| Venus Williams in action during the quarter finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne Tuesday
Melbourne: Lleyton Hewitt is willing to risk his world No. 1 ranking in order to chase Grand Slam glory this season following his shock exit from the Australian Open.
Hewitt’s dream of becoming the first home-grown Australian Open winner in 27 years were wrecked on Monday when he was dumped out of the last 16 by Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui.
The four-set defeat has sent Hewitt back to the drawing board and the fiery 21-year-old from Adelaide is now considering cutting back his schedule in the pursuit of more Grand Slam titles.
“I think Slams are probably the most important,” said Hewitt, who has been the season-ending world No. 1 for the past two years.
“I was able to play my best tennis towards the end of a really long and tough year. This year I don’t think I’m going to play nearly as many tournaments as I did last year,” added Hewitt, who played 76 matches last season.
“Whether it hurts me, you know, trying to hold on to No. 1 again, we’ll have to wait and see. But if I get in a position of doing well in Grand Slams, you’re always going to have a good chance of finishing the year No. 1 anyway.”
Well done, Youn-ace
In Rabat, the Moroccan media was not short of superlatives on Tuesday to laud big-serving Younes El Aynaoui for his shock win over Hewitt.
“Well done Youn... ace,” said Al Bayane daily, quoting local tennis federation head Mohamed M’Jid’s play on words after the No. 18 seed’s victory over the world No. 1.
The 31-year-old Moroccan, ranked 22nd in the world, fired down 33 aces during his upset fourth round victory on Monday.
Under the big headline “Phenomenal!” L’Opinion called El Aynaoui’s win “one of the most extraordinary achievements in the history of Moroccan sport”.
It’s all in the genes
It took Andre Agassi to steal John McEnroe’s thunder on Centre Court. McEnroe has had them laughing in the aisles with his irreverent interviews with leading players at Melbourne Park.
But Agassi seemed prepared for the ordeal and ended up on top as they traded jokes like groundstrokes.
McEnroe asked Agassi if he still hit up with his wife, Steffi Graf, the former women’s No. 1.
“You think I’m an inspiration at 32, you should see her at 33,” said Agassi. “She always wins... The problem is, I can’t keep my eyes on the ball.”
On Monday, speaking at a function, McEnroe gave an insight into the pressure that Andre and Steffi’s son, Jaden Gil Agassi, would attract if he ever picks up a racket.
“There can’t possibly be any baby in the history of any sport who could have better genetics for a sport than that baby,” he said. “You combine Agassi and Graf and you’ve got about 50 Grand Slams. I’d say there’s a little pressure on Jaden Gil.”
McEnroe asked Agassi when Jaden would start playing. Agassi said his son would play as soon as he wants. “It’s hard to ignore, mom and dad are out there hitting the ball, he wants to hit the ball,” Agassi said. “(But) it’s a big gene pool out there and you haven’t met the rest of my family.”
Too skinny for pin-up
Glamour girl Daniela Hantuchova thinks she is too skinny and weak and may have to sacrifice her pin-up status to succeed at the highest level.
The lightly-framed Slovakian is beginning to rival Anna Kournikova as one of the sport’s most recognisable faces, but believes that may be stopping her reaching her full potential.
The teenager, who has risen to eighth position in the world rankings, thinks she needs to start bulking up if she wants to go any higher.
“Right now, it’s all about power,” Hantuchova said after losing 4-6, 3-6 to Venus Williams in the quarter finals on Tuesday. “I think my tennis is there but sometimes they just hit it so hard I can’t do anything about it.”
Hantuchova, 19, won her first senior tournament in Indian Wells last year and reached the quarter finals at the last three Grand Slams, only to lose to Venus or Serena on each occasion.
At 1.81m, Hantuchova is taller than Serena and slightly shorter than Venus but is lighter than both at just 56 kg. Like former world No. 1 Hingis, Hantuchova’s skills and court craft are the equal of any player in the game but she lacks the muscle and power of her bigger opponents.
“The Williams sisters are the only ones that I have lost to in Grand Slams in the past year,” she said. “I’m doing weights now but I have to improve the speed of my service. I’ve got become faster.”
Cool by chance
The Williams’ also cut a colourful image out on court when they took on Martina Navratilova and Svetlana Kuznetsova in a doubles match earlier in the week.
Both are known for their passion for fashion, and Serena has been wearing dresses at the Open with rhinestones on them, which she has attached herself. But against Navratilova and Kuznetsova, the rhinestones were in the cupboard. Instead Serena was decked out in an orange outfit and Venus in yellow.
Serena described it as “cool” but said there was no planning involved this time. “It was just by chance.”
She said their clothing designs were done “at least a year and a half in advance, and their clothing companies “just struck it lucky”.