  Querrey doesn’t have an easy path ahead of him but by not being plagued by top seeds in his section he has a great opportunity to go far.

If your name is not Kevin Anderson or are a member of the top 10 then you haven’t gotten the better of Steve Johnson in the first three months of the season.  The American comes into Miami with a 12-7 record on the season. Johnson open up against Mikhail Kukushkin, with 12th seeded Simon waiting for him in the second round. Should he win that however he could potentially clash with Karlovic for the third time this year.

For all the struggles Donald Young has had in the past he is having the best start to the season he could ask for.  A 13-7 start to the season, and having reached his first final in almost four years this could very well be the breakthrough Young’s been waiting for. He opens his campaign against Yen-Hsun Lu, but should he win he would be pitted against world No. 4 Andy Murray.(believe it or not he actually does have a win over Murray!) Should he manage to get past Murray he’ poised to surpass his career high ranking he set in 2012

Update: Young def. Lu 5-1 ret.

Rounding out the pack, Jack Sock comes in this week in only his second tournament of the season. Last week, we won his first three matches after having lost the first set each time before falling to World No. 2 Roger Federer. His success translated into doubles where he and Pospisil won the tournament having upset the Bryan Bros. en route to the title. Sock has an interesting draw where he would have a rematch with 21 seed Fabio Fognini(whom he upset in Indian Wells) in the second round and could then go on to face No. 12 Lopez for a spot in the fourth round. Should he make the fourth round for the second week in a row he most likely set a clash with 7th seeded Stan Wawrinka.

Update: Sock def. Soeda 6-3 6-4

Year End No. 1 Scenarios

The debate has been heating up lately as to whether or not Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have enough time to catch Novak Djokovic in the race to finish year end no. 1 so I took the time to look at the remaining points that can be accumulated and broke it down into a big list of scenarios where players can still make some moves up the ladder.  But don’t let the tables and numbers scare you I broke everything down in the simplest of terms.

Current race to London Standings:

1. Novak Djokovic: 9010

leads Federer by 990 points

leads Nadal by 2165 points

2. Roger Federer: 8020

leads Nadal By 1275

3. Rafael Nadal: 6745

First we’ll look at the raw numbers from each tournament without combining anything.

Standings after Basel:

Player/Round Federer Nadal Djokovic
R32 (+0) 8020 6745 9010
R16 (+45) 8065 6790 9010
Q (+90) 8110 6835 9010
SF (+180) 8200 6925 9010
RUP (+300) 8320 7045 9010
W (+500) 8520 7245 9010

Standings after Paris(not counting Basel):

Player/Round Federer Nadal Djokovic
R64 (+10) Bye Bye Bye
R32 (+45) 8065 6790 9055
R16 (+90) 8110 6835 9100
QF (+180) 8200 6925 9190
SF (+360) 8320 7105 9370
RUP (+600) 8620 7345 9610
W (+1000) 9020 7745 10010

Standings after London(not counting previous tournaments):

Player/Round Federer Nadal Djokovic
Showing Up (+0) 8020 6745 9010
1 RR W (+200) 8220 6945 9210
2 RR W (+400) 8420 7145 9410
3 RR W (+600) 8620 7345 9610
SF  (varies)
RUP (+1000)(4-1)  9020 7745 1010
Undefeated (+1500) 9520 8245 10510

There is such a huge gap between nunbers one and two and two and three that it is highly improbable that one tournament will cause a shift among them.  So let’s look at what happens if each player goes on a run

Tournament Wins:

Player/Tournament Federer Nadal Djokovic
Nothing 8020 6745 9010
Wins Basel (+500) 8520 7245 9010
Wins Paris (+1000) 9020 7745 10010
Wins WTF (+1500) 9520 8245 10510
Basel & Paris (+1500) 9520 8245 10010
Basel & WTF (+2000) 10020 8745 10510
Paris and WTF (+2500) 10520 9245 11,510
Basel, Paris & WTF(+3000) 11,020 9745 11,510

Scenarios:

EDIT: Due to Nadal pulling out of Paris and World Tour Finals he is no longer in contention for Year end #1

Novak’s Chances:

868j

As the current World #1 he has the easiest job to maintain his ranking through the end of the year.  The worst case scenario would be if Federer managed to sweep the last 3 tournaments to end the season. There would be no way Djokovic could catch Roger with the lead he has right now.  The most he could add to his total would be 1,600.(Runner up at Paris and 4-1 at WTF). (10,610 vs. 11,020)  If Roger were to go on such a roll the most Djokovic would need to retain his ranking would be a RUP(4-1) at WTF and win paris. Roger would add 2,600 to his total and djokovic would add 2,000 and seeing as how Djokovic already has a 1,000 point lead it would be more than enough. (11,010 vs. 10,620)  This assumes outside opposition doesn’t impede their results.  If someone else takes Djokovic out early on it gets a little tricky.

