A preview of the stellar spring sports landscape coming up, Mexico Championship pick

Golf season is in full bore mode now, with several 20 somethings dominating the circuit, but with some younger vets like Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler winning the past two weeks, D.J. at Riviera and Rickie at the Honda in Miami this past weekend. This week the tour alights in Mexico City for the WGC-Mexico Championship. This is a big time tournament usually played at Trump National Doral, but with POTUS's comments last year on the Wall, the Tour didn't take that very well, and moved the site. Kind of a shame that the players can't compete at the Blue Monster and that epic 18th hole, but maybe it'll come back and Club de Golf Chapultepec looks like an interesting, scenic venue with 50 of the top players in the world. I will have my prediction at the bottom of this column.

The Arnie is coming up, and the majestic 81st Masters is just over a month away. The Players will be in May at TPC Sawgrass, the 117th playing of the U.S. Open in June will take place at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, about 35 miles outside of Milwaukee. Erin Hills has never hosted a major, but has hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur, won by Kelly Kraft, who is making a move on the tour now. The 146th Open Championship in July will be played at Royal Birkdale in England, which has hosted the Open 10 times, the last won in 2008 won by Padraig Harrington. The 98th PGA Championship will be played at famed Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C. which has never hosted a major, but is a classic venue and has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship, a regular event on the tour, for many years.

Will Jordan Spieth recapture the magic like he looks like he very well could? Will D.J, win a second major? With his length, Augusta National looks possible. Will Jason Day get his momentum back from two years ago? He certainly has that eliteness about him that allows him to win at any of  the four majors. How will Rory come back from his rib injury?  If he can, he wants the Masters to complete the career grand slam and win his 5th major title at 27 years old. Then there are guys like Rickie, Sneds, and others trying to capture their first major. Two guys you might call, as John Feinstein labeled those kind of players in his book, The Majors, "Best Players not to have won a major." Henrik, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, the list goes on, all of them have captured a major title with Rose winning the U.S. Open in 2013 and Henrik and Walker both winning majors last year, Henrik at the Open Championship and Walker at the PGA. And, of course, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama are banging on the door to win not just one major, but multiple majors. Both are chomping at the bit to don the Green Jacket in Butler's Cabin on Sunday, April 9th.

So a lot of extraordinary storylines heading into the heart of the season. Will have major coverage the rest of what looks like an electric season.

March Madness

The great Frank Mason III and Kansas look formidable

The great Frank Mason III and Kansas look formidable

Can Cal and the Cats have some magic in March and capture their second national championship since 2012 and their 9th overall

Can Cal and the Cats have some magic in March and capture their second national championship since 2012 and their 9th overall

This is such a sensational time of year in sports, and college basketball is at its best right now with the historically good NCAA tournament coming up. It's a pretty top heavy field this year with quite a few exceptional teams having a shot of cutting down the nets in Phoenix on Monday, April 3rd.

The four teams that really stick out to me right now are North Carolina, with their tremendous length under the basket, their ability to rebound, and their always prolific offensive ability. If they can defend well, they could very well be cutting down the nylon. Kansas is a superb team, led by All American guards Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham and superstar freshman small forward Josh Jackson.  Villanova is superb again and going for back to back national titles, which would be the first time since Florida accomplished that under Billy Donovan in '06-'07. And I'm starting to get bullish on Kentucky. They're putting it together and with all that Parade All American talent, they're in the mix every year. They are peaking well.

But there are other teams that have a good shot at the national title and certainly the Final Four. Duke, Louisville, Baylor are all outstanding, UCLA and Oregon have super teams, Zona is very good. I'm not as big on the Big Ten teams this season. Virginia lost a lot off last year's team, but the way the play defense gives them a chance to make a run. I like Syracuse a lot, too, and Va Tech has a good squad that could knock some people off. Wisconsin and Purdue look like the best teams in the Big Ten, but not good enough to make the Final Four. Michigan State will be competitive, but they've been really hampered by injuries, so this is not their year. Wichita State has another really good team under Greg Marshall that can go some distance. 

For SEC Cinderellas, I like Florida to do really well with a shot to make it to the Final Four. They're excellent. I see South Carolina making some noise and being a second weekend team. Arkansas is up and down, but pretty darn good when they're up. Vanderbilt is in right now, according to Joe Lunardi, ESPN bracketologist, but they've got work to do. They have a huge game at home against Florida on Saturday, which they have to have, and then they'll need to win at least 2 games in the SEC tournament to get invited to the Big Dance. They have the No.1 non-conference strength of schedule and No.2 strength of schedule overall with victories on the road over Florida and Arkansas, and South Carolina at home, so it's a pretty good resume. But the Dores have work to do. 

