Mayweather vs Maidaina II Preview: Can Maidaina crack the “Mayvinci code?”

Photo Credit: faboplow31.tumblr.com

Photo Credit: faboplow31.tumblr.com

Floyd Mayweather simply doesn’t do rematches. He beats his opponents so easily, so comprehensively, there is no need for a second encounter. His fallen foes bow out quietly and become part of the statistic that defines Mayweather’s career. The most impressive unbeaten streak in boxing: The 37 year old American’s mark of 46 wins and 0 losses. This May however Marcos Maidana a rugged slugger from Argentina gave Mayweather all he could handle for 12 rounds, before losing by a majority decision.

Following his toughest test this decade, Boxing’s pound for pound number one felt inclined to give Maidaina a rematch. He said immediately after the bout “If the fans wanna see it again, we can do it again.” From that moment the gauntlet was thrown down. For only the second time in the American’s illustrious career he would sign on for a rematch. So here we are Mayweather-Maidaina II “Mayhem” in Las Vegas.

In the final press conference before his first tussle with Maidaina in May, Floyd Mayweather asked in the boisterous manner only he can: “Who can crack the Mayvinci code?” Who could blame him for his bravado? After all in, his 18 year career very rarely had anyone come close to his mastery in a boxing ring. Self-proclaimed “TBE” an abbreviation for The Best Ever, the 37 year old American expected his first fight with Maidaina to be another standard night at his second home, Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. He would walk into the ring and leave it unscathed with another victory, making a fool of his opponent in the process.

Marcos Maidaina had other plans that night. From the opening bell, he charged at Mayweather, throwing punches from all angles, swinging with reckless abandon and landing 221 blows; more than any other of Mayweather’s previous opponents. Following Maidaina’s wild start Mayweather began to weather the storm in the middle to late rounds. He used his superior boxing skills to make his opponent miss before snapping the Argentine’s head back with vicious counters and combination punching, piling up enough points on the judges’ scorecards to win the fight.

Mayweather walked away with the decision but the manner in which Maidaina was able to push Mayweather back onto the ropes and unleash his trademark barrage of wild, looping punches, suggests that at 37 years old the world’s greatest boxer has finally slowed down. After all a younger, fresher Mayweather would have manoeuvred around the ring and used his foot speed to bamboozle his younger foe.

No longer a rank outsider; Maidaina flanked by his trainer Robert Garcia, was quietly confident at this week’s pre-fight press conference. He stated “I am going to take out any doubts in my mind about the first fight. I’ve adjusted now and I think I’ll be ready.” The problem is the world and Mayweather now know what Maidaina is capable of. Floyd knows what to expect and will no doubt adapt to his opponents rough and aggressive style, a fact he alluded to stating “In the end it comes down to skills, smarts and adjustments.” Skills, smarts and adjustments, three things Mayweather has built his sizeable reputation on and the three things that should carry him past Maidana tomorrow night.

Prediction

Mayweather wins by a late knock out.

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At long last: Marin Cilic fulfils his potential to crush Nishikori in a one sided U.S. Open Final

Tonight it finally happened. It all clicked for Marin Cilic. An underachiever no longer, the gifted Croatian capped off a fortnight that saw him produce the best tennis of his career with one of the most dominant grand slam final displays in recent memory. Cilic demolished Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3,6-3, 6-3 in just under 2 hours.

Cilic champ

Cilic is quite simply a freak of nature. At 6ft 6 he glides around the court with the speed of a man 6 inches smaller whilst still packing a punch. He hits huge groundstrokes and boasts a serve that has developed into one of the most imposing weapons in tennis.  Despite having all the tools to succeed; the 25 year old was never quite able to pull it all together. That was until this year when he appointed a new coach: his boyhood idol, 2001 Wimbledon Champion Goran Ivanisevic. Cilic spoke highly of Ivanisevic after the match stating “We’re all working really hard but the most important thing he brought to me was enjoying tennis, and always having fun.” Cilic’s countryman has helped add more pace to his serve whilst also encouraging him to play the aggressive, daring tennis that carried him to the final in New York.

