Roger and Ronnie

Everyone has heard of Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis player who has dominated tennis for the past 15 years.  He has won more Grand Slams (the four major tennis tournaments, Australia, France, Wimbledon and the US Open) than anyone else and at the age of 37, very advanced for a tennis player, he is still a force to be reckoned with. Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon titles, a joint-record six Australian Open titles, a record five consecutive US Open titles, and one French Open title.  Federer has reached a record 30 men’s singles Grand Slam finals, including 10 in a row from the 2005 Wimbledon to the 2007 US Open.

Not as many people have heard of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is Roger’s equivalent in the less popular sport of snooker.  Likewise, Ronnie has won more major tournaments than anyone else, and has dominated the sport for the past 20 or so years, and he is 43 years old.  Although this is old for a snooker player, nevertheless they last longer than tennis players, because they don’t need to be so athletic.  But, the best snooker players take exercise very seriously, because the matches can last for days with actual plying time of 5 or more hours, requiring great stamina.  Since turning professional in 1992, Ronnie has won five World Championships, a record seven Masters titles, and a record seven UK Championships, setting a record total of 19 titles in the top three tournaments.

I personally have greatly enjoyed watching R & R play their respective sports for many years, they are the Rolls Royce of sport.  One of the reasons I decided to write this paean to these superlative players is that surprisingly both of them were beaten within days of each other.  Roger was defeated today in the fourth round of the Australian Open, by the young (20) Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas.  And Ronnie was defeated 10-4 by Judd Trump (no relative) in the final of the London Master’s tournament yesterday.

These recent defeats by no means indicate that the careers of these two icons are over.  But, the win by Tsitsipas can be considered a move by one of the new young breed of players making their move to take over.  Judd Trump is himself considered to be a younger version of Ronnie, having won several tournaments and is a brilliant natural player.  Like Ronnie he spends less time between shots because he seems to instinctively know what ball to strike next.  Both, of them have colleagues who have challenged and beaten the two masters, in tennis there are Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (unfortunately Andy Murray must retire due to injury), and in snooker there are Mark Selby (currently no 1), John Higgins and Mark Williams.  Long may the two R’s continue to win and delight us.



Not Serene

Serena Williams lost it in the final of the women’s tournament at the US Open.  She went ballistic when the umpire docked her a point for “coaching.”  But, the problem was that the coaching was done by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, sitting in the stands, not by her.  This is a justified reason for a violation being adjudicated, and indeed not only did Patrick later admit to the coaching infringement, but it was captured on TV.  However, we do not know if Serena saw his hand motions urging her to go forward, and if she did not that might explain why she was so upset about losing a point.  But, she over-reacted, she went towards the umpire Carlos Ramos and screamed on live TV before millions of watchers that “I am not a cheat and I would rather lose than cheat.”  That may be so, but the umpire wasn’t accusing her of cheating, he was accusing her coach of coaching.

Soon after, Serena lost an advantage over her opponent Naomi Osaka of Japan, a 20 year old in her first Grand Slam final, while Serena has won 23 such finals before.  Instead of accepting this loss as usual, Serena smashed her racket to pieces.  This was certainly unprofessional conduct and she was docked a further point by the umpire for “racket abuse,” which is a definite violation of the code of conduct.  Once again Serena over-reacted, she unleashed a  torrent of abuse at the umpire, calling him a “thief” for taking her points and insisting that he owed her an apology.  By, the way, this was in the middle of the second set and let’s be clear Serena was already losing without these reductions to her score.  This diatribe went on for several minutes, during which she told the umpire to shut up and in some way threatened him.  As a result the umpire docked her a whole game for umpire abuse, which was totally justified in view of her appalling behaviour.

At this point she started crying and screaming and shouting almost incoherently, and she called for tournament officials to come and help her. Note that this is in fact the fourth time that Serena has acted in this way.  Two people came on court, a man and a woman, they remonstrated with her, they told her they could not change the judgements, which she accepted, and they tried to persuade her to stop her outburst and finish the match.  After some time she calmed down somewhat and did finish the match, which she lost 6-2 6-4.

