Friday, June 3, 2011

Vilas: The Man The Djokovic Is Chasing!

Flyers' 1979/80, 36 game unbeaten streak.

Lakers' 1971/72, 33 game winnings streak.

DiMaggio's 1941, 56 game hitting streak.

Williams' 1949, 84 game reaching base safely streak.

Orel Hershiser's 1989, 59 consecutive (it could actually be considered 67 if you include the ALCS) scoreless inning streak.

These are all examples of amazing winning/hitting/shutout streaks in sports history.

In tennis, the record for consecutive matches won is 46 by Guillermo Vilas. Second on the list is Ivan Lendl, with 44.

Djokovic is at 43 wins, with the first two comming last year. Although, the reality is that it should be tied with Lendl. His quarter-finals opponent (Fabio Fognini), had to default.

But does anyone think he could have beaten The Joker?

A shame that match wasn't played. We can assume Djokovic would have won to tie a record set by John McEnroe in 1984. Most wins to start the season (42). We can be very serious about that, John!

But if he beats Federer tomorrow, he'll tie it anyway. A win over Nadal or Murray (Really, I think we have to go with Rafa on this one, don't we?) in the finals on Sunday will break the record and leave him three short of Vilas' 46, set back in 1977.

Let's take a look at Vilas' streak shall we.

It started right after Wimbledon, where Vilas was knocked out in the third round by Billy Martin (not to be confused with the New York Yankees fiery manager at that time). A rather meek loss, it nevertheless launched Vilas into invincibility!

He came to an event in Kitzbuhel, Austria, held on a surface to his liking: clay.

He mowed down Britain's Buster Mottram, Croatian's Zeljko Franulovic and Czech Jan Kodes to win the title. Kodes, who Vilas had beaten in the first round at Wimbledon (Jan won the event in 1973), pushed Vilas to 5 before falling.

Then Vilas was in another clay court tournament in Washington DC. The event was notable for a few things:

1) He beat both the Gottfried's

2) He overcame 2 French Open finalists (Brian Gottfried and Victor Pecci)

3) He beat one of the "Bagel Brothers", Eddie Dibbs.

Then Vilas won a tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, by beating a past-his prime Ion Tiriac (Boris Becker's future coach), Phil Dent (Taylor's dad), and Dibbs again in the final three matches. The streak was at 17 matches.

At Southern Orange, Vilas won still another clay court tournament. He only had to play 5 matches, but the last two were against John McEnroe (6-0, in the deciding third set), and Roscoe Tanner, who had beaten him in the finals of the January, 1977 Australian Open (The event was held twice that year!)

At Columbus Ohio, in the first week of August, Vilas swept through the field and avenged his loss to Martin at Wimbledon by losing just two games to him, then making almost as short work of Brian Gottfried in the finals. Brian won three games in two sets. Poor Brian, this was one of three times he would lose to Vilas this year, none worse than the 1977 French Open finals: 6-0, 6-3, 6-0!

So it was off to the big show. The US Open. It would be the last year it was held at Forest Hills. It was clay again, but for you serious tennis fans: Hard-Tru!

Vilas rolled through, again.

He beat a fading Manuel Santana in the first round, polished off Gene Mayer, the American, in the second round. Then he beat Denver's own Victor Amaya (his claim to fame was taking Bjorn Borg to five sets in the first round of the 1978 Wimbledon) to get to the round of 16. There he topped Roger Federer's future mentor  Jose Higueras, then routed nondescript Raymond Moore to reach the final four. At this point, the closest anyone has come to winning a set of him is four sets of 6-3 Vilas.

Harold Solomon (The other bagel brother, by the way) was close in the second set. But Vilas won it 7-6 and surrounding it were a pair of 6-2 sets. The only man left was Connors, the defending champion.

But Vilas rose to the challenge.

Connors won the first set, but that just woke up Vilas, who took the second easily, then outlasted Jimmy in the third set tiebreaker. Connors didn't win another game.