Cilic headed into the match in fine form. The fresher of the two competitors, he wiped out his quarter and semi-final opponents Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych in straight sets whilst Nishikori endured three consecutive wars against Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic. Fatigue and nerves proved a potent mixture as Nishikori started the match sluggishly. Cilic on the other hand was swinging freely, the lanky Croatian saved a break point in the first game with a monstrous running forehand winner cross court and never looked back. He vaulted into the lead, taking the first set 6-3.

Even at his best Nishikori would have been hard pressed to stop Cilic. He said after the match “he didn’t allow me to play my game.” The second set saw Cilic grow in confidence as he began to smother the baseline and dominate Nishikori. The Croatian served with Cyborg like precision whilst pummelling the Asian number one from the baseline, even ghosting forward on the odd occasion, winning 11 of 13 net points. The second set just like the first was taken 6-3 by the 14th seed.

Nishikori’s dream run to the final was fast becoming a nightmare; his battered body just couldn’t muster another superhuman effort despite the vocal crowd’s attempts to drag him back into the contest. Cilic was now a set away from history. Sensing that victory was within touching distance, the Croatian broke serve for a 4-1 lead. Nishikori, as game as ever, very nearly clawed his way back into the third set. He had three opportunities to break the Cilic serve whilst 2-4 down, but he wasn’t able to capitalise thanks to his opponents exceptional poise under pressure. Cilic’s response to the second break point- a booming ace, one of the 17 he hit in the match, underlined his dominance. The Croatian then found himself serving for the match at 5-3. On his first match point Cilic showed his first and only sign of jitters- he double faulted.  His second bite at the apple however, saw him fire his 36th and final winner of the match, a backhand cross court to seal the title making him the lowest ranked grand slam champion since Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open. Cilic told post match interviewer Mary Carillo “everything I was working for and dreaming (of) came today.” Cilic was forced to miss last year’s U.S Open, serving an extortionately harsh drugs ban for accidently ingesting a stimulant. A year after being labelled a disgrace, Cilic can be rightly called a champion. Waiting in the shadows, plotting his comeback, Cilic envisioned this moment. The day he finally realised his limitless potential.

The suffering is over: Serena Williams secures U.S. Open title to brighten up a gloomy 2014

Serena us openSerena Williams defeated her close friend Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 this evening to win the U.S. Open title in New York. Her 6th win at the event and 18th grand slam title overall.

Seeing Wozniacki’s final backhand sail long was a massive relief for Williams, who has endured a lacklustre season by her otherworldly standards. Overcome with emotion, she fell flat on her back and soaked up the applause on Arthur Ashe stadium, before arising with tears in her eyes. Her celebration told the story of a difficult year rather than a difficult match.

Following a dominant 2013, in which the younger Williams sister compiled a 78-4 win loss record, 2014 has seen Serena crash to earth spectacularly. Heading into the U.S Open Championships at Flushing Meadow she had failed to make it past the fourth round of a grand slam all season. Frustrated by her year of failure, Williams has played this tournament with frightening intensity, swatting all her opponents aside without dropping a set on her way to the final.

Although Wozniacki and Serena are close friends off the court, Williams had no time for girly giggles and gossip tonight. This was her chance to set the record straight and prove she is still the undisputed queen of women’s tennis. Following a nervy few opening games which included 4 consecutive breaks of serve, Serena edged into the lead. She then began to impose her will on Wozniacki pushing her behind the baseline and sending her scrambling across the court. The match was always going to be about Serena’s temperament and mood. If she played poorly Wozniacki could perhaps grind her down, if she played anything close to her best, she would beat her opponent into submission.  It quickly became obvious this was more of a beating than a contest. Serena closed out the first set 6-3, whacking 15 winners in the process.

