My 2018 NRL commentary samples (Round 18)

 

 

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2018 German GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After an extraordinary, and entertaining race at the TT Circuit Assen with Marc Márquez claiming his fourth victory of the season to extend his lead in the world championship, and his second Dutch TT success in MotoGP, Round Nine of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship takes place at a venue where Márquez has won at for the last eight years across all classes (all from pole position), including the last five MotoGP races there, it is of course the Sachsenring, and it is the German Grand Prix.

Márquez (140 points) leads the championship by 41 points for the Repsol Honda Team ahead of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (99 points) after his fifth-place finish in Assen, and is ahead of his teammate Maverick Viñales (93 points), who claimed just his second podium finish of the season at the Dutch TT, finishing third. Both Rossi and Viñales are the only two riders within two wins of Márquez in the championship, and slowly look like slipping out of title contention.

Johann Zarco (81 points) is fourth in the world championship for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, and leads a group of six riders separated by just 10 points, including Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (79 points), LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (79 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (75 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (71 points), and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (71 points) after all of them with the exception of Petrucci, who crashed out on Lap 17, finished inside the points in an exciting race.

Behind this group, Jack Miller (55 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing after finishing 10th in Assen, a race which he won famously in extremely wet and tricky conditions back in 2016, while Alex Rins (53 points), who finished a superb second behind Márquez for Team Suzuki Ecstar, the best result of his premier class career to date, is 11th in the standings, but the biggest talking point in MotoGP is the future of Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa (41 points) sits 12th in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team after finishing 15th in Assen, continuing his annus horribilis in 2018, and is set to announce to the motorsport world his future in MotoGP going forward, with some signs pointing towards retirement, and other signs pointing towards him signing for the new satellite Yamaha team for 2019 called the SIC(Sepang International Circuit)-Ángel Nieto Team.

In my view, I feel Pedrosa may not have his mind into top-level motorcycle racing, or in other words MotoGP racing anymore due to  the accumulation of injuries suffered over the years taking its toll on his ability to ride a motorcycle to the absolute limit, and I think he may well announce his retirement from MotoGP at the end of this year.

However, I believe Pedrosa would have been better suited to have left the Repsol Honda Team years ago, and going to either Yamaha, or if it had happened more recently, Ducati because I felt he would have been able to get that one thing that was missing on his career CV, and that is the MotoGP World Championship.

I believe if he was onboard the factory Ducati last year, and had been fit for the entire season, he would have beaten Marc Márquez to the 2017 world championship, instead of falling short like Andrea Dovizioso did last year.

In my opinion, he has wasted a number of his prime years on a bike not entirely suited to his riding style, continuing to sign contracts with the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and the Repsol Honda Team blindly without really working out what was best for him. Now, with Pedrosa leaving the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the year, he can finally (for himself) work out what is best for him.

Sadly, the chances of him winning the MotoGP World Championship may have sailed by for good!

As for my predictions for the Sachsenring, I think Marc Márquez will win for the ninth year in a row, and for the sixth time there in MotoGP in an entirely dominant weekend.

2018 British GP – Preview

After a strange, but interesting race at the Red Bull Ring where Max Verstappen won the Austria Grand Prix, Red Bull’s first win at their home race, the two Ferrari’s finished on the podium with Kimi Räikkönen ahead of Sebastian Vettel, and three key retirements in Valtteri Bottas (Hydraulics on Lap 13), Daniel Ricciardo (Exhaust on Lap 53), and Lewis Hamilton (Fuel pressure on Lap 62), with Hamilton retiring for the first time since the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix, the race that proved decisive in handing Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s teammate at the time, his first and only world championship, ending a consecutive points-scoring streak of 33 races, an Formula One record, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads to Silverstone to one of the jewels in the crown, the British Grand Prix.

Vettel (146 points) has re-taken the lead of the world championship by a single point ahead of Mercedes driver Hamilton (145 points), with Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (101 points) jumping up to third after his second-place finish in Austria, but is in close battle for third in the championship ahead of Ricciardo (96 points), Verstappen (93 points), and Hamilton’s teammate Bottas (92 points), with only nine points separating Räikkönen in third and Bottas in sixth in the championship.

