by James A. Crabtree
What we have learned Down Under, so far…
The Hopman Cup got the new tennis year started, even before the New Year had arrived.
Perth, the worlds most isolated city welcomed Tomic the Tank Engine who quickly became Saint Bernie after an impressive victory over a jet-lagged Djokovic. Still, it was a memorable enough performance by Bernard Tomic to inspire a tennis rich nation, starved of a real contender, to put their hopes in someone for the month of January.
John Isner looked rusty before he pulled out with an injury. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looked confident and played aggressive focused tennis that would have pleased new coach Roger Rasheed. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas both displayed improved physiques, sculptured during the off-season although they both may need a few matches until they find some form.
Surprisingly Spain took the spoils that included a diamond encrusted ball, much in part thanks to Anabel Medina Garrigues who only lost one match, that being in a dead group match versus Venus Williams.
Praise should be bestowed on Djokoic and Ivanovic who won the hearts of the Perth crowd, for their lighthearted manor and their attempt at Gangnam Style.
Meanwhile the Brisbane Open had been playing out over on the other side of the country. This turned out to be a relative disaster for the home nation. Every Aussie player fell by the second round. Only qualifier John Millman, in his second round loss, showed true guts with a three set thriller against eventual champion Andy Murray.
Over on the women’s side Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig turned heads with the sort of hard hitting not seen since Seles. Although she lost to Angelique Kerber she is most certainly a player for the future.
Serena Williams won the women’s event in typically devastating fashion that we have come to expect from the most dominant woman on tour. She wasn’t however seen supporting her rumoured boyfriend of last year, and young riser….
‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, who is on the verge of getting a new nickname that has no reference to anybody but himself. His play this past week has been sensational, capped off by clear cut victories over Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Jurgen Melzer.
In truth the final versus defending champion Andy Murray could have been a very different story after Grig-er Dimit-ederer (ok so that’s a poor nickname, help me here!) punished with his inside out forehand and his new and improved serve. The young Bulgarian took a 5-2 lead in the first set and had breaks in the second as we all wondered if we were witnessing the second coming of Fed.
Murray, who is wearing the tightest shirts seen since Borg this year, staged his usual counter-punching comeback every time he was counted out. Regardless, place a bet on Grigs the Great to be a top twenty player by the end of this year.
Up next is Sydney which was won last year by Victoria Azarenka and surprise winner Jarkko Nieminen. Oh yes midway through next week is the invitational AAMI Classic at Kooyong, where there is a strong rumour ol’ Mr Federer will be appearing for the first time since 2009.
Maria Sharapova sponsors 12 prospective students from Belarus, specifically the areas that were affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Sponsorship by Maria Sharapova..hm makes me want to relive my prodigal days in University…http://www.womenstennisblog.com/2008/09/18/sharapova-sponsors-twelve-students-with-210000/
The WTA Tour has launched a new site that lets you can challenge your favorite player. I saw some videos and they are pretty friggan’ hilarious. http://www.challengeyourhero.com/
Meanwhile the Hopman Cup in Perth, a preparatory tournament for the Australian Open, has been given a major blow with Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga going for the newly setup Brisbane International tournament. http://www.watoday.com.au/sport/big-guns-give-hopman-cup-a-miss-20080918-4iwq.html
The Bali tournament, won by Swiss Miss Patty Schnyder last Sunday, has been canceled and replaced by a year-end-tournament that’s going to try and rival with the Year End Championships in Doha, Qatar. http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12110_4148970,00.html
Touching 1000 lives. That’s what the theme of the visit to Nigeria is going to be for the Williams’ Sisters. Serena and Venus are going to visit Nigeria in November of 2008. They intend to promote the game in Nigeria by holding a tennis clinic which has youths assembled from all over the country. Serena is also set to play a little exhibition match. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-09/19/content_10077378.htm
Out of sight doesn’t automatically mean out of mind. Justine Henin, who retired as the number one on the WTA Tour, will open a new tennis academy in Florida on September 27. http://www.onthebaseline.com/2008/09/17/justine-henin-to-open-sixth-sense-tennis-academy-in-florida/
Sad news: David Wallace has passed away. Jon Wertheim writes a beautiful testimonial about the “guy who had an obscene amounts of writing talent. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/jon_wertheim/09/16/tennis.mailbag/index.html?eref=T1
It’s Davis Cup weekend and the heat is on Andy Murray according to Jurgen Melzer, the Austrian number 1. England plays Austria this weekend and Jurgen Melzer isn’t so sure if Andy can cope with the pressure his country puts on his shoulders. Andy however dismisses the Austrian taunting by saying nothing has changed for him. http://www.sportinglife.com/tennis/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=tennis/08/09/17/TENNIS_Davis_Cup_Nightlead.html
The LTA are continueing their gracious efforts to improve British tennis. They have closed a £ 25 million deal with AEGON. Let’s hope England will have more top talents in the coming decade.
Writing a biography at the age of 26…isn’t that a little young? Well not for Serena Williams who is set write up her memoirs about her life on and off the courts. The book is expected to be released in 2009 and is published by Grand Central Publishing. Still…a biography at the age of 26? “Only in America..” as we Europeans say. http://livesteez.com/news/news_detail/1151
The Jimmy Connors Tennis Academy is currently being build in India. It’s about time somebody did something about did that. India holds many talented players that are being laid to waste (in my humble opinion anyway) because there are little to no decent facilities to facilitate the youngsters. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Backpage/The_Jimmy_Connors_Tennis_Academy_is_being_set_up_near_Pune/articleshow/3481000.cms
I had some extra bonus photos laying around of Anna Kournikova at the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup Charity Gala a few months ago. Enjoy!! Photocredit: ATPtennis.com