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.
It’s been two years to the day since Western Sydney last tasted success in the Sydney Derby but n marquee Dario Vidosic says the record books aren’t relevant to a squad with so many new faces.
The Wanderers will likely enter the derby as favourites in their own backyard and sitting in second place on the A-League ladder but recent history hasn’t been kind when it comes to clashes with their fiercest rivals. Winless in five games against the Sky Blues having lost four in that period doesn’t bode well for the club on the cusp of developing a hoodoo. However, Vidosic quashed suggestions of that record lingering over a squad that has undergone such a significant overhaul during the off-season.
Of the 16 names on the Wanderers’ team sheet when they last beat Sydney FC on January 11, 2014, just three remain at the club today. Brendon Santalab scored the winner from the bench that night while Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Mark Bridge both played full games. The club has since undergone a significant transformation not just in personnel but style of play and while the record books don’t bode well for the club, Vidosic says the players aren’t the least bit concerned with their form coming into Saturday night’s derby.
“I’ve only played the one and in that one I thought we were the better team that day. We were unfortunate conceding a goal so late,” Vidosic said. “I don’t think about any of that last two years without a win. Once the whistle blows on Saturday, all those those thoughts and statistics go out of the window….I don’t think these statistics are relevant at any point, even if it’s the team who is last playing the team playing first. On the field it’s eleven against eleven and sometimes it’s just how the ball can bounce.”
The excitement of Derby week was yet to creep into the Wanderers squad during their first training sessions since their 3-2 defeat to Melbourne City but the players are eager to make a statement having lost their last match to Sydney FC despite dominating the Sky Blues.
“It’s a special week, not just for the players but for the fans,” Vidosic said. “They want to say that we’re maybe a younger brother but we don’t look at it like that, we want to be the best and that’s our mentality, we want to run this town. Not just us but our fans especially.”
A stronger-than-expected Chinese currency devaluation is weighing on the benchmark ASX 200 index. Photo: Tyrone Siu The yuan has been gradually losing value against the Greenback.
The n sharemarket is in the midst of its worst start to a year in decades (it sank to a two-and-a-half-year low on Monday morning). The n dollar has fallen below the key US70¢ mark.
And it all comes just hours after Sean Penn’s weird interview with a powerful Mexican drug kingpin landed on the internet. Coincidence? Of course it is.
In all seriousness, Monday’s market meltdown has nothing to do with drug trafficking or Hollywood. But it is, at least tangentially, related to Mexico (more on that later) and has everything to do with China.
Investors are fearful that things are even worse in the world’s second-largest economy than authorities there are portraying them to be. And that nothing can really be done to stop it.
Perhaps the best illustration of these concerns is found in China’s tightly controlled currency, the yuan. This chart shows how China has been allowing the US dollar to strengthen against the yuan for a while as its economy slows.
In other words, the yuan has been sliding in value, and that slide accelerated noticeably last week. That came as Chinese authorities tried, in vain, to stem another alarming slide in the Chinese sharemarket.
On Monday, the People’s Bank of China let the yuan strengthen, providing a temporary lift for stocks and the n dollar. But people are still fearful that recent yuan weakness could be a harbinger of a serious devaluation of the currency. And that could have considerable knock-on effects.
China, of course, is ‘s biggest trading partner. Problems there are not good news for this country in any way. Yet the latest episode of yuan weakness could be a much deeper issue.
The real worry about a weaker yuan, analysts from Societe Generale wrote on Monday, “is both that things in China get even worse and that a domino of defaults will engulf commodities and [emerging markets], ultimately contaminating the full credit universe”.
In other words, a sharply weaker yuan could prompt investors in the US and elsewhere to pull money out of other emerging markets, like Mexico, and commodity exporting countries, like , leading to sharp declines for those currencies and risking defaults for the many companies in those countries with debt in US dollars.
We have seen that movie before. It’s called a full-blown emerging-market currency crisis. No one wants to see it again.