Behind them in the championship, Kevin Magnussen (37 points) jumps up from 10th to seventh in the championship after finishing a brilliant fifth for Haas-Ferrari, and is ahead of Fernando Alonso (36 points) who finished eighth after another tough weekend for McLaren-Renault, with the two Renault’s in Nico Hülkenberg (34 points), and Carlos Sainz Jr. (28 points) completing the top 10 in the championship after retiring, and finishing 12th respectively at the Red Bull Ring, not scoring any points.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari (247 points) have taken over the lead from Mercedes (237 points) by 10 points, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (189 points) comfortably in third. Renault (62 points) are still in fourth after their double retirement, but a group of teams are starting to come after them, most notably Haas-Ferrari (49 points), McLaren-Renault (44 points), and Force India-Mercedes (42 points), while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points), Sauber-Ferrari (16 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) look out of the battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

So, who will win the British Grand Prix?

On paper, and quite clearly on paper, the Mercedes looks like the car to beat, and Lewis Hamilton is the man to beat, looking to become not only the first man to win the British Grand Prix six times, surpassing the records of Jim Clark and Alain Prost, but Hamilton is also looking to become the first man to win the British Grand Prix five years in a row, surpassing Clark’s record.

Ferrari, and Red Bull should be strong too, but the Mercedes will have too much for them, and barring reliability or mistakes, Hamilton will win the British Grand Prix in 2018, ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Kimi Räikkönen in third.

2018 Wimbledon Preview – Ladies’ Singles

The sight of glorious green grass, the sight of delicious strawberries and cream, the embracing of tradition and prestige, a special place with the motto “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.

It is the All England Club, it is Wimbledon, and it is The Championships, and the ladies’ singles championship is the most wide open I have seen in years, possibly ever, with numerous players in the field capable of going deep into the second week.

So, here is a look at the ladies’ singles draw for 2018.

 

Section one

The Roland Garros champion Simona Halep has a comfortable draw in the early rounds before meeting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, and then either Johanna Konta, Dominika Cibulková, or Elise Mertens in the fourth round as Halep looks to complete the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double, which no one outside of Serena Williams (2002, 2015) has achieved since Steffi Graf in 1996, but Halep will have tremendous competition from the quarter-finals and beyond.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (22) Johanna Konta

 

Section two

Two former Wimbledon champions in Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitová, and the 2017 Roland Garros champion in Jeļena Ostapenko are all in this section of the draw, with Sharapova and Ostapenko set to meet in the third round, before meeting Kvitová in the fourth round in what is a brutal draw for the 2004 champion, while the 2014 champion could face either Daria Gavrilova, Peng Shuai, or Samantha Stosur in the third round before the match-up with Sharapova, but after her title in Birmingham, Kvitová will be very hard to beat here at the All England Club.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (24) Maria Sharapova vs. (8) Petra Kvitová

 

Section three

The defending Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza has got a good draw in the opening three rounds before meeting Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round, but given Muguruza’s past struggles to back up to play well at the All England Club after performing brilliantly at Roland Garros, where she made the semi-finals this year, she is definitely no certainty to progress beyond the fourth round.

As for Barty, who comes into SW19 in wonderful form after winning in Nottingham, and making the quarter-finals in Eastbourne, has a difficult second round against 2014 finalist Eugenie Bouchard, before a meeting with the young and talented Daria Kasatkina in the third round before a potential “death row” of big hitters as she aims to become the first Australian female to win at Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won as a mother in 1980.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty

 

Section four

Section four of the ladies’ singles draw is quite simply full of quality, with 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber, rising Japanese star Naomi Osaka, as well as Carla Suárez Navarro, Belinda Bencic, and Caroline Garcia, but in saying this, there is the potential for plenty of upsets in this section, but I think Osaka, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, and Garcia, who made the quarter-finals in Mallorca, are the in-form players here.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (18) Naomi Osaka vs. (6) Caroline Garcia

 

Section five

Talking about sections loaded with quality, there is huge amount of talent here with 2016 US Open finalist Karolína Plíšková, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, rising star Aryna Sabalenka, Romanian player Mihaela Buzărnescu, 2016 Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens, and five-time Wimbledon champion and last year’s finalist Venus Williams, who has been knocked out in the opening round of the first two Grand Slams in 2018.

