SERENA SET TO MAKE HISTORY AT A.O.
Serena Williams is seven consecutive wins starting next week from making history.
A title at the Australian Open would make her the the first woman to ever win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era, breaking her current tie with Steffi Graf at 22. But her road to the championship is anything but easy. She will open against Swiss Belinda Bencic, who beat her last year on hard court. Then its likely veteran Lucie Safarova in the second round, then No. 25 seed Timea Babos, then No. 26 seed Barbora Strycova. In the quarterfinals she could face No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova or her buddy and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. In the semifinals she could face No. 5 seed and US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova, and possibly looming in the final is world No. 1 Angelique Kerber.
The 35-year-old Williams is the defending runner-up in Melbourne, last year losing to Kerber in the final.
JINGOES, AUSSIE TENNIS A BIT WALLY HEADED INTO AUSTRALIAN OPEN
The excitement in anticipation of next week’s first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open, has this week been tempered for locals by off-court news in all directions Down Under.
To begin the new year, Tennis Australia was hit by a conflict-of-interest charge involving a board member and awarding a TV rights contract. This past Tuesday, former Australian Open boys’ finalist Nick Lindahl was fined $35,000 and banned from the sport for even years by the Tennis Integrity Unit after being found guilty of match-fixing offenses in 2013. That followed last week’s announcement that the current defending Aussie Open junior boys’ champion, Australian Oliver Anderson, has been charged with match-fixing.
In good news for Aussie men’s tennis, its combustible top stars Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic have been relatively quiet in the first two weeks of the season. Kyrgios is eligible to play after completing a three-week suspension for tanking matches at the end of 2016. He recently chided the ATP that Novak Djokovic receives lenient treatment in comparison, and pulled out of an exhibition tournament this week (after beating Rafael Nadal) to give his injured knee a rest prior to playing in Melbourne. Tomic says he’s trimmed-down and in shape for the new season. Aussie fans are hoping the stars can align for their young talent to end a 39-year title drought at the Australian Open.
The love of tennis is strong in this 83-year-old grandmother rooted on by her 37 grandchildren…Conditions were so hot this week in Sydney that one player was “unable to use his phone following the match after it fried in his bag for almost three hours.”…Florida-raised and former USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Doubles winner Bethanie Mattek-Sands rose to No. 1 on the WTA doubles rankings for the first time this week…Did two players feign injury at the same time during a match so they could get out of the WTA Hobart event to play the Australian Open qualifying?…Sloane Stephens, who missed the US Open, has withdrawn from the Australian Open citing an ongoing foot injury, and U.S. teen CiCi Bellis is out with a hip injury…In a blow to women’s tennis, WTA matches are going to be hard to find on TV or streaming over the next few months…If you weren’t able to attend the USTA National Campus “First Serve” event in Orlando, here’s a photo gallery and an article on all the events at the USTA National Campus this year.
Sock Into Final at ASB Classic in Auckland
American Jack Sock is the lone American standing entering the weekend, powering into the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand on Friday after a 6-4, 6-3 win over fellow American and No. 7 seed Steve Johnson.
The No. 4-seeded Sock reached the Auckland final last year, falling to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
“Stevie is such a good player and had such a good year last year,” Sock said following the semifinal. “I was able to fortunately get a couple of breaks and that was enough. I’ve played a lot of matches this week and my confidence is high.”
In the final he will meet Portugal’s Joao Sousa, who in the other semifinal recorded a 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 8 seed Marcos Baghdatis. Sousa beat Sock last May in their only career meeting at Madrid on clay.
U.S. Player Draws at the Australian Open
American Top 10er Madison Keys misses this Australian Open while healing a wrist injury, so Serena and Venus Williams remain as the lone American women seeds at the 2017 Australian Open among a total of 16 American women in the draw.
Nine American men are in the main draw, led by seeds John Isner, Jack Sock and Sam Querrey.
While none of the American men drew each other, American women are involved in two all-American meetings. Another four American women drew seeds in their opening round.
Here’s a look at the American match-ups in Melbourne:
(2) Serena Williams (USA) vs. Belinda Bencic (USA)
(13) Venus Williams (USA) vs. Kateryna Kozlova (UKR)
Shelby Rogers (USA) vs. (4) Simona Halep (ROU)
CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs. (15) Roberta Vinci (ITA)
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. (19) Kiki Bertens (NED)
Nicole Gibbs (USA) vs. (25) Timea Babos (HUN)
Louisa Chirico (USA) vs. Genie Bouchard (CAN)
Alison Riske (USA) vs. Madison Brengle (USA)
Samantha Crawford (USA) vs. Lauren Davis (USA)
Christina McHale (USA) vs. Kristina Kucova (SVK)
Vania King (USA) vs. Qualifier
Irina Falconi (USA) vs. Xinyun Han (CHN)
Anna Tatishvili (USA) vs. (WC) Jaimee Fourlis (AUS)
(WC) Kayla Day (USA) vs. Andrea Petkovic (GER)
(19) John Isner (USA) vs. Konstantin Kravchuk (RUS)
(23) Jack Sock (USA) vs. Pierre-Hughes Herbert (FRA)
(31) Sam Querrey (USA) vs. (WC) Quentin Halys (FRA)
(WC) Michael Mmoh (USA) vs. (25) Gilles Simon (FRA)
Ryan Harrison (USA) vs. Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
Steve Johnson (USA) vs. Federico Delbonis (ARG)
Jared Donaldson (USA) vs. Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA)
Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Gilles Muller (LUX)
Donald Young (USA) vs. Qualifier
They Said It
“They get everywhere. Do not feed them, and if they come after you, zigzag. That’s how you get away.”
— Orlando-area native Jim Courier on how to get away from an alligator, speaking to the New York Times
“I know when I grew up it was all about me, me, me, me, me and that’s more a part of our American culture. When you travel the world the other countries are more of a team culture. I don’t care what ranking they are, the top French player is going to watch the No. 300 player because that’s part of their culture. Now mind you, they’re smaller. Their countries are the size of our states. But we’re developing that with our North American players.”
— USTA Chairman, CEO and President Katrina Adams on the “Team USA” culture in American tennis
“There’s a void that’s about to occur because of what’s happened with (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal. I mean, they’re at the end, right? You can’t imagine them going on more than a year or two. (Novak) Djokovic (and Andy) Murray are the two best, but they’re not getting younger.”
— John McEnroe on the hopes for American men to end a 13-year streak in winning a Grand Slam title, speaking to WFAN
Tennis on TV This Weekend
(EST, times subject to change)
4:30am-1pm — ATP Auckland, Australian Open qualifying, Tennis Channel
1-5pm — ATP Sydney, Tennis Channel
6-12pm — ATP Auckland, Australian Open qualifying (live), Tennis Channel
3am-3pm — ATP Auckland, Australian Open qualifying, Tennis Channel
3-5pm — ATP Sydney, Tennis Channel
5-8pm — Tennis Australia’s Fast4 (live), Tennis Channel
8-10pm — ATP Sydney (live), Tennis Channel
8-10am — ATP Brisbane final, Tennis Channel
10am-noon — ATP Sydney final, Tennis Channel
noon-2pm — ATP Auckland final, Tennis Channel
2-4pm — ATP Doha final, Tennis Channel
7pm-7am — Australian Open (live), ESPN2