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Jan 16, 2009

Tennis Spice Andy Murray hits the beach

Looks like Andy Murray's PR team is serious in doing their job.

With the beach boy image, a cheesy smile and a pink beach tennis racquet, who wouldn't love the red hot Andy?

Check out these too:

Patriotic Andy? Okay that's not Union Jack or Scottish flag but the Aussie's.

Fun Andy

And of course the shirtless Andy

Late last year, Andy signed a deal with Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, the management company who look after David Beckham's commercial activities and also represent Victoria and the rest of the Spice Girls.

The deal with 19 will also see his interests represented by the Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency (CAA), whose clients include Tom Cruise, a friend of the Beckhams.

19 and CAA do have plans to turn Andy into a serious tennis player in the world of sport and entertainment, to move him up the money list as well as the ranking list.

But before all that happen, Andy has a more important thing to do at the Australian Open, to win his first Grand Slam title.

He is scheduled to play against Romanian Andrei Pavel in the first round at the Australian Open.

(Via telegraph.co.uk; Images Yahoo! Sports)

Oi Oi Oi Year of Ox: HCFoo's Australian Open predictions based on Chinese zodiac (Men's Singles)

The Australian Open tournament (Jan 19 - Feb 1) coincidentally falls on Chinese New Year (Jan 26). That means by the time the men's and women's finals are played, we are already in the year of Ox.

I'm not trying to be a Feng Shui master here but from the research that I've done, I believe the following predictions could shed some light on who will be the AO winners in the next 2 weeks.

Will it be bookies' favourite Andy Murray? Or are we not listening to Roger Federer who believes the top AO favourites should be Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or the Mighty Fed himself?

Will Jelena Jankovic finally get her first Grand Slam? Or Dinara Safina's going to continue her family tradition by following her brother's footsteps? Or one half of the Williams sisters will prevail again in the Grand Slam?

Let's take a look at the possible winners' luck this year.

Men's Singles

Tiger
Rafael Nadal - June 3, 1986
This is the year for keeping a low profile, tiger. Because of the slow pace of the Ox year, it will be a frustrating time for you. You like things to be move quicker, you will need to show restraint.
AO Prediction: Currently Rafa is doing the right thing which is keeping a low profile and remain humble despite his achievement. Too bad because it seems like the hardcourt Grand Slam title is still out of reach. Perhaps this year's slower pace will suit his slow-paced clay court better.

Rooster
Roger Federer - August 8, 1981
Great opportunities for rooster this year. A good time to recoup losses. You will make great progress at work, reaping rewards of your labor. Emotional ties bring joy. Your prestige and reputation increase.
AO Prediction: Roger could be right about Murray! He could be winning his precious 14th Grand Slam right here in the AO to level with Pete's record! Watch out for a slammin' year by this guy!

Rabbit
Novak Djokovic - May 22, 1987
Andy Murray - May 15, 1987

The year of the Ox is well suited to the rabbit nature. The slower pace of this year will see you spending more time with friends and family. A good year to upgrade your home, or for buying or selling a house.
AO Prediction: Once ushering into the year of Ox, defending champion Nole and everyone's favourite Murray could have a slower pace and less stiff competitions like the previous year. Try again next year. In the meanwhile, Nole and Murray can spend more time with their brothers and motivate them to up their game instead.

Ox
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - April 17, 1985
This is not a year to be outrageous. A slow but steady year. This Ox year will bring stability and growth where patience and diligence pays off.
AO Prediction: Could have a chance here. But sometimes it takes more than hard work to win. You need to have that extra edge and luck to win at such high profile tournament. Perhaps he should take it slow with the backache or take a break to rejuvenate and come back to compete again at later part of the year.

Dog
Andy Roddick - August 30, 1982
A year for dogs to keep a low profile. Put more attention into matters at home, spending quality time with loved ones. The simple pleasures will bring happiness this year.
AO Prediction: Not much achievement in the year of Ox. Can forget about winning here. But hey there's a good news; wedding bells are on the way :D !