For real Cinderellas, Middle Tennessee State has a really good team as does Monmouth

Will have my bracket out the Monday after Selection Sunday, which is March 12th. 


Can Kawhi Leonard (above) dethrone LeBron, and outlast Steph and KD in the postseason

Can Kawhi Leonard (above) dethrone LeBron, and outlast Steph and KD in the postseason

I watched a superb game last night in the National Basketball Association as the Celtics defeated the Cavs, 103-99, at the "Gaaden," in Boston. I saw one of the best defensive players I've seen in a long time in Avery Bradley. Bradley was like stickem on Kyrie Irving, one of the most prolific offensive players in the NBA along with Steph, Bron, KD and Russ Westbrook. They used to call Gary Payton, who played many years for the Seattle Supersonics in the 80's and 90's, "the Glove" because his defense was as tight as a glove on an offensive player. He was a terrific defender. That's what Bradley looks like. And a really interesting part of the game happened with 1:08 left, when Bradley drained a trifecta, and the camera went into the crowd to show Bill Belichick, a huge Celtics fan. While the rest of the Boston faithful were going berserk, Bill immediately looked up at the clock in a calm, cool fashion like all the great ones do. His coaching job in the Super Bowl with his Patriots down by 28 in the third quarter was nothing short of sensational. He's a cool customer and knew there was a lot of game left. He wasn't satisfied until the clock struck :00. Isaiah Thomas, no relation to the great one, but certainly becoming a great one, canned a 30 foot triple with 49 ticks left and the Celtics sank some free throws and held off Bron and Kyrie to capture an electric victory. The Cavs got a good look with :05 left as LeBron found an open Deron Williams in the corner, with the Cavs down 101-99, for what could have been the game winning triple. But Williams missed, the Celtics got the board, and held on with free throws. 

In my preseason predictions, I predicted the San Antonio Spurs to capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy winning in 7 over the Cavs. Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs was my MVP pick. The Dubs are still awesome with Steph, KD and Klay Thompson, and, at 50-10, look extremely formidable. But KD is out for four weeks with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise in his left leg, but will be back a week or two before the playoffs start on April 15th, a Saturday. The Spurs are 46-13 and 3.5 games back of the Dubs in the west. The Cavs are 41-18 and have a 3 game lead over the Celtics, which are at 39-22. Still bullish on my Spurs over Cavs pick though it's tough to go against the Warriors with that eliteness they have talent-wise, and the Celtics have really come on. But going to stick with my prediction in October barring major injuries. Will have my updated predictions for the NBA playoffs that Saturday, 4-15. Kawhi hit a huge 12 footer last night with 2 seconds left to lift the Spurs to a 100-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Kawhi is averaging 26 points and 6 boards and is a prolific defender, much like Bradley. Should be terrific in April with the playoffs starting. Like that Big four to be in their respective conference finals.

In the NHL, I like the Chicago Blackhawks. They are a machine and have won the Stanley Cup most recently in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and have won 7 overall. Patrick Kane pulled off a hat trick last night in the 'Hawks 4-1 victory over defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh. Really like the way they're playing and have them in the west. I'm a little more uncertain about the east. The Washington Capitals have the best record in hockey at 42-13, and the most points with 91, but Washington was superb in the regular season last year and melted down in the playoffs. So while I like the Blackhawks over the Minnesota Wild in the west, I see the east as more of a toss up. Still believe in Sydney Crosby and the defending champion Pens, but the Caps, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have really good teams. The Montreal Canadians are good this season, too. Not counting out the Tampa Bay Lightning in the east either. They were in the finals two years ago and are starting to play well again. Anaheim is a challenger in the west. Will have NHL playoff predictions on Wednesday, April 12th, the day the playoffs commence.

MLB is in full stride in spring training. I like the Cubs again to do very well, but to be really challenged by the Dodgers. In the AL, I like the Indians and the Bosox with the Rangers and the Astros as key competitors. Also still like the Giants and Nationals in the NL. Will have those predictions on Saturday, April 1st.

