Serena teases return with glitzy gold

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Will Serena Williams return to action at the Australian Open?

No definitive response yet.

But she’ll be back. And Williams pulled out the big tease as she posted a photo of a glitzy new Nike sock-and-shoe combo.

She added the caption: “Be excited.”

She wouldn’t wear them on court; Williams wears the “Flare” model, more of a high top, to support her ankles.

Too bad!

Best comment: “Please make those in sizes above 12 please!!! Gotta have them.”

There’s a better-than-even chance that comes from a guy – which is epic. Who wants to be his doubles partner?

Broken Darcis already back on the job

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Steve Darcis gave his all in the Davis Cup final against France. 

But the 33-year-old says he had a tear in an elbow tendon, near the epicondyle, and had platelet-rich plasma injections before the final.

That usually means six weeks to three months off. He had 10 days.

“It hurt all the time,” he told Belgian media SudInfo

After 10 days, no improvement. It still hurts Darcis when he merely lifts a drinking glass. And so, he had another injection – and will have yet another Dec. 22. 

Darcis still plans to start the season on schedule in Doha.  

Fernando Verdasco ties the knot

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The number of eligible bachelors on the ATP Tour is dwindling by the week.

The latest to take the plunge is Spanish heartthrob Fernando Verdasco, who took a break from his Miami preseason and wed Ana Boyer over the weekend in Mustique.

The Instagram accounts of both Verdasco and his new wife, Ana Boyer, are conspicuously short on wedding snaps – although you can find plenty of shirtless shots of the man they call FeVer.

That’s because the exclusive rights to the event belong to Holá Magazine, which seems to be the magazine of record for the BoyDascos.

Schiavone back on the practice court

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No sooner had 37-year-old Francesca Schiavone committed to playing the 2018 season, disaster happened.

Schiavone injured her left ankle when she tripped over a stray ball on the practice court nearly a month ago.

On Wednesday, she put footage of her first day back on the court on Instagram.

It appeared the left ankle was heavily taped, and clearly Schiavone’s mobility wasn’t close to where it needs to be.

She’s now in a race against the clock to be ready for the Australian Open.

Schiavone isn’t entered in any warmup events.

Another long break for Erakovic

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Croatia-born Kiwi Marina Erakovic was the No. 5 junior in the world in 2005.

She beat the best players of her era and had junior doubles Slam wins at the Australian and US Opens.

Even then, she had physical woes. She retired or defaulted in her last three junior events.

But as a pro, it’s been little better. Erakovic has missed significant time with injuries to both hips.

Erakovic, now 29, announced Wednesday she would miss the entire Australian summer as she deals with an ongoing back injury.

She reached No. 39 in singles in 2012 and No. 25 in doubles in 2013.

Serena back on court in Florida, D.C.

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The first annual “Fore Love” charity tournament, hosted by the Bryan brothers, raised more than $1.1 million  for at-risk children last weekend.

And the tennis roster was impressive. Andy Murray, Genie Bouchard, Kevin Anderson, Tommy Haas … and Serena Williams.

Williams, who hasn’t yet announced she’ll return to action at the Australian Open, was out on the grass court at Jack Nicklaus’ Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach, Fla. over the weekend.

So that’s a first step. More on Mike Bryan’s Instagram feed.

She and sister Venus also hosted an event in Washington, D.C. last weekend.

John Isner ties the knot

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The off-season is time for short vacations, long pre-season training blocks and … weddings.

Last weekend, it was American John Isner’s turn to hit the altar.

He wed longtime love Madison McKinley in South Carolina.

Among the guests were Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, James Blake and Justin Gimelstob. Some photos here.

Isner joins  Serena Williams, Andrea Hlavackova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Yanina Wickmayer, Julien Benneteau, Sergey BubkaFederico Delbonis, Albert Ramos-ViñolasTeliana Pereira and even one of Ivan Lendl’s daughters (he has five – this is going to be a high-expense period of his life) to taste wedded bliss in 2017.

Djokovic announces coach on Insta live

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It was, without a doubt, one of the more original ways to announce a new coach.

A whole lot more entertaining than a dry press release or a quick Tweet.

Former No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is getting ready to return to action in a month after a long absence due to an elbow injury, decided to try out the latest thing, Instagram Live.

He looked pretty excited about the new toy. And he looked in great spirits overall. And why not. He looks to be preparing for a return after so many months during which he didn’t even hit a tennis ball.

As Djokovic toured his gym, he decided to try out the feature that allows you to call up anyone who is watching the live stream.

The first connection, with a woman in Argentina, had technical issues.

