© Ella Ling

Rafael Nadal

Oddballs and Oddities


Bringing you a smattering of some of the weird and wonderful things that have happened in the tennis strata this week (week beginning 9 January 2012).

Draw watch
The big takeaway from the Australian Open draw was not that for the first time in seven consecutive Grand Slams, for the first time in Australian Open history, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal were not drawn in the same half, and thus Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were not drawn in the same half. Fitting, perhaps, given that a report into the repetitive pairing up of the big four was published a few months ago, and is still being peddled around.

For those on planet GB, Murray meets the precociously sure of himself Ryan Harrison, Elena Baltacha plays France’s Stephanie Foretz Gacon (who seems to play a lot of Brits), Anne Keothavong plays Mona Barthel (another familiar face to camp GB), and Heather Watson, crumbs, faces the shrieka-queen, world number three Victoria Azarenka.

Laura Robson is through to the final round of qualifying, while James Ward and Naomi Broady are playing their second round qualifying matches later today. Or were at the time of very wet and drizzly writing.

We also recommend looking out for: Fernando Verdasco v Bernard Tomic, Robin Haase v Andy Roddick, Michael Llodra v Ernests Gulbis, Jurgen Melzer v Ivo Karlovic, and Tamira Paszek v Serena, Gisela Dulko v Maria Sharapova, Jelena Dokic v Anna Chakvetadze, Lucie Safarova v Christina McHale, Caroline Wozniacki v Anastasia Rodionova, Sam Stosur v Sorana Cirstea.

Admin for a reason
Last year, British hopeful Liam Broady missed the junior Australian Open because of a mix-up over entry junior forms. His long-suffering father, who also coaches Liam’s sister, Naomi, was out in Uzbekistan and couldn’t get the form in.

This year, Liam almost suffered a similar fate…he lost his passport on Saturday and then had to change his flights around to wait for a new one. Luckily for him, the passport office obliged rather than obstructed, and he made it to Australia just in time to practice ahead of the junior Grade 1 tournament in Traralgon.

The lesson? Do your admin. Dull, but necessary. Feel free to tweet Liam to remind him.

The weather
I’m sorry to bring up the worst subject in the world. But. Hail, rain, and very grey clouds. Where are we?! In the middle of one of Melbourne’s famous micro-climatic episodes. The sun is supposed to return on Monday. Note the word ‘supposed.’

Speaking of heavens…
There’s been rather a lot of fluster and bluster around Margaret Court’s not-so-sensible statements of late, prompting calls for her name to be removed from Melbourne Park’s third court, one of the nicest in the Australian Open grounds. You can imagine the reaction when a rainbow appeared over the amphitheatre on Wednesday evening. You couldn’t make it up.

Turning out well
Tennis players have a different level of pride in their appearance depending on who they are. Roger Federer is naturally always immaculately turned out. As is Rafael Nadal. Andy Murray is often not. But these guys really took messy dress to a new level…take a bow, Baggy, Flembo and Hutch.

The amount Alex Bogomolov paid the United States Tennis Association after defecting from American nationality to Russian. “It was a big load off my shoulders after we [sent] the check,” Bogomolov said.

Impression still doing the rounds
Last week if was Serena, this week Sveta. The two-time Grand Slam champ is the latest player to have a go at the ‘is it real or not’ Roger Federer William Tell trick shot. She has a little more success than Serena…

The Tower of Tandil climbs a tower
Juan Martin Del Potro, all 6ft 6ins of him, took himself 880 feet up into the Sydney skyline to get a nice view and take some pretty pictures of the Australian metropolis. The jumpsuit was particularly delightful.

In the infirmary
The latest big casualty has been world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who damaged her wrist during her three set thriller against best bud Aga Radwanska in Sydney. “I hope it’s not too serious,” she has said.

Sabine Lisicki, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova were all back on the practice court this week (Serena in what looked uncannily like her underwear), but there were new troubles for Andrea Petkovic, who was forced to withdraw from Melbourne with a stress fracture in her back. And Venus Williams, of course, won’t be playing in Australia.

Shopping changes
There are a few rumours in the mill…Vika Azarenka leaving Nike? Vera Zvonareva to Fila?

There’s also been a name change. Russian Nadia Petrova has gone back to the long, Russian-form of her first name, Nadezda. Colourful. Can’t imagine the commentators are too happy.

And a hair change. Andy Roddick’s gone mohawk. The jury is still out.

Now that’s dedication
Novak Djokovic reportedly googled the location of Orthodox Churches in Melbourne so he could attend a service on the day of Orthodox Christmas.

And finally…what to do when you’re not a tennis player any more
If you’re Thomas Muster, you try your hand at wine. Why ever not?