Canada remains in contention at the Hopman Cup after Genie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil scored singles wins on Tuesday night in Perth – Bouchard totally dominated a sketchy Serena Williams 6-2, 6-1 while Vasek Pospisil outplayed John Isner 6-3, 7-6(4). Canada eventually prevailed by a 2-1 score when Williams and Isner combined to win the mixed doubles 6-3, 7-5.

With Canada heading into the final round-robin tie on Thursday against Italy, the Czechs (Lucie Safarova and Adam Pavlasek) have a 2-0 record in the four-team group with Canada and the United States trailing at 1-1.

On Thursday, the Americans will play the Czechs while Canada faces Italy, which may be without Fabio Fognini who pulled out the mixed doubles match against the Czechs on Tuesday. If the Czechs win, they will go to the final. But if Williams and Isner can get a win, it will come down to a tiebreaking formula in which matches won will be important between the Americans, the Czechs and Canada – if Bouchard and Pospisil come through against the Italians.

On Tuesday evening in the Perth Arena with the retractable roof open in 28 degree temperatures, both Bouchard and Williams started unimpressively – Williams didn’t have her timing and Bouchard hit five double faults in her first two service games. The good news for Bouchard was that she was missing long, meaning that she was going for the second serves.

From that point on, she got her game calibrated while Williams never really found hers. The 33-year-old American had brain cramps like hitting a pop-up drop shot that was easily gobbled up by Bouchard.

At one point, the Channel 7 announcers said, “Serena is not herself tonight, we can safely say that.”

Not playing near her best while Bouchard, who had similarly been out of sorts in her opening day 6-0, 6-4 loss to Safarova on Sunday, was gradually finding her range proved to be a fatal combination for Williams.


There was no espresso for Williams after the first set as there had been when she dropped the opener 6-0 to Flavia Pennetta on Monday, just a continuation of her dismal play. Bouchard remained firm giving Williams no chance to get back into the match, which ended after a mere 50 minutes. Bouchard had 20 winners to just 10 for Williams.

“I’m so tired,” Williams would say later. “I couldn’t get my body to move.” It’s interesting to listen to Bouchard as she wrestles with whether it really counts that she beat Williams in an exhibition event.


Pospisil was asked an awkward question about playing with Bouchard following his win.

During his match against Isner, Pospisil did a terrific job returning the 6-foot-10 American’s bombing serves. His forehand was also mostly airtight and he was consistently the better player in the rallies


Former three-time Wimbledon finalist and 1966 French Open champion Fred Stolle, doing commentary with Darren Cahill, said about Pospisil, “I like the way the kid plays, always did.” Both he and Cahill thought that a healthy Pospisil should be a top-20 player. His career high so far has been No. 25.    

The mixed doubles was most noteworthy for the remarkable revival of Williams, who was clearly the boss in her partnership with Isner. While she had games where she meekly first serves in the 130 km/hr range during her singles – and once as slow as 126 km/hr – in the doubles she cranked one 200 km/hr in her very first service game.

Isner was merciless in targeting Bouchard – and she lost her serve in four of her five service games, including the fatal one at 5-all in the second set.

The doubles match was played in a good spirit and Bouchard and Pospisil cannot be too disappointed after their singles successes.  




This is a view of the Yarra River that snakes through central Melbourne. In the top right are the retractable roofs on the refurbished Margaret Court Arena, and behind it the one on Rod Laver Arena.

On Tuesday, still 13 days before the first Grand Slam of the year gets underway, the grounds at Melbourne Park were busy with workers but there were precious few players – only a South African (Brandon Laubser) and an Australian (Harry Bourchier) could be found hitting on any of the courts at 3 p.m.


On Court 5, a worker was carefully applying a surface coating outside the actual main lines of the court.


The most striking addition to the Aussie Open tournament grounds for 2015 is the now completed Margaret Court Arena with its retractable roof and its 7,500-seat capacity. Along with 14,820-seat Rod Laver Arena and 10,500-seat Hisense Arena, the Australian Open boasts three retractable roof stadia for protection against rain and extreme heat.



Who knows if the Australian bookmakers, who have established the early odds for the 2015 Australian Open, know any more than these three Christmas-attired apes pictured in Sydney last Sunday?