The second caught another Argentine Djokovic fan at school. And she just couldn’t even believe it.

And then – the kicker.

Djokovic “noticed” his friend Radek Stepanek was among those making comments. So he called him up.

ND: “What are you up to?  What’s your next step?”

RS: “I’m enjoying the time that I don’t need to wake up in the morning, go to practice. Don’t have to discipline any more. Just looking around what comes next.

ND: “Really!”

RS: “So you have something for me, or what?”

ND: “I’m actually looking for another coach. I don’t know what you have in mind. But if you have nothing better to do, maybe we can give it a shot. What do you say?”

RS: “Why not? Let’s give it a shot.

ND: “This is amazing.  You didn’t even hear anything I had to offer but you accepted.

RS: “What do you offer?”

ND: “I can offer some real, real special things. Green juice every Wednesday – every first Wednesday of the month. I can offer you some acai balls on overseas fights – only one way, not return. It’s too expensive. And thats all, for the beginning.”

RS: “I think your offer was pretty generous to start with, so if I get some extra coconut on the acai balls, than I’m in.”

ND: “Give me a second please … coconut …

“I would love to give you a straight answer now. I have my manager here …

“So my answer is yes, but I have another question. It’s already 30th November. We have to be on the court literally tomorrow. So I don’t know how we’re going to make this happen.

RS: “I’m ready to go.”

And then, Djokovic opens the door to an office – and there’s his new coach.

It really was a fun way to get the fans involved in the announcement.

“Radek is one of my very close friends on the tour and I was always impressed with his level of determination, passion and love for the sport. The fact that he just recently retired at the age of 37 speaks volumes of his love for the game. He has lot of experience and knowledge, and he has played on a high level for many years. I am excited to join our forces together and cannot wait to compete again having a new team to back me up,” Djokovic said on his website.

“On Andre’s suggestion I pursued Radek, therefore I am sure the two of them will work well together. The new season is about to start and there is a long way to go back to where I left off. We are aware that I need to go step by step, not hurrying anything. I feel much better now, and I can’t wait to play matches again.”

Stepanek – Agassi a tag team

The moment veteran Stepanek announced his retirement – and even before that – the speculation began that he might begin working with Djokovic.

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Djokovic and Stepanek (along with former coach Boris Becker) have a good time on the practice court at Wimbledon in 2014.

The two are friends. They have practiced together often, and have remained pals despite the Serb’s overwhelming 13-1 record against the Czech.

They have squared off on a lot of major occasions – at all the Grand Slams except the French Open, and in the Davis Cup final.

InstaAnd Djokovic has been looking for a day-to-day coach to supplement the weeks he’ll have mentor Andre Agassi by his side.

Stepanek obviously knows all of Djokovic’s opponents, and has played them all.

The all-court game and canny court sense that allowed him to squeeze the most out of a long career contains a treasure trove of possible options Djokovic can add to his own game.

What Djokovic already has in his game has been more than enough to dominate men’s tennis for extended periods over the last few years.

Still, everyone out there is looking to get better – or get left behind.

And the company will be entertaining. He also will have a coach who can hit with him on the practice court – an added bonus.

The most positive thing is that Djokovic is out hitting balls and training. Only a month remains before he heads to Abu Dhabi for the six-player exhibition that will mark his first official time on the court since Wimbledon last July.

After that, a quick hop over to Doha for his first ATP Tour event. And then, the Australian Open.

Andreev joins Team Poots for ’18

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We haven’t heard much from Igor Andreev since he quietly retired in 2013.

But it seems the 34-year-old will be part of Team Yulia Putintseva for 2018.

The Russian-turned Kazakh is doing her preseason training in Florida, and has put out a few photos on social media that include Andreev as part of her team.

It’s possible Andreev didn’t consult with Roman Kislyansky, who has been on the receiving end of quite a bit of guff from his exacting boss.

From the pics, though, Kislyansky has hung in there admirably.

Tennis baby boom continues

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There has been a bumper crop of tennis babies this year.

From Novak Djokovic, to Serena Williams, to Mandy Minella, to Jarmila Wolfe, to twins for Yen-Hsun Lu, it’s practically a gusher.

And, of course, the announcement this week that Ana Ivanovic and husband Bastian Schweinsteiger are expecting.

The latest to join the baby brigade are doubles specialist David Marrero and wife Nuria Cruz.

David Jr. was born Thursday night at 10:50 p.m.

He joins twins Martina and German, born in July 2016, to make for a very hectic Marrero-Cruz household for the foreseeable future.