What further aggravated the whole thing was that of course during the award ceremony she had to justify herself, she not only attacked the umpire, but framed the whole incident as a case of sexism, she asserted that a man would not have been treated in this way, and she asked for support for her “cause,” a typical case of “political correctness.”  Meanwhile poor Naomi Osaka was also crying, in effect Serena upstaged the winner and took all the attention onto herself and totally disrupted this important tennis match.

I have watched professional tennis for many years and this was the most disgraceful scene I have ever witnessed on a tennis court (including the outbursts of John McEnroe).  In my opinion, Serena was acting like a spoiled brat, thinking that by force of her personality and status she could overcome the umpire, and she took the attention of the public away from the match that she was losing onto her own personal histrionics.  Maybe she was overly emotional because she is a recent mother, but she has played in so many matches that she knows this kind of behavior is unacceptable.  I am glad the tennis authorities have fined her $17,000.  But, this is a trifle compared to the m$1.85 she won as the runner-up, and anyway she is a multi-millionaire.  Above all she did a great dis-service to the game of tennis and spoiled Naomi Osaka’s excellent win, and I hope she retires as soon as possible, if not immediately.

Ritualized murder

Don’t think of tennis as a game between gentlemen and ladies, but rather as ritualized murder.  The gladiators descend into the arena where they then have at each other with the weapon of choice, a racket, but with a  ball between them to keep them from murdering each other.

I just watched an incredible tennis match in the fourth round of the French Open at Rolland Garros between Kevin Anderson (South Africa) and Diego Schwartzman (Argentina and Jewish).  Kevin Anderson is 6 ft 6 in tall and Diego S. is 5 ft 7 in, the one towers over the other.  I watched the beginning of the match and Anderson was hitting many aces, as he always does, and he won the first two sets easily 6-1 and 6-2.  In the third set he was up 5-4 and had match points and it looked like it would soon be over and I went to lie down.

I got up an hour later to find that Schwartzman had fought back and won the third set 7-5 staving off two match points.  I watched it from then on and is was obvious that Anderson lacked the stamina of Schwartzman.  Anderson’s unforced error count went from 8-12-25-32 per set and S. won the fourth set by 7-6 in a tie break and the last 6-2.  It was amazing.  So Schwartzman is in the last eight, only the second time in his career.  As my Dad said a good little ‘un will beat a good big ‘un every time.

The following day I watched the epic struggle between Maria Sharapova (Rus) and Garbine Muguruza (Spain).  Both women are tall (6 ft 2 in and 6 ft respectively) and  impressive, Sharapova (aged 30) is blonde and Muguruza (aged 24) is raven haired.  Sharapova was ranked no.30, but that was because she missed a year recently due to her being banned for taking an illegal substance.  Muguruza was ranked no. 3 and on that basis one might expect her to win.  But, these women did not wear frilly pink shorts, they came dressed in dark blue and black respectively and their aim was to destroy the other.  During each point Sharapova’s shrill primal scream was off-putting to say the least. They fired cannons at each other at every opportunity, this was power tennis.  But Sharapova’s serve let her down, she made many double faults and unforced errors and Muguruza hit hard serves and made many winners.  In the end Muguruza won easily 6-2 6-1.  Although Sharapova won their previous three matches, the tables are now turned and Muguruza is a female player to watch.  Unfortunately she was then defeated by Simona Halep (Romania) in the semi-final 6-1 6-4.

Diego Schwartzman played Rafa Nadal in the quarter-final.  Since Nadal is ranked no. 1 and has won the French Open 10 times he was obviously the favorite.  But, Schwartzman took the first set off Nadal 6-4, the first person to win a set against him at Rolland Garros in 35 matches.  However, it was not enough, after the rain-break Nadal came out determined and won the next three sets.  And we haven’t even got to the finals yet.

Black Athletes Matter

Watching the London Games of the IAAF (Intl. Association of Athletics Federation) one could not escape the fact that Black runners of West African (Caribbean and US) origin dominate in sprints and East Africans (Kenyan and Ethiopian) in long distance running. It was astounding and far more than statistically significant when all 12 of the three winning relay teams showed up to collect their medals and they were all black.  This included the men and women’s 4×100 m and 4×400 m relays.  That’s a total of 48 athletes, although 4 of them were Japanese, 4 Polish  and one or two of the GBR team were white (or whitish).

