There's always some hope for Australian tennis.
LLEYTON Hewitt has a gammy hip. Jelena Dokic a frazzled mind.
Not one Australian was still alive in the Open by the national day, not that the host broadcaster seemed to care.
It points to another dire summer for Australian tennis. Except, of course, that the state of the sport in Australia is actually significantly brighter than a year ago.
Admittedly, it is coming off an extremely low base and there remains great scope for further improvement, as Tennis Australia's director of tennis Craig Tiley said in a newspaper column yesterday.
But, after a first-round exit from the 2009 Open, Hewitt's ranking slid into triple figures, leaving Australia without a man in the top 100.
While his most recent hip surgery on Thursday, which will force him out of a Davis Cup tie in Melbourne in March, is obviously a concern, the Australian returns to a spot in the top 20 today.
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* Legends divided over future of tennis Fox Sports, 6 days ago
* Thumbs up for Tomic Herald Sun, 7 days ago
* Tomic bolts out of the blocks Perth Now, 18 Jan 2010
* Wild-card Tomic strikes again The Australian, 18 Jan 2010
* Tomic carries the flag Adelaide Now, 18 Jan 2010
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Even given another absence from the Tour, Hewitt's efforts in the past 12 months - including his fourth-round appearance in Melbourne - will ensure he is seeded on his return to grand slam play at Roland Garros in late May.
"For me, (retirement) never went through my mind," Hewitt said.
"I've worked too hard to come back. I feel like I'm hitting the ball as well as I've nearly ever hit it. How I was feeling, the bloke (Federer) I lost to at the start of the week, he's as good as you get right at the moment.
"I don't feel like I'm that far away, my ball-striking, from doing some damage in the grand slams."
The support cast seems stronger now too. After a serious struggle with injury, the hard-working Peter Luczak has rebounded almost 100 spots in the rankings from 167 a year ago and pushed Rafael Nadal early in Melbourne.
The veteran will play Potito Starace in the first round of a $450,000 tournament in Santiago, Chile, on his favoured clay surface this week.
From there he is likely to pursue other ATP Tour events in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico before returning to Melbourne to spearhead the Davis Cup side.
Carsten Ball shows great promise and pushed Fernando Verdasco to four sets in the opening round, but inconsistency remains a problem.
He is the second seed in a $56,000 satellite event in Dallas this week and will attempt to push his claims for main Tour events in the States from San Jose next week before returning for Davis Cup duties.
On a more unusual note, the Dallas event also sees the return to professional play of veteran Mark Philippoussis.
The 33-year-old has not played a mainstream event since the 2007 Hopman Cup following a string of knee injuries - he has had six operations in all - but told a US newspaper hat he still hoped to return to the regular tour.
"That would be the ultimate plan. I'm a long way away from that happening, but that's what I'm working toward," he said.
Philippoussis, who plays the 159th-ranked Michael Yani, said he was lighter than when he reached the Wimbledon final in 2003.
"I have been having a lot of fun in the Masters events. Training has been great and intense, and yes, I am a lot lighter now than when I used to play," he said.
On a front closer to home, the future of Australian tennis is on display at a similar class event in Burnie, Tasmania this week.
Bernard Tomic, the defending champion whose game has improved considerably since that success, has already played a match in Tasmania when defeating Jason Kubler in qualifying.
The 17-year-old, who lost to newcomer to the top-10, Marin Cilic, in five sets in Melbourne, will look to move closer to a spot in the world's top 100 this year. His hopes of playing Davis Cup have been boosted by the injury to Hewitt. Kubler, a year younger than Tomic, wasn't disgraced on his grand slam debut but is yet to prove he can be a contender on the challenger tour, let alone the elite level.
But judges were impressed by his efforts against Ivan Ljubicic and Kubler showed his quality in taking a set off Tomic on the weekend.
Of the others to feature during the Open, AIS coaches are hopeful that Marinko Matosevic - used by Hewitt as a practice partner during the Open - Matt Ebden, who enjoyed a promising summer and Brydan Klein, who was less successful on his comeback to the tour following a ban for racial abuse, will push towards a spot near 100 by year's end.
While the nation's best men are either on crutches, in Chile or are returning to toil away in lower-tier events, Australia's leading women - Dokic aside - will head to Adelaide this week for Fed Cup duties.
Sam Stosur turned around a disastrous start to the summer to equal her best effort in Melbourne when reaching the fourth round. At the time, it had earned her a place in the top 10, but Li Na overtook her by tournament's end when she reached the semi-finals.
Casey Dellacqua was without a ranking due to an injury-plagued 2009 but staked a strong case for the second singles spot against Spain this weekend by winning two rounds and pushing Venus Williams in an extremely encouraging return. Alicia Molik is the other contender to support Stosur.
What do you think of the current situation for Australia?