Featured Columns

There’s Something Distinct About Alex de Minaur

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

All it takes is one glance at Alex de Minaur to know the teenager has something distinct about him.

He does not have the imposing stature – height bestowed or otherwise – many of his peers and rivals command. But given the quick-fire way expectations have been passed over in the Australian men’s tennis circuit, like a baton, from youngster to youngster, de Minaur’s lack of physical impressiveness seems like a much-needed antidote.

More importantly, with his spryness on the court, coupled with a compact and wiry frame – justifying his nickname, Demon – de Minaur looks capable enough to not only hold the weight of these expectations, but also live up to them as and when opportunity presents itself before him. And, in the course of the last few days, between the end of the 2018 season and now, at the start of the 2019, de Minaur has had several opportunities to back up claims about his potential.

A quarter-final finish in Brisbane followed by the maiden ATP title win in Sydney meant that the 19-year-old had his job cut out for him at Melbourne Park, as the top-ranked Australian player. And against Pedro Sousa, who had quelled his personal demons – pardon the pun – in reaching the main draw of a Major for the first time in his career, de Minaur had a riveting first round opponent.

Watching him play, it became clearer why his game reminded many of Lleyton Hewitt although personally, I thought his game had a splashing of David Ferrer, too, as he went about his shot-creation – serving as a reminder to his Spanish connection.

The match, then, reiterated de Minaur’s tactical prowess as he exploited and bested Sousa’s aggressiveness with craftiness, drawing out the errors from his racquet instead of going for winners outright. With the win, de Minaur equalled his previous best result in the tournament – reaching the second round in 2017 – but this time around, he does not have the advantage of the relative obscurity he had had before. In his post-match press conference, de Minaur, too, concurred about him being a different player than who he was in 2017.

“I think I’m a completely different player from a couple years ago. Really looking forward to going out there, coming back, just having fun. I think that’s the main thing. To feed off the energy of the crowd. I mean, the support I’ve been getting has been amazing. Just makes you want to go out there, compete and have fun,” de Minaur admitted.

It’s for this reason, perhaps, the draw takes on added significance for him this year, with a third-round clash against world no. 2 and 2009 Australian Open champion, Rafael Nadal looking imminent as the first week unwinds. Undoubtedly, Nadal would go in with an edge over his younger rival in the match. But it is what de Minaur – with his unfazed temperament – would present on the day that continues to add to the fervour building around that potentiality.

Beyond the obviousness of that one match-up centred on de Minaur – as far as the home hopes go – de Minaur’s continuity at the Australian Open is also acting as a buffer to blot the backdrop of chaos unfolding in Australian tennis.

At a time, when the divisions in the country’s tennis ranks are almost spilling out with Thanasi Kokkinakis voicing his opinion about not receiving a main draw wild card, and Bernard Tomic accusing the country’s Davis Cup captain Hewitt of favouritism, focusing on de Minaur’s on-court exploits, then, is quite a normalcy-offering respite, much like his game.

Andy Murray Embodied Many Things To Many People

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

Andy Murray embodied many things to many people. He was the gritty warrior who never let up in his performances, despite the numerous defeats and setbacks that waylaid him. He was the deceptive athlete, who could vary his shot-making to suit himself and discomfit his opponent. He was also the rebel who took decisions which though seemed effortless for him, never seemed easy for others.

Of all these facets, it’s the last trait that not only set Murray apart from his peers but also carved a unique pride of place for him among them.

Be it raising his voice for the controversial referendum vote for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom – followed by an unapologetic stance reiterating his decision in the aftermath of the fallout – in 2014, or be it a demonstrative declaration of giving women in the profession – both past and present – their due, Murray never shied away from taking a stand regardless of how it may have been perceived.

At a time, when, on the subject of equal pay for women players, players either preferred to sit on the fence with displays of dubious diplomacy, or outright negated the need for the same, Murray’s unequivocal stance to speak up for the women set a precedent. Now, against the backdrop of the overwhelming emotions coming forth after his shock announcement about his impending retirement, reactions to the Briton’s viewpoint have been conveniently airbrushed. However, back when he had stood up for the cause – so to speak – Murray was cast as a pariah, by many in the same fold.