There are two factors, 1. Black runners of West African origin are the fastest in the world and this includes especially Jamaica, although they were not as dominant at these games. This was partly because Usain Bolt in his last appearance had two unexpected losses, he came second in the 100 m race winning the silver medal and he fouled out of the 100 m relay because he sustained a muscle cramp and stopped half-way.  His retirement is timely.  This also happened to one of the Jamaican women in the 100 m relay.  2. In countries with mixed populations, such as the US and Britain, there is a statistically larger proportion of Blacks running than represented in the total population.  All the 4 US relay teams were all Black. This was also true of such countries as Netherlands, Canada (!) and Germany.  The long distance runner for GBR Mohamed Farah, also in his last appearance, won the 10,000 m but came second in the 5,000 m to the Kenyan Edris.

But, as opposed to this, consider the following.  In the 200 m women’s races there was only one white woman out of 10, Dafne Schippers and she won and she came third in the 100 m.  The USA dominated the medals table, taking 30 medals, way more than any other country.  But, which country came second?  Kenya, with 11 medals, because of all the medals they won in the long distance events.

Now some might conclude from the above that I am a racist.  But, I am not.  I am only repeating the actual results and observable facts.  Why are people afraid to talk about this?  Because it’s not politically correct.  But, if I say that the Blacks are superior athletes in many ways, that is based on actual results.  For a more detailed analysis see the book “Taboo:  why Black athletes are better and why we’re afraid to talk about it” by Jon Entine, that considers why Blacks dominate in American football and basketball.  Black athletes certainly matter!


History at the French Open

The 2017 French Open tennis Grand Slam tournament will go down in history.   But, the results on the women’s and men’s sides were totally and completely different.  They could not have been more different.  On the men’s side Rafa Nadal won the French Open for the 10th time!  Yes, this is a remarkable record, probably never to be repeated and seals his reputation as the greatest clay court player in history.   He demolished Stan Wawrinka in three sets, which surprised everyone who saw Stan’s defeat of Andy Murray, who was ranked no 1 in the world.  But, it does represent a continuation of the situation as before.  It’s true that Federer wasn’t there and Djokovic was knocked out earlier, but it was a great run for Nadal, who lost no sets in the whole tournament (7 matches).

But on the women’s side things were the opposite.  Not only weren’t some of the top players there, such as Serena Williams (who is pregnant) and Maria Sharapova, but the top players who were there were all knocked out early on.  An unseeded Latvian named Yelena Ostopenko (no. 49 in the world) took the tournament by storm, the first unseeded player to win at Roland Garros in 35 years.  Never having won any tournament before, she knocked off 4 seeded players to get into the final and there managed to come back from a set and 3-0 down against Simona Halep to win.  It was a great match to watch.  By comparison, although Nadal played his usual masterful self, the men’s final was tame by comparison.

But, the similarity in both finals was that the more aggressive player with the better forehand won.  Ostopenko hit the ball harder and faster than even Andy Murray, and although she had many unforced errors her number of winners was an astounding 55, compared to 10 for Halep.  So on both sides it was a historic tournament this year at the Paris Open, but for very different reasons.

A great match

Those who love sport love the competition and the uncertainty.  Who will win?  Who will come out on top?  There was a great, even a historic, match recently in the sport of snooker.  Those who don’t like sport or don’t like snooker really missed something.  The tournament was the Northern Ireland Open Snooker championship in Belfast.  As usual 32 players were in the first round and they were gradually whittled down in competition. Note that some of the greatest players in the world were there and were beaten.  In the end two known but not leading players came out on top, Mark King and Barry Hawkins.  Both have been professional players for 25 years, King has never won a tournament, although he was in 3 finals, while Hawkins has won three tournaments, all quite recently.  The odds against both of them winning were enormous, but they both played brilliantly and ended up in the final facing each other.