Fortunately, there is a long way to go before we get there again. And while China is not in a good place now, the world’s biggest economy, the US, is showing more signs of strength after posting a solid jobs report last week.
Time to get some popcorn, because there are more twists in this story to come.
Indian one-day captain MS Dhoni has refused to rule out a future stint in the Big Bash League but said he would need to make sure his body was up to the demands of the high-paced domestic T20 game in .
No contracted Indian player has featured in the BBL because the all-powerful BCCI does not want any of its players partaking in a rival of the Indian Premier League. Now that Dhoni has retired from Test cricket, he is in a position to weigh up his options outside of international cricket more than he did before. Asked about the prospect of an n stint given the BBL’s overwhelming success, Dhoni kept his cards close to his chest but did not completely rule out the idea.
“It’s very difficult for me, we are quite focused on international cricket as of now,” Dhoni said. “We’ll see how the future goes. It depends on when I retire, whether I’m in a position to play international cricket because the Big Bash, if you see the quality of cricket, is high so a lot depends on the physical fitness and also the ability to carry on and play more cricket. When you play for 10 to 15 years at times you feel you have played too much cricket, so we’ll have to wait and watch and it will depend on the retirement whether it [a Big Bash appearance] comes.”
Dhoni, who has played 270 ODIs, did not name a side for Tuesday’s fixture but said throughout the series there would be a number of debutants relishing the challenge of competing in n conditions. “I feel they are a very good side and the same is happening to us,” Dhoni said. ” is a place where you get good competitive cricket and I feel that actually helps you gain experience much faster. I think it’ll be a win-win scenario for both teams when it comes to going through this phase. are known to play tough cricket irrespective of who they are competing against which means it gives our youngsters a fair amount of exposure.”
The last time the two countries faced off was in the World Cup semi-final in March; a game which won thanks to a sparkling century from Steve Smith.
Dhoni said he didn’t want to use the word “revenge” in reference to the World Cup defeat.
“You want to compete, you want to win games, because at the end of the day you’re representing your country,” Dhoni said. “At the same time you want to follow the guidelines and the spirit of the game.”
Meanwhile, DRS will not be used during the one-day series, with the BCCI remaining unmoved on its anti-technology stance. President Shashank Manohar said in December unless DRS became “foolproof” the Indians would continue to refuse the technology in any bilateral series despite the fact it is embraced by every other board.
The ICC has asked India to accept DRS, but the BCCI rejected such a proposal. As recent as last summer, the touring Indians were unwilling to use DRS, which resulted in a number of umpiring howlers that would have been overturned with the technology.
It is, however, a relief for cricket fans who have at times complained that DRS taints the excitement of seeing an umpire’s finger extend to the sky given the decision can be overturned.
Despite DRS not being used for decision-making on the field, Channel Nine has set up the technology at its disposal, meaning viewers can see whether or a not a decision would have been overturned.
Veteran Lleyton Hewitt insists the backlash from Bernard Tomic’s run-in with staff at a Gold Coast tennis club won’t derail the 23-year-old’s n Open preparations.
Tomic appears to be enjoying the best start to a season of his career after reaching the semi final of the Brisbane International last week.
However revelations he clashed with staff at Gold Coast RACV Royal Pines over a $20 court hire fee leading into the Brisbane International have once again placed the much-maligned Queenslander in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Tomic, who is the No.1 seed at this week’s Sydney International, has since apologised for the incident.
His close friend Hewitt has come out in support of Tomic, describing it as a misunderstanding.
“I think it was a misunderstanding more than anything,” Hewitt said.
“Bernie had a great week in Brisbane. To beat a quality top 10 player in his first week, that was a great start to the year for Bernie.
“I expect him to play well in the Aussie. He plays well in Sydney. He’s won this title before. Nick and Bernie have got off to a great start and I think they are going to have a lot of crowd support down in Melbourne.”