In professional tennis, Roger and Serena were epic at the Australian Open. It was a masterpiece performance for both all time great superstars. Serena won her 23rd slam and moved ahead of Steffi Graf for most majors in a career in the Open Era, which started in 1968 when professionals were allowed to compete with amateurs in the slams. Margaret Court holds the overall record with 24, so Serena still has something to gun for. There are some good competitors challenging Serena in Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Carolina Wozniacki looks back. Garbine Muguruza won the French last year defeating Serena in a dominating performance. American Coco Vandeweghe is really coming on, and, of course, Venus, is still playing at a high level with her 7 slams under her belt.

It was pretty remarkable seeing Roger face Rafa again in a major final. Roger played like 39 year old Tom Brady does, who has a patent on the Fountain of Youth. Brady plays like a 25 year old and says he feels even better now than he did then, and that's what the 35 year old Fed did in beating Rafa in an epic 5 setter, winning the 5th, 6-3, in an unstoppable performance. Roger now has 18 slams. Rafa is tied with Pete Sampras for second at 14, and Joker is tied with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver at 12. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out this summer, whether Joker or Rafa can stay on Roger's heels,  or if Roger can extend his all time lead. Next up is the French, May 29th-June 11th, where Rafa has won 9 times, the last one coming in 2014, so he would presumably be the favorite. Wimbledon is July 3rd-16th, where Roger has won 7 times, with the last coming in 2012. It's his favorite, so that should be compelling as always. Roger's won 5 times at the U.S. Open which commences August 28th with the finals on September 10th. Novak was a 6 time winner at the Australian, but fell early. He seems to be struggling right now. Andy Murray is always a factor, and he'll be in the mix big time this summer. There are other guys like Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, American Jack Sock, Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem who will be major factors at Paris, London and the Big Apple. So a lot of riveting tennis coming up.

Horse Racing

It was phenomenal when American Pharoah won the triple crown two years ago, in 2015. That hadn't been done since 1978 when Affirmed followed Seattle Slew, which won it in 1977. It had been 37 years since a three year old thoroughbred had won the Triple Crown. Of course, the greatest of all time, Secretariat, did it in 1973, and set the standard as the greatest horse ever. That still stands today.

The 143rd Kentucky Derby in May, the 141st Preakness in late May, and the 149th Belmont Stakes in June are always historically electric events. Will have more on the key horses once we get closer to post time for the Derby.  

Prediction this week

The WGC-Mexico Championship

Club de Golf Chapultepec, 7,330 yards, par 71. Just outside Mexico City

TV: Today-Friday: Golf Channel, 1-6 PM CT/2-7 PM ET;

Saturday: Golf 11 AM-2 PM CT/Noon-3 PM ET. NBC, 2-5 PM CT/3-6 PM ET.

Sunday: GC, 11 AM-1 PM CT/12-2 PM ET. NBC: 1-5 PM CT/2-6 PM ET.


I'm going with the 37 year old from Borriol, Castellon, Spain to capture his 10th PGA title, and get closer and closer to a major. He's another guy in the mix this year. He's newly engaged and seems to have settled down pretty well. Going with El Nino.

Sergio Garcia




A highly compelling 2016 Wimbledon; preview-prediction

The 130th Championships at Wimbledon start tomorrow at the All England Club. ESPN and ESPN2 will be televising. The women's final will be Saturday, July 9th @ 9 AM ET/8 AM CT on ESPN, and the men's final will be Sunday, July 10th @ 8 AM CT/ 9 AM ET on ESPN.

Some very interesting story lines going on at the All England Club. Can Serena win Slam No.22 and tie Steffi Graf's all time mark for the Open Era in slams? Margaret Court owns the most slams with 25, but that was when just amateurs were playing, so Steffi's mark is more meaningful. But Serena has struggled getting to No.22. After beating Spaniard Garbine Muguruza last year at Wimbledon to get to Slam 21, she has struggled to reach what looked like was an inevitable 22nd slam and even a 23rd by now. She lost to Italian Roberta Vinci in the semis of the U.S. Open last September, then lost in the finals of the Australian Open to German Angelique Kerber in January. At the French Open in May, she lost to Muguruza in straight sets. So, at 34 years old, that all time mark is getting seemingly tougher to come by than expected for the American.

I like Serena to get to the final again this year. Will the six time champion at Wimbledon , who's won on the grass in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015, capture another All England title? She gets to the finals again, but Muguruza, the 22 year old who is super talented and has figured out how to play Serena now and beat her, gets it done once again and denies Serena's attempt to tie Steffi's record once again.

