This article features in the December issue of Australian Tennis Magazine.
The “Summer of Tennis” has a special ring to it, the words rolling off the tongue like a Rafael Nadal “Vamos” or the Australian equivalent, a Lleyton Hewitt “C’mon”. Enjoying the tennis during a summer heatwave – whether it’s on TV or in person – is as synonymous with summer as snags on the barbie, swatting away flies or a refreshing afternoon at the beach.
The summer tennis season is a glorious period offering fans around the country the opportunity to idolise some of the finest athletes on the planet. From mid-December to the final days of January a smorgasbord of ball-by-ball action begins with the December Showdown at Melbourne Park, moving through to the award winning Brisbane International and returning again to Australia’s home of tennis for the first Grand Slam of every year. Here’s where you can watch this summer.
Queensland Tennis Centre – Brisbane
29 December–5 January
Fresh from claiming the International Group award for “Best Fan Experience” in 2012 and 2013, the Brisbane International is gaining influence on the worldwide stage. A setting for both established and potential Grand Slam players, Brisbane will again host some of the game’s most exciting players, in both the men’s and women’s events, in 2014. Among the names to note are Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Serena Williams, as well as Aussie prodigy Nick Kyrgios.
Hyundai Hopman Cup
Perth Arena – Perth
28 December–4 January
The Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth is a traditional way of celebrating summer with some fun team-based international tennis for many fans.
The beauty of the event, named after Australian Davis Cup legend Harry Hopman, is the uniqueness of combined gender teams where there is plenty of random excitement that evolves when you place star players of both the men’s and women’s game on the same side of the court together.
This year the Aussie team is intriguing, with the enigmatic Bernard Tomic teaming up with Grand Slam Champion Sam Stosur. Other notable names include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic and Sloane Stephens representing their home colours. Poland are also likely to make an impact in 2014, with the history-making Agnieszka Radwanska combining with the exciting Jerzy Janowicz for the first time.
Domain Tennis Centre – Hobart
The Hobart International plays host to arguably the most picturesque backdrop of any tournament with the classic, and sub-zero, Derwent River flowing behind centre court at the Domain Tennis Centre. Equally impressive are the calibre of competitors the event is now attracting. A special addition in 2014 is the return of Sam Stosur who has strategically decided for a change in schedule leading into the Australian Open, along with a minor preparation edge over the Russian Fed Cup Team prior to their tie in February. Also watch for Venus Williams as she heads to the Tasmanian capital for the first time. Those established stars will be joined by a string of young players, with Hobart, the scene of first-time titles for Kim Clijsters, Alicia Molik and Elena Vesnina in 2013, often a strong gauge of young players set to make their mark on the WTA.
World Tennis Challenge
Memorial Drive – Adelaide
If you possess a penchant for reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ of tennis the World Team Challenge (WTC) could be for you. The WTC is less focused on attracting the world’s best current players, but more aligned to re-creating a piece of history with legends like Mats Wilander, Henri Leconte and Martina Navratilova set to grace Memorial Drive in 2014.
A conglomerate of legendary players and some current stars, including Jurgen Melzer and Feliciano Lopez, are booked in for January, and will be joined by the local South Australian who has made a name for himself at just 17 years of age, Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The WTC prides itself on being a family-friendly event and will again aim to run ‘Australia’s largest tennis participation event’ which this year saw over 2000 tennis lovers take to more than 200 tennis courts across South Australia.
Apia International Sydney
Sydney Olympic Park – Sydney
Carrying the mantle of the world’s fifth oldest tennis tournament adds a responsibility to continue a deep tradition at the Apia International Sydney. Dating back to the tournament’s commencement in 1885 a string of legends have taken the trophy home. How is this for a who’s who of tennis royalty? Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Billie-Jean King, Monica Seles and Tony Roche. And more recently Sydney champions include Lleyton Hewitt with a remarkable four titles, Bernard Tomic who claimed his elusive first title this year, Martina Hingis claiming three trophies and last year Agnieszka Radwanska obliterated Dominika Cibulkova 6-0 6-0 which hadn’t occurred in the final since 1893.
Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club – Melbourne
Since the inaugural hosting of the formerly titled Colonial Classic in 1988, the AAMI Classic has transformed into a relaxed and highly regarded preparation phase for top ATP players. Previous champions including Pat Cash, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer – proof of the event’s popularity with both players and fans.
In 2014, Lleyton Hewitt will return to defend the title he has claimed for the past two years.He’ll be joined by Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov, with the final three positions in the elite eight-man field still to be confirmed at the time of writing.
Also worth a quick look are the legendary Kooyong grounds and clubhouse of the ‘spiritual home of Australian tennis’.