Welcome to the Post-Australian Open Apocalypse
After two weeks of thrilling men's and women's matches at the Australian Open, get ready for the wasteland that is the post-Grand Slam week.
Going against the grain is the WTA stop in Tokyo, where four WTA Championships qualifiers from last year compete in Lindsay Davenport, Maria "Grunt-o-rama" Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva, and the WTA stop in Pattaya (Thailand) features the return of former No. 1 Martina Hingis after a nearly 2-1/2 year hiatus from competitive play.
Three ATP stops bring the ugly with top seeds Gaston Gaudio (Vina del Mar), Vince Spadea (Delray Beach), and Andrei Pavel (Milan).
French Open Champ Gaudio Takes to the Dirt at ATP Vina Del Mar
A last-minute wildcard by current French Open holder Gaston Gaudio ups the ante this week on the dirt in Vina del Mar, Chile, with the Argentine joined among the seeds by Chilean Olympic hero Fernando "Gonzo" Gonzalez, Italy's Filippo Volandri, Spaniard Dave Ferrer, a regiment of the Argentine Dirt Army in Mariano Zabaleta, Jose Acasuso and Agustin Calleri, and another Italian in riser "You Say" Potito Starace.
Vina Del Mar begins a month-long claycourt swing on the ATP calendar with additional events in Buenos Aires, Costa do Sauipe (Brazil), and Acapulco.
Tough opening round match-ups are (6) Acasuso vs. Olivier "All We Need is Just a Little" Patience, comer Juan Monaco vs. Mariano Puerta in an old-vs.-new all-unseeded all-
Argentine match-up, (7) Calleri vs. Spanish grinder Alex Calatrava, (3) Volandri vs. Spain's Guillermo "G-Lo" Garcia-Lopez, (5) Zabaleta vs. former contender Nicolas Lapentti, and (WC) Alex Corretja vs. Nicolas Almagro in an all-ESP.
In last year's final the No. 5-seeded Gonzo beat No. 2-seeded three-time French Open champ Gustavo Kuerten 7-5, 6-4.
Former champs in the field this year are Gonzo (2004,'02) and Spaniard David Sanchez (2003).
Spadea Leads American-Heavy Field at ATP Delray Beach
Vince Spadea will try and avenge his upset in last year's Delray Beach final to unseeded Brazilian Ricardo Mello "Yello" as the American tops the seeds this week at the Milennium Tennis Championships.
"Anytime you get that close to winning a title and then don't, it's sort of a bittersweet ending," Spadea told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It was great to make it to the finals because I hadn't been that far in the Delray tournament. But it's no secret I want to win my hometown tournament for the first time."
Spadea is joined on the hardcourts among the seeded players by Jiri Novak who makes his 2005 debut, Xavier "X-Man" Malisse, Frenchman Cyril Saulnier, Mello, the unpredictable Irakli "Freak Show" Labadze, Dane Kenneth Carlsen, and American Kevin Kim.
First-round matches of note in Delray are (1) Spadea vs. Hugo Armando in an all-American, James Blake vs. a qualifier, ( Kim vs. Canadian No. 1 (an oxymoron?) Frank "You Can" Dancevic, (3) X-Man vs. Jeff "Baby Krajicek" Morrison, (6) Freak Show vs. American Glenn "I.C." Weiner, (4) Saulnier vs. the struggling Jan-Mike Gambill, and (2) Novak vs. former NCAA champ Amer Delic.
Former champs in the field are Mello (2004) and Gambill (2003,'01).
Pavel Heads Middling Field at ATP Milan
Last-minute wildcard Andrei Pavel heads a decidedly bland field this week at the Internazionali di Lombardia in Milan, joined by seeds Ivan Ljubicic and Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic of Croatia, bouncing Czech Radek Stepanek, Swede Robin Soderling, former top German Rainer "Shine" Schuettler, Slovak Karol Beck, and Belarus' Max "The Beast" Mirnyi.
The field has to be shockingly depressing for local Italian fans, with Milan's history including former No. 1 winners Roger Federer, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Bjorn Borg.
First round matches of interest are teen wildcard Gael "Force" Monfils vs. Julien "United Colors of" Benneteau in an all-French, (5) Soderling vs. Arnaud Clement, "Dr." Ivo Karlovic vs. Fabrice "The Original Magician" Santoro in a fascinating all-unseeded match-up, and (2) Ljubicic vs. Thomas Enqvist.
In last year's all-unseeded final, Frenchman Antony Dupuis edged Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic 6-4, 6-7(12), 7-6(5).
Returning champs in the field are Dupuis (2004) and Davide Sanguinetti (2002).