The bookies’ numbers would seem to imply that Milos Raonic, currently No. 8 in the ATP rankings, is being significantly underestimated considering his performances in 2014.

Here are the top men’s picks to win the title this year at Melbourne Park.

Novak Djokovic          even

Roger Federer              5-1

Rafael Nadal                5-1

Andy Murray               7-1

Kei Nishikori             15-1

Grigor Dimitrov         20-1

Milos Raonic              33-1

Marin Cilic*               33-1

Nick Kyrgios              33-1

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga    40-1

Tomas Berdych          50-1

Vasek Pospisil          500-1

*Cilic’s participation in the Aussie Open appears increasingly doubtful.

It’s hard to understand how Dimitrov (except maybe for his girlfriend’s name) can be rated significantly higher than Raonic. And Kyrgios, aside from being a homeboy, missed this week with back problem and had nothing like the accomplishments of Raonic in 2014…but has the same odds as him???

It’s also a little strange to see No. 7-ranked Berdych so far down, especially based him having reached the Aussie Open quarter-finals (semi-finals in 2014) four years in a row and having lost to Djokovic (2011/2013), Nadal (2012) and Wawrinka (2014).

As for the top picks – you’d have to say Djokovic is over-priced based on his inconsistent results in Grand Slam finals since 2011.

Regarding the women, it’s certainly strange to see two-time champion Victoria Azarenka as co-No. 2 pick when she currently stands at No. 42 in the WTA rankings and was ousted 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 (after holding two match points) in the first round in Brisbane on Monday night by big-hitting Czech Karolina Pliskova. But it was a high-quality match and the Belarussian, 25, played pretty well.

This year is a little wonky for the rankings because of the late start (January 19) of the Australian Open. Last year’s first week of the season has already come off the computer, so Azarenka, bothered much of 2014 with a foot injury, has lost the 305 points she earned from being runner-up (Serena Williams) in Brisbane a year ago.

She’s not entered (at the moment) in either Sydney or Hobart next week, but results at those events won’t count for the Australian Open seedings. Champion in 2012 and 2013 at Melbourne Park, Azarenka will be an extremely dangerous, unseeded floater when the draw is done on Friday, January 16.

The No. 6-ranked Genie Bouchard, a first-round loser to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Sydney a year ago, is certain to retain a seeded position between No. 5 and No. 8.

Here are bookmakers picks for the women’s event – note that, at 10-1, Bouchard is rated three times more likely than Raonic to win the first Grand Slam event of the season.

Serena Williams          5-4

Victoria Azarenka        5-1

Maria Sharapova          5-1

Simona Halep               6-1

Petra Kvitova                7-1

Eugenie Bouchard       10-1

Caroline Wozniacki     10-1

Ana Ivanovic                20-1

Agnieszka Radwanska 20-1

Angelique Kerber         35-1

Samantha Stosur           40-1

Venus Williams            50-1

The women’s odds seem sensible although Agnieszka Radwanska, possibly inspired by new coach Martina Navratilova, may be under-priced at 20-1. Azarenka at 5-1 may be a bit generous, but she has a pedigree and should improve if she gets a chance to play herself into the event.




On Tuesday the 6th of January, the high temperature in Melbourne was 26 degrees, and the low a distinctly chilly 11 degrees. It’s supposed to be 36 on Wednesday. That might make a trip to the Thirsty Camel (above) for some liquid refreshment a good idea

Here are predicted high and low temperatures in Melbourne leading up to the beginning of the qualifying on Wednesday next week:

Wednesday: 36 / 19

Thursday:     31 / 25

Friday:          20 / 16

Saturday:      19 / 14

Sunday          23 / 17

Monday:       23 / 18

There had been stories about the long-range forecast being for moderate temperatures during the 2015 Australian Open.

That’s possible, at least according to Its projection is for high temperatures ranging from 22 to no more than 27 for the entire two-week period of the 2015 Australian Open.

AccuWeather’s low temperature forecasts for the first two days of the 2015 Australian Open are a chilly nine degrees – is this the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific or the NHL’s Winter Classic?