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Williams kicks off 2008 season at Hopman Cup

Williams kicks off 2008 season at Hopman Cup

Whatever else Serena Williams accomplishes next year, she'll have the distinction of being one of the first two players to hit a ball in the 2008 tennis season that begins bright and early Saturday at the Hopman Cup.
Williams, who will defend her Australian Open title beginning Jan. 14 in Melbourne, plays India's Sania Mirza in the opening match of the Hopman Cup team tournament at Perth.
Williams' American teammate Mardy Fish takes on Rohan Bopanna in the men's match, with the four later scheduled to play mixed doubles.
Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic lead the top-seeded Serbian team at the eight-nation Hopman Cup that kicks off a full calendar of nine Down Under tournaments in two weeks leading into the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of 2008.
The men's ATP tour has two tournaments scheduled outside Australia next week _ in Doha, Qatar and Chennai, India, where Rafael Nadal is entered.
In Australia, a men's tournament also is scheduled in Adelaide, while the WTA Tour has tournaments in Auckland, New Zealand and on the Gold Coast in Queensland state, where Amelie Mauresmo is seeded No. 1.
During the week of Jan. 7-12, there's a men's tournament in Auckland and a women's event in Hobart, Tasmania. The Sydney International features Justine Henin as its top seed _ where the Belgian will attempt to win her 40th career title _ while James Blake and Lleyton Hewitt headline the men's field.
Defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer makes his first appearance of the year at an eight-man exhibition tournament at Kooyong in Melbourne beginning Jan. 9.
Also in the field are Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez, David Nalbandian, Andy Murray, Tommy Haas, Ivan Ljubicic and Marat Safin.
Federer sent end-of-the-year holiday greetings to his fans from his training base in the United Arab Emirates.
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"I must admit that it is a bit strange for me to celebrate Christmas in this kind of weather _ the thermometer climbed over 25 degrees (Celsius) (77 F) today. I remember that as a child our family used to spend a lot of time outside in the cold or even in the snow during this time of the year. But I just love the heat so I really enjoy being here."
Federer is no doubt looking forward to putting the heat on his rivals in 2008, like he did in 2007 when he won eight tournaments, including three of four Grand Slams _ his fifth straight Wimbledon and fourth consecutive U.S. Open _ and finished with a 67-9 match record.
While Federer provided many of the highlights in the 2007 season, gambling and concerns over match-fixing made headlines for the opposite reason.
Last week, the ATP suspended Italians Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali for making bets _ some as little as US$7 (euro5) _ on matches involving other players. Another Italian, Alessio Di Mauro, became the first player sanctioned under the ATP's new anti-corruption rules when he received a nine-month ban in November, also for betting on matches.
Concerns about match-fixing first surfaced in August, when an online betting company reported unusual betting patterns during a match between fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko of Russia and Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina. The company, Betfair, voided all bets and the ATP has been investigating. Davydenko, who quit while trailing in the third set, denies wrongdoing.
Since then, several players have said they were approached with offers to fix matches for money.
The Australian Open has announced an anti-corruption program that includes a former homicide detective as its chief investigations officer and a tournament hotline where players and fans can report any incidences of corruption.
It also includes a ban on unauthorized use of laptops courtside, a block on gambling Web sites on publicly accessible computers at the tournament and increased security and restrictions to player access.
"We have taken a reasoned, common sense approach to an emerging issue in tennis specifically, but in sport generally," said Steve Wood, chief executive officer of Tennis Australia.


Updated : 2021-07-28 14:18 GMT+08:00