A similar turnaround has, then, been effectuated about his decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, between now and then. When Murray engaged Mauresmo as his coach in 2014, disparagements shrouded as banter greeted his move, pitting it as a step-down of sorts after Ivan Lendl. To the relentless critics, it did not matter that under the guidance of the Frenchwoman, Murray won his first Masters 1000 on clay – in Madrid in 2015 – or that he continued the established trend of being a fixture in the finals of the Majors (with two consecutive trips to the Australian Open final Sunday in 2015-16).

Cut to 2018, merely two years after Mauresmo and Murray parted ways, as Mauresmo resumed her coaching career by joining compatriot Lucas Pouille’s team, opinions veered towards cheers and acceptance as though it was no big deal in the scheme of things. While this was indeed a change for the better, it still hit harder that it was not the case the first time around when such unnecessary hue and cry was made about it.

At the same time, though, it is also fitting – at par with the theme of what Murray’s career has been, unbound and unfettered by conventions.

Murray started out as the beacon of deliverance for British tennis that had been long-parched, lacking a Major champion for years. And, in the decade-and-a-half that he unwound his way through the professional circuit, Murray not only lived up to those expectations – as stifling as they were at times – but also gave his country more reasons, beyond conventionality, to hope. Even beyond the scope of winning Wimbledon, as he transformed himself from an envisioned titlist at the Championships, to a multiple-time Major winner – coming close enough to completing the Grand Slam.

One looking to making the most of opportunities could do well to borrow a page from Murray’s 2016 manual, in which he pushed his body to the limits of its endurance in trying to attain the world no. 1 ranking for the first time in his career. Time, though will suck in the allure of that accomplishment just as it would blot the other numbers that form the stockpile of his career. However, Murray’s long-lasting legacy will be of being an inspiration, who was not only unfettered by conventions, but also impervious to time-bound limitations.

Most Memorable Women’s Australian Open Finals

The first Grand Slam of the tennis calendar kicks off later this month with the Australian Open down at Melbourne Park.

Caroline Wozniacki is the reigning women’s champion but it is the seven-time winner of this event, Serena Williams, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the Australian Open 2019 women’s winner, with current odds of 4/1.
Whether this year’s competition will produce another classic final remains to be seen or not, but here are five from recent memory that we thoroughly enjoyed:

2018: Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 3-6 6-4 Simona Halep

Last year’s Australian Open was up for grabs as Serena Williams didn’t participate following the birth of her child in September the previous year. The final was contested between the world’s top two players at the time, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

In a classic encounter it was Wozniacki who upset the world number one in three sets that lasted two hours and 49 minutes, with the match finishing shortly before 10:30pm local time.

Caroline Wozniacki became the first Dane in men’s or women’s singles to win a Grand Slam in doing so.

2016: Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4 Serena Williams

Germany’s Angelique Kerber took her first of three Grand Slams to date at the 2016 Australian Open with an upset victory over Serena Williams in the final.

Kerber beat future Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka 6-1 6-1 in the third round before seeing off Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta in straight sets in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

Few gave Kerber a chance of beating Serena in the final, particularly after losing the second set, but she came through in the decider to become the first German of either sex to win a Grand Slam singles competition this millennium.

2004: Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3 4-6 6-3 Kim Clijsters

Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne took her first and only Australian Open crown with a dramatic 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over fellow countrywoman Kim Clijsters in 2004.

Henin-Hardenne looked set to win the final in straight sets with a set and 4-2 lead in the second before the world number two broke back, pulling off four straight games to take the match to a decider.
However, Clijsters couldn’t keep the momentum going as she fell 0-4 down in the third and final set. Justine Henin-Hardenne produced the goods at the right time to make it 3-0 in Grand Slam finals versus Clijsters, having also beat her fellow Belgian in the 2003 French Open and the 2003 US Open finals.

2003: Serena Williams 7-6 3-6 6-4 Venus Williams

2002 saw the Williams sisters’ rivalry swing in the favour of Serena for the first time. The 2003 Australian Open was also the fourth consecutive Grand Slam final that saw the two Williams sisters face each other.