Mugu over Serena 6-4, 4-6, 8-6

Like Mugu to get it done for the second slam in a row over Serena

Like Mugu to get it done for the second slam in a row over Serena

Darkhorse for the women: Madison Keys


Noval Djokovic has been dominating the men's tennis scene for a while now and he is a pretty heavy favorite to win his 13th overall Slam and his fifth consecutive slam along with keeping his shot at winning the calendar year Grand Slam with a Wimbledon title, which would be his third slam this year and would need only to win at the U.S. Open to get the coveted accomplishment. that has only been done by "the Rocket" Rod Laver, who completed the grand slam in  both 1962 and 1969, the only men's player to do it in the Open Era. The Open Era started in 1968. Don Budge also completed the grand slam in 1938. Novak is fast approaching Roger Federer's 17 grand slam titles, and, at 29,  is looking like he's got a pretty good shot to reach Fed and surpass him. But the competition is still tough. Roger still hanging tough at 34 years old, and there is 25 year old Canadian Milos Raonic, who is fast approaching the big four. Rafa is really struggling with injuries and not playing. Another darkhorse to look for is 22 year old Dominic Thiem from Austria, who has won four times this year. 

Andy Murray has been playing exceptional tennis and won on grass at the Queen's Club two weeks ago  to capture that title. 

I like Djoker and Murray in the final just like the French, but this time I like Andy to prevail.

Murray over Djoker 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 10-8. 

Should be an epic. Enjoy the fortnight. 

Andy denies Djoker a shot at the calendar year Grand Slam

Andy denies Djoker a shot at the calendar year Grand Slam

Wimbledon 2015

Here are my predictions for the 129th playing of the Wimbledon Championships at the All-England Club, which begin tomorrow and last a "fortnight" (called two weeks in the U.S.).

Women's singles:

I don't want to do this , but I have to go with Serena. Serena is closing in on Steffi Graf's record 22 Grand Slam titles–Serena's at 20– and I don't see any of the other women stopping her. Serena, to me, is a head case, but so are the rest of this group of women these days. There are injuries or general complaints reverberating throughout the women's game. Serena may feel some pressure with another "Serena Slam" possible if she wins at Wimbledon. With a win at Wimbledon, she would have won the 2014 U.S. Open, the 2015 Australian and the 2015 French Open. This is just like the Tiger Woods' entitlement slam that he got from 2000-2001. Just create a slam for Tiger and Serena even if they haven't  done it in a calendar year, which is what is authentic. Serena accomplished the first "Serena Slam," in 2002-03, by winning the '02 French title, the '02 Wimbledon title, the '02 U.S. Open title and the '03 Australian Open title. Tiger accomplished his self and media anointed "Tiger Slam" in 2000-01 by winning the 2000 U.S. Open, the 2000 Open Championship, the 2000 PGA and the 2001 Masters. I still don't buy it like a real calendar year Grand Slam. Only three other players have been able to win all four majors. Some woman named Brinker in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970, and Steffi Graf in 1988.

But regardless, I like Serena to beat lefty and No.2 seed Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic (I'll have to get my fact checker out at some point but wasn't Czechoslovakia part of  the movie "Stripes" fame?  The U.S. troops got lost in Czech country and taken hostage by enemy troops because  some ignorant lieutenant wanted to make a name for himself. This was the early 1980's and this was communist country. Murray saved them with the "Urban Assault Vehicle," a Winnebago with guns on it.

So Serena over Petra in an all diva final. Serena captures Slam 21 and will be aiming to tie Steffi at 22 at the U.S. Open in late August. Does she cave to the mounting pressure? I don't think so. The competition is not good enough to overcome her. Serena's a head case, but so is the rest of the field, and she's by far the best player.

Women's winner:

Serena over Kvitova in three sets


Men's singles

On the men's side I like Scotland's  Andy Murray to capture the Wimbledon title over Djoker. There is a story circulating that Novak Djokovic would look to coach Boris Becker on  whether to make calls good or out. Could be pretty questionable and there should be a lot of questions for Djoker by the British press about this in the coming days. I really like Murray here. He won a week ago at the Aegon Championships on the grass of the Queens Club. Should be a stellar final. I like Murray in five sets. Both are in superior condition, but Murray's momentum will be the key. Djoker is probably still trying to get over his loss in the French Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

Men's Winner

Murray over Djoker in five


Serena (above) and Andy Murray (below) are my winners at the 129th playing of the Wimbledon Championships

Andy murray

Picks for French Open

Starts tomorrow at Roland Garros in Paris:


Novak Djokovic (Djoker) over Roger Federer in the final in four sets.


