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Heating up

Australian Open tune-ups feature old faces, new winners

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Tuesday January 09, 2001 4:40 PM

By Yuan-Kwan Chan,

Tennis Week at a Glance
Aces/Double Faults
They Said It
Anna Kournikova Watch
Looking Ahead

Tennis Down Under is heating up as the players gear up for the first Grand Slam event of the season.

Last week, seven tournaments -- including two exhibition events -- were staged in Asia and Australia, and the results saw potential rising stars and familiar faces.

Marcelo Rios, who was married the day after Christmas to 17-year-old Juliana Sotela, won his first title in Doha following a one-year title drought and groin surgery in November 1999.

For German Tommy Haas, the sixth try was a charm in Adelaide. Haas' win over Nicolas Massu came after losses in five previous finals.

And young stars Michal Tabara and Justine Henin won events in India and Australia, respectively.

With the Australian Open to begin next week, it will be interesting to see who is still feeling the effects of 2000 and who is fresh and ready to compete. As Lleyton Hewitt, who lost to Haas, put it, losing early in Adelaide would help him rest up a bit for the Open, which begins Jan. 15.

Swiss rule

The biggest event of last week wasn't even an official tournament. Martina Hingis and Roger Federer teamed to win the Hopman Cup in Perth over the U.S. pairing of Monica Seles and Jan-Michael Gambill. Switzerland swept the final-round matches as Hingis, who has a Cup 14-0 match record, finally won her first Hopman title in four attempts.

Energizer bunny

Martina Navratilova announced that she will make her doubles debut in 2001 at the Ericsson Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. The 44-year-old, who will pair with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, also plans to compete at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Aces/Double Faults
ACE Meilen Tu The former U.S. junior standout, who won the 1994 U.S. Open junior girls' championships over Martina Hingis, claimed her first title as a pro last week at the ASB Bank Classic in Auckland.
ACE Michal Tabara At the Gold Flake Open in Chennai, India, the 21-year-old from the Czech Republic beat Cedric Pioline in the quarterfinals, then went on to capture his first ATP title.
DOUBLE FAULT Boris Becker The German star attempted to keep his divorce proceedings private by suggesting that, should they be public, a possible kidnapping of his two sons could occur. Instead, he brought more unwanted publicity for himself and estranged wife Barbara than he ever could have imagined.
They Said It
"It's a little bit different and it's a little bit hard not having him here and to practice with. I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time I'm a little bit lost."
Todd Woodbridge on competing without longtime doubles partner Mark Woodforde.
"The point separation from being 33 in the world to being 15 in the world is very little. If I did well in just one event, I would jump up a lot. If you look at the ranking, it doesn't really matter that much in the match, but it is good to be up there and that's what my goal is."
Jan-Michael Gambill on his goals for 2001.
Anna Kournikova Watch

Anna Kournikova
She's one of the biggest stars in tennis, and makes millions in endorsements, yet 19-year-old Anna Kournikova has never won a WTA Tour singles title, earning her plenty of criticism. Week at a Glance will follow Anna's performance until she finally breaks through with her first tournament win.

2001 stats: 0-0 record.
Kournikova kicked off 2001 by playing in an exhibition event in Hong Kong...sort of. (She spent most of her off-court time getting fitted for cheongsam (long traditional Chinese dresses), walking the fashion runway for Rolex, and defending her recent split with former doubles partner Martina Hingis.) The debate about whether or not a championship at the Watson's Water Challenge, a non-WTA Tour event, could be considered a "first title" never materialized, as Anna lost in the finals to Australia's Jelena Dokic.
Looking ahead
This week - ATP Tour
Two more Australian Open tune-ups serve as a last chance for players to scrape off the rust. Magnus Norman and Lleyton Hewitt headline the action in Sydney, while Jan-Michael Gambill, Marcelo Rios and wild card Greg Rusedski try to topple top seed Franco Squillari in Auckland.
This week - WTA Tour
Sydney is the place to be this week, with Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles as the top three seeds in a very competitive field. American Amy Frazier leads the field in Hobart, and Mary Pierce is the top seed in Canberra, her first tournament since injuring her shoulder at the U.S. Open.
Next week
It's over to Melbourne for the Australian Open, where Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport will attempt to defend their singles championships. Players will battle the Australian summer heat from Monday until Jan. 28.

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