Brotherly love and trick shots, with Bernard Tomic

MELBOURNE, Australia – Never let it be said that Bernard Tomic does things the typical way.

(Actually, nobody’s probably said that – ever).

On the eve of the 26-year-old’s Aussie Open prep matches at the Kooyong Classic, Tomic spent time on the practice court with … sister Sara.

He was doing a little coaching while he was at it.

Sara, still just 20, hasn’t played since last October. Both her singles and doubles rankings are outside the top 500. She received a wild card into the Australian Open qualifying four of the last five years. But not this year.

Here’s what the brother-sister session looked like.

The funniest part of it was that when Tomic spotted your Tennis.Life correspondent shutterbugging, he initiated a conversation. Clearly in a great mood, he was downright chatty with basically a stranger whose face might have seemed slightly familiar.

It was in sharp contrast to the last Tennis.Life/Tomic exchange, which was part of this classic Tomic press room moment at the French Open last year.

(The question was about why/how he played the qualifying wearing Lotto clothing – but turned up for his first-round main draw match wearing … Lacoste).

Sara Tomic and big brother took on another Aussie brother and sister pair, Sally and John Peers, in a one-set match at Kooyong Tuesday. They won it 6-4.

Tomic already had defeated Jack Sock 5-7, 6-4, [10-6] in his first men’s singles match. And then, on Wednesday, he took on fellow Aussie Nick Kyrgios.

It ended … thusly.

He wasn’t practicing that with his sister. It clearly was just a spur-of-the-moment bit of inspiration. And it was good enough for a 6-3, 6-4 win over Kyrgios.

Tomic’s single ranking currently stands at No. 85, even though he hasn’t played a tournament match since mid-October.

Passed over for a main-draw wild card a year ago in Melbourne, he fell in the final round of qualifying.

No Oz wild card for Bernard Tomic

And then he went off to appear on “I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here” in South Africa. But not before saying … some things.

And then he became the first contestant in the show’s history to just … leave.

Celebrity Tomic already “outta here”

By May, Tomic’s singles ranking had fallen to No. 243.

So he did what Bernard Tomic would do: got inspired for a week and reached the final of a Challenger that week. That got him close to No. 200.

After some good results on grass, Tomic won a Challenger in Mallorca during themUS Open. He went back to Europe after losing in the first round of qualifying in New York to countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis.

A few weeks later, Tomic went from the qualifying to the title at the ATP Tour event in Chengdu. He defeated Fabio Fognini in a third-set tiebreak in the final here.

That effort moved the Aussie up nearly 40 spots, to No. 85. It sealed the deal in terms of returning to the Australian Open in 2019 without needing to depend on the largesse of Tennis Australia.

He played one more match, retiring in the second set of a first-round qualifying match in Stockholm in mid-October. And then pulled the plug on his season.

The mission had been accomplished.

What to expect from Tomic?

Tomic had been in the Australian Open main draw every year since 2009 – until last year. And he’s one of the few Aussies who typically has played well at home.

Every single player Tomic lost to in Melbourne between 2009 and 2016 was either a multiple Slam champion and former or current No. 1 (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray), or a Grand Slam champion (Marin Cilic) or a Grand Slam finalist and perennial top-10 player (Tomas Berdych).

But without any actual tournament play, there’s no way to know if the guy can become a first-week story at his home Slam, or a one-and-done.

Love him or list him, there’s never a dull moment.

More baby news: Vesnina expecting

If you assumed, as we all did without speculating too much, that Elena Vesnina was off the tour because of an injury, it turns out there was a far more significant reason.

The 32-year-old Russian is expecting her first child.

And from the looks of the stunning photo she posted on social media Monday, it’s a work well in progress.

Vesnina will celebrate her third wedding anniversary with husband Pavel Tabuntsov next month, as the clock ticks down.

Here she is talking about it, in an interview on the WTA website.

Still ranked No. 10 in doubles, Vesnina’s singles ranking has tumbled to No. 96 as she’s been off the WTA Tour since losing in the first round of the French Open to Bernarda Pera.

When doubles partner Ekaterina Makarova started teaming up with other players immediately after the pair won the big Madrid event together, the assumption was that they somehow had broken up and were seeing other people.

It turned out there was a long-term project brewing.

Vesnina played in Paris with Jelena Ostapenko, losing in the first round.

And that, until further notice, is it!

No news on when the baby is due, or whether it’s a boy or girl.

It’s the second WTA Tour baby announcement in 24 hours, as retired star Martina Hingis had news of her own on her 38th birthday Sunday.

Martina Hingis knitting (pink) baby booties

Martina Hingis knitting (pink) baby booties

No, we don’t mean actually knitting the booties.

You leave that stuff to the future grandmothers, right?

But Martina Hingis celebrated her 38th birthday by announcing that, just two months after her wedding to physician Harry Leemann, the couple is expecting their first child.

From the baby gear Hingis posted on social media, it’s got to be a girl!

