Sania Mirza plans Oz return in Hobart

After being unsure about returning to the Tour after giving birth to son Izhaan almost exactly a year ago, Indian doubles star Sania Mirza has firmed up her plans to return in Australia in January.

Mirza, who turns 33 on Friday, told ESPN in an interview a month ago that she had dropped 53 pounds in four months.

She has entered the WTA event in Hobart, the week before the Australian Open.

(And, we assume, the Australian Open as well).

Mirza will be able to use a special ranking of No. 9.

Her partner will be … Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine.

Cici Bellis 3-0 in Houston comeback

The pic above was taken at the Toronto ITF event just over three years ago.

Cici Bellis was 17 then, and just breaking into the top 100. Less than a year later, she was No. 35 in the world.

Since then, nothing but misery.

But maybe the happy ending is in sight. After not playing a match for 20 months, Bellis is making an impressive return in the WTA 125K in Houston this week.

She won a qualifying match against Alexa Glatch, then beat Aussie Ellen Perez 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

Wednesday, she outlasted Varvara Lepchenko in a third-set tiebreak.

The other side of Shenzhen tennis

On the other side of Shenzhen from where the WTA held its first Tour finals in China, there’s a paradise.

It’s the Mission Hills Country Club – 12 golf courses, 51 courts and “Asia’s largest spa destination”.

And it’s outdoors. And you stay at a Hard Rock hotel, right at the entrance.

Okay, the prize money doesn’t compete. The men’s Challenger champion last week, Zhang Zhizhen, got $18,000 of the $135,400 purse.

The women play a $100K ITF this week; the winner gets $15,200.

(At least the men get to stay free at the Hard Rock; the women are on the hook for $100/night).

Errani tells critical Italians to call Santa

Sara Errani’s serving struggles have been well-documented.

But she hasn’t given up trying. Errani reached the final at a $60K ITF in Asunción, Paraguay Sunday.

Monday, she let loose on the trolls from her homeland who non-stop barraged her with “insults and criticism” all week.

She wrote that not a single person in Paraguay was anything but encouraging, as she tries so hard to work through it. 

She added they could direct any further correspondence to the WTA to make a request to change the serve rules – or write to “Babbo Natale”. (Santa Claus).

ZING.

Tipsarevic still going in Bratislava

Janko Tipsarevic is retired – except, of course, that he’s on the Serbian team for the Davis Cup finals.

So he and captain Nenad Zimonjic have a wild card into the Bratislava Challenger this week. Tipsarevic might see action in a dead doubles rubber in Madrid.

The squad is pretty similar to the 2010 team above, except Zimonjic has replaced Bogdan Obradovic as captain.

Serbian No. 3 Laslo Djere (24) and 20-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic (No. 5 and rising) were not nominated.

Tipsarevic, 35, and 33-year-old Viktor Troicki (ranked No. 159) were.

It’s like a cool last hurrah for Novak Djokovic and his long-standing mates.

Gauff exhibition a sellout in Houston

Cori Gauff’s WTA Tour season may be done, but not the exhibitions.

An event in Dallas, Texas Friday night featuring Gauff, Christina McHale and legends Jim Courier and Austin resident Andy Roddick is a sellout.

There’s a $25,000 ITF women’s event at the site, Southern Methodist University, this week.

And a bit of irony in that several former top juniors – Claire Liu (No. 1 and 2017 Wimbledon junior champ), Kayla Day (No. 1 and 2016 US Open champion) and Katie Swan (No. 2 and 2015 Oz Open finalist) – are all taking part, still trying to break through in the pro ranks.

Tough out there.

Retirement looks good on Aspelin, Norman

While Tommy Haas, James Blake and Feliciano Lopez have received more attention for the roles as tournament directors at Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid, two former top doubles players also were looking good in that role last week.

Swede Simon Aspelin is the tournament director in Stockholm, while Belgian Dick Norman holds the same distinction at the Antwerp event.

Aspelin, now 45, last played in 2011. He reached No. 7 in the doubles rankings and won 12 ATP Tour titles.

Norman, 48, played through Aug. 2013. The 6-foot-8 lefty reached No. 10, with four titles.

Dominika Cibulkova pens memoir

There hasn’t been much word on the tennis future of former No. 4 Dominika Cibulkova who, three years ago, won the WTA Tour Finals.

The 30-year-old from Slovakia has been busy with a tennis academy. She hasn’t played since losing in the first round of the French Open to Aryna Sabalenka last May.

But she also has penned her memoirs, with Slovakian journalist Andrea Coddington.

Titled “Tennis is My Life”, it’ll be out Nov. 13.

The blurb for the book says it goes from her on-court nerves, a year-long bout with depression and her “family problems for love”.

Bajin leaves Team Kiki after 6 months

From the tone of her Tweet about the end of her association with coach Sascha Bajin, it wasn’t Kristina Mladenovic’s call.

Bajin had already set the table for that, saying he didn’t know if he’d be back in 2020.

Fictional Tweets have been swirling about Bajin going to Team Clijsters, or Team Kerber.

But Tennis.Life’s sources say Bajin left Team Kiki with a bang, not a whimper. And may indeed already have a new gig lined up.

But it’s not either of those two veterans.

It’s a young up-and-comer, already in the top 25. 

Stay tuned. 🤫

Sloane Stephens gives back in Toronto

There will be no trip to the WTA Tour Finals this year for Sloane Stephens, who’s spending time in Toronto with soccer-playing fiancé Jozy Altidore.

While there, she appeared as a fundraiser for Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale’s Helping Hands Jamaica foundation last Friday along with Altidore (wearing … quite the jacket!)

The 14th annual gala was called “JamRock“.

Hale, a native Jamaican, raises funds to build schools in his homeland. He has had, among others, Serena Williams down there to help build.

The fundraiser generated enough, per Hale, that the foundation can build its 22nd school.