three months of aussie buzz starts today. w00t?

He said, he said: Apparently, Lleyton Hewitt was snubbed by Aussie up-and-comer Bernard Tomic when the former No. 1 asked to hit with the U.S. Open 2009 junior champ sometime before Wimbledon. It was recently revealed by the Tomic camp that the request was turned down because of swine flu.

”I mean, if I get the chance, look, I would love to,” Tomic said, referring to hitting with Lleyton. ”He’s an idol and an icon for Australian tennis. I was watching him as I was growing up, a lot, and I loved his game and it would be a pleasure to hit with him any time, anywhere, I think.”

The Hewitt entourage counters that Tomic just went with someone else — Juan Carlos Ferrero — and thinks that the ailment excuse is all hogwash.

Wait — is this even news? Why was this published? Oh, that’s right — the organizers of the Australian Open have officially “launched” the tournament (how does one “launch” an event?), which means we’ll have media squeezing Aussie lemons to make tart, sour tennis lemonade like this Tomic/Hewitt row (thanks, The Age!) between now and January 18, 2010, when the event begins. Brace yourselves, folks.

On the flipside: There are a few things to get excited about. First, a wonderful teaser ad (click above) using the blue tint of the Melbourne Park courts as a motif. Second, the return of our Belgian munchkin Justine Henin. Third, the Woodies — Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge — get inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. And fourth, Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic will play a rematch of their ’01 Wimbledon final (which Ivanisevic won 9-7 in the fifth). Squee!

(Tomic photo via The Age; AO ad screengrab from YouTube)

i snooze and i lose, but lleyton wins

We probably can’t teach old dog new tricks, so we’re stuck dozing off while looking at pics of Lleyton Hewitt languishing in Yonex. (Can he retire already? Please?)

The Aussie won his first rounder at this week’s Rakuten Japan Open, taking out wildcard Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5. Couple this with top seed Juan Martin del Potro‘s first-round loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Lleyton has a decent shot to get to the quarterfinals!

Buy: For those absolutely interested, you can pick up versions of the Yonex New York Crew for $44.99.

(image via Getty)

the ultimate in player consideration

ballgirls-fila-queens09a

Floating heads: The lines/ballfolks at this week’s AEGON Championships (aka the Queen’s Club tourney in London) are decked out in Fila blue, matching the backdrop and the furniture of this Wimbledon warmup.

Goings on: Top seed Andy Murray is through to the round of 16 after beating Andreas Seppi in the second round. (Up next is Gigi Lopez.) Meanwhile, a record is on the line with the next match between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt; both have won this event four times in the last nine years — Hewitt in 2000-2002 and 2006; Roddick in 2003-2005 and 2007. Whoever wins that battle should end up in the finals and with a fifth Queen’s Club title.

And yes, we are saying that Murray will be in the final. (Maybe JC Ferrero?)

Browse: Tourney website here.

(image courtesy of Fila)

sightings in the stands: bec cartwright

Devoted wife Bec Cartwright showed up to see Lleyton Hewitt crash out of the third round against Rafael Nadal in straight sets: 1-6, 3-6, 1-6.

On track: Up next for Rafa is the winner of the Soderling/Ferrer match. Soderling is currently up a break in the third after splitting the first two sets with Ferrer.

(image via Getty Images)

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sometimes, sports don’t keep kids out of trouble

Efficent kid, this one. While he wasn’t using his Sharpie to amass players’ autographs, he used it for some good, old-fashioned huffing.

Meanwhile, his dad sat in front of him totally engrossed in the competitive first set of the second-round match between Lleyton Hewitt and Fernando Gonzalez.

Scoreline: Hewitt lost that match; Gonzalez has since lost — to Federer in the fourth round.

More: Two more pics after the cut…

hewitt’s dirty laundry

Lleyton Hewitt‘s former management, Octagon, has taken him to court for breach of contracts, and he’s fighting back with a countersuit, citing incompetence and deception on the part of the agency.

And while we feel bad that Lleyton can’t catch a break (he received a wildcard to play at Delray Beach this week. and lost. on his birthday.), it’s always interesting to get a look at what happens to the $60 I fork over for nosebleed seats.

In 2005 and 2006, Hewitt earned $6.75 million net in endorsements and appearance guarantees — including $3.5 mil from Nike and $2.3 mil from Yonex. He also received $340,000 in appearance fees for Sydney, Adelaide, and Queen’s Club.

Octagon wants a piece of this pie in the sky, but whether the agency was still representing Hewitt for those two years is in question.