Serena had beaten her sister in straight sets at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open finals the previous year and completed the ‘Serena Slam’ with a three sets victory at Melbourne Park in 2003.

This would be Serena Williams’ fourth Grand Slam and her first in Australia. The future tennis Hall of Famer has won in Australia six times since and has 23 Grand Slams overall. To get to the final in 2003 she had to come from 1-5 down in the decider against Kim Clijsters in the semi-final before beating Venus in in the final.

1993: Monica Seles 4-6 6-3 6-2 Steffi Graf

Two-time defending Australian Open champion Monica Seles made it three in a row by coming from a set down to beat Steffi Graf in an historic final back in 1993.

Winning the first set 6-4 in the final, Graf hadn’t dropped a single set at the Australian Open that year, which included victories over Jennifer Capriati and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.
However, the Yugoslavian fought back with an impressive display in the next two sets to take what would be her eighth of nine career Grand Slams.

Mardy Fish Named New U.S. Davis Cup Captain

The USTA today announced that former world No. 7 and Davis Cup veteran Mardy Fish has been named the new captain of the U.S. Davis Cup Team. He succeeds Jim Courier to become the 41st captain in the team’s 120-year history and will make his debut at the newly transformed Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals November 18-24 in Madrid, Spain.

“Ever since I started playing professionally and started understanding what the Davis Cup was and how special it was, even as a player, I wanted to be the Davis Cup Captain,” Fish said. “I just thought that position was so special – leading the guys and leading the team, building relationships and the team aspect around it. I’m a team-sport athlete stuck in an individual sport, and I love the team aspect of Davis Cup. To even be considered, let alone named the Captain, is incredibly humbling.”

In this new era of Davis Cup, the role of Captain will be expanded, with the position working more closely with USTA Player Development throughout the year, as well as traveling to multiple tournaments and camps to support American players, serving as a mentor for American pros and juniors. He will also ensure the U.S. Davis Cup team remains a strong platform to grow the game through the USTA’s Net Generation youth initiative.

“Mardy Fish embodies all of the qualities of a successful Davis Cup Captain and will be an invaluable asset to Team USA,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Patrick Galbraith. “His achievements as a player both on tour and in Davis Cup are renowned, and his acumen for the game is as strong as his relationships with our American players. There are few people in tennis as qualified to lead the U.S. Davis Cup Team into the next decade, and we cannot wait to see what that future has in store under Mardy’s leadership.”

Fish, 37, reached the singles quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slams and won a combined 14 ATP titles (six singles, eight doubles) before retiring from playing at the 2015 US Open. He also produced a number of signature performances while representing his country, earning the singles silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and writing his name in the U.S. Davis Cup record book.

Fish played in 11 Davis Cup ties for the U.S. from 2002-12 and is still the last U.S. Davis Cup player to win three live matches in a single tie, in a 3-1 World Group Playoff win in Colombia in 2010 that kept alive the U.S.’s now-record uninterrupted streak in the World Group. Fish’s two singles victories in that tie were five-setters, and he and Courier are the only U.S. Davis Cup players to win two five-set matches in the same tie. In his last Davis Cup playing appearance, Fish beat Stan Wawrinka in five sets and teamed with Mike Bryan to beat Wawrinka and Roger Federer in a 5-0 sweep of Switzerland in the 2012 First Round.

After retiring in 2015, Fish worked part-time as a coach with USTA Player Development, helping to guide young Americans on tour, including Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson, through 2017.

Founded in 1900, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is the World Cup of Tennis and is the largest annual international team competition in sport, with approximately 135 nations competing each year. The U.S. leads all nations with 32 Davis Cup titles. The U.S. holds a 219-72 all-time Davis Cup record, and owns the longest uninterrupted run in the World Group, dating back to 1989. For more information, including access to player and historical Davis Cup records, please go to www.usta.com/daviscup or www.daviscup.com.