Note: Actually it's Djoker over Federer instead of my previous pick of Murray because Djoker and Murray would meet in the semis. 


Serena over Sharapova in straight sets.

Going with Djoker and Serena in the French



Packers @Seahawks open NFL season, NFC, AFC Champion picks, Super Bowl pick, Fed Ex playoffs, U.S. Open picks







Green Bay @ Seattle

CenturyLink Field (67,00o)

8:30 PM ET/7:30 CT


Broadcasters: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

Line: Seattle by 6

Green Bay has a really good team led by the excellent Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Their defense is better this year and ARodg has playmakers around him in running back Eddie Lacy and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and the electric  Randall Cobb. But I still don't think they have enough to overtake the Super Bowl champs. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman and that defense will be too much for the Packers to overcome, even though I like the Packers as the NFC Central winner with a chance at a possible deep run in the playoffs. But I don't see them getting it done here with the 12th man crowd going wild and taking their talented team to another run at a Super Bowl. Wilson and Sherman did a lot of commercial endorsements in the offseason, so I wonder about their focus this year. But they have enough tonight to overcome a very good football team at CenturyLink.

Seahawks 31, Packers 28


NFC Championship game and pick

To me it's all about the home field advantage for the NFC team that advances to Super Bowl XLIX (49), and the two best home fields in the National Football League are Seattle and New Orleans. I really like this Seattle team again. They've worked harder than ever in the offseason to repeat as Super Bowl champions. But  this Saints' team has shored up their defense. They were fourth in the league in total defense last year under then first year coordinator Rob Ryan. They're back and I see them, with Drew Brees of course, taking the home field this year with the best regular season record in the NFL. And with home field advantage, I like the Saints to make it to Glendale, Arizona on February 1, 2015.

Saints 35, Seahawks 31


AFC Championship game and pick

Peyton can really get it done in the regular season. He broke the all time record for touchdown passes last season with 55. He's got some good targets in Demaryius Thomas and particularly Julius Thomas. Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violation of the drug policy. He took something called Molly at the Kentucky Derby. It's supposed to be some sort of amphetamine. Really stupid for an NFL player to do that. He's got a career and a family. He needs to grow up. So he's not a factor for the Broncos. The Broncos' defense has been improved with the addition of defensive end DeMarcus Ware from Dallas  and cornerback AqibTalib from New England. And Von Miller is back from injury that kept him out of the last 8 games of the season. So the Broncos are better on defense. But I like the Patriots a little better. They've added Darrelle Revis at cornerback, and he's out to prove to Richard Sherman and others that he's still the best cornerback in the NFL. Don't trust the Patriots defense totally, but I trust Brady totally. The offense will get it done. Going with Brady and Belichick to get the Patriots to another Super Bowl, which would be their sixth this century. They won it all in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and lost in 2007 and 2011 to the Giants.

New England 37, Denver 30

Super Bowl XLIX

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Sunday, February 1, 2015

This could be an epic shootout between Brees and Brady. I like Breesy, Sean Payton  and the Saints to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for  the second time in five years (also won it in 2009).

Saints 34, Patriots 30

Fed Ex Playoffs

BMW Championship

Cherry Hills, Colorado

Cherry Hills Country Club (7,466 yards, par 71)


BMW defending champion: Zach Johnson @ Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Fed Ex Cup Points: 2,500

Top five in Fed Ex Standings; 1. Chris Kirk, 4,154 points 2. Rory, 3,335, 3. Hunter Mahan, 311 4. 4. Jimmy Walker, 2,823 points 5. Matt Kuchar, 2,618

Weather: Kind of questionable with 40-50% chances of rain each day

TV: Thursday-Friday: Golf Channel, 4-8 PM ET/3-7 PM CT; Saturday, Golf 1-3 PM ET/12-2 PM CT, NBC, 3-6 PM ET/2-5 PM CT; Sunday: Golf, 12-2 PM ET/11 AM-1 PM CT; NBC, 2-6 PM ET/1-5 PM CT.

