French Open: Stanislas Wawrinka to meet 9-time champion Rafael Nadal in final

first_imgStan Wawrinka battered the ball as if each swing would determine the outcome of his French Open semi-final against No. 1 Andy Murray.For much of their four and a half hours of compelling, lengthy and draining points, Murray was up to the task, relentlessly defending and making Wawrinka hit shot after shot after shot. Eventually, the resolute Wawrinka’s offense prevailed. Not bad for an old guy, huh?Forced to come back twice from a set behind, and never easing up on his go-for-it, attacking style, 2015 champion Wawrinka at last pulled away to beat Murray 6-7 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-1 on Friday and become the oldest men’s finalist at Roland Garros in 44 years.”You expect him to hit a lot of balls, for sure. I wasn’t always happy with that,” Wawrinka said through a grin. “You know what his game is, you know how well he can play, and you need to accept it. You need to, as I say, keep pushing yourself.”Now comes an even tougher task, something the No. 3-seeded Wawrinka, a 32-year-old from Switzerland nicknamed “Stan the Man,” called “probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis.” He will face Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.Nadal reached a 10th final at his favorite tournament — he’s 9-0 so far — by overwhelming No. 6 Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in barely 2 hours.”Nine or 10 is only 10 percent more,” Nadal joked, when asked about the historic nature of his bid to become the first man to win 10 titles at any major.advertisementHe has dropped a measly total of 29 games through six matches, back to his dominating best on clay after withdrawing from the French Open before the third round a year ago with an injured left wrist.”I don’t care about the games I lost or not, or sets, or these kind of things,” Nadal said. “Only thing I care (about) is I have been playing very well during the whole event.”It will be Nadal’s 22nd Grand Slam final overall, breaking a tie with Novak Djokovic for second behind Roger Federer’s 28. If Nadal wins the championship on Sunday, it’ll be his 15th at a major, breaking a tie with Pete Sampras for second behind Federer’s 18.Wawrinka, meanwhile, heads to his fourth Grand Slam final. He’s won the previous three, beating Nadal at the Australian Open in 2014, and Djokovic at Roland Garros two years ago and the U.S. Open last September.”I’m extremely confident about what I do, about how I feel, about all the hard work I have accomplished over the past days, weeks, months, years,” said Wawrinka, winner of a career-best 10 consecutive matches. “I know that mentally, when I’m there, it’s difficult to beat me.”A year ago at the French Open, Wawrinka lost to Murray in the semifinals. This time, Wawrinka wore down the seemingly tireless Murray, also a three-time major champion. Wawrinka used his sublime one-handed backhand and hammer of a forehand to send Murray scrambling and sliding all over Court Philippe Chatrier.Murray would lean, or even lunge, and somehow put his racket strings on seemingly unreachable shots. He used plenty of drop shots and lobs. He retrieved overheads.But make no mistake: Wawrinka does not discourage easily. He is the oldest man in a French Open title match since Niki Pilic was 33 when he was the runner-up to Ilie Nastase in 1973.By the anti-climactic close of what Murray termed “a very high-intensity match,” he was complaining aloud about having “no legs.”So Wawrinka ran away with the fifth set, taking 16 of the first 21 points and going up 5-0. He capped it, appropriately, with a backhand down the line, his 87th winner of the day, 51 more than Murray.Unlike Nadal’s straightforward sprint past Thiem, Wawrinka’s marathon against Murray wound its way through spots in which one player, then the other, appeared to wrest control, then cede it.When Wawrinka hit a reflex volley passing winner off a blink-and-you-miss-it exchange with both men at the net, he held a set point at 6-5 in the first-set tiebreaker. At that moment, each man had won 43 points, their contrasting styles essentially erasing each other.But Wawrinka missed a backhand to give away that chance. Murray used a three-point run to grab that set, the first lost by Wawrinka all tournament. Then Wawrinka used a seven-game run to take the second set, plus a 3-0 lead in the third.”I lost my way a little bit,” Murray said.Suddenly, he got back on track, taking the third set to nose in front.advertisementThe fourth was even as can be until Wawrinka stepped up in the tiebreaker by winning its final three points, the last with a run-around forehand return winner delivered from outside the doubles alley.Wawrinka pointed to his right temple, as he often does to celebrate success on key points, and was on his way to the final. Nadal awaits.last_img read more