Chris Evert Becomes USTA Foundation Chair

The USTA Foundation, the national charitable arm of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), announced that it has appointed 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world No. 1 Chris Evert as Chair of the USTA Foundation’s Board of Directors. In her new role, Evert will serve as the USTA Foundation’s spokesperson and ambassador to promote its mission, raise funds and increase the impact of its national outreach efforts to under-resourced youth. She succeeds former pro James Blake, who served as USTA Foundation Chair from 2015 to 2018.

In 2016, Evert partnered with the USTA Foundation to establish the Jimmy Evert Fund, a scholarship fund in honor of her late father who was a coach and mentor to many aspiring tennis athletes. These scholarships were developed, along with the support of Evert’s family, as a result of the USTA Foundation’s ability to directly impact youth through tennis and education programming, and are designed to provide opportunities for kids to excel both on and off the tennis court.

“I am honored to have been selected as the Chairperson of the USTA Foundation, one of the most remarkable organizations I have ever been associated with,” said Evert. “I grew up playing tennis in a public facility where my father could keep an eye on us kids, making sure we all were safe and stayed out of trouble. That was a great, life-shaping experience for me; an experience I want to give back to a new generation of young people. I’m committed to helping make our sport more fun and more accessible to more kids, so that they can enjoy its many benefits, just as I did. The combination of tennis and education is a powerful one, and I will do all that I can to further the USTA Foundation’s mission of improving the lives of under-resourced youth through that powerful combination.”

Evert’s stellar tennis career began when she turned pro in 1972 at the age of 18, eventually landing 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including six singles crowns at the US Open. She owns a record 157 singles titles, and has the highest winning percentage of any player—male or female—in the history of the sport. She is one of only three players in history to have a 100-match winning year with 103 in 1974, including 55 straight match wins on all surfaces, a record that held up for more than a decade, and she was ranked No.1 in the world for seven years, winning a total of 1,309 matches in her career.

In 1989, Evert retired at the US Open at the age of 34. On July 16, 1995, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As the sole inductee that year, she was only the fourth player and the sixth person ever to be elected to the Hall unanimously.

Evert’s sports journalism career began in 2011 as a tennis analyst for ESPN, and she has covered all four Grand Slam events for the last seven years. In addition to her broadcasting role, Evert also writes a monthly publisher’s column for Tennis magazine.

A resident of Boca Raton, Fla., Evert lends her time and effort to raise funds for many causes important to her and her family, and serves as a board member for several organizations. The Chris Evert Charities Inc., founded in 1989 following Evert’s retirement, focuses on helping children who are at-risk due to drug abuse and alcohol addiction by focusing on programs whose mission is to keep families together as parents seek treatment. The charity has raised more than $25 million since its inception and is the sole beneficiary at the annual Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, which has been heralded as the most successful fund-raiser in tennis history.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the USTA Foundation, we are truly honored to have Chris Evert serve as our new Chair and ambassador,” said Thomas Chen, President of the USTA Foundation Board of Directors. “It’s exciting to have Chris help us lead many of our fund-raising efforts so that we can continue to support tennis and education programs throughout the country. Her commitment to supporting programs like these speaks volumes, and we are thrilled to have her on our team as we pursue our mission to enhance more young lives through tennis and education.”

Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka Wins Third Career WTA Tour Title In Shenzen, China

World No.13 Aryna Sabalenka’s meteoric rise to the top of women’s tennis looks set to continue this season as the hard-hitting Belarusian overcame a slow start to defeat American Alison Riske 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 in two hours and 11 minutes to lift her third WTA Tour career title on the hard courts of the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Centre this afternoon.

The 28-year-old Riske, playing in her third Shenzhen Open final in four years, began the match impressively, hitting decisive and accurate winners that frustrated her 20-year-old opponent, and converted the second of two break points in the third game to take a one set lead.

The 5-foot-11 Sabalenka, playing in her sixth career final and third in China, grew with confidence as the match progressed and converted her first break point in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead.

Riske fought hard to get back in the set, saving four break points in the sixth game and two set points in the eighth before breaking her 20-year-old opponent with four points on the trot in the ninth game and holding serve to tie the match at 5-5.

However, in the tiebreak, the American lost focus and gifted her opponent a number of unforced errors to set up a third set for the title.

The momentum was now well and truly with Sabalenka, as the Belarusian broke her opponent twice in the first three games to take a 3-0 lead.

