Drawcard: Sydney fans were treated to a rare Rafael Nadal sighting. Photo: Brendon ThorneIs Fast4 tennis the way of the future or just a cash grab aimed at generating interest in a city that has lost touch with the sport?
A crowd of 11,000 turned out at Allphones Arena on Monday night, most to get a glimpse of Rafael Nadal on his rare visit to the harbour city.
It was a welcome sight compared to the empty seats that have been occupying most of Ken Rosewall Arena at the Sydney International the past couple of days.
But in some ways, Sydney has lost interest in the sport – and one of the major reasons they’ve fallen out of love with tennis is the lack of quality that’s been available at their doorstep.
Sure, the big guns were in town on Monday night, but the thirst for genuine top class tennis hasn’t been quenched.
As entertaining as it was watching Nick Kyrgios and Gael Monfils attempt to hit the fastest forehand winner in the history of the sport, the semi competitive nature of the Nadal-Lleyton Hewitt contest sat better with a crowd who need not be treated like tennis novices.
In order for this concept to make a real mark in Sydney, the show has to become the tennis not the smoke machines, the lights or the sound effects.
Tennis want to transform the Fast 4 concept it into a week-long tournament and are already in discussions with Channel Seven and Nine to make it a reality as early as 2017.
Tennis NSW are strongly behind the push to lure the best players in the world to Sydney, with nations competing in a tournament similar to the Hopman Cup in Perth at the start of every year.
The tournament is being earmarked to be held in October or November every second year, unable to fit into what is already a jam-packed January of tennis in .
The concept has been dubbed the Twenty20 of tennis.
And just like Twenty20 all those years ago, it began as a hit and giggle imitation of the real deal; a bit of fun that measures success by reactions more than action.
At some point along the road, when money became involved and national pride went on the line, Twenty20 turned competitive and transformed the sport.
While Fast4 tennis may not be as revolutionary as the 20 over-a-side concept was for cricket, there is still the potential to gain a share of the television viewers and crowds the Big Bash League dominate once the football season comes to a close.
Millions of dollars were invested into the International Tennis Premier League which was established last year, attracting some of the best players in the world last month for a team-based competition.
Kyrgios played for the championship-winning Singapore Slammers, teaming up with the likes of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka to win the tournament.
While one of the major reasons Fast4 tennis was developed was to increase junior participation, there is a chance for Sydney to put ownership to a product that needs to be more ridiculously brilliant than ridiculously ridiculous.
With 12,000 coming out last year to watch Roger Federer and almost similar numbers last night for the extended version at Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney has shown its appetite for a piece of what Melbourne does so well.
Bring the stars and they will come.
Give the stars a place to shine and they will keep coming.
Gael Monfils defeated Kyrgios before Hewitt squared the ledger with a win against Nadal. But the world team finished on top, winning the doubles.
Approached by alleged fixers: Lou Vincent. Photo: SuppliedA Hong Kong international cricketer who was due to feature at the World Twenty20 championship in India in March has been charged with an anti-corruption offence after being approached by one of the same alleged fixers who paid disgraced former New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent to corrupt county matches in England.
All-rounder Irfan Ahmed, 26, faces a possible ban of between two and five years if found guilty before a tribunal of an allegation he failed to report to authorities an offer made to him by an alleged match-fixer.
The charging of Ahmed will rock the tight-knit cricket community in the former British colony, which is ranked 11th in the world in T20 cricket and will end up playing against the likes of England and South Africa at the World T20 in March if the team advances through the preliminary stage.
However, it could also have far wider reaching implications with the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit understood to be continuing a probe into the reach of illegal bookmaking networks, and in particular their targeting of players in associate nations.
Ahmed has retained the Hong Kong-based n barrister Kevin Egan, who on Monday moved to play down the seriousness of the charge against his client. Egan said Ahmed had been charged with failing to report an approach “from a former Pakistani cricketer in Hong Kong”, and there was no suggestion at all he had been involved in corruption.
“[The former cricketer] was like a father figure to him and [Ahmed] was approached with a corrupt offer which he rejected. But the only criminality alleged against him by the ICC was simply having failed to report that approach,” Egan told Fairfax Media. “At the moment we’re in negotiations with the ICC and those negotiations have not yet concluded. I expect that within the next couple of weeks we will have come to a conclusion.”
