“Hidden Figures” – A Triumph of a Movie

I went to see Hidden Figures this morning.  It was snowing with a forecast of about 1″ of accumulation so I figured there was no point to sit at home and stare at the snow when I could go see the movie I had been waiting to see.

The fact that three brilliant African American women had been an integral part of the success of the manned space program was unknown to me until this movie started to be publicized.

The main character in the movie was Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) who was a “computer” at the Langley Research Center of NACA/NASA in Hampton, VA.  She was the person that did the math to calculate the lift off and landing trajectories for a number of space missions.  Ms. Henson’s portrayal of Katherine Johnson was brilliant and hopefully she will receive a Oscar nomination for the part.

Octavia Spencer portrays Dorothy Vaughan who was the first African American supervisor at NACA.  She was also a pioneer in computer programming with a  specialty in Fortran.  Janelle Monae plays Mary Jackson who became the first African American women to become an aeronautical engineer at NASA.

Kevin Costner portrays Al Harrison, director of the Space Task Group at NASA and does an excellent job of not underplaying or overplaying the part.  Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Glen Powell and Mahershala Ali round out the cast.

This was time well spent and this is a movie that all young girls should see.  Not just young African American girls, but all young girls.  For that matter all young boys should see this movie to understand that women are just as capable as men in math and science.

My reaction to the movie was surprising to me.  Yes, I was exhilarated to see the role that these unheralded brilliant women played in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.  But I was also incensed – incensed that the story had not been told a lot sooner.  Thank goodness Margot Lee Shetterly wrote the book and brought the story to the attention of the American people.  Her father was a research scientist at the Langley Research Center and she knew the women in Hidden Figures at a young age.

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The Olympics Ruined This Season of WTT – Here’s To Next July

Well, the Olympics really screwed up this year of WTT and the Kastles did not make the playoffs.  Instead of one East and one West team it was two West teams this year.  The Orange County Breakers faced the San Diego Aviators with the Aviators prevailing.

The 2017 WTT season will be the 10th season for the Kastles so it should be great.

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It’s Kastles Time!!!

It’s finally here!!!  World Team Tennis season.

My beloved Washington Kastles started out the season on the road in New York where they faced the New York Empire in their inaugural match.

Denis Kudla and Leander Paes started out winning the Men’s Doubles match 5-4 and then Martina Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova took the court to face Christina McHale and Maria Ingoyen in Women’s Doubles.  Martina and “A-Rod” took care of the Empire duo in 15 minutes and won by a score of 5-2 to bring the overall score to 10-6.  Guido Pella then faced Denis Kudla in Men’s Singles and got the Empire close to the Kastles by winning by a score of 5-2.

So, at intermission the overall score was 12-11 and it appeared that the match would be closer than Kastles fans would be comfortable with.  Martina Hingis and Leander Paes took the court against Christina McHale and Neal Skupski.  The Kastles served first and were broken.  The Kastles broke back.  After the Kastles broke a second time, they won the set 5-2 for an overall score of 17-13.

The score of 17-13 gave Madison Brengle a slight cushion playing Women’s Singles against Christina McHale and the announcer on ESPN3 kept talking about the fact that if Christina McHale won the Women’s Singles event that they would go to extended play, could tie up the overall score and then go to a supertiebreaker.

Christina served first and was broken.  Madison held serve and broke Christina a second time to go up 3-0.  Christina broke back to make it 3-1.  Madison then broke Christina a third time to bring the event to 4-1.  With Madison serving for the set Christina broke a second time to bring the event score to 4-2.  Christina then served and was broken for the fourth time and Madison won the event 5-2 and the overall final match score was 22-15.

Then Kastles take the court at the Smith Center tonight to play the Springfield Lasers with Bob and Mike Bryan joining the team.

Kastles Time!!!

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The Eurythmics Were Right – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”

Well, Serena won her second Wimbledon 2016 Championship today just a couple of hours after her Singles title alongside her sister Venus.

