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Home   News   Tebbutt: End of a summer era

Tebbutt: End of a summer era

Dec 31, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

While many Canadians struggle with snow and freezing temperatures at this time of year, on Saturday there was a different kind of challenge for swimmers on Sydney’s Manly Beach.

“Dangerous current” meant they couldn’t enter the water on a gorgeous day with a high temperature of 30 degrees.

That’s the kind of issue Aussies are sometimes confronted with these days – as well as an unfortunate recent rash of drownings around the country.

In terms of tennis Down Under, the sport faces an uncertain future with big changes coming for the antipodean summer of 2020.

The introduction of the ATP Tour’s ‘World Team Cup’ in the first week of next year is going to have a major ripple effect on all current events.

It is a $15 million (US) bonanza that will involve 24 national teams and take up the first (and prime) week of Aussie Open preparation. That will mean huge changes including the end of the now 31-year-old Hopman Cup in Perth.

The Hopman Cup is all about a folksy, low-stress Aussie kickoff to the new year and Roger Federer has ridden team success there to consecutive titles at the last two Australian Opens.

Currently there are four options for the men in the first week of the new year – the $1.3 million ATP 250 in Doha, Qatar (a good payday for players but far from the eventual ultimate destination of Melbourne), the $589,000 Pune, India ATP 250 (a more exotic locale but with a weaker field), the $527,000 Brisbane ATP 250 (an in country perfect prep for Melbourne Park) as well as the Hopman Cup eight-team mixed event.

On the women’s side there’s also Hopman Cup to go along with three WTA events: the $1 million ‘Premier’ tournament in Brisbane (this year featuring Elina Svitolina and Naomi Osaka) and two ‘International’ level tournaments – $750,000 Shenzhen, China (Aryna Sabalenka and the already-ousted Caroline Garcia) and $250,000 Auckland, New Zealand (Caroline Wozniacki, Julia Goerges and Genie Bouchard).

Going forward it appears as if the first week of the year will be monopolized by the World Team Cup, promoted in conjunction with Tennis Australia, with few well-known men’s players available for any other events. As for the women, certain venues such as Brisbane and Perth will likely host the World Team Cup, pretty well relegating the women’s tournaments to second-class status in Australia.

There’s the additional issue that the World Team Cup, with all its prize money, is being hyped as a major event with players going full speed in representing their country in the first week back on tour after the off-season. That situation seems like injuries just waiting to happen for players – the very opposite of the way they can now ease into the new season with a variety of options.

In terms of cold hard cash there’s currently about $2.5 million in prize money awarded at the three men’s tournaments – plus another roughly $2.5 million (with Federer being in seven figures and lesser amounts for the other seven men) in appearance fees at Hopman Cup. That comes to a total of approximately $5 million.

With $15 million available at the World Team Cup, that’s three times what’s now on offer for the men and doesn’t include money from any ATP tournament (or tournaments) that might survive the World Team Cup’s entry onto the scene.

Over the decades there have been lots of major changes in tennis – the US and Australian Opens going from grass to hard courts, the introduction of tiebreaks, the increase in major mixed tournaments on the calendar, Hawk-Eye electronic line-calling and major new facilities – Rod Laver Arena (1988) in Melbourne, a re-built Court Philippe Chatrier (2019) at the French Open set to open for this year’s tournament, the re-tractable roof on hallowed Centre Court at Wimbledon (2009) and Arthur Ashe Stadium opening at the US Open in 1997.

The tennis world has adjusted to and evolved from these major changes. But the revolution coming in 12 months will essentially mean the end of the quaint events such as the Hopman Cup, Brisbane and maybe Auckland as well – tournaments that announce the new year in a measured manner that players and tennis fans have come to enjoy.

Beginning in 2020, there will be two extravaganzas – the World Team Cup and the Australian Open – in three of the first four weeks of the new season. That seems like overkill – a complete abandoning of the more leisurely, low-key way that tennis has gotten its new seasons underway for decades.