Riske, who has now gone six finals without a win, got a break of her own in the fourth game and threatened to turn the tie around when she got another break opportunity in the eighth game, but it was simply not to be her day once again.

Sabalenka squandered two match points in the final game of the encounter, before finally breaking her opponent’s serve one last time with a powerful forehand drive to lift her second title in China, following last year’s win at Wuhan.

“It was a tough match today, especially coming back after first set down. I just couldn’t find a way to beat her and she played an unbelievable match, with shots down the lines. I am so happy that I found a way to beat her, especially in the final to win my third title. It’s really special, also my second title in China. I’m so happy with this result at the start of the year,” said the Belarusian, who has an early lead in the race to the WTA Finals that will also be held in Shenzhen in October.

“Now I am first but it is only 280 points! But I really want to go on to the WTA Finals. Last year I didn’t make it there and I was so pissed. This year, I am going to do everything to get there. After this good start, hopefully I can do well at the Australian Open,” added Sabalenka.

World No.62 Riske was despondent to have now gone three finals in Shenzhen without a win, but promised to be back once again in future.

“Aryna played really well and she proved last season how good she is. In the second set, she started serving a little bit better. I still tried to be aggressive but my shots just weren’t landing in like they were in the first set. So I think that kind of flipped things a little bit and she got on top of me a little bit sooner. Everyone here is just super special and that’s why I keep coming back. The people have made it such a good tournament and place to be. I’m sorry if I let anybody down and I hope they will cheer me on for the next tournaments to come. I will certainly come back again,” said the American, who heads to Melbourne next to prepare for the Australian Open.

In a doubles final match that featured three local Chinese stars, former world No.1 Peng Shuai proved that she was the doubles queen of Shenzhen as she picked up her second doubles title here in three years, this time with first time partner Yang Zhaoxuan.

The second seeded duo defeated the unseeded Chinese-Czech pairing of Duan Yingying and Renata Voracava 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 14 minutes on Centre Court.

Peng and Yang got off to a shaky start as they relinquished their first service game of the match, but leveled matters in the fourth game and stole the first set with another break in the tenth game.

The second set was tightly contested early on, as the two teams exchanged two breaks each in the first six games, but the No.2 seeds kicked into high gear in the eighth game, winning eight points in a row to break their opponents and then held serve in the next game to lift the doubles trophy in Shenzhen.

The 2019 Shenzhen Open doubles title is the 22nd of 32-year-old’s Peng Shuai’s career and the fourth doubles title that 24-year-old Yang Zhaoxuan has picked up on the WTA Tour.

“We are very happy to be playing together and very happy with the results of this week. We have both helped each other out and we really enjoy playing together. We are now looking forward to play together in future. We will be playing in the Australian Open together,” said Peng after the win.

The Shenzhen Open is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association, Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism. IMG and CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company and is co-organized by the Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Longgang District, Kaisa Culture & Sports Group and Shenzhen Gemdale Sports Industry Co., Ltd.

The event is proud to have prestigious commercial sponsors that include the premier sponsors Kaisa Group and Gemdale Group, together with Crowne Plaza Shenzhen Longgang City Center, Iqiyi Sports, Erke, Life Fitness, Yonex Head and Master Kong Drinking Water.

The official tournament website www.ShenzhenOpenTennis.com has additional information about the tournament.

Should Alexander Zverev Be Taken Seriously For The Australian Open?

by Shubham Singh

If we take a look at last 4 years of the Australian Open, the tournament has either been won by the world number one, Djokovic, or the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer.

It is the first major tournament of the year and players rarely miss out on it. It generally takes place after a decent break that gives players ample time to pull their socks up, get their heads in the right place and their bodies in the ideal condition — that’s where these two perfectionists get the better of their opponents.

However, regardless of the fact that fans generally fancy these two to the lift the trophy, the winds of change that have blown through tennis recently suggest that it could be a different story this time. Alexander Zverev’s two outstanding victories in the ATP Finals against Roger Federer in the semi-final and Novak Djokovic in the final, both won in straight sets rocked the tennis world.