Worst Case scenarios:

Djokovic loses early in Paris and Roger wins it and Basel the week before.  Djokovic would have to win WTF +Fed doesn’t make it to the final.  A runnerup by Fed there would have him beat out Djokovic by the narrowest margin of 10 points.

Djokovic finishes as a RUP at WTF and Paris.  Not so bad because Fed would have to win everything except Basel to pass him.

Djokovic loses in QF’s at Paris and 2 RR wins.(+760)  Fed could pass him with RUP’s at each tournament to pass(8,020 +300 + 600 + 1,000= 9,920(Fed) vs. 9,010 vs. 760 = 9,760)

0-3 at WTF Semis in Paris = 9.020 + 360= 9,360.  Fed would need to make a final at London or Paris and could pass him with Sf’s everywhere else alone. (8,020+ 180 + 360 + 1,000 = 9,560 or 180 + 600 + 600= 9,400)

Djokovic makes semis at Paris and WTF.(+1260 = 10,260) Fed would need to win Basel, Paris, and 2 RR’s to pass him.

These are pretty extreme examples and Novak’s chances only become problematic if Roger doesn’t stop winning.  Djokovic only needs 2 runner ups to ensure safety as long as they aren’t to Roger.

Rogers Chances:

xinsrc_4921106260935203910615

Had the Fifth set in the Wimbledon final gone a little differently this would be an entirely different conversation, but the past is the past and we’re only looking forward.  These next 3 tournaments leave 3,000 points up for grabs for the Swiss maestro and luckily for him Novak isn’t competing in Basel so he has time to cut the 1,000 point deficit between them to just under 500 points.  The one thing he cannot afford to do is suffer an early loss at Paris or London because he would be forfeiting up to 1,000+ rankings points that can end his bid to end #1.

Best Case Scenarios:

-Wins Basel, runnerup at Paris and London(4-1) to someone other than Djokovic. (8020+ 500 + 600 + 1000 =10,120)  The most points Djokovic would be able to garner would be 960(360 sf at Paris + 600 semi at london =9970)  This is the best scenario where Roger can end the year number 1 without winning the two bigger events.

-Wins Basel, Wins London, runnerup in Paris.(8,020 + 2,600 = 10,620)  If Djokovic wins Paris but fails to make the final of London Federer would pass him by a tiny margin of just 10 points.(9,010 + 1,000 + 600 = 10,610)

-Wins Basel, Wins Paris, SF at London. (8,020+ 2,100= 10,120) Similar scenario to the first but by losing in London Sf’s that leaves two open spots for Novak to be in the final there which is much more costly than the first scenario. Djokovic would only need to gather 1,120 points to pass him which becomes much easier if he were to only finish runnerup at either tournament(600-1,000 points at one tournament alone)

Things to keep in mind:

Although this weeks tournament in Basel offers the lowest payout in terms of points to the winner it may be the most crucial event of the year. Federer needs to cut down the current deficit between him and Djokovic before he can start making a press for Year end #1 and the best way to do that is this week where Novak can’t add any points to his total.  Davis Cup points have also been excluded from the list, because even though Fed can still add points to his total with victories for his country the rules are a little fuzzy because the Year end number one award has always been crowned at the conclusion of World Tour Finals and not Davis Cup.  But who knows, the race for number one has never before comedown to the final of Davis Cup and if that determines it the ITF will definitely announce their stance on the rule as it draws closer.

Who Cares About Doubles?

espn-broadcast

 

A few years back I manged to get tickets to see the 2010 US Open singles final and I was so excited to see Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal play at my first ever US Open that I decided to go to Ashe extra early.  That whole morning I was watching/listening to commentators giving previews and predictions of the final that I was surprised to hear another match going on when I was making my way in the arena.  I assumed that I must’ve got the times wrong so I rushed up only to be stopped on the second level by a US Open staff member that was directing spectators to lower level seats regardless of where their actual seat was.  When I asked him why we were granted such lower level seats he told us that it was to make the arena look packed while the Women’s doubles final was going on.  There was no mention by the commentators of a women’s doubles final going on, in fact I called up my younger brother to check and they weren’t even showing it on tv.

Nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find any significant coverage on World Tour doubles play outside of a semi or final and usually that’s only at a masters or major.  Every now and then they’ll show partial coverage of the Bryan Brothers early rounds or if a match is finishing up they’ll show it but usually that’s when one of the main coverage singles matches is on a changeover and they need to fill the air.   But sometimes they won’t even give doubles that.  A month ago during the Championships when the men’s doubles final was going on ESPN was playing a rerun of the men’s semifinals from the day before!  You’d think at least American networks would be showing it because 3 of the 4 competitors in the final were from the US.  We’re lucky to get that many people in the third round of the draw.

                    mcenroe

Is it time to just be rid of doubles completely?  John McEnroe made a statement months back saying that the game of tennis has evolved to the point where doubles should no longer be put in grand slam events and instead dedicate more time to singles play.  This is coming from a player who once dominated the game at both singles and doubles but claims doubles is for people who weren’t good enough to play singles.  This isn’t the first outlandish demand he called for.  This is the same man who at one point thought players should only have one serve, and we should be playing with wooden racquets again.

Something Johnny Mac can’t seem to comprehend is that the game is so much different now than when he played.  Back then, Serving and volleying was a huge part of singles play which made it much easier to transition to doubles.  Hence why the greatest serve and volleyer’s like him, Edberg, and Wilander were such accomplished players in both singles and doubles.  You don’t see that anymore.  Singles play has gotten more physical and players rarely come up to net.  Why?  Well for one, there is the revolution of racquet technology, but more importantly court surfaces across the spectrum have slowed down so much that it leaves little opportunity to come to net as freely. (But that’s a conversation for another time.)

There’s been an ongoing argument that doubles can’t be taken seriously because top ranked singles players don’t take part in it.  In turn this leads to a lower quality of play where has beens can make a career out of.  While the vailidity of that argument is up for debate doubles play in recent years has shown to be a platform for struggling singles players to reinvent their game.  Vasek Pospisil is a recent example of this; he was someone who went on an 8 match losing streak after coming back from a lower back injury.  He partners with Jack Sock at Wimbledon, goes on to win the title, and what do you know less than a month later he reaches his first tour level final at the Citi Open, taking out world #5 Tomas Berdych in straights, and coming from a set down to beat #13 Gasquet en route.  His Wimbledon partner Jack Sock has had a pretty consistent season he too has had some better results following his triumph at Wimbledon. went on to reach his first tour level semi-final, something he managed to do back to back weeks.

BryanBrosinAction

The more I’ve contemplated the validity of all these reasons for why doubles just isn’t as popular as singles I just can’t buy into them being good enough reasons for why doubles continues to get the cold shoulder.  Doubles isn’t interesting because it’s a lower quality of play than singles?  Sure, agree with that if you want but is the quality of play for NCAA football the same as the NFL?  Of course not, but people still love to watch it, and journalists continue to give it extensive coverage year after year.  People would take a bigger interest in doubles if more top ranked singles players took part in it competitively?  No doubt, but just think for a second what stands out with top ranked players.  Every generation of tennis is defined by it’s rivalries.  The 80’s had McEnroe-Conoors, The 90’s had Agassi-Sampras, and the 2000’s had Federer-Nadal.  In Rafa’s auto he mentioned that he may have stopped Federer from winning more titles in his career and vice versa, but in the end it was better because it helped the sport grow.  Why?  Because rivalries are so marketable.  The contrast between Federer and Nadal’s style of play made the matchups so compelling and commentators had a field day talking about it.  That for me is the #1 reason why I think Doubles hasn’t taken off.  Their’s no real rivalries, and no real personalities with doubles groups that has made it marketable for people to want to cover.  The Bryan Brother’s were successful and the fact that they were twins made it kind’ve interesting, but you can only milk that for so long.

Although the issue has become more prominent in recent years this isn’t a radical difference from the past. There’s never really been a time where doubles took the hot seat in professional tennis but it begs a bigger question: is the lack of attention given to doubles due to the fact that people don’t care enough about it or is the lack of coverage given make people find it less important?

What’s on the Line During the Clay Court Swing

Image

 

As we head into Monte-Carlo to kick off the 2014 clay court season quite a few players have building ground to shoot up in the rankings while others are in desperate need to pull off strong results or their rankings will take a tumble.  In the midst of all this, these next 6 weeks are crucial for the Djokovic-Nadal battle for Number 1.

 

David Ferrer

Current Ranking: 6

Total Points: 4640

What’s at stake: 1710 points (until end of Roland Garros)

After a relatively weak start to the year in comparison to what we’re used to seeing, David Ferrer has a lot to lose and very little to gain come the end of the French open.  Coming into Monte-Carlo, he has only won 1 title (Buenos Aires), and a quarterfinal showing at the Australian Open.  His ranking has fallen from #3 at the start of the year, to 6.  He has yet to score a top 10 win with his best victory coming over #14 Fognini.  Luckily for him, the people right below him have been struggling just the same, but having two quarterfinal appearances to defend at Rome and Paris, a Runner-up finish in Oeiras and biggest of all he has 1200 points hanging in the balance at the French Open a slip up at this stage could be devastating for his ranking.  Luckily for him, in what he has to lose he can also make up having 0 points to defend at Monte-Carlo and Barcelona.