Clearly, she didn’t let any early-stage morning sickness stop her a the US Open.

Hingis practiced with old doubles partner Daniela Hantuchova and hit the social circuit looking healthy and hearty.

And she’s not going to be nesting any time soon. Hingis is due to play in a seniors event in Palma de Mallorca this week.

booties

Hingis’s career – in three acts

The first phase of Hingis’s career ended when she was just 2 with ligament damage to both ankles hampering her, and the prospect of multiple surgeries looming.

She was, according to Forbes, the highest-paid female athlete in the world every year from 1997 through 2001. She was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles for 29 weeks, and No. 1 in singles for 209 weeks overall. She won her first Grand Slam title at age 16.

Hingis resurfaced briefly at a small WTA event in Thailand in early 2005, losing in the first round. Comeback over, right? 

Not a chance.

That summer, she played all three disciplines during the World Team Tennis summer season. And in November of that year, announced she’d come back to the WTA Tour in 2006.

She climbed back as high as No. 6 in singles, even though the proliferation of hard-hitting opponents made her task much more difficult the second time around.

In Oct. 2007, she announced another retirement in the wake of a positive test for a metabolite of cocaine. 

The concentration of metabolite found was extremely low – barely one quarter, for example, of the threshold that would result in a positive test by the programs used by the US Army. Hingis argued it could have come from contamination rather than “intentional ingestion“. But with a two-year suspension issued, she didn’t have the stomach to wait it out.

In the interim, she coached Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sabine Lisicki.

More baby news: Vesnina expecting

Ill-fated first wedding

Hingis also married for the first time, to a French equestrian named Thibault Lutin who was six years her junior. (She met him about a month after announcing an engagement to a Swiss attorney, Andreas Bieri. Hingis also had been engaged to fellow Czech player Radek Stepanek in 2007).

The married lasted just over two years.

After that, she dated Spanish player agent David Tosas Ros.

But by July 2013, aged 32, Hingis was back in doubles. She won four Grand Slams in women’s doubles, six in mixed. And when she retired for the third time – this time, no doubt, for good – in Oct. 2017, she was ranked No. 1 in the world.

There literally was nothing left to prove.

In the meantime, she had met Leemann, who was the physician when she played Fed Cup in 2016.

They married July 22. Having sown all her wild oats (and then some!), and two years short of 40, they’re wasting no time in starting to build their family.

John Isner is a daddy

On Saturday, Hunter Grace Isner was born, weighing eight pounds, one ounce and quite possibly headed for some fabulous heights (literally).

“Life changed forever when this little one entered the world … Didn’t think it was possible to love something this much,” proud dad John Isner wrote on Instagram.

What’s not surprising? That the football game is running in the background as Isner posed for a photo with his wife Madison, and the new arrival.

The American is scheduled to hit Chicago ASAP to play Laver Cup this weekend.

If it were you, would you even leave this beautiful scene? So far, he’s still on board.

After months of rumors, Ivanovic confirms

The rumours – unconfirmed, all – began before Ana Ivanovic even retired from tennis at the end of 2016.

Finally, on Thursday, the retired tennis star confirmed that she and husband Bastian Schweinsteiger are expecting their first child.

The two were married – twice, once in a big ceremony and a second time in a religious ceremony – in July, 2016 in Venice, Italy.

That was right after Wimbledon (a popular wedding date for tennis players).

Ivanovic lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova there, and in the other three tournaments she played before calling it a career after the US Open.

It wasn’t long before the couple relocated to Chicago, where Schweinsteiger played for the MLS’s Chicago Fire. Ivanovic seemed to embrace the city wholeheartedly.

And it wasn’t long before pregnancy rumours started – from the day she officially announced her retirement.

By September, it was a sure thing. 

Not only that, she was FOUR MONTHS along.

Finally, on Thursday, Nov. 23, Ivanovic confirmed it with three pairs of knitted booties.  

Adidas booties, of course.

Ivanovic celebrated her 30th birthday just a few weeks ago, on Nov. 6.

Maybe she was waiting to get the perfect props before making the big announcement.

It brings to mind the announcement of another retired player, Amélie Mauresmo.

Ivanovic

 

Serena announces daughter’s name

Naming her baby girl Serena Jr. would have put a whole lot of pressure on a newborn.

But as it turns out, Serena Williams’ fiancé has a perfectly gender-neutral name. And so the new bundle of joy will be called Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

(Probably not a tyical thing to have a daughter be named “junior” after her father – but why not? Great idea, and very evolved).

Williams also revealed on the Instagram announcement that there were “a lot of complications” after the birth. And she spent nearly a week in hospital.

And the baby already has a video of the leadup, with lots of never-before seen goodies.

Another tennis baby: welcome Tara Djokovic

NEW YORK – Who could have imagined, in the space of 24 hours, that two legendary champions would become parents?

In Novak Djokovic’s case – for the second time.

Less than a day after Serena Williams gave birth to a baby girl, Novak Djokovic’s wife Jelena had a baby girl of her own. There’s already a name: Tara.