So, the year of Ox is on Roger's side!

Well, I won't be spending time mentioning every single player. AO is always full of surprises so anyone besides these guys has a chance to lift the prestigious Grand Slam title too. If you want to check how's your favourite players fair this year based on Chinese zodiac predictions, you can google and find out.

And here are the men's singles draw. Who do you think will meet in the final?

I'll come back with the part 2 of this post and we'll take a look at the favourite women players' luck in the year of Ox.

Updates: Click here for the women's singles predictions.

*'Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi', also spelt 'Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie, Oy Oy Oy', is a cheer or chant often performed at Australian sport events.

(Original prediction via earthyfamily.com)

Bernard Tomic's Dad launched verbal attack on Roger Rasheed

"Roger Rasheed is not a coach, he's a fitness conditioner. He took Lleyton Hewitt from no. 2 in the world to no. 60 and I think that Gael Monfils should be very careful."
~ John Tomic, Bernard Tomic's dad

Tomic Sr. the father of Australia's future top-10 prospect, Bernard Tomic has launched a stinging attack on leading coach and commentator Roger Rasheed.


Tomic Sr. questioned the credentials of Rasheed, the former coach of Lleyton Hewitt who is now steering Frenchman Gael Monfils.

He made the comments in his hometown paper, The Gold Coast Bulletin, and refused to back down.

Tomic said Rasheed had never taken a player from the "bottom" to the top echelon.

Rasheed declined to comment on the verbal attack by Tomic Sr.

Bernard Tomic had the opportunity to hit with Rafael Nadal yesterday..

Tomic's assault on Rasheed stems from comments the coach made about Bernard.

Last month, Rasheed said Tennis Australia should consider cutting ties with Tomic if problems persist with either the teenage star or his father.

I don't have much things to say except this: Never ever mess with the parents of your country's future star players.

(Via new.com.au)

Jan 15, 2009

Australian Open wildcard recipient Meng Yuan in tip-top condition

WTA's world no. 123, Meng Yuan who resides in Hong Kong, has received a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open, her favourite tournament.

She has posted her best results here – second round appearances in both 2006 and 2008.


We didn't hear much about her last year as she was plagued by illnesses. Fever, stomach problems and allergies were the main culprits, and Yuan was forced to take two-and-a-half months off to recover.


Now, fully rested and with the all-clear from doctors, she is back hitting the court starting the new year in high spirits.

Last year, Meng battled through qualifying before her defeat to Serena Williams. This year, she was handed a wildcard as part of an exchange agreement between Tennis Australia and the Asian Tennis Federation.

The initiative has also awarded Denis Istomin - the other highest Asian player not yet in the main draw – a wildcard as part of a move to promote tennis in Asia.
“Every time I come here, I’m feeling very good," Meng said.

"I have fans here. I don’t know where they are coming from,” she laughs.

“I have Chinese fans and last year there were more Australian boys and girls.


“It’s fun. I like hot weather. The people are very helpful; (the) service is very good. I relax here. It’s my favourite tournament.”
Off the court, Meng likes to explore the city, and lists Chinatown as her top destination.
“I like Melbourne for the city because I can find everything – shopping, it’s very good for walking, beautiful buildings. I have a very good feeling for here in a different way.”
Meng travelled here with her coach Yu Fung Ming. The pair have worked on strengthening Meng’s body and tailoring her training program that shaped her current tip-top condition.
“I wanted to change my body because last year I got a lot of fever," she explained.

"Now it’s better. Everything is fine and my coach has changed my treatment. My body is getting stronger.”
Psychologically, Meng is mentally ready especially by starting the year fully fit at a tournament where she feels at home.
“First to play here is good, my thinking is better, body is better. I am positive about this year,” she said.
So will she be able to make it past the second round this year?