Many players come out of the blue every year and send a wave of awe across the world of tennis but not many are as special as Alexander Zverev. That’s why everyone has been talking about him lately, that’s why he looks like a realistic punt — as per the suggestions of Australian Open odds — he’s charming, talented and desires to be one of the best players to grace the court. So, what makes him so special and such a serious contender for the Australian Open?

The reason for his inclusion in the upper echelons is not just his current success. He has shown significant growth in his style of play and on the overall aspects that play a crucial part in the long run. He brought Jez Green into his team in 2013 to bolster his fitness which shows he’s taking not purely concentrating on his style, but also, his fitness.

He isn’t short of success at his age, but he doesn’t want to settle for the minor titles. His biggest concern has been his lukewarm presence in the Grand Slams. Although he has been coached by his father, the addition of Ivan Lendl has been instrumental in his recent success at the ATP Finals. Lendl was influential in Murray’s success — he guided Murray to three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold in 2012. We could expect some of his expertise to rub off on Zverev. Even Zverev acknowledged Lendl’s advice being crucial in his recent triumph. After his victory, he credited Lendl for his advice that helped him in both the semi-final and final.

“He talked about golf to me before the match. No, I’m kidding,” Zverev joked following his victory. “He obviously analyzed the match that I played with [Djokovic] a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different. I was more aggressive today.”

“Obviously Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”

With an already strong camp, Lendl’s inclusion would be a cherry on top.

One of the best things about Zverev right now is that he is surrounded by proven winners in his camp and his interviews and behaviour on the pitch reflect a good sense of maturity. Djokovic was full praise for the youngster who defeated him in straight sets and mentioned how he the two of them are common in some aspects.

He said, “I mean, there’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers.”

“Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he’s a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone. He deserves everything he gets so far. There’s a lot of time ahead of him. Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
But the 21-year-old has his feet planted firmly on the ground and didn’t spare a moment to play down the comparison. He said, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, my God,”

“I mean, I’ve won one of those [ATP Finals]. He won five. He’s won, I don’t know what, 148 titles more than me. Let’s not go there for now. I hope I can do great. I mean, but just chill out a little bit.” ‘Chill’ is certainly apt.

What to expect from Zverev in 2019?

It’s obvious that he’d be treading into Australia with huge confidence. With Lendl’s winning formula and Zverev’s potential, we can expect at least one Grand Slam next year.
Although there are few things about his play that need to be addressed. All the star players have big weapons in their repertoire at their disposal in crucial moments. For now, Zverev seems to lack that. He does have a fantastic first serve that can turn the game in his favour many times but he needs to put work on his overall game if he’s aiming for something big.

He’s just 21 and has many years ahead of him. If he keeps progressing like this, 2019 would certainly be a big year for him and we would probably see him lift a Grand Slam title.

“Dominant” Simona Halep and Serena Williams Favorites To Win Australian Women’s Title

ESPN recently named Simona Halep as one of the most dominant athletes of 2018.

Many have debated whether the diminutive Romanian was in fact, dominant. In a head-scratcher, she was ranked as more dominant than LeBron James of the NBA as well as golfer Brooks Koepka and fellow tennis player Novak Djokovic, both of whom won two of the four major titles for the year in a golf and tennis, respectively.

In fact, the great thing about women’s tennis over the last few years is the fact that there hasn’t been any dominant player and that each major tournament has been an exciting battle for the title, waged between eight to 12 players who have legitimate chances of raising the championship trophy.

As the world No. 1, Halep can be seen as the favorite to win the first major championship of 2019 at the Australian Open. However, she has only broken through in a major final once, last year at Roland Garros against Sloane Stephens. Last year in Australia, she lost a hard-fought, tight final to Caroline Wozniacki, but was resilient and tenacious in reaching the final.

The major wildcard in this year’s Australian Open field will be Serena Williams, who will be playing in her first tournament since her much-discussed U.S. Open loss to Naomi Osaka. She hasn’t played in Australia since she won the title, while pregnant, in 2017, her last event before giving birth to daughter Olympia. Serena will be gunning for her 24th career major singles title, which would tie her for the all-time record set by Australian Margaret Court in the 1960s and 1970s. The Australian Open would be an appropriate venue for Serena to equal this mark. She will be extra motivated to right the wrong she felt she was given in her controversial U.S. Open final loss where point and game penalties, she felt, where wrongly administered.

