All the craziness is about to get underway for the 2024 tennis season. While the United Cup is currently underway and the winners can get 500 points on the ATP and WTA sides, the more conventional tournaments begin on Sunday. This is when the Brisbane International begins.
In two weeks from Sunday, the first Grand Slam of 2024 will start. That, of course, is the Australian Open in Melbourne. Personally, I wish the Aussie Open would start either later in January or take place in February. Almost immediately having a major event to begin the season when some players are still working their way into form seems slightly wrong.
But I am not in charge of tennis for a good reason: The players and organizers of events want the sport to succeed under good management. I would not be good management. But I do want the sport to succeed, of course. Here is some news for Sunday.
Rafael Nadal double-dips in Brisbane
Rafael Nadal simply wants more match competition and maybe less practice. The only way to truly get back into great form is to play high-stress matches and Nadal felt like just playing singles at the Brisbane International was not enough. He also accepted a wild card to play along with Marco Lopez in men's doubles, though the team lost 6-4 6-4 to Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson.
Nadal and Lopez won Gold in the 2016 Olympics in doubles as well, so this is not an odd paring. But more important than just playing a doubles match is to get the feel for playing real tennis again. While doubles might help Nadal, singles will be his real test. Nadal is scheduled to play in singles on Tuesday.
Coco Gauff gets an easy draw in New Zealand
The ASB Classic gets underway on January 1 and the draw has been announced. Coco Gauff, at least on paper, has a relatively easy path to the final in the top half of the draw. She will begin with fellow American Claire Liu and then shouldn't be challenged until the semifinals, if that.
The bottom half of the draw is a bit tougher. That group includes Caroline Wozniacki, Xinyu Wang, and Elina Svitolina. The dream final might be Gauff versus either Wozniacki or Svitolina. Unfortunately, those last two are set to play each other in the first round.
Dominic Thiem escapes the snake
In strange news, in qualifying for the Brisbane Internation, former ATP No. 3 Dominic Thiem had to battle his opponent and a poisonous snake on Saturday. A small eastern brown snake found its way onto the court and got fairly close to the ball kids before security was able to capture the snake and take it away. The eastern brown snake is one of Australia's most poisonous snakes. No one was injured.
Perhaps more disappointing is that the snake did not carry a tennis ball in its mouth onto the court in an attempt to have Thiem sign the ball so that the snake could have taken the souvenir home to its children. That would have made the moment even more memorable. What might still be memorable, however, is Thiem is scheduled to play Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Brisbane International this week after Thiem made it through qualifying.