Meanwhile, Hewitt’s smarting because of a 2002 legal scuffle with the ATP that could’ve been smoothed over by Octagon. After declining a on-camera interview as part of promoting the 2002 U.S. Open, Lleyton got slapped with a $100k+ fine. The ATP considered the interview compulsory; Hewitt thought he’d already fulfilled all his obligations. He spent another $100,000 only to have the ATP decision upheld, albeit with a much smaller ($20,000) fine.

Let’s hope he doesn’t bleed too much more money settling all these matters — he doesn’t have a lot of tennis-playing years left!

something’s fishy in delray beach

The inventive folks at Delray Beach ITC are back at it again with additions to the graffiti artwork on their tourney’s show court.

As you may remember, they made a splash at last year’s tournament by painting waves on the court’s back walls.

This time, they’ve brought back artist Doug Hoekzema to embellish the side walls with iconic Florida fish like wahoo and marlin, and extending the “rippling water” effect on the court surface to cover the entire perimeter.

Sugar daddy: It wasn’t too long ago that the fate of this second round of tagging was in question because of the financial crisis. Thankfully, artist William Debilzan swooped in to underwrite the project.

Along with funding the murals, Debilzan, who has galleries in Delray Beach, Laguna Beach, and Santa Fe, will also paint two pieces during the tournament; they’ll be presented to the City of Delray Beach during TV coverage of the semifinals.

Other goods: We’ve also been asked to look out for some new-and-improved Volley Girls (this time dressed in sportier attire, courtesy of the Porsche Design Group). Also, they have a new trophy that, hopefully, will be a fine addition to the TSF Trophy Watch.

Quite a catch: Perrenial “comeback king” Lleyton Hewitt accepted a wild card to the ITC, marking the first time he’s been back to Delray Beach since winning the tournament’s inaugural title in this city back in 1999.

“It’s good to go back to Delray Beach; it’s been a long time since I’ve played there,” said Hewitt, who turns 28 on Tuesday. “The surface has changed as well. I won there on green clay courts, and it’s going to be good to go back and play on hard court. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Australian is currently battling for the Regions Morgan Keegan title in Memphis. He upset third seed James Blake in the first round and compatriot Chris Guccione in the round after. He next faces Belgian Christophe Rochus for a spot in the quarterfinals. Their half of the draw also includes Sam Querrey and top seed (and wildcard) Andy Roddick.

More: See some pics of the artists in action after the cut…

shoeless in san jose

By Nick McCarvel

pete-sampras-sanjose09

Pete Sampras has been going exo-crazy recently (perhaps the coffers are a little emptier around tax season?), making a brief cameo at last week’s SAP Open in San Jose, battling it out with Tommy Haas; the German won 7-6(4), 4-6, 12-10.

During the Sampras avoided any talk of coming out of retirement by talking about every relevant tennis player but himself.

On Roger Federer: “He’s young enough. He’s fresh enough. He’s not 30,” Sampras said. “Having a few years left, I see him doing it. But there are going to be a few guys that are going to push him. It’s just inevitable that he’s going to do it here in the next probably year.”

On Roddick‘s and Blake‘s not being “Rafa” or “Nole” enough to beat Roger: “Andy’s got the power but maybe doesn’t have the athletic ability, and someone like James, who has the athletic ability, but doesn’t have the power… It’s kind of a tough matchup for them, for both those guys.

“Seems like James can stay with Roger. I just think they play similar games and Roger is a little bit better than James at it. And Roddick can overpower Roger at times, but at the same time doesn’t move well enough from the back court to really get into these exchanges, that someone like Djokovic can.”

Video: See Sampras’ SAP Open here, courtesy of Doug Schwartz.

And Pete gave the San Jose crowd a little wardrobe malfunction during his match, ending with a loose shoe on the court. He gave fans one reminiscent moment when losing his shoe on court. This time the ball boy didn’t have to dig in his shorts to rescue the on-court necessity like at Wimbledon ’01.

Choo choo: Sampras went on to Boston and downed John McEnroe to take that city’s Champions Cup title, but not before participating in a mixed doubles match with Anna Kournikova, among others. And in this week’s Regions Morgan Keegan tourney in Memphis, he lost to Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 6-4.

practice makes perfect

ana-ivanovic-aussie09prac

A quick look at the players’ practice gear as they get ready for next week’s Australian Open.

Ana Ivanovic wears a cute adidas trefoil tee (dotted with blue and white trefoils) as she hits under the watchful eye of “coach” Sven Groenefeld. (Buy: adidas Classic Trefoil Tee, $19.99, eastbay.com.)

More: See the rest — Rafa as our pick for Best in Show; plus Lleyton, Murray, Roddick, Jelena — all after the cut…