(Via AO official website; Image by Brent Bignell)

Novak Djokovic is all dressed up for success

While other players were seen shirtless in their latest photos, Novak Djokovic is dressed up in the latest January 2009 issue of a Serbian edition of STORY magazine.

Nole is featured in the magazine along with Natasa Bekvalac, a famous contemporary pop star in Serbia... and she is married to Serbian water polo player Danilo Ikodinović.

Water polo players are quite hot properties, aren't they?

The Australian Open will kick off next Monday and Nole will surely go all out to defend his Grand Slam title despite a slow start this year.


(Via Tennis Photos)

When Harry met Venus

Many tennis stars including defending champion Novak Djokovic use the Lexus Centre as a gym and training facility during the Australian Open.

Venus Williams was the latest player to drop earlier this week, where she just happened to bump into
Harry O'Brien, a defender for the Australia's football club Collingwood.

Venus was said to be thrilled to have met one of her heroes.

Since when does Venus like football (I mean soccer)???

It was reported that "they were seen locked in deep discussion with the Magpie defender about the challenge for Mick Malthouse this season in rebuilding the Pies' midfield".

Wow, I'm impressed because Venus seems to know so much about Australian football.
O'Brien told collingwoodfc.com.au, "She is an extremely nice person."

“I have always admired her sporting ability and will be looking forward to watching her play at the Open.”
(Via collingwoodfc.com.au)

Malaysian Juan Antonio Los Santos to debut for Australian Junior Open

Finally a junior player from Malaysia is on his way to make a debut at the Australian Junior Open.

Juan Antonio Los Santos will make his grand slam debut in the junior ranks on Jan 25-31 at Melbourne Park.
The 17-year-old will be the first Malaysian in almost 20 years (!) to compete in a grand slam junior event.


Los Santos is currently ranked at no. 139 in the junior ranking, will compete in the qualifying rounds.

If you think why Los Santos's name doesn't sound Malaysian, it's because he's of mixed Spanish-Chinese parentage.

He is currently competing in the ITF Grade One Loy Yang Power Traralgon International and will later play in the Optus Notting Hill International (Jan 16-23), both in Melbourne.


National coach Rahizam Rahim said Juan's acceptance into the Australian Open marks a new beginning for Malaysian tennis.
"It's an indication that local tennis is progressing. However, his parents should be given credit for supporting him," said Rahizam yesterday.
Los Santos, in an recent interview, said he hopes to become a successful professional player one day.

His mother, Gabby, is a former international who played in the Junior Wimbledon in 1981.

Los Santos has been making steady progress since he was 13 when he won several ATF Under-14 championships and also held the Asian no. 1 ranking in this category.

In 2007, he become the youngest Malaysian winner of the ITF junior circuit when he won the Grade Four Brunei event.

Updates:
His mom Gabby still haven't reply my email which request for Los Santos photos and updates. However I managed to find one photo online.

Cute, eh?

Los Santos, who will be making his Australian Junior Open debut on Sunday, failed to make an impact in two recent ITF Grade One Junior events.

At the Loy Yong Power International, Los Santos fell 6-2, 6-3 to Australia's Jason Murry Kubler in the first round in Traralgon.

In Melbourne, Los Santos, the World No 139 in the junior ranking, was beaten 6-4, 6-1 by Italy' Alessandro Colella in the Optus Nottinghill International.


(Via NST)

Shirtless ATP players at practice in Australia

China's Sun Tiantian reminded everyone in her blog that Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.

So why are these players risk hitting under the hot sun shirtless???


Mario Ancic in Medibank International earlier this week.

Andy Murray during a practice at Melbourne Park.

Marat Safin at Melbourne Park.

Andy Roddick at Melbourne Park.


(Images via Zahirah's flickr page, Yahoo! Sports)

Jan 14, 2009

IMG Academies' top execs fired including Gabriel Jaramillo who discovered Kei Nishikori

Herald Tribune reported a major restructuring is going on at the top of IMG Academies, the world renowned sports training facility.