While I will pick Williams to go through to at least the fourth round on reputation alone, I am going to pick a Belarusian to face her in the fourth round, but not the one you would expect, and she will be arguably one of the big stories of The Championships in 2018.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: Aryna Sabalenka vs. (9) Venus Williams

 

Section six

This section features last year’s US Open champion, and this year’s Roland Garros finalist in Sloane Stephens, and Julia Görges, who made the quarter-finals in Birmingham, and despite a tough first round encounter against Donna Vekić, who made the semi-finals in Nottingham, I am picking Stephens to make the fourth round (and probably the quarter-finals beyond that) based on reputation alone, and if she plays to her potential, anything is possible, but I think her level will be just a touch shy of that level here.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Julia Görges vs. (4) Sloane Stephens

 

Section seven

23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is in this section of the draw, and has been given a seeding from the seeding committee despite getting into Wimbledon via a protected ranking following her return after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, and has a comfortable start before meeting Elina Svitolina in the third round, and fellow American and 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys in the Round of 16, whose toughest challenge on-route to meeting Williams will be last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdaléna Rybáriková in the third round.

Keys, in my opinion, is primed to go deep here after making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, and the semi-finals at Roland Garros. A real contender!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (25) Serena Williams vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

Section eight

Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is in the very bottom section of the draw, and has found some great form on grass, winning in Eastbourne, but has never made the quarter-finals at the All England Club, being knocked out in the fourth round on six occasions (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), but has a good draw in the opening two rounds before meeting 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwańska in the third round, who has not made a Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2016 Australian Open, when she made the semi-finals, before meeting CoCo Vandeweghe in the fourth round, who has had a disappointing year, winning 10 of her 20 matches.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (16) CoCo Vandeweghe vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (8) Petra Kvitová

(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (18) Naomi Osaka

Aryna Sabalenka vs. (4) Sloane Stephens

(10) Madison Keys vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (17) Ashleigh Barty

Aryna Sabalenka vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

My predicted final match-ups

(17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (10) Madison Keys

 

My predicted 2018 Wimbledon champion

(17) Ashleigh Barty

2018 Wimbledon Preview – Gentlemen’s Singles

The sight of glorious green grass, the sight of delicious strawberries and cream, the embracing of tradition and prestige, a special place with the motto “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.

It is the All England Club, it is Wimbledon, and it is The Championships, and the defending champion Roger Federer is going for an unprecedented ninth crown after winning his eighth without dropping a single set last year, but he has plenty of competition, with a number of contenders, including Rafael Nadal, Marin Čilić, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev, and Juan Martín del Potro, looking to dethrone the king at SW19.

So, here is a look at the gentlemen’s singles draw for 2018.

 

Section one

Roger Federer, who is looking for his 21st Grand Slam singles title, and is seemingly in better form than what he was last year after winning in Stuttgart, and making the final in Halle will be very satisfied with his draw with a couple of comfortable matches to start off with, a potentially complicated third round against either Ivo Karlović, Mikhail Youzhny, Jan-Lennard Struff, or Leonardo Mayer, but it will get tougher from the start in the second week, where he will likely meet Borna Ćorić, the man who defeated Federer in Halle, and has really come on in 2018, rising 27 spots from 48th to 21st in the ATP World Rankings. However, Federer is primed for another shot at the trophy.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Roger Federer vs. (16) Borna Ćorić

 

Section two

This section looks weaker on paper compared to some, but it is deceptively strong, with all-French battle in the opening round between Gaël Monfils, and Richard Gasquet being the headline act, but are not the two strongest players with Sam Querrey, who made the semi-finals last year, and the 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson appearing the most formidable opponents, with one of them likely to meet the king in the quarter-finals.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Sam Querrey vs. (8) Kevin Anderson