Key holes:

No. 1

389 yards, Par 4

This hole is one of the most famous starting holes in all of golf. It is where Arnie drove the green in the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open from 319 yards and made four straight birdies to come from seven strokes behind and win his only U.S. Open. The hole is a slight dogleg left with accuracy off the tee at a premium. The green is guarded by bunkers on the left side and is small in size with a lot of movement in all directions when you putt.


544 yards, par 5

This is the hole where Ben Hogan lost the 1960 U.S. Open by hitting his third shot in the water on the par-5. The hole has two sets of bunkers going across the fairway, and an accurate tee shot is a must to allow players to either go for the island green in two or lay up short of the water. The green doesn't look challenging but is very tough to read.


487 yards, Par 4

One of the most difficult finishing holes in all of championship golf. Water runs down the left side of the fairway and high rough guards the right side. The second shot is uphill and the green is very challenging and guarded by large bunkers on both sides.


This guy started out the season terrifically, winning at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona in February. But a thumb injury derailed his season and prevented him from making a serious run at a major. Still see majors in his future–more than one. He's long and with this 5,300 feet elevation, the ball should be flying if the conditions don't get too messed up with the rain. He is accurate with his driver too, hits his irons extremely well,  is eighth on the tour in scrambling. I really like his short game. When he's putting well, like all the elite guys, he's capable of winning each tournament he enters. He's got to complete game. I like this 26-year old to win this week at Cherry Hills and set himself up for winning the Fed Ex Cup.

Jason Day

Jason day


U.S. Open picks-tennis

Men's Finals:

Novak Djokovic ( Djoker)

Djoker defeats Gael Monfils (who upsets Roger Federer tonight in the quarters) in four sets and captures his eighth slam. Federer leads all time with 17.

Women's Finals:

Caroline Wozniacki

defeats Serena in the finals in three sets.

Caroline (24 years old) had a tough breakup with Rory earlier this year, and I say she rebounds with her first Slam in the Open and denies Serena her 18th, which would have tied her with Chris Evert and Maritina Navratilova in fourth place all time. Margaret Court leads with 24; Steffi Graf has 22 in second.

Novak DjokavicCarolina wozniacki






This could be the most important final in U.S. Open history. Maybe one of the most important finals ever. First both Nadal and Federer have to get by tough opponents in the semis: Nadal has Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in one semi and Federer has Novak Djokovic in the other. If both can get through those matches, and they are far from guarantees, it sets up an epic tomorrow (Sun) at 3 p.m. on CBS. Like Nadal to win it all and capture his ninth grand slam title as he inches toward Federer's 16 titles. Article linked below and Rafa's pursuit of Federer from the Wall Street Journal. Titled Rafa. Rafa:

French Open starts Sunday

Great tennis with Rafa at full health after defeating Federer in straight sets yesterday at Madrid. Rafa amazing on clay. Federer going for 17th Slam, but has tough time with Rafa on clay. Only won one French. Rafa almost unbeatable when at full strength, which he looks like he is. He has won six slams and is 3-0 against Federer in French finals. You could also throw Andy Murray, Juan Del Potro and maybe Novak Djokovic in the mix. There could be a darkhorse like Robin Soderling to come through, but I just don't see Nadal losing the way he looked at Madrid. Serena is probably the favorite in the women's, but Justine Henin could be a tough opponent and the girl from France who won over Venus in Madrid yesterday, Aravane Reza, could be in the hunt. She sure looked good against Venus as she won over Venus in straight sets. (Rafa in photo to left)

Williams sisters at Fed Cup in B'ham

It would be amazing to get them both, but great if we could get one to play on April 24-25 at the BJCC. If I had to choose one, it would be Serena. She is playing incredible tennis right now, and even though she acted terribly at the U.S. Open screaming at the line judge, she is a great talent and I'm sure she's learned her lesson. She is just so powerful; she overwhelms her opponents with her amazing ground strokes, her prolific serving and her athletic ability. She really is fun to watch.

Would like to have Serena, but Venus would be good, too. If we got them both it would be a tremendous coup for the city. It sounds like we might just get one, possibly neither of them, but it could be a real positive thing for the city if we could even get one.

Looks like we'll  get Melanie Oudin, from Atlanta, a great young player (18 years-old) who would add some excitement. She played so well at the U.S. Open last year reaching the quarterfinals while defeating three-time major champion Maria Sharapova and Beijing Olympics gold medal winner Elena Dementieva along the way. She is a great talent and a charismatic young lady. She ought to make it fun.