The deepest impact has come at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, leaving some of the facility’s founders jobless.


Four top executives were either fired or encouraged to resign since December. They include
tennis academy director Gabriel Jaramillo, VPs Ted Meekma and Greg Breunich and CFO Jeff McNeil were asked to leave.

Each man was given severance pay, according to Jaramillo‘s attorney, and signed nondisclosure and no-compete contracts that prohibit them from coaching tennis or speaking publicly about the changes. 


As this makes room for people to move up the corporate ladder, this could also mean there will be some entry level positions available for recent graduates from sports management collegesIMG officials refused to comment yet.

Meekma and Bruenich started as tennis instructors who worked side-by-side with Bollettieri since the early years of the academy.

Jaramillo also started as an instructor and worked his way to the head of the academy while training dozens of top players, including Agassi, Sharapova and Pete Sampras. He is the guy who spotted the talent in Kei Nishikori when he was in Japan.

In 1987, Bollettieri joined IMG to open the multi-sport academies in west Manatee County, on 300 acres of former tomato fields. IMG now trains thousands of athletes in sports from golf to basketball.

An investment firm, Forstmann Little & Co., acquired IMG — an international sports and entertainment marketing company — in 2004 for $750 million.

Forstmann Little has a history of cutting costs to make its acquisitions more profitable before reselling them.

Hopefully the restructuring process taking place would not affect the players.

(Via heraldtribune.com)

Sun Tiantian revealed why tennis players look older than their age

China's Sun Tiantian, who was 2008 Australian Open mixed doubles champion along with Nenad Zimonjic, was given the honour to become the first WTA player to blog in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website this year.

Sun is currently in Sydney to compete and make her Australian Open preparations at the Medibank International.

She shared with the fans why most tennis players look older than their age.
For instance:

Marcos Baghdatis is only 23 but looks like 32.

Sun revealed that tennis players frequently play matches outdoor under exposed sunlight, hence causing premature ageing.

She also said, in Australia, the UV ray is very strong due to the depletion of ozone layer.

Believe it or not, statistics show that Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world!

Besides talking about the sun in Australia (didn't talk about the surf though), she also blogged about missing her mom's cooking, playing doubles with Anna-Lena Groenefeld in Sydney and being satisfied with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour calendar for 2009.
"There are tournaments with more prize money, and they're also paying more attention to the players' health, giving us a longer off-season among other things. I like these changes."
Click here to check out more updates from her blog soon.

(Via sonyericssonwtatour.com; Images via Yahoo! Sport)

Shut up before they hate you!

With the Australian Open campaign is on, practicing on court is just not enough. Some players will play the psychological war too.

But we hate any kind of war, don't we?

Roger Federer usually starts as the favourite to win the Australian Open. Not anymore.

Federer arrived in Australia over the weekend after losing to Andy Murray in the semifinals at Doha, Qatar.

Some British bookmakers listed Murray as the favourite to win the Grand Slam after he defended his Doha title and won an exhibition at Abu Dhabi.

Federer, who needs another Grand Slam to equal Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles, was surprised to hear it.
"Who said that? The bookies? Good for him," Federer said Tuesday at a news conference for the Kooyong exhibition tournament.

"It doesn’t help him a whole lot. I’ve been in that position before as well and didn’t make it."
Federer said Murray was a contender due to his form and no. 4 ranking, but winning a Grand Slam was a new level for him.
"He’s put himself in a great position. He started off well, going well in Doha. He finished strong last year. It still does surprise me that the bookies say that," Federer said.

"He’s never won a Slam."


"He’s shown for a year now he’s knocking on the door, trying to make his move.
Sure, he’s put himself in a position, but winning a Grand Slam is a different animal."

