ASB Classic - it's on!

My blog will be a bit silent during the next two weeks as I am living and breathing the ASB Classic and Heineken Open.

It's been a fantastic first few days here despite some appalling Auckland summer weather. The players have mostly been in good spirits and I've been able to speak to most of them top ones briefly and hope to be able to interview a fair few of them during the week.

We had a player dinner Friday night, and it was fun to see some of the ladies really dress up. Svetlana Kuznetsova was probably the biggest surprise as she was in a short, fitted dress and killer high heels. Sabine Lisicki also had on some dangerously high heels. Some of the players really went all out which was great considering it was a chilly, rainy night so I appreciated the effort.

Yesterday we had a 'meet the seeds' media event so all top eight seeds were onsite to speak with media. I was able to introduce myself to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Julia Goerges, Flavia Pennetta, Roberta Vinci and Monica Niculescu and took photos of all of them. I wasn't brave enough to ask many questions but instead chose for casual conversation. Total heaven for a tennis geek tho.

So far we haven't had much of a break from the weather gods as the first round of qualifying was played completely indoors. Today (Sunday 1 Jan) we got six of eight matches completed. For me the biggest story so far for qualies is the young Americans. It's possible that 3 of 4 qualifiers for the main draw will be Americans which is pretty exciting. Alison Riske, Coco Vandeweghe and either Jamie Hampton or Irina Falconi are into the final round of the qualies tourney so will be interesting to see how they do tomorrow.

Today, qualies top seed Anne Keothavong won as did Czech Karolina Pliskova who was impressing the fans who braved the weather to come onsite. Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, all of 18 years old, also looked pretty sharp in her win.

Tomorrow's main draw matches include Christina McHale, Flavia Pennetta, Sabine Lisicki and Jelena Dokic. We've also got doubles action including Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina and reigning French Open champs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

Rafa's year

Thanks to the great folks at Rafa Updates who are using some of the many Rafa pics I've taken from my 2011 tennis travels on their website!

Have a read of their new post about the second half of Rafa's year - a few of my pics are in this article.

Make sure to follow Rafa Updates on Twitter @RafaUpdates and check their site for all the news on Rafa!

ASB Classic starting soon!

It feels like the Fed Cup Final was just the other day but alas it's time for live tennis again.

The ASB Classic is a fantastic tournament held in Auckland the first week in January. We're about to kick off our qualifying tourney on Saturday the 31st so players have started to arrive - I'll be hitting the practice courts all week to see if I can get some pics and hopefully some brief interviews.

The qualifying draw includes top seeds Alexandra Dulgheru and Alberta Brianti as well as Sania Mirza, Heather Watson, Aravane Rezai, Alize Cornet and young Americans Irina Falconi and Coco Vandeweghe.

Last year, Sabine Lisicki won a spot in the main draw and this year she's the top seed! The other top seeds are Peng Shuai, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta so should be a tourney full of great tennis!

Appreciate any support of the tournament - I manage the social media accounts so....

Follow us on Twitter:!/ASBClassicAuckl
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Merry Christmas everyone!

It's officially Christmas Day in New Zealand so happy holidays to all of you! This is my blog's first Christmas and it's been a great year so thanks for all your support and interest!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and, well, the 2012 tennis season is literally days away so enjoy the break while you can!

The ASB Classic qualifying tourney starts here on Saturday 31 December so follow me on Twitter - going to be an amazing tournament!

No Venus in New Zealand

After weeks of anticipation building about Venus Williams playing in the ASB Classic, the lovely Vee has withdrawn. It's been a rough day.

Of course, speculation is rife by the tennis world that Queen Venus' career is over. Sure, people have said that for years which is absurd given her talent. But the latest health issues are of course another story. Sjogren's syndrome is a real disease and Venus has to best work out how she can manage it for day to day living as well as life on the tennis court.

One of the body parts most affected by this syndrome is the eyes. In addition to dryness, there's also chances of blurred vision and constant eye discomfort. It's easy to understand how she could struggle on the court if she can't see properly. Of course the fatigue and joint pain are going to be the most difficult for her to overcome on the court. It's one thing to play an exhibition match, but to play several matches back to back could be too much to ask for Venus.