Serena will probably be one of the more popular tennis betting favorites to win in Australia. Since the tournament comes so early in the year – and after the short off-season – unpredictable results are also common. Therefore, some longer-shot players, with potential to win majors, should also not be overlooked, such as American Madison Keys, a former Australian Open semifinalist, the highly-touted Aryna Sabalenka or even home-favorite Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Invesco Series QQQ 2019 Season Kicks Off January 26 In Newport Beach, California

LOS ANGELES – The 2019 Invesco Series QQQ tennis circuit will kick off Saturday, January 26 with the new Oracle Champions Cup to be played at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in Newport Beach, Calif., during the Oracle Challenger Series event.

Former U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, 2018 Invesco Series points champion James Blake and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish will compete in the one-day tournament to kick off the 14thseason of the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.

Tickets to the event start at $35 and are now on sale. Tickets along with VIP packages will be available at www.InvescoSeries.com. The event will start at 6pm and will feature two one-set semifinal matches followed by the one-set final-round match.

“I’m excited to start off the year competing against James, Mardy and Tommy at the Oracle Champions Cup at the Newport Beach Tennis Club, which is one of the great tennis venues in the United States,” said Roddick. “This will be my sixth year playing on the Invesco Series QQQ circuit, and I’m looking forward to another fun year of great tennis, competition and good times.”

The Oracle Champions Cup will be played during the third event in the 2018-2019 Oracle Challenger Series, which aims to provide new opportunities for American tennis players to secure both ranking points and prize money.

The second announced Invesco Series QQQ event for 2019 will be in Charleston, S.C. on April 6 at 8:30 pm, as part of the WTA Tour’s Volvo Car Open. Roddick will also headline the field and will join two-time French and Australian Open champion Jim Courier, former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion Lleyton Hewitt and seven-time major champion Mats Wilander. Tickets are available at www.InvescoSeries.com.

The full 2019 Invesco Series QQQ circuit schedule will be unveiled in January.

Blake won his first Invesco Series QQQ year-long points championship in 2018 by winning titles in Winston-Salem, New Haven and Houston, while also finishing as runner-up in Los Angeles and Orlando. The full results from 2018 can be found below.

2018 Invesco Series QQQ Results

April 7: Charleston, SC (Family Circle Tennis Center) F: Tommy Haas def. Andy Roddick 6-1; SF: Tommy Haas def. Michael Chang 6-2; Andy Roddick def. Mark Philippoussis 6-3

May 5, 6: Kohala Coast, HI (Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows) F: Tommy Haas def. John McEnroe 7-5 SF: Tommy Haas def. Mardy Fish 6-3, John McEnroe def.Jim Courier 6-3

May 17: Toronto, ON (Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre) F: Mark Philippoussis d. John McEnroe 7-5, SF: Mark Philippoussis d. James Blake 7-6 (5); John McEnroe d. Jim Courier 6-2.

July 22: Newport, RI (International Tennis Hall of Fame) F: Lleyton Hewitt d. Tommy Haas 7-6(2) SF: Lleyton Hewitt d. James Blake 6-3; Tommy Haas d. Jim Courier 6-3

August 19: Winston-Salem, NC (Wake Forest University) F: James Blake d. Andy Roddick 6-1 SF: Andy Roddick d. Robby Ginepri 7-6 (4); James Blake d. Michael Chang 6-3

August 23/24: New Haven, CT (Yale University) F: James Blake d. John McEnroe 6-4 SF: John McEnroe d. Todd Martin 6-3, James Blake d. Tommy Haas 6-4

October 4: St. Louis, MO (Chaifetz Arena) F: Mark Philippoussis d. Jim Courier 6-1; SF: Jim Courier d. John McEnroe 7-6(3), Mark Philippoussis d. Andy Roddick 6-3

October 5: Houston, TX (Tudor Fieldhouse) F: James Blake d. John McEnroe 7-6(3) SF: John McEnroe d. Jim Courier 6-3, James Blake d. Andy Roddick 7-6 (4)

October 21: Los Angeles, CA (Sherwood Country Club) F: Mardy Fish d. James Blake 6-3; SF: Mardy Fish d. Tommy Haas 7-6(3), James Blake d. Andy Roddick 6-2

December 6: Orlando, FL (USTA National Campus) F: Mardy Fish d. James Blake 6-3, SF: James Blake d. Jim Courier 6-3, Mardy Fish d. Robby Ginepri 6-4.