Vilas became more diplomatic in his next two matches, part of the Davis Cup tie against Australia. Clay again, if you are wondering.

He won both his singles matches against Phil Dent and John Alexander, the last great Australian player prior to Pat Cash. Now he was up to 37 straight matches won.

He won his next tournament, held in Paris, France, by beating a few obscure players. Hans Gildermeister, who is currently the Chilean tennis team coach, went down meekly in the quarters. Then Patrick Proisy (1972 French Open finalist) of France pushed Vilas to 5 sets. The finals was a routine straight setter (although the third was a tie-breaker) over Christope Roger-Vasselin of Britian. 42 straight. Bravo, Guillermo!

The last week of September saw Vilas try his luck at France again. The event was held in Aix en Provence.

He overcame doubles specialist Peter McNamara in the round of 16, despite losing the first set. Then he beat Higueras in two close ones. He reached the finals by taking down homeboy Eric Deblicker, despite losing second and third set tiebreakers (the semis were best of five). 46 straight. And actually, 52 straight on clay at this point! And only the Joker of his time, an over-the-hill Ilie Nastase (31 years old) to worry about. What could go wrong?

Nastase knew every trick in the books to getting opponents of their game. Sometimes he resorted to rule bending. But note I didn't say breaking. No!

In 1977, the big fad in tennis had been about new strings that were sort of wider. Called "Spaghetti Strings" by the tennis establishment, they produced strange bounces and even wilder spins. They were woven from the second string on the left hand side of the racket frame, to the second last right string on the right side.

Nastase trotted out with one such racket.

And won the first two sets, 6-1, 7-5.

At this point, perhaps Vilas knew the jig was up. He walked to the umpire's chair and defaulted. And probably had no way of knowing that 34 years later, someone would approach his record!

Oh, and the string? The ITF stepped in shortly thereafter and permanently banned it. That's why I expect Vilas to have some spaghetti if his streak is broken, to keep up with the tradition in a legal way!



References



Collins, Bud. The Bud Collins History Of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia And Record Book. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: New Chapter, 2010. Print.

Kirkpatrick, Curry. "GUILLERMO VILAS." SI.com. Sports Illustrated, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2016. Orginally published in Sports Illustrated, May 29, 1978 <http://www.si.com/vault/1978/05/29/ 822681/the-mild-bull-of-the-pampas-introspective-articulate-exceedingly-sensitive-guillermo-vilas-of-argentina-is-a-world-apart-from-compeers-jimmy-connors-and-bjorn-borg>

Official Site Of Men's Professional Tennis. Emirates, n.d. Web. 03 June 2011.

"Valley News from Van Nuys, California, Page 40." Newspapers.com. Valley News, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2016. Originally published December 7, 1977. Page 4, Section 4. <https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30399618/>

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals 2011 Prediction


Vancouver (1) West VS Boston (3) East

The last Stanley Cup parade in Boston was 1972.

The last Stanley Cup parade in Vancouver was 1915.

There were no Canucks in 1915, just Millionaires.

The NHL was formed in 1917/18.

The Bruins came in in 1924/25 and have made the playoffs 66 times and won the Cup 5 times.

Vancouver came into the league in 1970/71 (with Buffalo) and have made the playoffs 24 times. 2 of those times, 1982 and 1994 resulted in a Stanley Cup Finals loss to a team from New York.

Boston has never faced Vancouver in the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup finals.

Now this year.

Both their coaches have been behind the bench of the Montreal Canadians in the 2000s.

Offence

Vancouver

Thank god (for all you Canucks fans) that Henrik (I'm tired of typing in "Sedin", so there!) isn't a pitcher in baseball and his goals aren't wins and his assists aren't losses.

He's picked up this postseason where he left off this regular season. He has only 2 goals so far in the playoffs. Yet, he has 21 points to lead the Canucks!

Kesler is a little better goal wise with 7 plus 11 helpers. From there, we have Daniel with 8 goals and 8 assists. Then we have Alex Burrows with 7 goals and 7 assists.

