SHARAPOVA FINDING FORM — Maria Sharapova beat Venus Williams on Saturday 6-3, 6-4 in an exhibition in Thailand. According to the Voice of Russia, the elder Williams sister said she was “not in shape and had played slowly and not up to form.”
DJOKOVICS ARE ROYALTY — According to local Serb media, Novak Djokovic is to play Yugoslavia’s first king in a television series to be shot next year. The 10-part series will retrace the life and reign of king Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, first monarch of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, who unified the kingdoms of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia after World War I. Novak will play the king, and his younger brother Djordje will play the king as a young man in the $4.2 million dollar epic.
WILD AUSSIES — Australian Open wildcards handed out so far are to Justine Henin, Alicia Molik, Bernard Tomic, Olivia Rogowska, Aussie under-18 champion Jason Kubler and Davis Cupper Carsten Ball.
HENIN COMEBACK REDUX — Justine Henin in May 2008 retiring from tennis: “I’m at the end of the road. I have experienced everything I could have. I have lived completely for tennis. I am relieved and proud of what I achieved.”
Justine Henin in December 2009 upon her impending comeback: “To come back to my passion, to what I love so much, after this part of my life is such a great feeling. I’m 27, now I just want to live my second career differently to how I did in the past.”
And from the guy who was really tuned in, former WTA CEO Larry Scott, upon Henin’s retirement announcement last year: “This isn’t an exasperated, frustrated player who needs a break. This is a life decision. I don’t think there’s any chance she’ll come back. Really.” Really. Sounds like she was EXACTLY an exasperated, frustrated, burned-out player who needed a break.
The WTA Auckland event was evacuated on Tuesday after a security scare over an unattended bag, found while a protest against Israeli player Shahar Peer was taking place outside the venue.
“Now there are people who think they deserve to be in the Davis Cup when they are ranked 250, 300 in the world.”
— Lleyton Hewitt sideways cracking on teen countryman Bernard Tomic.
DUMP MONEY IN HOLE HERE — According to the Times of India, Vijay Amritraj received a “consultancy fee” of $140,000 each year for his association with the ATP Chennai Open, about twice the amount the tournament winner receives. Game, set, match, Vijay.
INJURIES — No. 10-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out of the season-opening ATP event in Doha with a wrist injury.
“Awesome Field in Auckland” — Awesome headline from the WTA newsletter on the tournament field that has no Top 10 players.
INDIAN WELLS PURCHASED — Larry Ellison, founder and chief executive of the computer firm Oracle, has personally bought the ATP/WTA Indian Wells event, which was in search of a sponsor for 2010. “I am very excited,” Ellison said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I love the game of tennis. I play it regularly, watch it frequently, and now look forward to being in Indian Wells every March to host the greatest players in the world.” The tournament was previously owned by a group that included tennis legends Pete Sampras, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, the USTA, officials of Tennis magazine, and tournament manager Charlie Pasarell. The Oracle Open?
COACHING CAROUSEL — Serb former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who dropped out of the Top 20 last year after an injury-filled confidence-challenged campaign, is already in Australia training for the 2010 season with Aussie trainer Damien Prasad has been working hard to get his player in shape for the coming season. She says she’ll spend the holidays with Australian pro golfer boyfriend Adam Scott before starting her 2010 campaign at the WTA stop in Brisbane, joined by fellow former No. 1s Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. Russian Vera Zvonareva has hired a new coach for 2010, Antonio Van Grichen of Portugal, who previously coached Victoria Azarenka.
LEVINE HITS CHALLENGER CIRCUIT — American Jesse Levine’s ranking does not get him directly into the Australian Open this year, so according to tennis writer Charlie Bricker, Levine will play some challenger events closer to home and skip the trip Down Under. According to Bricker “…he’s being pushed daily in practice this month at the Evert Academy by top U.S. men’s coach Jay Berger and will be during much of the 2010 season by retired Sgt/Maj Keith Williams, who once ran a boot camp at a real U.S. Marine base for USTA juniors. The two have forged a bond and Williams has now been with Levine since Wimbledon, driving him hard in his off-court work. He’s not a tennis guy, but he is, said Levine, “a fitness coach, a life coach and a mentor. It’s the way he helps you go about life, making you feel how lucky you are to be making a living on a tennis court.”
“Usually people are really turned off by tampons. But the fact that something that was supposed to be a hush-hush product was signing such a big celebrity is a big deal.”
— Laura Ries, president of marketing and branding consultant Ries & Ries, on Serena Williams signing on as a spokeswoman for Tampax in 2009. Contrarily, we think people are still really turned off by tampons. Sorry. If Andy Roddick started fronting for Magnum condoms in 2010, we’d probably go the same route of thinking. Must be the conservative in us.
While the March Davis Cup match against Spain is too taxing for world No. 1 Roger Federer’s schedule, thankfully the million-dollar cash-grab exo in Abu Dhabi isn’t.
Andy Murray on being trained by the previous generation to skip Davis Cup: “That period of the year [March 2010] just before Indian Wells and Miami is very important for me. I have a lot of ranking points to defend. I’ve obviously done very well there in the past couple of years, so playing on clay away in Lithuania before traveling over the California is not the best preparation for that…It would be unfair to single me out. (Roger) Federer has missed Davis Cup matches. Rafa (Nadal) has missed Davis Cup matches, as has (Novak) Djokovic, (Pete) Sampras and (Andre) Agassi. A lot better players than me have missed Davis Cup matches.”
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