Bottom Line: With clay being his best surface it’s unlikely we’ll see him falter early on in the masters events, but it would be a miracle for him to salvage even half of his points at the French Open given his age and form.  Pre-Wimbledon ranking: 8

 

Tomas Berdych

Current Ranking: 5

Total Points: 4720

What’s at stake: 865 points

Having significantly less points to defend than Ferrer, Berdych rests in a comfortable position with his points distributed pretty equally among the tournaments he has partaken in.  He’ll have to defend semifinal performances at Madrid and Rome, but luckily for him he has virtually nothing to defend at the French Open having been upset by Gael Monfils in the first round last year.

Bottom Line: He may have a few shifts at the masters depending on his results but he has a bit of ground to make up for at Monte-Carlo and especially the French Open.  Although, with a pretty sizeable gap between him and Roger Federer he’ll need at least a semifinal showing at the French if he’ll want to jump in the ranks.  Pre-Wimbledon Ranking: 5

 

Andy Murray

Image

Current Ranking: 8

Total Points: 4040

What’s at stake: 190 points

Coming in at a ranking we haven’t been used to in years, the defending Wimbledon champ has a lot of ground to build on here.  Having only a quarterfinal appearance to defend in Madrid,  Murray can make a huge jump in the rankings with consistent performances from event to event.

Bottom Line: With Del Potro MIA and an unintimidating Ferrer, Murray really doesn’t have to do all that much to get his ranking back to where he should be.  Factor that with his tendency to have relatively weak performances on clay his pre-Wimbledon ranking rests at 6.

 

Roger Federer:

Image

Current Ranking: 4

Total Points: 5335

What’s at stake: 1050 points

Coming in having rallied his Davis Cup team to a 3-2 victory over Kazakhstan, Roger Federer has had one of the strongest starts to the season on tour.  Playing in Monte-Carlo for the first first time in 3 years, Federer has a slight opportunity opportunity to make a push for top 3 ranking again.    Having points to defend primarily in Rome and the French Open, he has ample points to make up in the other two masters events, and being ranked 4 will give him a relatively untroubled route to the Roland Garros semis.

Bottom Line: Federer’s compatriot and world #3 Stan Wawrinka has a lot on the line coming into this stage of the year, and even the slightest drop in performance on his end will give Roger a nice opening to overtake him in the rankings.  That is of course, if Roger can stay healthy.  Pre-Wimbledon ranking: 3

 

 

The Race For Number 1

Image

 

Current Number 1:  Rafael Nadal

Race to London Number 1: Novak Djokovic

Last Meeting:  Miami final- Djokovic d. Nadal 6-3 6-3

 

Novak Djokovic

Current Ranking: 2

Total Points:  11,680

What’s at stake: 2,090

To say that Novak Djokovic has anything at stake here would be a huge overstatement.  Rafael Nadal has so many points to defend on clay that Novak Djokovic would really have to forget everything he’s built on these last two months to not take the number 1 ranking.  Currently on a 10 match winning streak having won back to back masters events in Miami and Indian Wells,  Djokovic is the number 1 year to date player ahead of Nadal by a mere 95 points.  Although he still trails Nadal in the overall rankings he has serious ground to make up in Rome and Madrid where has almost nothing to defend.

Bottom Line: As hot as Novak may be right now it’s always a tall order to take down the King of Clay on his own surface.  If he can go one step further than last year at the French Open or finally win it himself we will no doubt be looking at a new world number 1 come Wimbledon.  As good as that may sound for him, both players tend to throw statistics out the door when they come face to face.

Rafael Nadal

Current Ranking: 1

Total Points: 13,730

What’s at stake: 5100 points

Rafael Nadal comes into the clay season with odds stacked against him, but at this point that’s pretty routine to see.  As he has proved in the past, his pre-April results have no correlation with his outlook on clay or the rest of the year.  Last year he took the clay season by storm winning all but one match from April through the month of may with his only loss being the end of his 8 year reign at Monte-Carlo.  That being said, he has virtually no points to gain here (unless he wins Monte-Carlo) he can only work to defend what he already has and build further on his Race to London Points

Bottom Line: Since Nadal has no opportunity to extend his lead in the rankings, he’ll need to build on his London points and stop Djokovic at every corner to protect his ranking.  Even though Djokovic has quite a bit of points to gain during the next six weeks, he won’t overtake the number 1 ranking so long as Nadal can fend him off should they come face to face.