Maybe, two decades down the road, there will be two little champions making their moves at the US Open, as the both turn 20.

Serena’s little girl, of course, will always be able to brag that she’s one day older.

Congratulations to the Djokovics, and to Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian.

With all the crazy news happening on court this week, it kind of brings a sense of wonder and normalcy to things, doesn’t it?

No. 2 baby for Murray, as hip improves

WIMBLEDON – The rumour was true, as it turns out.

Andy Murray and wife Kim are expecting their second child.

“We’re both obviously very happy and looking forward to it,” Murray said during a press conference Sunday. 

Murray said they’d known for awhile and the family knew as well, although he didn’t want to get into specific dates.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the biggest news topic is the state of the defending champion’s hip.

Murray skipped a pair of planned exhibition practice matches at the Boodles, although he has been practicing all week with some younger players, including 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov and 16-year-old Aidan McHugh, the second-ranked junior player in Great Britain.

Murray
16-year-old Aidan McHugh is getting his 15 minutes of fame after practicing with Andy Murray several times this week. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Murray not too hip this week

What’s the matter with the hip, specifically?

“I’ve had hip problems since I was very young. You know, it’s not something new to me. It’s just been very sore the last few weeks. It was giving me quite a lot of trouble moving to certain shots and getting into certain positions. So that was why I needed to take the break, to try and give it a chance to settle down, calm down a bit,” Murray said. “It’s felt much better the last few days.”

Murray said he’d not been in this position too often, of having a physical concern just a few days before a Grand Slam.

It’s always risky to jump to conclusions, but as bloomy as Mrs. Murray looked at Queen’s two weeks ago, it wasn’t tough to surmise the big news.

“Obviously this is an extremely important tournament, so you worry a little bit. It’s a little bit stressful if you can’t practice for a few days, you really want to be preparing, you know, training as much as you can to get ready and make you feel better – especially when you hadn’t had any matches,” he said.

“Just tried to think positively. I tried to make the best decisions along with my team to give myself the best chance to feel good on Monday. I feel like I’ve done that.”

The Brit admitted he’s human. Being the one to essentially kick off Wimbledon, on the first Monday, at 1 p.m., when he walks on court as the defending men’s champion, does add a few nerves.

But he’s been in this position before, so he figures he’ll be able to handle those.

As for the baby, if you caught a glimpse of Murray’s wife Kim Sears at the Queen’s Club event two weeks ago, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together. She was, as they say, blooming.

Two Saturday sessions

Here’s how Murray looked on the practice court, in two sessions Saturday.

As he was walking up from his court at Aorangi Park after the first one, he definitely looked to be a little limpy. But since a lot of players look like they’re walking on hot coals when they’re off the court, or between points – and suddenly, when they’re chasing the ball, run like the wind – you wouldn’t read too much into it.

Bubbly Bublik makes Wimbledon debut

As for his first-round opponent, lucky lower Alexander Bublik of Ukraine, Murray will have to feel it as he goes, watch some video to try to make some sense of the 20-year-old whimsical, improvisational game. But he has talk to some people about him.

“He’s obviously a big personality. You know, he’s not a quiet guy. Yeah, from what I’ve heard, he’s pretty entertaining on the court in terms of the way he plays, how he is. You know, quite unorthodox. He plays a lot of unexpected shots, a lot of drop shots, mixes his game up a lot, takes chances, tries some more sort of shots that guys may play in exhibitions, he tries when he’s out there. That’s what I’ve heard,” Murray said.  

When you hit a tweener in the third-set tiebreak of a second-round qualifying match, with only Stefano Napolitano between you and a French Open main draw if you win, you’re loose.

Tennis.Life ran into Bublik along St. Mary’s Walk, after his session with a pack of reporters in a small interview room. You can see a glimpse of that in his GoPro video above.

I asked him if he’d ever talked to that many reporters at once. He laughed and said no, and added they’d probably be there after his match as well.

He didn’t say it, but if he loses, that session is probably going to be a lot less enjoyable. Then again, this kid seems to be enjoying all of it.

Then, unprompted, Bublik asked: “Do you think I can win ?”

My answer, “If you don’t think you can, don’t get on the court at all.”

He stood there, pondered that, nodded, and walked away.

From Russia, to Kazakhstan … to the AELTC

Bublik was born and raised just south of St. Petersburg Russia. But he is now playing for Kazakhstan. He will walk out into the game’s most famous cathedral on Monday promptly at 1 p.m., with the defending champion. 

It will be his first Wimbledon, after his first qualifying effort. And it’s only his second Grand Slam tournament after he qualified in Australia this year, and upset Lucas Pouille of France in the first round.

The crowd will be holding its collective breath (it does that a lot, with British players), hoping Murray’s hip is as fine as he says it is. 

It will be fascinating to see how a kid who is already developing a reputation for being loose as a goose on court, never appearing to take it too seriously, will react to one of the most elegant moments in tennis.