Venus and Serena won the Womens Doubles Championship in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 over Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova in an hour and 27 minutes.  The big key to the Williams sisters winning this title was break opportunities.  Venus and Serena had 4 break points against their opponents and converted 75%  of them – 3 out of 4.  Babos and Shvedova had 8 break points against the Williams sisters and only converted 13% of them – one.

This keeps the Williams sisters record in Grand Slam Doubles Finals intact – they are 14-0 when they reach the final.

Again, congratulations to our former Kastles super stars and my two favorite players of all time.

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Serena’s “Catch-22” Is Now a “Caught-22” Equaling Steffi Graf

I am truly elated that Serena finally got her 22nd grand slam singles title to equal Steffi Graf.  She had to deal with the disappointment last fall of not getting the calendar year grand slam (and #22), losing in the Australian Open final to Angelique Kerber (and not getting #22) and then losing to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open Final and not getting #22 for the third time.

I could tell from the beginning of the first game that Serena was on a mission and would not be denied her 22nd grand slam title.

Serena won the first set 7-5 by breaking Kerber in the 12th game of the set when Kerber was serving at 5-6.

Kerber had only one break chance against Serena in the entire match and it came in the second set at 3-3.  Kerber took a point at 30-30 to go up 30-40.  Serena promptly saved the break point and slammed the door shut with an ace at 117 MPH followed by another ace at 124 MPH and then won the game on a backhand forced error by Kerber.

Serena won the set in fine fashion with 13 aces with only 3 double faults, 39 winners to Kerber’s 12 and only 21 unforced errors to 39 winners.

Congratulations to Serena – the Greatest Of All Time.

Serena - History Rewritten!!!

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Venus and Serena Prevail in Women’s Double Semifinal – Will Play Double’s Final Saturday

Serena will have a busy day tomorrow starting with the Women’s Final against Angelique Kerber.  After that is completed, the Men’s Doubles Final will be held and then Venus and Serena will take to Center Court for the Women’s Doubles Final.

They won their Semifinal match against Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova in straight sets 7-6 (3), 6-4 after falling behind 1-3.  They started the match serving and were broken by Goerges/Pliskova in the first game.  They then had 8 deuces in the second game but still lost the game to go down 0-2.  They finally broke back in game 6 to level the set at 3-3 but could not consolidate the break and were broken again.  They then broke back again to even the set and then held serve.  The set went to a tiebreak and Venus and Serena won the tiebreak 7-3.

In the second set Goerges and Pliskova broke the sisters in the fourth game to go up 1-3 and consolidated the break to go up 1-4.  The sisters held serve in the next game so the score was 2-4.  They broke Goerges/Pliskova in game 7 to get back on serve and consolidated the break.  Venus and Serena broke Goerges/Pliskova in game 9 to go up a break and then served out the set to win the match 7-6 (3), 6-4.

They will face Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova in the Women’s Double Final on Saturday.


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Not a Terrible July 7 – It Could Have Been Better

Well the day started out with the Women’s Semifinal Match between Serena Williams and Elena Vesnina, continued with Venus Williams Semifinal Match with Angelique Kerber and completed with Serena and Venus on the court again in the Women’s Doubles Semifinal Match against Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina,

Serena only needed 48 minutes to triumph over Vesnina 6-2, 6-0.  Serena’s first serve percentage was 77 and she won all but one point when her first serve was in.  She had 11 aces no double faults.  She lost a total of 3 points on serve, broke Vesnina’s serve  5 times and had 28 winners to 7 unforced errors.

Unfortunately Venus fell to Kerber 6-4, 6-4 in the other Women’s Semifinal Match.  Serena will have a re-match with Kerber in the final.

In one minute shy of 2 hours, Venus and Serena won their Women’s Doubles Quarterfinal Match 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-2.  They will play their Women’s Double Semifinal Match on Friday.

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And a Really Nice July 5 for Venus and Serena

Well even though July 4 was a pretty good “Independence Day” for Venus and Serena, the day after proved to be even better.

