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Fans’ guide to the week ahead: Monday Jan 5


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:06

As snow falls here at tennishead HQ, the ATP and WTA Tours kick off 2009 in the rather warmer climes of the southern hemisphere ahead of the Australian Open – and just about all of the big names will take to the court somewhere around the world…

Qatar ExxonMobil Open

When? 5-10 Jan
Where? Khalifa International Tennis Complex, Qatar
Surface? Outdoor hard
Prizemoney? $450,000
Draw size? 32-strong
Big names? Roger and Rafa are joined by defending champ Andy Murray and probably the strongest men’s line-up of the week: Roddick, Monfils, Tursunov, Andreev and Philipp Kohlschreiber complete the seeds.
2008 champion? Andy Murray
Sub-plot? After their exhibition exploits in Abu Dhabi last week, the top players get down to the real business of the revamped 2009 ATP Tour. Murray may be defending his crown, but Roger Federer will be looking to extend his own unbeaten run in the Emirate – ten matches and counting after titling in 2005 and 2006.
Web? www.qataropen.org

Chennai Open

When? 5-11 Jan
Where? SDAT Tennis Stadium, Chennai, India
Surface? Outdoor hard
Prizemoney? $1,110,250
Draw size? 32-strong
Big names? Nikolay Davydenko tops the bill, returning to India for the first time since a first-round exit in 2001. Joining him are last year’s surprise package Stan Wawrinka, towering Croats Maric Cilic and Ivo Karlovic, and last year’s marathon semi-finalist Carlos Moya among the seeds.
2008 champion? Mikhail Youzhny
Sub-plot? Chennai may well give some clues as to who will be the dark horses in Melbourne. The field might not be as star-studded as Qatar and arguably Brisbane this week, but should the likes of Cilic and Wawrinka shine, they may gain momentum at just the right time ahead of the Australian Open – much as Tsonga did in Adelaide last year – and it didn’t seem to do him any harm…
Web? www.chennaiopen.org

Brisbane International

When? 4-11 Jan
Where? Queensland Tennis Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Surface? Outdoor hard
Prizemoney? $484,750 for both men’s and women’s events
Draw size? Both the men’s and women’s draws are 32-strong
Big names? Serbian superstars Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic headline competitors’ list at the revamped event. 16 of the world’s top 50 are in the men’s draw, including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, Robin Soderling and Tomas Berdych, as well as rising star Kei Nishikori. Daniela Hantuchova, Na Li, Alona Bondarenko, Ai Sugiyama and Sam Stosur are the big draws in the women’s event.
2008 champions? Michael Llodra and Na Li
Sub-plot? The stunning new Queensland Tennis Centre marks the rebirth of Australian tennis – hopefully. Shockingly, there were no Australian winners on the ATP and WTA Tours last year as illness, injury, loss of form and retirements left a nation with a proud tennis history without a player in either of the the world’s top 50 ranking spots. But Aussie fans will have been thrilled to see Jelena Dokic return to action, and teen starlets Brydan Klein and Bernard Tomic are set to make their senior debuts.
Web? www.brisbaneinternational.com

ASB Classic Women’s International

When? 5-10 Jan
Where? ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
Surface? Outdoor hard
Prizemoney? $220,000
Draw size? 32-strong
Big names? Olympic champion Elena Dementieva heads the field, with Nicole Vaidisova and Caroline Wozniacki strong contenders in the bottom half of the draw. Home favourite Marina Erakovic returns, and tennishead blogger Anne Keothavong kicks off her season in NZ later today.
2008 champion? Lindsay Davenport
Sub-plot? While the defending champ is on maternity leave again, two rising teenage stars on the WTA circuit are amongst the seeds – Caroline Wozniacki and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian, a year Wozniacki’s junior, will be looking to emulate the Dane’s 2008 season, when she rose from No.64 in the world to No.12. not a good week to be a commentator, mind – not least having to deal with Anastasia’s tongue-twister of a surname, but also the prospect of Wozniacki meeting Canadian Alexsandra Wozniak in the semi-finals.
Web? www.asbclassic.co.nz

JB Group Classic World Team Challenge (exhibition)

When? January 7-10, exhibition matches January 5
Where? Victoria Park Tennis Stadium, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Surface? Outdoor hard
What’s at stake? Intercontinental pride!
Big names? World No.1 Jelena Jankovic, will be there, as will Venus Williams, Vera Zvonareva, Anna Chakvetadze, Agnes Szavay, Zheng Jie, Gisela Dulko and Sania Mirza, so you can be sure the appearance cheques were pretty hefty. On top of that, the ‘stars of tomorrow’ – Michelle Larcher de Brito, Alexandra Panova, Coco Vandeweghe and Hong Kong’s very own Zhang Ling – get the chance to rub shoulders with the Tour’s established names. Unfortunately Maria Sharapova has pulled out, having only begun to hit a ball again a fortnight ago after her shoulder rehab.
Draw size? Just the twelve, set as four ‘continental’ teams of three:

  • Europe: Jankovic, Szavay and Larcher de Brito
  • Russia: Zvonareva, Chakvetadze and Panova
  • Asia: Zheng, Mirza and Ling
  • The Americas: Williams, Dulko and Vandeweghe

Each team will play two matches, made up of two singles rubbers and a doubles. The winners will play off in the gold final, with the ‘silver’ (aka wooden spoon) final played between the losers.
Sub-plot? Normally there’s not much to read into exhibitions, but with the Tour underway elsewhere and the Aussie Open just days away you can expect a little added spice when the big guns face off – although nobody is going to want to pick up an injury so close to the year’s first Slam.
Web? www.jbgroupclassic.com

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