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Williams helps kick off 2008 season at Hopman Cup

Williams helps kick off 2008 season at Hopman Cup

Whatever else Serena Williams accomplishes next year, she'll have the distinction of being among the first players to hit a ball in the 2008 tennis season that begins Saturday.
Williams, who will defend her Australian Open title beginning Jan. 14 in Melbourne, is scheduled to represent the United States in the Hopman Cup team tournament at Perth.
She was expected to take on India's Sania Mirza in the opening match Saturday, but will not arrive in Perth until the weekend as she recovers from a lingering left knee injury.
Hopman Cup organizers said Thursday that Meghann Shaughnessy will replace Williams in the U.S. team for the opening match. Under tournament rules, player substitutions are permitted between matches, allowing Williams to play for the U.S. in its second match Monday against the Czech Republic.
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 (


Updated : 2020-12-05 05:28 GMT+08:00