Nick Kyrgios was unaware of the incident when asked by journalists in Sydney on Monday afternoon, but was quick to point out that the pair had managed to avoid the negative headlines in recent months.
“I actually don’t even know what’s happened,” Kyrgios said when asked of Tomic’s latest drama.
“I don’t think there’s been any of that (negative headlines) the last couple of months.”
Tomic also described the incident as a misunderstanding, apologising to club members.
“I’ve been so focused on preparing for all my matches, I know there’s no excuse for my behaviour,” Tomic told News Corp .
“I didn’t mean to cause any trouble and I apologise to the club members. There seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding and my practice was interrupted and I got a bit frustrated.”
While Kyrgios and Tomic both head to Melbourne Park with plenty of expectation, there is plenty of emotion around Hewitt’s final fling at his home grand slam.
“He’s always been a guy that I watched,” Kyrgios said of Hewitt.
“It happened pretty quick for me. From watching him on TV to standing next to him in Davis Cup. Now seeing him play his last couple of tournaments, I think it’s pretty sad for the sport.
“He’s given so much and I thought the crowd in Perth got to see what he is really good at – and that’s competing for every point. I like calling him a friend now. He’s helped me out a lot and hopefully he can keep doing that as well.”
“He’s experienced; he’s older; he’s beaten much better players than I have. Just give it my best”: Jordan Thompson. Photo: Brett HemmingsOnly two years separate ns Jordan Thompson and Bernard Tomic, but the pair will get the first look at each other when they square off at the Sydney International on Wednesday.
Thompson, who was cruising to victory when Slovakian Martin Klizan retired hurt at 6-2, 4-0 at the Sydney International on Monday, has only met Tomic a handful of times despite coming through the ranks at Tennis at a similar time.
Given Tomic’s rapid development at a young age, Thompson has not even practiced with his compatriot, admitting all he knows of the 23-year-old Queenslander is what he’s seen on television.
“Barely anything,” Thompson said when asked of his previous dealings with Tomic.
“Met him a few times. I don’t think I’ve ever hit a ball with him. Really only watched him play on telly. I guess his ranking takes him to better tournaments and I’m still trying to climb up the rankings.
“I guess I’m playing challengers most of the time and he’s playing these tournaments, ATPs, grand slams, so I don’t really come across him too much.”
Tomic comes into the tournament as the No.1 seed, enjoying a bye in the opening round to set up the all-Aussie clash against Thompson on Wednesday.
The leading Aussie, who will head to Melbourne as the No.16 seed at the n Open, is in good touch after reaching the semi final of the Brisbane International last week.
“I’ve watched him play over the years,” Thompson said.
“He’s actually only two years older than me, but in a way he’s a lot of years older than me. He’s been on the tour for a long time and been a good player for a long time. I don’t know if I’ve watched him closely, but I’ve been watching his matches.
“Honestly I have no idea [what his weaknesses are]. I guess he’s got everything on me. He’s experienced; he’s older; he’s beaten much better players than I have. Just give it my best.”
Tomic’s Open preparations was thrown into a spin on Monday when revelations of a run-in with staff at a tennis club on the Gold Coast surface.
While Thompson was unaware of the incident, he doesn’t believe it will have any impact on Tomic’s performance.
“I highly doubt it will affect him,” Thompson said.
“Off court is off court. On court probably just concentrate on the ball that’s coming. Yeah, I don’t think … I don’t know what the controversy is so pretty sure he probably wouldn’t care.”
Thompson has been lost in the shadows of the likes of Tomic, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
However he insists he hasn’t been fussed by the lack of attention, admitting the success of his peers is inspiring him to join them in the spotlight in the future.
“It’s great for them,” Thompson said.
“I love hearing stories about them doing so well. Sort of brings the morale up. Every Aussie tennis player who hears about them wants to be as good as them. Yeah. Trying to earn my way out there. Everyone wants success. Watching those guys too as well is motivating.”