Hello Tennis – Welcome back, and welcome to 2012…

Here we go! Welcome to a New Year and tune-up time for the 2012 Australian Open…

In Perth, it was Denmark vs. the U.S. at the Hopman Cup. Mardy Fish won a 3-setter over Frederik Nielsen in the opener, Caroline Wozniacki took just 2-sets to defeat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the women’s singles event, then Mardy and Bethanie were beaten (7-5, 6-3) in the deciding mixed-doubles match. Caroline and Rory McIlroy both took to Twitter after the match to make sure the world knew that Caroline aced Mardy not once, but TWICE in the win.

In Brisbane – Serena Williams won her first match back since her loss in the U.S. Open Final to Sam Stosur. Serena defeated South African and former Springfield Laser (WTT) Chanelle Scheepers (6-2, 6-3) in just 68-minutes. After the Australian Open, we look forward to seeing Serena play Fed Cup in Worcester, MA Super Bowl weekend versus Belarus. And I know she just can’t wait to be there! Here’s a quote from Serena after her win over Scheepers: “It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love [with tennis]…I’ve never really liked sports, I never understood how I became an athlete…I don’t want anything that has to do with working physically…If it involves sitting down or shopping I am excellent at that. I don’t love tennis today…but I can’t live without it so I am still here.”

Awesome – her enthusiasm for the game in which she excels is infectious, don’t you think?

Moving on…For those of us who worked the 2011 Arab Games in Doha, Qatar, the Men’s Event this week at the Exxon Mobile is near and dear to our hearts. In fact, best of luck to Malek Jaziri of Tunisia (who we saw a lot of during the Arab Games) – He’ll face France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in first round action Tuesday. Roger Federer’s fresh off a loss to Rafael Nadal in a 3rd place exhibition loss in Abu Dhabi last week, while Novak Djokovic (who beat Federer in 44-minutes at that event) went on to win Abu Dhabi over David Ferrer. All will be playing the Exxon Mobile this week, getting ready for the start of the Australian Open January 16th.

After Doha, the guys will be in India, New Zealand and Sydney; while the ladies play in Auckland, Hobart and Sydney after Brisbane.

Truth be told, there’s been some interesting crap happening in the world of tennis over the past few weeks – stuff you may not have heard:

  • Venus is still having problems with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Despite looking fit in Columbia and Italy during exhibitions in late November and early December, she backed out of the Brisbane event this week.
  • The brewing battle between the USTA and upstart American Alex Bogomolov, Jr. is fascinating. Playing lights-out, but in his late-20’s, Alex has always wanted to play Davis Cup tennis. Knowing Courier has a full slate with the Americna roster including Bob and Mike Bryan, Mardy Fish, John Isner and Andy Roddick, Alex offered his services to the Russian Davis Cup Team, who took him up on it. This has USTA Player Develpment wanting some serious financial compensation. We’ll see where that goes.
  • Yes, Rafa’s playing and just beat Roger Federer in an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates…but he’s hurting. Word is, Nadal will take some serious time off after the Australian Open. Oh…and he’s struggling right now trying to get used to a heavier racquet.
  • Check this out! Andy Murray just hired Connecticut’s own Ivan Lendl as his coach…which is awesome! The question is, can mental-toughness actually be taught? Nature or nurture? Lendl is an 8-time Grand Slam Champion, who possessed amazing natural ability, incredible footwork and fitness, rapid reflexes and cunning strategy…but it was his mental toughness that made him a legend; it was his mental toughness that helped him win when it mattered.