In 2017, the year-long points championship was decided in the final match of the season when Andy Roddick defeated James Blake in the Los Angeles final at the Sherwood Country Club. Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, won four Invesco Series QQQ titles in all in 2017, winning in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Lincoln, Neb., and Los Angeles. Blake, the former world No. 4 and former U.S. Davis Cup star, won series titles in Charleston, S.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and in Lynchburg, Va.

In 2016, Mark Philippoussis won the Series points title with 1600 points and tournament titles in Memphis, Tulsa, Newport, Winston-Salem and New Haven. Roddick finished in second place, also earning 1600 points but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philippoussis 5-2, while winning titles in Charleston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Orlando. Blake finished in third place with 1100 points and tournament titles in Chicago, Portland and Brooklyn.

In 2015, Roddick won the Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Invesco Series QQQ tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $5 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or InvescoSeries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA
Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, pleasevisithorizonmedia.com.

ABOUT INVESCO
Invesco Ltd. is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. NYSE: IVZ; Invesco.com, Invesco Distributors, Inc. is the US distributor for Invesco Ltd. and is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Invesco Ltd.”

Mardy Fish, Praised By Jack Nicklaus, To Host Foundation Golf Fundraiser In Vero Beach, Florida January 14, 2019

Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, along with several former star pro athletes, highlight the field of celebrities who will play in the 2019 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Charity Golf Fundraiser to be played Monday, January 14 at The Windsor Club in Vero Beach, Florida

The event is headlined by Fish, the former Top 10 tennis star, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and long-time member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Also participating in the event will be former standout Major League Baseball pitcher and celebrity golf tour standout Rick Rhoden of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees and famous knuckle-ball pitcher Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. From tennis circles former top tennis professionals Mikael Pernfors, the 1986 French Open finalist and Vero Beach resident, will again compete along with Cliff Richey, the two-time U.S. Open semifinalist and himself a founder of the Celebrity Golf Tour in the 1980s.

Fish was recently described by six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus as “the best non-professional golfer that I have ever seen play.” Said Nicklaus to Steve Flink of Tennis.com after playing nine holes in December with Fish, “I have never seen anybody with as nice a golf swing and as good a golf game that doesn’t play it professionally, or as a top amateur. I was flabbergasted how good Mardy was.”

While Fish ended his professional ATP tennis career at the 2015 U.S. Open, he has excelled playing competitive golf since his retirement. He has won two tournaments on the celebrity golf tour at the Diamond Resorts Invitational in Orlando, Florida in 2016 and 2018 and will try to win the event for the third time in four later just days after his appearance in Vero Beach at Windsor.

Golfers interested in participating in the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Golf Fundraiser should email Mardy Fish’s father, Tom, the President of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, at [email protected] Paid positions for a tax deductible contribution of $500 are available as well as course signage for $300. Registration and breakfast begin at 7:30 am with an 8:45 am shot-gun start, followed by a 1 pm luncheon and awards presentation. PNC Bank, a long-time supporter of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, is the presenting sponsor of the event.

The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org) was founded in 2007 and currently supports over 2,200 children in 15 elementary schools, six middle schools and two after school centers in Indian River County, Florida by funding after-school exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs in a safe environment to prepare them for healthy, productive and successful lives. The Foundation introduced the “Six Healthy Habits” in 2012 which are Get Sleep; Drink Water; Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy; Brush and Floss; Make Friends.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the 18-hole links style course at Windsor is a masterpiece in traditional golf course architecture. The par 72 course features an undulating panorama of native trees that border gentle rolling fairways, unobstructed by houses.