CANADIANS THIS WEEK

Photo: Instagram/@mraonic

Milos Raonic defeated No. 67 Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-0, 6-3 on Monday to reach the second round of the Brisbane International. In the second round he will play No. 131-ranked qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic, 19, of Serbia.

Points to defend this week: 0

Felix Auger-Aliassime qualified at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, India, and will now face No. 101 Ivo Karlovic in the first round on Tuesday. If the 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime can win two rounds in Pune he will break into the top-100. Points to defend this week: 0

Peter Polansky was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by No. 146 Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round of the qualifying at the Brisbane International.

Points to defend this week: 12.

Brayden Schnur lost 6-3, 7-6(5) to No. 141 Simone Bolelli in the first round of qualifying at the Pune, India, ATP 250.

Points to defend this week: 48

Genie Bouchard: She’s into the second round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, following a 6-0, 6-3 victory over No. 88 Madison Brengle on Monday. She next meets the winner of No. 49 Alison Van Uytvanck and qualifier Bibiane Schoofs. Points to defend this week: 0

Bianca Andreescu: The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., qualified in Auckland and will play No. 59 Timea Babos in the first round.

Points to defend this week: 9.

Katherine Sebov: The 19-year-old from Toronto lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to No. 146 Ysaline Bonaventure in the Auckland qualifying.

Points to defend this week: 0

CANADIANS IN 2019

Subject to change, the following players are expected to play the Australian Open qualifying beginning on Tuesday, January 8:

Women                     Men

Bianca Andreescu     Felix Auger-Aliassime

Rebecca Marino       Peter Polansky

Katherine Sebov       Brayden Schnur

MERCI ALEKS

Aleksandra Wozniak announced two weeks ago that she is retiring after a professional career that dates back to 2005.

In that year she came to prominence by reaching the semi-finals of the Aussie Open junior event – including a win over her frequent nemesis and near-namesake Caroline Wozniacki.

A loyal representative for Canada in Fed Cup, she recorded a record 40 victories (32 in singles) and 36 ties played.

The highlight of her career was a WTA title in Stanford, California, in 2009, defeating Marion Bartoli in the final.

Wozniak, 31, is one of only four Canadian women to rank in the top 25.

Genie Bouchard: No. 5 (2014)

Carling Bassett-Seguso: No. 8 (1985)

Helen Kelesi: No. 13 (1989)

Aleksandra Wozniak: No. 21 (2009)

Wozniak’s career was cut short by injuries – mainly a shoulder issue that required surgery in 2014. Sadly, she was never the same player after that, becoming more and more vulnerable on her serve.

Possessed of world-class ground strokes (especially her backhand), Wozniak’s cheerful disposition will be missed by many on the international tennis tour.

ALSO IN 2018

With the old year just about out the door – here’s one episode from 2018 that got lost in the end-of-year shuffle.

Back in April in Montreal when Canada hosted Ukraine in a Fed Cup World Group II Playoff, Genie Bouchard played Kateryna Bondarenko in singles on the first day. Bouchard had twice previously refused to shake hands with her opponent at the traditional Fed Cup post-draw pictures with opponents.

Credit to her and Bondarenko as they were obviously aware of that history when the pictures were taken this time. Both played along in a spirit of good fun as can be seen in the picture here.

Bouchard then went on to defeat Bondarenko 6-2, 7-5 to draw Canada level at 1-1 at the end of the first day.

AUSTRALIA POST CARD

The world-famous Opera House in Sydney harbour was opened in October, 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. It was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. But the project, started in 1959, ran into financial complications and Utzon went home to Denmark in 1966 and never returned to see his design realized. He died in 2008 at 90.

Although often assumed to be based on the sails seen in Sydney harbour (above), Utzon’s design was actually inspired more by the shape of bird wings and other objects such as clouds, shells, walnuts and palm trees.