Osaka named Haiti goodwill ambassador

It was a homecoming – of sorts – for American-Japanese US Open champion Naomi Osaka, when she made a five-day trip with her family to Haiti last week.

It was only the second time Osaka had visited her father’s homeland; the first was in October 2017. She’s a much bigger deal now.

Osaka was named a goodwill ambassador for the promotion of Haitian sport by president Jovanel Moïse.

She received the key to the city of Jacmel from mayor Loudie César. And she also visited the pre-school founded by her father.

Jacmel is father Léonard François’s hometown.

Retired Benneteau gets early wakeup call

France’s Julien Benneteau shared on Twitter that the anti-doping officer came to his house at 7:10 a.m. Sunday morning.

With the 2018 season over, the 36-year-old’s been retired for a few weeks. 

Too bad. For once, his son was still asleep. It was only a urine test, not a blood test. It didn’t take long. Still, he questioned the usefulness of wasting resources .

But until he officially asks the ITF to remove him from the program, it’s always a possibility.

(No, he didn’t think Roger Federer arranged it, after what Benneteau said on the radio last weekend).

Birthday buddies finally meet in London

If you ever need a reminder of just how long Roger Federer’s been around, he practiced with one of his “birthday twins” in London Tuesday.

Chun-Hsin (Jason) Tseng, the 17-year-old No. 1 junior and French Open and Wimbledon junior champion was born Aug. 8 … 2001. That’s 20 years after Federer.

Tseng, who mixed in Futures events with juniors this year, is one of the youngsters invited to London every year to get a taste of the big time. 

He also has practiced with Marin Cilic.

And Wednesday, he got to hit with his idol, Kei Nishikori.

After break, del Potro offers an update

Juan Martin del Potro has been off the radar since the knee injury in Shanghai.

He reappeared on an Instagram video Wednesday.

And he seems to have emerged from a dark place, where he seriously debated whether he had yet another injury comeback in him.

“I felt like the world fell apart (Full translation here). “It’s a battle against doubts but without any doubt I will do whatever I can to be ready, to enjoy playing again and to leave these bad moments behind.”

No announcement about a return, but he promises to be in better touch.

Verdasco defends ballboy incident

A month on, Fernando Verdasco commented on the ballboy incident in Shenzhen.

Verdasco said a combination of extreme humidity, language barrier and serve clock led to the frenzied gesturing that led to the social media reaction.

Verdasco said the way people “talked”, it was as though he “punch (the kid) in the face or tell him something so rude. … Obviously my reaction with the arms was the thing that looked so bad.”

He added that he’s thanked ballkids his entire career. “And maybe one time when I did a bad gesture everyone was killing me.”

Zverev strikes out at November tennis

After being shellacked by Karen Khachanov in the Paris quarterfinals Friday amid shoulder issues, Alexander Zverev reiterated his thoughts about the overlong season.

“I do hope at some point the ATP will realize that tennis players can’t play for 11 months a year and that we actually need time to take for our bodies and actually rest,” he told the media after the loss.

Zverev pointed to the outlier winners in Paris as evidence, “because the top players have played so much that they’re tired.”

Other than Sock last year, the facts aren’t really with him there.

CiCi Bellis back on the court

CiCi Bellis has announced that she’s finally back on the court.

And it seems that she’s had not one surgery to repair a severe tear to the ulnotriquetal (UT) ligament in her right wrist, but two.

The first took place June 28.

The 19-year-old American began the season well. Notably, she went from the qualifying to the quarterfinals in Doha and beat Kasatkina, Keys and Pliskova along the way.

The American hasn’t played since losing in the first round in Miami in March.

Bellis has signed on to play an exhibition in Hawaii Dec. 21-23.

Sania Mirza has a baby boy

Bucking the recent trend of tennis baby girls, Indian star Sania Mirza gave birth to a baby boy, Izhaan.

Her husband, cricketer Shoaib Malik, announced it on social media Tuesday morning, India time. He had to dash off to Dubai 24 hours later to play the first of a series of matches against New Zealand that run through December.

Mirza announced the pregnancy in April.

She said in May her priority after the birth would be to return to the court.

Because of a knee injury, Mirza hadn’t played since Sept. 2017. She turns 32 in April.

Irina Falconi sabbatical open-ended

American player Irina Falconi, a 28-year-old who reached a career high of No. 63 in singles just before the 2016 French Open, has been off the Tour since the Challenger in Chicago during the second week of the US Open.

After a lifetime on the court, an outstanding year at Georgia Tech and a decade on the pro tour, she took a burnout break after struggling with motivation.

From her post on social media, that’s not ending any time soon.

Falconi has been making up for all the life experiences she missed, and enjoying every minute.

Fognini-Dimitrov draw a crowd

It’s always a bonus when popular singles players get on the doubles court.

So the smallest court at the Paris Masters was packed as Grigor Dimitrov and Fabio Fognini teamed up in a losing cause against Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau Monday.

It was Dimitrov’s first collaboration with Fognini.

And the Bulgarian had a special guest as he prepares to defend 1590 points (nearly half his points total) from Paris and his win at the ATP Tour Finals a year ago: Andre Agassi.

Agassi is a guest coach in a crucial week, as Dimitrov didn’t qualify for London.