Russia, the U.S.'s opponent,  features the No.2  player in the world, Dinara Safina, and No.4 Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sharapova is a possibility, too. So it should be a great semifinal even if the Williams sisters don't show.

But I have to admit, would love to have Serena. Would be huge. Venus would be pretty good, too.

The King does it again

16th career Grand Slam. Roger 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) over Andy Murray. Fought off five set points in the third to win it. Fourth Australian title. At 28, he's going stronger than ever. Raised his level of game when he needed to. The guy is an incredible champion. Andy played with a lot of heart, just couldn't overcome the great champion.

Here are Roger's  titles:

Here are the great ones' titles and years.

Australian Open W (2004200620072010)
French Open W (2009)
Wimbledon W (2003200420052006,20072009)
US Open W (2004200520062007,2008)

The Basel (Switzerland)  native Federer claimed $1.85 million with the big win, while Murray took home $925,000.

Hopefully this run won't end for a while. Roger's 28 and playing as well as ever. He looked great in this match and in that five set win over Andy Roddick in Wimbledon last year, I thought he looked better than ever.

It's a question mark with Nadal. Can he come back and play the kind of tennis he was playing up until last year? Can his knees hold up? Can Andy Murray break through at 23 and win his first major. Can Andy Roddick win again? His only Slam is the 2003 U.S. What about Juan Martin Del Potro; can he back up his win at the U.S. Open in 2009 with another win or two in the Majors.

The only constant is Federer. What a champion and class act . Murray very classy and humble in defeat telling the Scottish fans in the crowd and his fans back home in Dublane, Scot that he was sorry he let them down.  It was moving. It was  a great match even though it went just three. Murray's a fighter. Federer a great champion.

Should be a great 2010.

Serena gets it done Down Under

Serena defeated Justine Henin, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in Australian finals. She now has 12 Grand Slam titles tying Billie Jean King. She said afterwards of course she's pleased, but she wants a French title. That'll be in May. Henin great effort in comeback attempt. She looks like she's back. Here are Serena's slams:

(5) Australian Open-2003, 2005, 07, 09, 10 (1) French Open-1999 (3) Wimbledon- 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009 (3) U.S. Open-1999, 2009

Federer-Murray Sunday at 2:30 a.m. Then it comes back on at 9 a.m. Federer goes for 16th slam. Murray 6-4 vs Federer, but lost to Federer in straight sets in the 2008 U.S. Open.

Should be a classic.

Federer in another final: Not a surprise

Roger Federer just keeps on getting it done. He made quick work of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 6-2,6-3,6-2. Some of it had to do with Federer's presence. Tsonga, who had been playing great, was nervous I'm sure. Tsonga had also just finished playing a couple of wars beating Nicolas Almagro of Spain, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6,6-7, and 9-7 in the round of 16. Then, in the quarterfinals, he defeated Novak Djokovic, 7-6,6-7,1-6,6-3,6-1.

He had expended a lot of energy, but you've got to give Federer credit. Personally, I think he's lucky that Rafa has been hurt and has benefited most from his absence. I think Rafa is better when at 100%, but Federer has earned another final. But the greatest of all time. Yes he has the record, but don't think the competition is as demanding as in the 70's, 80's and 90's except for Nadal, who is hurt.

Andy Murray should give him a good match and may win. We'll see.

Serena plays Justine Henin in what should be a great match. These women have played each other 13 times already with Serena holding a 7-6 lead. Should be a classic. Two thirty Sat. Morning on ESPN2. Tivo for sure. Sunday morning at 2:30, Federer vs Murray also ESPN2.

Australian results

Men's Semis: Andy Murray def. Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. From what I heard, Cilic ran out of gas. Murray has a good shot to win it all. He's playing great. Will play winner of Tsonga-Federer, Sunday Morning at 2:30 on ESPN2. Should be a classic whomever it is between Tsonga and Federer. I think Tsonga is going to give Federer everything he wants.

Women's Semis:

Justine Henin def. Jie Zheng 6-1,6-0. This is an amazing story. Henine on a roll like Kim Cljisters was last year in the U.S. Open when she beat Serena in the finals. Should be a classic with Serena, Sat. Morning at 2:30 on ESPN2

Serena def. Na Li 7-6, 7-6. Tough match for Serena. I think the women's final is going to be very interesting.