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How US intelligence created games to improve its forecasts with Canadian help

first_imgWASHINGTON, United States of America – Amir Bagherpour already has a detailed set of charts predicting how everything will play out in the NAFTA negotiations, even though they don’t actually start for another few weeks.He makes predictions for a living.The U.S. intelligence community runs a prediction market where forecasters across government compete for prognosticative supremacy — it looks like a golf tournament leaderboard, only instead of birdies and bogeys, people are ranked by how correctly they call coup d’etats and counter-insurgencies.Bagherpour was one of them. He was a State Department analyst under the Democrats and made predictions about things like Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Syrian conflict, Colombia’s negotiations with the FARC rebels, and the counter-ISIS campaign.His predictions are often bang on. He believed Donald Trump might win the presidency. He wrote a paper five years ago that predicted Bashar Assad would cling to power, with Syria’s conflict spiralling into a stalemate defined by religion. Sometimes they miss the mark: he gave Brexit a one-third chance of success.The administration he served took an active interest in the science of forecasting: “(Barack) Obama would ask, ‘Where’s the prediction market on this (topic)?”” says Bagherpour, who now runs a consultancy, Global Impact Strategies.The U.S. intelligence community has created more than a half-dozen forecasting programs over the last few years through its research unit, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), modeled after the older Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that helped create the Internet.One example is an ongoing tournament between hybrid teams combining humans and machines. It’s based on evidence that the best forecasting comes from a combination of computer algorithm and human guidance.“We love the concept of forecasting tournaments,” said Seth Goldstein, who is running IARPA’s human-machine Hybrid Forecasting Competition. He’s limited in what he can say about the tournment, but offers one example of how it works.“(We might ask), ‘Will Leader A in Country B be removed from power, by Date C?’ That would be the type of question…. We see what techniques work, and what techniques don’t work…“These tournaments (give us) a pretty good indication.”Participants come from all walks of life, in academia and industry, and receive a stipend for taking part. But there are no rewards for accurate predictions. That’s the lingering legacy of an old controversy, which forced a project to be shelved and the Pentagon boss running it to resign.The source of controversy: a terrorism futures market. Created after the 9/11 attacks, participants were allowed to place bets on the occurrence of future terrorist acts — which critics viewed as tasteless, at best, and as a dangerous perverse incentive at worst.The program was swiftly cancelled in 2003.The initiative was reborn with a new generation of projects years later. And Canadians played a major role in the resurrection.The team that dominated the first IARPA tournament was co-created by Philip Tetlock, a researcher, author, and University of Pennsylvania professor who was born in Toronto, and raised in Winnipeg and Vancouver.His team beat a control group by a whopping 60 per cent and 78 per cent in the competition’s first two years starting in 2011. It was so lopsided they ended the competition, and Tetlock’s team continued alone.The U.S. government has just released the data collected from his team to help future researchers.Some secrets to successful forecasting are quite simple, Tetlock says. He includes a so-called Ten Commandments in his book, “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” co-authored with Canadian writer and public servant Dan Gardner.One trick: doubt yourself. Assume your prediction is wrong, ask why, and incorporate that doubt factor into your assessment. Another is to tackle a problem in pieces — break the question into bite-sized chunks.For example, Tetlock’s book cites a love-starved London forecaster who wants to determine his number of potential mates. He takes the local population figure, divides it by two for gender, isolates an age range, the likely singles population, the university-educated percentage, and finally the percentage he will likely attract and be attracted to.His conclusion: he has 26 potential mates in London.Tetlock says great forecasters use this approach. These are the people who score highest on the zero-to-two Brier scale, the standard unit for measuring predictive success.“I’m not talking about people who have Nostradamus clairvoyance properties,” Tetlock said in an interview.“We’re talking about people who are better at assigning realistic odds to everything. Does that mean they’re going to see everything — that whenever history hits a sharp corner they’re going to be able to see around the corner? Absolutely not. There are limits on foresight…“It helps to be smart. It helps to be well-informed.”Another Canadian provided expertise as the U.S. created IARPA’s programs.David Mandel is a behavioral scientist who works for Canada’s Department of National Defence and works to measure the accuracy of forecasts within the Canadian government, notably its elite Privy Council Office Intelligence Assessment Secretariat.He presented research at a workshop for the U.S. government in 2009 and was among a few researchers cited in a report prepared for the U.S. Director of National Intelligence as it set up its forecasting competition.A public example of his work is a paper he co-authored in 2014 that examined 1,514 forecasts from the PCO unit that found an impressive 94 per cent accuracy rate for predictions on whether events were more or less than 50-per-cent likely to occur.He’s trying to get his own country to build a prediction market.“I have been in discussion with managers in (Canada’s) intelligence community about that kind of issue,” Mandel said in an interview. “It’s just at the discussion stage…“But I sense more enthusiasm than I’ve sensed since I began this — which was about a decade ago.”So, what about NAFTA?Bagherpour used a blend of game theory, expert surveys, and data run through the software his company created to produce charts filled with predictions.They concluded: NAFTA will survive; there won’t be a trade war; the deal will be rebalanced slightly to reduce the U.S. trade deficit; the U.S. will open negotiations with hardball demands, then soften them to reach a deal.He predicts Canada won’t demand much. He shrugs when a reporter says Canada insists it has many demands, including softwood lumber and expanding professional visas.He replies: “That’s not what this shows.”last_img read more

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