The former Pakistani cricketer who had struck up a close bond with Ahmed was believed to be Nasem Gulzar, who did not represent Pakistan. Gulzar, who left Hong Kong several years ago, is believed to have nurtured Ahmed while playing local cricket there. Gulzar was named in the perjury trial of Chris Cairns in London last October when Vincent claimed he fixed matches in the now defunct Indian Cricket League and in county cricket under the instruction of the former New Zealand all-rounder.
The court hearing that case, in which Cairns was found not guilty, was told last October that Vincent was paid £60,000 ($125,000) by Gulzar and a fixing agent, Varum Gandhi, for underperforming in a T20 match between Sussex and Kent in August 2011. Vincent batted slowly in Sussex’s run-chase with teammate Navid Arif and their team lost the match. The court heard Vincent gave £15,000 to Arif, an associate of Gulzar.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Cricket Association said on Monday the organisation was “unable to comment in the circumstances”. Ahmed, who has represented Hong Kong in six ODIs and eight T20 internationals, has not played since October 31, after which he withdrew from playing duties for personal reasons. His brother Nadeem, 28, also represents Hong Kong. They have Pakistani heritage but were raised in Hong Kong.
Under the ICC anti-corruption code, and the codes of member bodies such as Cricket , it is an offence to fail to report a corrupt approach or knowledge of one made to another signatory to the code. The ICC does not comment on ACU matters but in an interview last month with London’s Telegraph the chairman of their investigative branch, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, spoke of the corruption threat to lower level cricket including in associate nations, where players could be targeted because of their low wages. Hong Kong’s nine contracted players, for instance, earn between $HK9000 ($1600) and $HK11,000 ($A2000) a month.
“The harder international cricket is made as a target the bigger the risk of displacement towards domestic games and lower levels of international cricket,” he said. “For the bad guys to succeed they want an event that is televised then they can go about their illegal betting.”
AS the Jets searchforlornly for a drought-breaking goal, 100 of the region’s junior players are set to receive expert tuition from some of the best strikersin the business.
FINISHER: Joel Griffiths
EXPERIENCE: Jobe Wheelhouse
Former Jets skipper Jobe Wheelhouse will conducta three-day “finishing school’’next week at Finnan Oval, Blackalls Park, at which the guest mentorswill be Joel Griffiths, Daniel McBreen and David Lowe –two A-League Golden Boot winners and a former Socceroo respectively.
HOT SHOT: Daniel McBreen
Wheelhouse, Griffiths and McBreen scored 79 A-League goals between them in 325 games, while Lowe was regarded as one of the most skilful forwards of his erain the National Soccer League.
Their ability to find the net stands in stark contrast to Newcastle’s current strike force, who have been kept scoreless for 559 minutes, or six full games. If the Jets do not score in the first 47 minutes of their clash with Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, they will surpass the A-League record, held by by the now-defunct New Zealand Knights, for the longest hiatus between goals.
Asked if his all-star coaching team could potentially help Newcastle’s forwards regain their mojo, Wheelhouse replied: “Probably not so much myself, but definitely Griffo, Daniel McBreen and Loweycould.
“Imagine having those guys in the same Newcastle team, hypothetically. They’d be lethal.
“I think it’s definitely an option that they could look at, bringing in some specialised coaching to improve that front third.
“From my own point of view, I was pretty much box to box, but those guys, they’re the real experts.’’
Wheelhouse, who retired from the A-League three years ago at just 27, scored only seven timesin 106 appearances but among them was one of the finest solo goals seen at Turton Road, a 25-metre rocket against Gold Coast in 2009.
Now playing for Lambton Jaffas, Wheelhouse said the Jets were “definitely having a real go’’ but seemed lacking in confidence.
“I guess it’s been an issue for the past six orseven weeks, not being able to find the net,’’ Wheelhouse said.
“Maybe it’s time to bring someone in to help with the front third. That’s one avenue they could look at.I’m sure the work ethic is there and they’re doing plenty of front-third work during the week.It’s just that when you’re in that type of slump –and I’ve been in teams before where we’ve stuggled to score goals –it’s hard to get out of it.’’
Wheelhouse launched his junior coaching schools soon after retiring from the A-League. Last year he teamed up with former Jets teammate and English Premier League star Michael Bridges to conduct a six-week course specifically for strikers.
With Bridges currently overseas, Wheelhouse enlisted the services of McBreen, Griffiths and Lowe for next week’s clinic, for children aged eight to 16.
