Henin finds new methods of relaxation
Bust A Move
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Just call her 50 Centimes.
OK. Justine Henin isn't about to change her name to Heminem, but in one of the more stunning revelations of her career, the world No. 1 told reporters Friday that her training regime now includes weekly hour-long hip-hop lessons with personal trainer Eric Houben.
"We just started," Henin said. "Just for fun sometimes we do it. It's just my relaxing time in preparation. I'm so bad, but I want to improve, so that's good."
Still reeling, we couldn't resist asking whether she'd bust out some moves after a match.
"Never. Don't dream," Henin said amid general laughter.
When Henin switched to French, she went into a little more detail. The lessons involve singing and dancing, and she kept insisting that she has no natural aptitude for it -- but that's the point. "Doing something that's difficult for me, that puts me in an uncomfortable situation, is good for me," she said.
Houben participates in the sessions, and Henin said her younger sister has a gift for the genre.
You won't see any video clips on Henin's Web site. "I'm not ready for that," she said.
Can a duet with Vince Spadea be far behind?
Bracket busterNo one saw Henin's next opponent coming.
Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan walked into a small interview room at Rod Laver Arena, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, dressed in a pastel-pink track suit and looking far younger than her 22 years. It was easy to see why this wisp of a lass plays two-fisted on both wings and sometimes elects to deflate power with Marshmallow Fluff moon balls.
The 158th-ranked Hsieh (pronounced Sea-eh), who hadn't won a Grand Slam match in five previous appearances, had just beaten hard-hitting No. 69 Aravane Rezai of France, two days after upsetting 21st seed Sybille Bammer of Austria. Her eyes widened when she saw the number of reporters waiting for her, but conquered her nerves and willingly told her life story.
She began playing tennis at age 5, after her father discovered the game, hired a coach to teach him and then began teaching his daughter, the fourth of seven children. Training facilities in Taiwan are scarce, so Hsieh trains on public courts, where she often has to wait in line with amateurs.
Hsieh turned pro at 15, and actually reached the late rounds of two WTA tournaments in her rookie year. She has won 13 singles titles on the lower-level ITF circuit, two WTA doubles events late last year, and a gold medal in the regional Asian Games, but hadn't shown enough signs of being able to hold her own in singles on this level.
"I still feel like I don't believe I won three rounds," said Hsieh, who travels regularly with a German trainer and her little brother, who is playing in the junior tournament here next week. Her closest previous brush with fame is that she attended the same high school as Yankees pitcher Chien Ming-Wang.
She's already guaranteed $75,000 -- about a quarter of her cumulative career prize money -- and she said she'll buy her father a motorcycle with the winnings.
In parting, reporters asked Hsieh if her name means anything specific. "If you have two, it means thank you," she said, charmingly. "One, nothing."
--Bonnie D. Ford
A Fine Display
Marat Safin leaves the Australian Open with a $500 dent in his $30,250 in prize money after damaging his racket in a fit of temper during a five-set loss to Marco Baghdatis.
After two rounds, 18 players in the men's draw had been cited for code infractions, including nine for racket abuse, seven for audible obscenities and two for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Safin threw his racket to the court in disgust in the fifth set after Baghdatis won an easy point, and had to restrain himself from repeating the move a couple of more times.
Russia's Dmitry Tursunov earned the biggest fine of $1,000 for verbal abuse during his second-round loss to American Sam Querrey on Thursday, and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez was fined the same amount after committing two racket abuse violations in his straight-sets loss to eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet on Wednesday.
Israel's Sharar Peer, the 17th seed who advanced to the quarterfinals here last year, exited in the third round Friday after losing to 11th seed Elena Dementieva of Russia. Peer will play for her country's Fed Cup team and go on to Doha, Qatar, where she will become the first Israeli athlete to compete in the Muslim country. Peer said she isn't convinced that little bit of history will attract much attention, and gave the impression she'd rather it didn't. "That's not the goal," she said. "The goal is to go and play my best tennis."
--Bonnie D. Ford
Jumping Through Hoops
The wardrobe question of the day was posed by our colleague Tom Tebbutt of the Toronto Globe and Mail, who asked Serena Williams whether a tennis ball would fit through her gigantic hoop earrings. Williams obligingly stuck her hand through one of them. "They serve as earrings and then I can wear them as bangles," she said.
--Bonnie D. Ford
Epitome Of Calm
Nikolay Davydenko is discovering it can be hard to keep a low profile in the first week of a major.
The fourth-ranked Davydenko, still the subject of an ATP investigation into betting irregularities surrounding a match he played at Sopot, Poland, in August, has remained surprisingly focused in not dropping a set so far at the Australian Open.
He beat Frenchman Marc Gicquel 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on Friday to advance to the fourth round.
Davydenko's preparations were overshadowed by the inquiry, which has already lasted several months. He denies any wrongdoing and says the investigation is dragging on too long.
At Melbourne Park, Davydenko is the epitome of calm.
"At the beginning of a tournament you always feel nervous, but three matches have already been good," he said. "Now, it's about concentration for me."
After reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals the past three years, Davydenko knows he's only one win -- at most -- from a match on center court.
"I don't think about center court for me now," he said. "I know I need to win four matches to be in the quarterfinals, and I'll be on the center court."
Davydenko's first three matches have been played on Margaret Court Arena and the Vodafone Arena. He next faces No. 14-seeded fellow Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
He has finished in the top five the past three seasons, but has never won a Grand Slam title. His best runs to date include semifinal appearances at the past two U.S. Opens and at the French last year and in 2005.
Bonnie D. Ford is on the grounds at the Australian Open for the two-week event. She'll have firsthand knowledge of everything that's transpiring Down Under. Send your questions to Bonnie here.