Second men's semifinal: Friday Morning at 2:30 a.m. Roger Federer vs Jo Wilfried Tsonga. This could be a classic. The way Tsonga is playing, it should be. Roger still the great champion.

Australian quarterfinal results

Women's: Serena def. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) 4-6, 7-6, 6-2

Na Li (China) def. Venus 2-6, 7-6, 7-5


Quarterfinals: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10) def Novak Djokovic (3)    7-6  6-7  1-6  6-3  6-1   
Quarterfinals: Roger Federer (1) def Nikolay Davydenko (6)    2-6  6-3  6-0  7-5


Serena plays Na Li tonight around 8:30 and Justine Henin, trying to make a complete comeback, plays Jie Zheng of China after that. 

In the men's semifinal which will take place at 2:30 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) morning (this Australian time is getting old) Marin Cilic plays Andy Murray.

In the other semifinal match Jo Wilfred Tsonga (France) will play Roger (Switzerland). That match will take place Friday at 2:30 a.m.

Could be some great matches coming up. Serena is going to be hard to beat though the Chinese players are both good. Both Serena and Henin may have a tough time, though I like Serena. Not so sure about Henin.

Like a Federer-Murray final though both could have tough semifinal matches. Tsonga is a fun, exciting player. I'm kind of pulling for him. Murray's got a tough one with Cilic. It's very difficult to make it to the finals. One bad day and you're history. Murray and Federer are the two most talented, so I'll go with them. Would be exciting if Tsonga could pull it off though. 

Federer will play his semifinal match against Tsonga Friday around 2:30 a.m.

The women's final will be 2:30 a.m. Sat. our time, and the men's final will be at 2:30 a.m. Sunday Morning. Set your tivos.

Murray beats Rafa; Cilic knocks off Roddick

Quarterfinals: Andy Murray (5) def Rafael Nadal (2) 6-3 7-6 3-0 - -
Quarterfinals: Marin Cilic (14) def Andy Roddick (7) 7-6 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3

Andy Murray looked awesome and Rafa is hurting. His knee is really causing him problems and he had to retire in the third. I love Rafa; kind of worried about him. Hope his knee can recover by the French. He's an awesome player and great for the game; such a class guy.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray looks to be on a collision course with Roger Federer in the  finals if he can get by Marin Cilic, who is playing very good tennis right now.

Roddick was battling a bad shoulder throughout the match, but played like the gritty, tough competitor that he is. Cilic is a fine player.

An American has not won a major singles title since Roddick did it in 2003 at the U.S. Open. Maybe Roddick can get it done in another major this year.

Key quarterfinal matches tonight:

Women's Singles - Quarterfinals
Na Li(CHN)[16] vs. Venus Williams(USA)[6]
Women's Singles - Quarterfinals
Serena Williams(USA)[1] vs. Victoria Azarenka(BLR)[7]
Men's Singles - Quarterfinals
Roger Federer(SUI)[1] vs. Nikolay Davydenko(RUS)[6]
Rod Laver Arena

19:30 Start

Men's Singles - Quarterfinals
Novak Djokovic(SRB)[3] vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(FRA)[10]

Coverage tonight on ESPN2 begins at 8  and continues till 1 a.m. Then comes back on from 2:30a.m.-7 a.m. tomorrow. Tivo could play a major factor in this tourney.

Roger has a tough match. Davydenko beat Federer and Nadal in a tourney a couple of months back. He's a dangerous opponent.

Tsonga is a fun player to watch. Should be a good match with Djokovic.

Serena Williams is playing great. Venus could be challenged.

Andre Agassi

 I read a Sports Illustrated excerpt of his book, Open, and it was very depressing. Not really uplifting reading. One of the other players on the tour, Marat Safin, says Agassi should give up his earnings, his titles and his Grand Slam titles for taking crystal meth and lying about it. Reading a segment of Agassi's book, it's obvious he was tormented by a certifiable psychotic father. That doesn't excuse his use of crystal meth and his lying to the Tour about it, but it shows how much of a grind his young life was, and that tennis became a hassle for him. The father was terrible and was a major reason for Agassi's unhappiness.

Not going to read the book, and really not sure what kind of punishment Agassi should get; it's been 12 years since the incident and lying happened, so maybe just move on. He went through a lot in his youth and that shaped him to be the rebel that he was. He seems to have turned his life around now and is living a decent, respectful life.