"Not many guys have been able to win a Grand Slam in the last few years. Rafa and me took a lot of them, Novak won here last year. They don’t come easily."
Murray then hit back at Roger jibe.
"You get used to being expected to win matches when you play at Wimbledon. The pressure that comes with that gets you used to these situations."

"The older you get, the more matches you play, you realise what the bookies are saying doesn't make any difference once you get on court, whether they are saying good things or bad things. You just get on with your job."
Murray has beaten Federer five times in their seven career meetings with his only defeats coming in their first meeting at Bangkok in 2005 and in the US Open final last year.
"The more you play against him the less fearful you are, you're not scared to win the match. If you're young and you play against the top guys, once you get close to winning you get nervous," Murray said.

"Now when I play him I don't get nervous and if I play my best tennis I can beat him."
Now I can't wait for the Australian Open to begin! Can Murray win his first Grand Slam here or is he going to prove Roger's comments right? We'll see.


(Via AP, independent.co.uk; Image by William West/AFP/Getty Images)

Ana Ivanovic loves herself more; Fernando Verdasco's moving forward

Ana Ivanovic's latest Adidas marketing campaign has a hidden message.

The narcissistic tagline "Me, Myself" sends out a message to tennis fans that she loves herself more than Fernando Verdasco :P

But let's see what Ana has to say about the real meaning of the tagline.
“The new adidas philosophy of Me, Myself is inspiring to me because it shows women as individuals; that we are all athletes in our own right and that we all have things that we do differently whatever level of athlete we are.”
The campaign, which showcases vivid behind-the-scenes images of Ana during her training sessions, features a number, which at first glance suggests that it might be her age.

The number 30 is in fact a reference to a narrative about Ana and the products she is wearing, providing a intimate insight into her dedication and commitment.

The text, which explains an athlete's need to combine rest and reflection with hard work, reads, 'Ana, 30. Thirty minutes of 'me' time - it's what I need before I can meet my next challenge. Impossible is nothing.'

The campaign will be featured in adidas stores and in print and website advertising in the coming months.

So what about Nando? Seems like he's putting the relationship aside/behind too.

Just look at his performance last week. He kicked off 2009 with a great start by making it in the men's singles and doub
les finals in Brisbane. I've never seen him so focused and serious in his match before.

Hopefully Nando will break into the top 10 this year. You know, nothing is impossible (perhaps Nando would prefer to say 'impossible is nothing').


(Images via Ana Ivanovic's official website; menstennisforums.com)

The new ATP Executive Chairman and President speaks...

“There is no doubt that men’s professional tennis is one of the world’s most popular sports and, as a lifelong fan, it is a great honour to have been given the opportunity to take the helm at such an exciting time for the ATP. The ATP World Tour is a truly global sporting event, featuring some of the world’s best athletes and followed by millions of the most dedicated sports fans and I could not be more excited about being its new Executive Chairman.”
~ Adam Helfant

The ATP, governing body of the men's professional tennis circuit, recently announced the appointment of Adam Helfant as ATP Executive Chairman and President.

Mr Helfant, 44 begins his role with the ATP immediately and will be based in London.

(Via ATP website)

Is David Nalbandian eyeing a switch to motorsport?

Nah, not yet. The tennis player who would consider such a career change would be Paradorn Srichaphan.

David Nalbandian took time out from his practice for the Medibank International, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Sydney, by satisfying his need for speed.


The 27-year-old, whose hobbies include fishing and watching rally races, travelled to Eastern Creek - the home of Australian Motorsport - on Sydney’s outskirts to compete in a go-karting session.


(Via Medibank Sydney website)

Jan 13, 2009

The rest of the winners which I've missed last weekend

In Doha, Andy Murray defeated the other Andy, Mr. Roddick 6-4, 6-2 to win his first ATP title of the year, and ninth overall.

Fernando Verdasco failed to stop Radek Stepanek a.k.a. the Worm in Brisbane which resulted him to lost 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.