The second set saw more of the same; Serena stormed into the lead, securing a break of serve in the first game. Wozniacki playing in her second grand slam final (she lost at the same venue against Kim Clijsters in 2010) saved herself from a 3-0 deficit by evading two more break points in the 3rd game of the set, but this was only a temporary moment of respite. Her defensive, dogged style of play was no match for Williams’ trademark power tennis. Training for the New York marathon later this year undoubtedly helped the Dane on her way to the final, Wozniacki ran and ran in her fourth round upset of Maria Sharapova; but she couldn’t do the same tonight. Serena just didn’t give her the chance. Reaching 30-30 on the Williams serve whilst 3-4 down was the closest Wozniacki came to levelling the score in the second set. Serena averted the danger the only way she knows how to; with brute force. She slammed down a huge unreturnable serve to win one point, and followed it up with howitzer forehand to win the next point and take a 5-3 lead.

Serving to stay in the match the younger women finally coaxed Williams into one of her favoured back court exchanges, a dizzying 26 stroke rally that ended with a surprising backhand error by the 10TH seeded Dane. Serena was not going to wilt, she wanted this title, she needed this title and two points later she had it. Wozniacki missed a backhand on match point to give Williams the victory, her 18th grand slam title, tying her with tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert for fourth on the all-time winners list. After the match an emotional Williams said “It was a really wonderful feeling. I couldn’t have finished things in a better way. It is a pleasure for me to win here”.

On the same court she claimed her first slam title at the age of 17, Williams’ return home inspired her to produce the tennis that has made her one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. This may have been Williams’ sixth title in New York, but judging by her reaction none have been any sweeter.

Kei the Conqueror

Up until yesterday, no male from the continent of Asia had ever reached a grand slam final. That all changed when 24 year
old Kei Nishikori upset world number one Novak Djokovic in four sets to cap off one of the most astonishing underdog runs in recent memory.

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Every sporting underdog has a classic underdog narrative, Nishikori is no different. A young prodigy from Japan, Kei arrived in America at the age of 14, shy, retiring and unable to speak English.

He may have been quiet off the court but his talent on it spoke volumes. Living and training at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida, the tennis star making factory that has aided the development of ten world number ones, Nishikori honed his skills and embarked on the now infamous assignment dubbed “Project 45”. Japan’s greatest ever male tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka had reached a career best ranking of 46th, Nishikori was charged with the task of surpassing Matsuoka’s ranking and firmly entrenching himself in the world’s top 50. Many thought that if he continued to work hard and make progress, maybe just maybe, the young Japanese star would move into the world’s top 30, the top 20 at a stretch but no further, a tour stalwart perhaps but not a world beater.

One of the few who envisioned Nishikori’s rise to the upper reaches of the sport was 13 time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal. After being pushed close by a then 18 year old Nishikori at Queens Club in 2008 he remarked “He is very, very good. He is going to be top 10 for sure, top five”

Nadal’s prophetic words would follow Nishikori around the globe as he marched up the world rankings. He eclipsed the number 45 ranking in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. Up until this point 2014 has been a banner year for Nishikori. He went on a tear this spring, winning 14 matches in a row en route to clinching ATP Tour titles in Memphis and Barcelona. Nishikori even had Nadal reeling on his beloved clay in the final at Madrid, leading by a set before suffering a back injury that that eventually forced him to retire.

Off the back of his superb form, the 24 year old entered the World’s top 10 for the first time this May. An achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact Nishikori’s initial target was to break the top 50. The Japenese Number one has proven to be a master at exceeding expectations, but no one would have predicted his spirited run to the final of The U.S Open this week.  Until a few days before the tournament Nishikori was unsure he would play the final grand slam of the year after having a cyst removed from his right foot. Not only has Nishikori played the US Open, he has dragged his 5 ft 11, 150 lb frame to the championship match. Consecutive upsets over top 10 players Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and now Djokovic have seen him prove his mettle and do what he does best; defy the odds.

In tomorrow evening’s final, Nishikori will face a man who is quite literally the final hurdle; 6 ft 6 Croatian Marin Cilic. The 14th seed upended Roger Federer in a second semi-final upset. Grand slam champions from Croatia? We’ve had those, but never have we seen a man from Japan or Asia for that matter lift one of tennis’ four most prestigious titles. From project 45 to Project Grand slam? The stage is set for Kei to conquer once again.