For two months every year I feel like hibernating when the off-season comes around. This year I was actually quite looking forward to a break from tennis. However with two weeks to go I keep venturing onto YouTube to get my tennis fix. Last night I found myself watching the Birmingham final between Hantuchova and Vekic! I am crossing the days off the calendar until the new season begins and we are less than two weeks away from LIVE TENNIS.
My favourite off-season YouTube video
The first week of the year is always pretty mad with 3 WTA tournaments, 3 ATP tournaments and the Hopman Cup. The first live tennis comes on Boxing Day from the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi, which is normally live on Sky Sports and lasts for three days. Although it is an exhibition it always attracts an excellent line-up and is semi-competitive. The first day of action will see David Ferrer play Stanislas Wawrinka (with the winner to play Rafael Nadal) and Andy Murray take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (with the winner to play Novak Djokovic). This will be Murray’s first match since the back surgery so it will be particularly interesting to see where he is in his comeback.
The 2014 season officially kicks off on the 29th of December with the Australian Open beginning on the 13th of January. Everything feels really early this year and it does feel peculiar that the 2014 season actually begins in 2013. The joint event of Brisbane at the Queensland Tennis Centre is fast becoming the best of the pre-Australian Open tune-ups. The womens event looks great this year with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova all committed to play. Brisbane hasn’t quite lived up to expectation in the past two years though. In 2013, Sharapova withdrew and Azarenka and Serena’s hugely billed semi-final never went ahead as Vika was forced to pull out with that toe injury. The year before, which saw Kaia Kanepi triumph, had another great starting line-up but saw the likes of Serena and Kim Clijsters pull out of the tournament through injury.
This year, the big three are joined by Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Sabine Lisicki. All in all, it’s a very strong line-up with Kimiko Date Krumm at number 66 the original cut-off for main draw entries. The ATP event has drawn Roger Federer, who will play Brisbane for the first time in his career. The Fed is joined by Kei Nishikori, Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson and last year’s finalist, Grigor Dimitrov. It looks like a smart move from Federer because Brisbane has a super quick court and the average line-up will give him the opportunity to get some wins under his belt before Melbourne.
The second WTA event in the first week comes from Auckland, New Zealand where Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams, Laura Robson and Roberta Vinci will all open their seasons. Auckland is a great International event; the time change makes it a pain to watch matches here in the UK, but they are normally streamed for those who can and there are always good highlights on YouTube. The third WTA tournament is in Shenzhen, China where Li Na and Sara Errani will headline a pretty sub-standard draw, by far the weakest of the three WTA line-ups.
The best of the ATP draws will once again come from Doha where Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray headline a draw that features five top ten players. Murray has opted to begin the season in Australia for the past couple of years so I am surprised to see him heading to Doha. The third ATP event is in Chennai, India with Stanislas Wawrinka topping the current list of entries. The final event is the Hopman Cup, which I am preparing a special preview for to be published in the next couple of days so stay tuned.