Verdasco also failed to win in the men's doubles final match. Marc Gicquel and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Verdasco and Mischa Zverev in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.

In the women's doubles Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King won 3-6, 7-5, 10-5 over Poland pair Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosollska.

Somdev Devvarman who had beaten Carlos Moya and Ivo Karlovic earlier at the Chennai Open tournament, failed to convert the final match against Marin Cilic into a win. Cilic recorded a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) victory in two hours.

Somdev's achievement last week helped him to climb from 202 to a 154 in the ATP rankings. Way to go for this young man from India!

In the men's doubles, Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram defeated Jean-Claude Scherrer and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-4 to take the Chennai Open title.

ATP aside, in the ITF's China F1 Futures event, world's top-ranked junior Yang Tsung-hua who has just turned pro won both men's singles and doubles titles.

Yang who partnered with Lee Hsin-han thrashed Li Zhe and Wang Yu Jr. 6-0, 6-3. Then he defeated Zeng Shao-xuan6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the men's final.

(Images via Yahoo! Sport, sports-1apple.com.tw)

Jan 11, 2009

Victoria Azarenka wins title in Brisbane; yikes, the ponytail!

Seriously, Victoria Azarenka's phython-sized braided ponytail is very distracting. The other braided ponytail that I dislike is Mary Pierce's.

Put the hairy issue aside, the good news is, Azarenka earned her first WTA title, defeating Marion Bartoli in the final at the Brisbane International.

Belarus’ Azarenka, the no. 2 seed, cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 triumph over the third-seeded Frenchwoman in the second career meeting between the pair.
“Everybody says the third time’s the charm but for me it is the fifth one - I’m just glad I got it,” Azarenka said.

“I just go out and play no matter what happens. That probably helped me. It was like playing a regular match - that is what helped me finish it so quickly.”
Azarenka defeated Bartoli in just 71 minutes.

(Via Yahoo! Sport)

Venus Williams leads team America to victory in Hong Kong

Venus Williams defeated Vera Zvonareva in straight sets to seal victory for the Americas over Russia in the Hong Kong JB Group Classic World Team Challenge yesterday.

Williams wins 6-2, 6-2 to give her team a 3-1 lead in the best-of-five gold group final.

It followed a hard-fought 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win for Gisela Dulko over Anna Chakvetadze after the Americas and Russia were tied at 1-1 overnight.

Williams, who struck 10 winners and six aces, looks in great shape for this month's Australian Open, which she has never won.

Earlier in the tournament she crashed world number one Jelena Jankovic by the same scoreline.


"I've been here so many years and this is the perfect way for me to prepare for the Australian Open," Williams said after her team's win.

Referring to her victories over Jankovic and Zvonareva, Williams said: "(They are) very accomplished players and experienced and both of them played great last year so it's definitely a great way to start the year with wins against such talented players."
In the final match of the exhibition tournament, Williams and Coco Vandeweghe beat Chakvetadze and Alexandra Panova 6-4, 6-1 in doubles to seal a 4-1 victory for the Americas.

On Friday, Williams beat Chakvetadze 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 to give the Americas the lead but Russia hit back through Zvonareva, who beat Dulko 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.

Asia-Pacific won the silver group final 3-0 against Europe.

(Via AFP; Images via Yahoo! Sport)

Defending champion Dmitry Tursunov at the official draw of Medibank International Sydney

Dmitry Tursunov and Svetlana Kuznetsova were at the Myer Department Store in Sydney's city centre.

They were getting some help from fans in conducting the official draw. There was an also autograph session with the players including Mario Ancic and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Check out the draws and OOP here.

Dima will be defending his title here. He's definitely an interesting player to watch out for, whether it's on court or off court. If you have missed his 'off court adventurous ride' recently in MTF or DtL, check it out here. Click for a larger version.


(Images via Medibank Sydney website, downthelinetennis)

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