But, it wasn’t just that they were old players and unexpected finalists, the match itself was unique.  The final was the best of 17 games.  It went like this, Hawkins went ahead 5-1, then King won 6 in a row and made it 5-7, then Hawkins caught up to 7-8.  But, the 16th game was amazing.  Usually each game takes 15-20 mins, but this game took over an hour (not a record), and it was very unusual, I have never seen anything like it before. Hawkins went ahead 65 – 0 points, which generally is a winning score.  But, King would not give up, when Hawkins missed a ball instead of conceding he kept playing, when there were only 58 points left on the table.  The only way King could win was to get at least a 7 point foul from his opponent, which is an unheard of amount, since one foul (such as a miss) usually gets only 4 points and two fouls are very unlikely.

When it was down to 3 balls left (the white cue ball, the pink and the black), King, after trying for 15 mins, managed to get both the black and the pink balls close together in one corner and Hawkins made a mistake, he missed the pink and hit the black instead -precisely a 7 point foul.  Then King downed the last two color balls and tied 65 – 65.  In case of a tie, which is rare, the two players each play for a single black ball, and King missed his chance to down the black, which Hawkins then did , and so then they were tied exactly 8 games each, with one more game to go.  At this point they had been playing for nearly 6 hours altogether.

In the 17th game they both made mistakes, but Hawkins failed to make enough points and King won.  What an upset, his first win in 25 years.  In his statement after the win he admitted that he had had a gambling problem, but his wife had stuck by him and his old father had kept faith with him and he had stopped 4 years before and now goes to GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meetings and was now over it.  At the age of 43 he won $100,000, more than he has won in his whole career, and he is suddenly a celebrity.

Black athletes matter

To anyone with eyes that can see there is always one astonishing fact about the Olympics, that Black men are the fastest runners in the world.  All ten of the fastest men in the 100 m sprint in Rio were Black and so were most of the runners who won the other races (200 m, 400 m) etc.  Only the Japanese came second in the 4 x 100 relay, so it is not an exclusive club. Also the winning US women’s sprinters team are all Black and the US basketball team are all Black.

Now is this statement racist?  Of course not, it is stating a fact.  And it is certainly not negative about Black men, on the contrary, Usain Bolt of Jamaica is an incredible runner, having won three gold medals at three consecutive Olympics.  What an athlete!   As a scientist I must believe that there is a rational reason for this striking fact. All the fastest men in the world, from Jamaica, the USA and elsewhere originate in West Africa. Also, there have been a string of such Black atheletes from Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games, thru Carl Lewis and Tyson Gay.

Some years ago I came across a book entitled “Taboo: why Black athletes dominate sports and why we are afraid to talk about it” by Jon Entine.  This author did some research into the subject and found that Blacks who originate in West Africa not only have more developed leg muscles in general than European whites, they also have more mitochondia in their muscle cells than whites, making their cellular respiration more efficient and hence they are able to run faster. This is a rational explanation that satisfies me.

But, what about the fact that the dominant  long-distance runners, although almost all Black, do not come from the same countries as the Black sprinters, they come from East and North Africa.  Mostly Ethiopia and Kenya and some from Morocco and Somalia. An explanation for this dominance is possibly that they come from areas with few roads and schools and they literally have to run miles to school and back every day.  This builds up incredible stamina. This explanation for the long distance runners was used to explain the endurance of Jim Thorpe, a native American runner who won the decathlon at the 1912 Olympics.

Also, most of these athletes live in high altitudes with less oxygen and so at lower elevations their muscles work more efficiently.  So for example most of the long distance races at the Olympics were won by athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya.  For example, the British long-distance runner who won the 5,000 and 10,000 m races at the Olympics, Mo Farrah, originates from Somalia. But, it may not be a sufficiently good explanation since the native peoples who live in the heights of the Andes mountains in S. America are not known for their running ability.

The concomitant of this Black dominance of running is the White dominance in swimming.  Among the top 10 fastest swimmers at the Olympics in Rio there was not a single Black person. I remember that an American Football coach was fired once for making what was deemed a racist comment, that Blacks are not good swimmers because of some genertic factor.  I don’t know that that is, but it would seem that upper body musculature is what is need in swimming while lower body musculature is what is needed in running and maybe the races differ sufficiently in these areas to result in differential specialization.  At least the results seem to indicate this.