Davenport, Sharapova Headline Strong WTA Tokyo Field
While Martina Hingis will grab some headlines this week in Pattaya (Thailand) with her return to competitive play, the money event this week is in Tokyo, led by four qualifiers at last year's WTA Championships in Australian Open runner-up Lindsay Davenport, Oz semifinalist Maria "Grunt-o-rama" Sharapova, US Open holder Svetlana Kuznetsova, and another Russian in Elena Dementieva.
The top four seeds benefit from a bye in the opening round, key for Davenport who was also a doubles runner-up in Melbourne and will enjoy taking it easy in Tokyo for a couple days before a second-round encounter with either Saori Obata or (WC) Miho Saeki, both of Japan.
Also among the seeded are Japanese No. 1 Ai Sugiyama, Russian Elena Likhovtseva, Serb Jelena Jankovic, and Slovak Daniela Hantuchova.
No real first-round matches of interest in Tokyo, with only four unseeded players within the Top 50 on the WTA Rankings.
The four-time winner Davenport (1998,'01,'03-04) is the lone returning champ in this year's field. In last year's final the No. 2-seeded Davenport steamrolled unseeded Maggie Maleeva 6-4, 6-1.
Hingis Makes Return This Week at WTA Pattaya
Russian Vera "The Crying Game" Zvonareva heads the anemic Tier IV field this week at the Volvo Women's Open in Pattaya, with No. 39-ranked Marion "Roly Poly" Bartoli as the No. 2 seed, but the real story in Thailand is the return of former No. 1 Martina Hingis.
The winner of 40 career singles titles returns after an almost 2-1/2 year layoff due to a foot injury. After originally saying her appearance at the event was a one-off for charity, Hingis now says she is testing the waters for a return to the WTA Tour.
"As a competitor and athlete, I always want to win. But I hope my body will last and hold up and help me to come through," said the 24-year-old Hingis. "You miss being out there in a Grand Slam final and not be able to compete. It's a big difference between staying on court and commenting for TV. I miss it a lot."
Hingis will donate her prize money in Pattaya to charity, and also plans visit to the tsunami-battered island of Phuket.
"I saw news in Switzerland every day about the natural disaster," Hingis said. "It was very unfortunate. I came here to play tennis and hopefully to make people feel better."
Joining Zvonareva and Bartoli among the seeds in Pattaya are former Wimbledon champ Conchita Martinez (who has nearly dropped out of the Top 50), American Mashona "Little Sis" Washington, Puerto Rican Kristina Brandi, Poland's Marta Domachowska, German Anna Lena Groenefeld, and Spanish doubles specialist Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Hingis opens against German Marlene Weingartner, who she beat in straight sets in both their career meetings.
Another un-seed of note is No. 100+ ranked Jelena Dokic in her 2005 debut, facing Luxembourg's Anne "Kosmo" Kremer.
In last year's stadium-emptying all-unseeded all-Slovak final, Henrieta Nagyova defeated Lubomira Kurhajcova 6-4, 6-2.
NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Australia's Channel 7 reported Sunday that after losing in the Australian Open final, Lleyton Hewitt proposed to soap-star girlfriend Bec Cartwright. The two have been dating a little over a month, with Hewitt rebounding from his phone-dumping at the hands of former fiancee Kim Clijsters, who he dated for roughly four years...
Marat Safin on coach Peter "Supersize" Lundgren: "I never believed in myself until I started working with him. We worked really hard. We communicate really well. He understood who I am and I understood what he wants from me. (The results) are continuing to come. He makes me believe that I can be a good player, and I don't have so much doubt about myself, about my tennis. He's a great person and a great coach."
When Monday's rankings are released you will see an Australian in the men's and women's Top 10 for the first time in 21 years. Can you name the last two? Without looking them up?
Dear Brad Gilbert: Please secure a coaching job by the French Open so you can bid adieu to ESPN's commentary team. Thanks. For those inquiring, MaliVai Washington was canned by ESPN, replaced by Gilbert...
The 2005 Australian Open was Dick Enberg's first (and hopefully last) time in Australia
From The Australian earlier last week: "Donald Young is the talk of this week's Australian Open junior tournament. He is 15, has all the shots, a sponsorship with Nike, and is managed by IMG. He had yesterday's match against an older, bigger and stronger Croation kid well in hand. He was on his way to his first Grand Slam semi-final and as far as anyone could tell, a brilliant professional career. Yet he was not impressed. With every missed serve or wide shot, he screwed his face in anguish and considered hurling his racquet. A couple of times he did. The match was being played in a non-air-conditioned, indoor practice centre, which on this blazing hot day in Melbourne must have felt like playing in a greenhouse. "It is so much freakin' hotter in here than it is out there," he exclaimed between points, questioning the wisdom of moving the match indoors under the tournament's heat policy. Behind the court, fanning herself from the heat, Illona Young also tried to cool her son. "Come on, baby," she cooed. "MOM...PLEASE!!"
The Bryans have still only won one slam title, the 2003 French Open.