“We’re pretty well at full capacity, in terms of numbers, so the interest is obviously there,’’ he said.
Ash Ibraheim and his family escaped with their lives after their house was razed by fire, believed to have been caused by a recharging hoverboard. Photo: Justin McManus The problem of lithium-ion batteries overheating – the likely cause of the hoverboard fire that destroyed a family’s home last week – could have been solved.
Scientists in the United States have developed a new material that responds quickly to changing temperatures, as occurs when the battery is being charged.
The material reacts to the battery, which results in a sudden drop in heat, possibly preventing the battery from overheating and bursting into flames. The material can be placed inside the battery, which prevents thermal “runaway”.
The material needs further study, including whether it can be used with larger batteries, such as those in cars, but it is a promising development following widespread concern over the safety of the popular Christmas present.
Researchers from Stanford University said that previous attempts to address the problem have been limited by slow response and eventual compromise to the battery’s performance.
Energy density and overall lifespan of lithium-ion batteries have improved significantly in recent years, but safety remains “an important and unresolved issue”. It has prevented the widespread adoption of “next-generation, high-energy-density batteries”.
A family of five escaped with their lives after their house was razed by fire authorities believed was caused by a hoverboard being recharged in Strathmore, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
The fire caused about $500,000 in damages.
Energy Safe Victoria said the charger failed to meet electrical-safety standards. Since the blaze, The n Competition and Consumer Commission launched an investigation into the popular toy’s safety and the state’s Consumer Affairs Minister, Jane Garrett, has called on the federal government to ban the next-generation items.
Britain has already banned hoverboards.
The consumer watchdog also recalled five ‘hoverboards’ in December, including the Moonwalker, a two-wheel scooter by Hunter Sports because it was sold with a non-compliant battery charger and cord.
The study was published in the journal Nature Energy.
Many manufacturers prefer lithium-ion batteries because they charge faster, have higher power density and last longer than traditional batteries. They are used for numerous gadgets including computers, smartphones, cameras, game consoles, power tools, electric wheelchairs and scooters and e-cigarettes.
Some airlines have banned items containing lithium-ion batteries to be taken onto flights because of the threat of them catching fire.
STRIKES: Lightning over Newcastle. Picture: Nick BielbyThe Hunter was treated to a spectacular light show on Monday night as thunderstorms rolledin from the south.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued several warnings for wild weather tohit the region, with thunderstorms first hitting Lake Macquarie about 3pm.
Storm cells continued to roll across the region until the midnight finale crashed over the city and surrounding suburbs.
Lightning strikes illuminate the Hunter | video, photos The storm cell looking over Bar Beach. Picture: Grant Minns.
The storm from Anzac Memorial Walk. Picture: Grant Minns.
Lightning crashes at Bar Beach. Picture: Shane Williams.
The show from Lake Macquarie. Picture: Jade Kennedy.
Looking across Lake Macquarie from Bolton Point. Picture: John Dillon.
The storm moving up the coast looking from Newcastle Beach. Picture: Andreas Antoniades.
A view from Honeysuckle. Picture: Jack Beaven.
A view from Honeysuckle. Picture: Jack Beaven.
A view from Honeysuckle. Picture: Jack Beaven.
From West Wallsend. Picture: Hope Walker
The storm over Jesmond, looking towards Wallsend. Picture: Mandy Kennedy
From West Wallsend. Picture: Hope Walker
Pic by @brasso64: Storm front looking back across Newcastle Beach out to the west. No filters, no photoshop just my iPhone and gods handiwork
Pic by @arjnelson: Awesome #sunset to greet my #ride this #afternoon. Shame it was shortly followed by a massive downpour!!
Pic by @andreajwalsh This one lit up the sky #summerstorms
Lightning over Fletcher. Picture: Jim Schmitzer.
Lightning over Wickham. Picture: Carlo Farina.
Looking east from Kearsley. Picture: Donna Knight.
TweetFacebookThe damage was minimal with the State Emergency Service reporting 15 calls for assistance across the Hunter.
Cessnock was the worst hit with six jobs, while crews were also called out at Raymond Terrace, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.
Cessnock and Martinsville both reported 24mm of rain to 9am on Tuesday with Merewether pump station (8.2mm), Tocal (7mm) and Macquarie College (5mm) also recording good dumps.
The forecast is for the possibility of more storms on Tuesday following a warm day with temperatures to reach the mid-30s.