Two left wingers, Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins, have 8 and 7 points respectively.

From the point, you have Christian Ehrhoff with 11 points, although like Henrik, only two of them are goals. Bieksa and Edler have 9 points each.

Oh, I haven't talked about Malhotra. That eye injury rivals Crosby's concussion as career threatening. However there is talk of him returning. As to when? I'm looking at Game 3 at the earliest. In the regular season, he had 11 goals and 19 assists.

Boston

David Krejic and Nathan Horton have 17 points each, and then two strong centers. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Another center, Chris Kelly has 11 points, while Micheal Ryder also has 11.

The team's top left winger is Milan Lucic with 9 points.

Rich Peverley has eight points.

Look out for Mark Recchi, 43 years young. But this is his third team to make the final two that he has played with. He has 7 points.

The teams top two defenceman (in points) are Dennis Seidenberg and Thomas Kaberle. Each also has eight points. Don't overlook Andrew Ference, who has 7 points as well. Boychuk has 6.

And yes, another will he play? Should he play or should you know, Tyler Seguin? Actually, when he has played, he's played quite well. All of 19 years old, he looks like the playoff warrior with 6 points in 7 games. Sometimes being in the Stanley Cup finals makes injuries go away quicker!

Edge: (Slight) Vancouver

Defence

Vancouver

Bieksa lead the 'Nucks with a +10, but several other players need to up it come right now!

Dan Hamhuis is a +5, Aaron Rome is a plus 2 in only 11 games. Alexander Edler is only a 0 in all 18 games. Salo and Ehrhoff are both minuses.

It's a little better up front as Jannik Hansen is a plus 6 and left winger Burrows is a plus 4. Another left winger,  Chris Higgins is a +4 and Raffi Torres is a plus 3. Maxim Lapierre is also a +3. Raymond is a plus 2.

Both the Sedin's are minus 4, however.

Boston

Big Z is still a plus 11, but that's nothing to take lightly. Nor is Dennis Seidenberg's +8. Kaberle is looking erratic at times, making Maple Leaf fans rejoice at the thought of, "We didn't need him after all". But he's still a plus 7, and Ference is right behind with a +6. Boychuk is a plus 5 as is Johnny McQuaid.

Actually, the only defenceman without a plus is vetran Shane Hnidy, who has played only three games and is a zero.

Up front, Horton is +10 for second on the team, and then Bergeron and Kelly are both +9. Marchand and Ryder are both +6. Peverley and Krejci come in with +5, and right behind them is Recchi with a plus 4. Seguin's +3 is far from bad when you consider the amount of games played.

Edge: (Wide) Boston

Goaltending

Vancouver

So Luongo stole the last two games against San Jose? Can he keep doing it? We'll see say the hockey gods.

I really think he's been getting better with every round, now that he's upped his record to 12-6 and S% to .922. His GAA is down enough (2.29) for the offence to be off and still come out on top. Better still, many of the goals that San Jose scored were on the power play. So if the Canucks can just stay out of the box...

Corey Schnieder has made 3 appearances without getting a decision. Will he play here? It will depend on how well, Luongo plays, of course. But I can't imagine him getting a start.

Boston

Having said all that, the same could be said of Thomas. Hey, nothing too small about a game 7 shutout, especially if it sends you into the Stanley Cup finals. That's two game 7 victories under Timmy's belt. Now to up the ante. For the first time, he'll be looking at home ice disadvantage.

12-6, 9.29S%, 2.29 GAA. Hey! The W-L and GAA is exactly the same as Luongo's. Plus his S% is almost identical.

This one is going to be tough to call.

As for Rask, when Niagara flows upward!

Edge: NIETHER!

Prediction: Vancouver in seven games


















And Phoneix in Quebec in 2012/13, hopefully!



References


"Official Site of the National Hockey League” NHL.com. National Hockey League. Web. 01 June, 2011. <https://www.nhl.com>

Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 01 June 2011.