News bites: Azarenka speaks, Sharapova investigated

Published by Tennismash/AP

Victoria Azarenka, who has not competed since Wimbledon, has entered into the 2018 WTA tournament in Auckland; Getty Images
Victoria Azarenka hopes to commence her 2018 season in Auckland, while Maria Sharapova is under investigation by Indian authorities.

With the WTA and ATP seasons having drawn to a close and only a few players left in action for the upcoming Davis Cup final, attention invariably turns to the annual coaching carousel and players’ January schedules to open the new season.

Here’s a look at what’s been happening in the past 24 hours.

Azarenka enters Auckland

Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka looks set to begin her comeback to tennis at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The Belarusian has entered the International-level event, a traditional lead-up to the Australian Open.

Azarenka has not competed since Wimbledon, having become mired in a custody battle that prevents her travelling with her son Leo until it has been settled.

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She missed the US Open and Belarus’ recent Fed Cup final tie against the United States in Minsk.

On Wednesday, Azarenka fired off a succession of cryptic tweets which perhaps shed some light on the messiness of the current situation.

Djokovic set for Doha, could hire Stepanek as coach

Rumours are swirling in the Czech media that Novak Djokovic could add recently-retired player Radek Stepanek as a second coach.

The 12-time major champion, who has not played since Wimbledon, is a month away from returning to tennis at the exhibition event at Abu Dhabi.

Djokovic has now entered the ATP event in Doha as he builds up his preparation for the Australian Open, where he will shoot for a seventh title.

He linked up with Andre Agassi last year, but the American legend has said he will travel with Djokovic in a limited capacity, fuelling discussion that Djokovic is looking for someone else to fill the gaps.

The rumours were – perhaps somewhat amusingly – given a boost when Djokovic began following Stepanek on Instagram.

Brisbane announces stellar line-up

While Azarenka heads to Auckland and Djokovic to Doha, several big names are targeting Brisbane on Australian soil to commence their preparation for the new year’s first Grand Slam event.

The Brisbane International released its full field on Wednesday, announcing that six major champions – Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens and Sam Stosur – will appear in Queensland.

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The WTA event features five of the world’s top 10 – Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Garcia, Johanna Konta – while the men’s event, headlined by Nadal and Murray, will also contain Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic.

Sharapova in alleged housing fraud probe

NEW DELHI, AP – Tennis star Maria Sharapova is being investigated by Indian police in a cheating and criminal conspiracy case over an ill-fated luxury housing project.

The probe involves a company which had used Sharapova to endorse the project that had never taken off.

Homestead Infrastructure is accused of taking millions of dollars from home buyers for a project named “Ballet by Maria Sharapova”, a luxury apartment complex with its own helipad, tennis academy and other amenities.

The five-time grand-slam champion travelled to India in 2013 to launch the project at a glitzy ceremony. Police began the investigation a week ago.

Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the home buyers, said Sharapova’s celebrity was the reason most people put their money into the project.

ATP draws curtain on banner season

The ATP World Tour has announced that for the ninth straight year, attendance at the season-ending ATP Finals in London exceeded the 250,000 mark.

In 2017, 253,642 fans passed through the gates at The O2, and six sessions at the $8 million tournament were sold out.

That figure took total attendance at ATP events across the season to more than 4.5 million, which is a record.

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And all this during a year where many of the men’s game’s biggest names – Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori, Berdych and Kyrgios – were plagued by injuries and forced to spend significant chunks of the season on the sidelines.

When they all return in 2018, it promises to be one of the more exciting seasons yet.

WTA honouring players, matches in season wrap

With the off-season in full swing, is reflecting on the highlights of the season.

Fans have voted Maria Sharapova’s US Open dress as the best outfit of 2017, while the epic encounter between Caroline Garcia and Elina Svitolina at the China Open was considered the best WTA match of the year.

There’s also a countdown of the top five Grand Slam matches of the past season currently being rolled out:

5. Konta v Vekic – Wimbledon second round
4. Vandeweghe v Bouchard – Australian Open third round
3. Halep v Svitolina – Roland Garros quarterfinals

The two best Grand Slam matches of the year are still to be revealed.

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