I'm trying not to think the worst, but at 31 and with a serious health issue for an athlete my optimism is fading.

Of course there's a lot of disappointment in Auckland that we won't be able to see Venus in action, but personally I am so excited to welcome amazing players like Sabine, Julia, Sveta and Flavia. Plus Peng Shaui, Zheng Jie, Christina McHale, Jelena Dokic - we will have some fantastic tennis here I'm sure. To follow along please like the Facebook page ASB Classic and follow here on Twitter.

Best of Delpo in Photos - 2011

Ah Delpo. The gentle giant is back and I couldn't have been happier to see him in action this year. It started with a very frustrating match vs Baggy (made frustrating due to the noisy Cypriots I sat next to) and ended with Delpo tears in Spain. I have a feeling 2012 is going to be a fab year for the big man.

1) vs Marcos Bagdatis, Australian Open
2) vs David Ferrer, Davis Cup Final
3) vs Rafael Nadal, Davis Cup Final

Australian Open

Walking toward practice courts in Melbourne
About to take the court vs Baggy

Losing in four sets


I watched Delpo practice in the pouring rain for ages.

US Open

Big of Delpo practice time

Davis Cup Final

Playing Ferrer

Double match point for Ferrer

Ah broke my heart Delpo

Back for more against Rafa

 Let's do this

Man he played well

Heading to his team for a hug after the match

Best of Sveta in Photos - 2011

Oh Sveta. I am not sure any player put me through more drama this year. First, it was her third-set lead to Peng Shuai that went away in Auckland, then it was a tense close-out of Justine before THE match vs Franny. I can barely talk about the match vs Caro in NYC - SCARRED.

Sveta matches for me in 2011:
1) vs Peng Shuai, ASB Classic
2) vs Justine Henin, Australian Open
3) vs Francesca Schiavone, Australian Open
4) vs Elena Baltacha, US Open
5) vs Caroline Wozniacki, US Open (big screen at US Open)

ASB Classic (Auckland)

About to lose her 4-2 third set lead to Peng Shaui

My great view as a volunteer

Australian Open

Taking on Justine on Rod Laver Arena - third round

Pretty sure I was the only one in the crowd cheering for Sveta

She won! Fought off a set point after serving for the match...
cause that's the Sveta way

She was pretty happy

Hisense Arena. Vs Fran. THE MATCH

This match was crazy amazing

Sveta, during third set when she said she forgot who was serving, etc

I know Sveta, I know.

Fran wins - heart that one! Both ladies are AMAZING.

 French Open

Practicing on her off day before playing 4R match vs Dani

US Open

2nd round match vs Elena Baltacha

UGH. Caro watch, watched on big screen. With Amelie M y'all.

Best of Ferrer in Photos - 2011

David Ferrer has quickly moved up my list to become a main fave. He started the year in the right place this year - Auckland! From then, I was able to see him play quite a bit:

1) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber, Auckland
2) vs Santiago Giraldo, Auckland
3) vs David Nalbandian, Auckland
4) vs Ricardas Berankis, Australian Open
5) vs Rafael Nadal, Australian Open
6) vs Andy Murray, Australian Open
7) vs Gael Monfils, French Open
8) vs Novak Djokovic, ATP World Tour Finals
9) vs Tomas Berdych, ATP World Tour Finals
10) vs Juan Martin Del Potro, Davis Cup Final

Some pics:

Heineken Open, Auckland

After beating Santiago Giraldo to make the final 
Um yeah it's hot here

Practice morning of the final

Volunteering at a tennis tourney is fab - great views :)

Pre-match interview before taking on Nalby

Winner, again!

Australian Open 

Vs Berankis - he got a bit frustrated.

It's also hot in Melbourne

In the QF vs Rafa

Into the semis!

Taking on Muzz

Not his day - played great but went brain dead in the TBs
French Open 

Taking on Gael and the French crowd!

Match called in fourth set due to darkness
 ATP World Tour Finals

Taking on Nole in London

Happy winner!

Ah shucks

Taking on Berdych in his final RR match

You can blame the shirt. We all did.

Davis Cup Final 

Taking on Delpo in Seville

He wins in five - amazing Daveed

Outside his hotel the morning after his big win

Morning of the final day

We...are the champions.