The day started with Venus Williams playing Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan in one of the Ladies Quarterfinal matches.  Venus won in two sets in an hour and 42 minutes by a score of 7-6 (5) and 6-2.  She will face Angelique Kerber in the Semifinals on Thursday.

While Venus was finishing off Shvedova, Serena took the court versus Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and won in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 12 minutes.  Serena broke Pavlyuchenkova twice of two opportunities and served 11 aces en route to the victory.  She will face Elena Vesnina in the Semifinals on Thursday.

And if that wasn’t enough, the sisters took the court in Women’s Doubles facing Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, the number 6 seeds and the team that lost to Venus and Serena in the Wimbledon Women’s Doubles final in 2012.  They also took out Venus and Serena in Women’s doubles in the Semifinals at the 2013 U. S. Open en route to winning the title.  Venus and Serena got their revenge by winning the third round match 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 27 minutes.

Not a bad day at all – and the Bryan Brothers won their Third Round Men’s Doubles match against Zimonjic/Stepanek 7-5, 6-7 (10), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 7 minutes.

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A Pretty Good July 4 for the Williams Sisters

Today has solidified my belief that we are still witnessing two of the greatest tennis players of all time, male or female, playing Wimbledon this year.  What makes it even more remarkable is that not only is Serena going for major number 22 to tie Steffi Graf but she is doing it at the age of 34 (almost 35).  And on top of that, older “sis” Venus is into the quarterfinals at the age of 36.

When I first became aware of the Williams Sisters 26 years ago I knew they would be great tennis players and a pair of players that the United States could be truly proud of.  They have both one Olympic gold medals in singles, three Olympic gold medals in doubles (together) and were integral parts of the 1999 Fed Cup Championship team.  Seeing Richard Williams talk about Venus at the age of 10 and talking about Serena and how great she would also be made me sit up and take note and made we want to follow these two remarkable young African American tennis players.

It’s no secret that I adore both Venus and Serena and was truly ecstatic when they were both members of the Washington Kastles.  But to see them play at such a high level at their ages makes me truly happy to be witnessing this.

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Pat Summitt – One of the Greatest Coaches of All Time

We have lost one of the greatest coaches of all time.  Pat Summitt, former head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers Women’s Basketball Team passed away at the age of 64 from Alzheimer’s disease.

I became a Pat Summitt fan in the 1980’s when I was “channel surfing” and landed on a Women’s Basketball game and started watching it.  I immediately noticed the animated and intense coach of one team – it was Pat Summitt.  I started watching, became hooked watching the “Lady Vols” and kept my eye out for when they would be on TV.

I became a Lady Vols fan pretty quickly and started watching them  whenever they were on TV.  I was a fan watching them win each of their eight NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championships.  I remember being able to go see the Lady Vols at the Smith Center at GWU and the Lady Vols fans in the stand outnumbering the GW fans at the Smith Center.  After the game I went to the area where people had gathered and the people that were sitting next to me where there.  We had struck up a conversation during the game and had a good time talking Lady Vols basketball with one another.   What I didn’t know was that they knew Pat Summit and when she came over to the group of people that had congregated she called them out by name and told them to wait a few minutes that she had to a short post game radio interview and that she would be back shortly.  My new acquaintances told me to wait with them and that Pat would “sign” for me.  I had a Lady Vols National Championship T-Shirt with me.  When she was done with interview she came over to us, my new “friends” introduced me to Pat and I asked if I could get her autograph and that I had been a fan for many, many years.  She looked at the T-shirt that I had handed her with a Sharpie marker, said to me “you really are a fan, aren’t you”.  I responded absolutely and Pat signed the shirt in the perfect place for me and it is sitting in a display frame at home.

I have a couple of other pieces of Pat Summitt memorabilia including a piece of the old Thompson-Bolling arena floor that is signed by Pat, a signed photo and a basketball signed by the entire championship team that had Candace Parker as a player.

All I can say about one of the greatest Basketball Coaches of all-time is “R.I.P Pat” – I always loved watching you coach with true passion for the game and a true passion for excellence.

Pat and her Eight National Title Trophies

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