 

Section three

And talking about formidable opponents, there are two potential championship contenders here with both Marin Čilić and Milos Raonic, who have lost the last two Wimbledon finals to Federer (2017) and Andy Murray (2016) respectively, set to meet in the fourth round blockbuster with five sets written all over it, with perhaps the winner being the biggest threat to the No.1 seed in the top half of the draw. Only Lucas Pouille can really trouble these two at his best, but Čilić, after winning at the Queen’s Club, and Raonic, after making the final in Stuttgart and having an injury-affected year so far, look ready to peak.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Marin Čilić vs. (13) Milos Raonic

 

Section four

John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov, who of course made the semi-finals here in 2014, have the most-suited games to the grass at Wimbledon, and should meet in the fourth round for a place in the quarter-finals, but Dimitrov has a tough one in the opening round on paper against Stan Wawrinka, but hasn’t found form on his return from a knee injury, and has slipped to 225th in the world, so really should be a comfortable one for Dimitrov, and while Pablo Carreño Busta and Stefanos Tsitsipas are very capable, it is tough to see them getting past Isner and Dimitrov to make it to the quarter-finals.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (9) John Isner vs. (6) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section five

The three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is in this section of the draw, as well as Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem, and while Djokovic has a good draw in front of him for the first two rounds before meeting Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund in the third round, Thiem, who hasn’t made the quarter-finals at any other Grand Slam outside of Roland Garros, has a difficult draw, facing Marcos Baghdatis, who is nearing the end of his career, in the opening round, before meeting either David Ferrer or Karen Khachanov in the second round, with Fernando Verdasco or Julien Benneteau waiting in the third round before he can think about Djokovic, who should have Thiem’s measure on grass in four or five sets.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) Dominic Thiem vs. (12) Novak Djokovic

 

Section six

This is a blockbuster section of the draw with two possible championship contenders in Nick Kyrgios, who made the semi-finals in Stuttgart and at the Queen’s Club, and Alexander Zverev, and while Zverev looks to have a comfortable passage through to the fourth round, Kyrgios has couple of complicated opening round matches, facing Denis Istomin (first round), and Robin Haase (second round), before meeting either Kei Nishikori, or fellow Australian Bernard Tomic, who he was due to meet in the opening round at Roland Garros before Kyrgios pulled out due to injury.

In saying this, Kyrgios should get through this draw, including Zverev, and is a real chance of becoming the first Australian male to win at the All England Club since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Nick Kyrgios vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

 

Section seven

Juan Martín del Potro is in this section of the draw, and despite a difficult second round against Feliciano López, who makes his 66th consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearance, breaking Roger Federer’s record, and Denis Shapovalov in the third round, the Roland Garros semi-finalist should make it through to the second week, where despite the presence of Jack Sock and David Goffin, could meet a surprise packet in the form of Matthew Ebden, who made the quarter-finals in Halle, as well as the semi-finals at Stuttgart, and the challenger event in Surbiton, before the challenge gets tougher.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Juan Martín del Potro vs. Matthew Ebden

 

Section eight

And that challenge is the man who he lost to in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal, and the 11-time Roland Garros champion, who hasn’t made the quarter-finals at SW19 since 2011, has a favourable draw to make it through to the final eight. Only Vasek Pospisil appears to have the game to bring Nadal down on grass, and while there are numerous good players in this section, including Australian young gun Alex De Minaur, who won the challenger event in Nottingham, they don’t have the game at this stage to create problems for the two-time Wimbledon champion before he faces del Potro in the quarter-finals, whose game matches up better to Nadal on grass compared to the clay of Roland Garros.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (14) Diego Schwartman vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (11) Sam Querrey

(6) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (13) Milos Raonic

(12) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Nick Kyrgios

(5) Juan Martín del Potro vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (13) Milos Raonic

(15) Nick Kyrgios vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Roger Federer vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

My predicted 2018 Wimbledon champion

(1) Roger Federer