Auger-Aliassime talks about the journey

After a season during which he broke into the top-20 right after his 19th birthday, Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime sat down and talked to the ATP Tour about how he knew he never wanted to do anything else.

From the age of seven or eight, that was it. Pro tennis or bust.

Auger-Aliassime said he knew there was no guarantee that he would make it.  And there were moments when he took a step back before taking two steps forward.

But his main focus was just staying the course over the long-term, confident that good things would happen.

Taste of AO at the WC playoffs

The Australian Open isn’t for another six weeks – although it’ll get here in a heartbeat.

But for a taste of Melbourne Park, and summer, and sunshine, Tennis Australia’s AO wild-card playoff tournament began Monday.

The men play best-of-five sets, and both the men and women have to win four matches to earn the big prize – a 2020 AO main draw player credential (and all that goes with it).

Past winners of a main-draw pass included Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson and …. Ashleigh Barty, who earned her spot in 2012. 

They’re live-streaming four courts on the Australian Open YouTube Channel.

“Resurfacing” a crusher of a film

Andy Murray has long been known as someone who doesn’t reveal a whole lot (even the names of his children almost required forensic investigation).

So the new documentary chronicling his return to tennis is a revelation.

There’s so much more to the journey than anyone could have imagined. You won’t be able to get through it without … getting emo. Even if you weren’t a Murray fan.

As young American Taylor Fritz put it on Twitter, he was “crazy inspired” after watching it.

It’s available on Amazon Prime (in the US and Canada as well as the UK).

Get your team together for College Classic

This year’s College Tennis Classic is set for Jan. 31 – Feb. 2 at the USTA campus in Lake Nona, Fla.

Players can get their old teammates together and have a weekend of competitive tennis as they reminisce about the good old days. 

The tourney can accommodate 32 men’s and 32 women’s teams, with a minimum of four per team.

It seems to skew younger, and it’s held at the end of Australian Open. But how great would it be to see the McEnroe AND Bryan brothers (along with Tim Mayotte, Jeff Tarango  and … Nick Saviano form a Stanford squad?

Kim Clijsters postpones comeback

Kim Clijsters had hoped to begin the third act of her playing career in January in Australia

The date wasn’t firm – more the best-case scenario if she could get back, fitness-wise.

But now, undergoing rehab and treatment for a knee injury, she has pushed it back.

“It’s a setback but I’m determined as ever to get back to the game I love,” the 36-year-old wrote on Twitter Monday.

It would have been the 10th anniversary of her win over Justine Henin in Brisbane – the first week of the first full season of her first comeback in 2010.

Second Golovin outing a struggle

After returning to action following an 11 1/2-year retirement in Luxembourg a week ago, France’s Tatiana Golovin tried again this week at a $80K ITF event in Poitiers, France.

Golovin last played Poitiers back in … 2002 and 2003.

This time, with a wild card into the main draw, it didn’t go well. The 31-year-old managed just one game (a break of serve) in a 54-minute loss to Germany’s Antonia Lottner.

“You have to face the obstacle to know if you can, or can’t. Whatever I do afterwards, I will be more calm, at peace,” she told Le Parisien

WTA Shenzhen groups set

The pool groups for the first WTA Tour Finals edition in Shenzhen, China were drawn Friday.

Each pool contains two Grand Slam champions.

But it appears the Red group – No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic – could be the most explosive.

The Purple group, led by four-time WTA title winner Karolina Pliskova, has Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

Osaka vs. Kvitova and Barty vs. Bencic will kick things off on Sunday. 

The session, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Shenzhen time (4:30 a.m. EDT) also will feature two doubles matches.

Nadal edges Djokovic in Kazakstan

Before heading to Paris for the final Masters 1000 of the season, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal made their way to Nur-Sultan, Kazakstan to play an exhibition Thursday.

(Nur-Sultan is the renamed capital, Astana).

It had been scheduled in 2017; Djokovic’s elbow issues forced a postponement.

Nadal edged Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 in the match tiebreak to earn the victory.

In 10 days’ time, because the ATP removes the ranking points from the ATP Tour Finals ahead of the event, Nadal will become No. 1 in the rankings again, at least for a bit.

He last was No. 1 the week of Oct. 29, 2018.

Kerber Head & Shoulders above rest

Not that Angelique Kerber has dandruff.

But thanks to a new endorsement from Head & Shoulders, she never will.

The German unveiled a new commercial that has an airbrushed version of the 31-year-old star playing tennis – wearing headphones – speaking at a conference, chatting with girlfriends and holding up a trophy.

And, of course, showering in the nude.

Just a typical, average day for the three-time Grand Slam champion.

The tag line goes something like, “Don’t let judgments hold you back”.

You’d think, as often as they wash their hair, more players would have shampoo sponsors.

Murray-Wawrinka a feel-good in Antwerp

Either way, the final between two former Grand Slam champions at a 250-level tournament in Antwerp was going to have a happy ending.

Would Stan Wawrinka, 34, who hadn’t won a tournament for nearly 2 1/2 years and was working his way back from two knee surgeries, take the title?

Or would Andy Murray, who was all but making his retirement official at the start of the season, complete his crazy comeback from hip resurfacing surgery?

In the end, Murray prevailed. And Wawrinka spoke for most when he said he couldn’t be happier for him.