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ASB Classic tournament director Karl
Budge is unsure if Serena Williams will return
to Auckland and has gone into damage control
following her shock second exit yesterday.
Williams yesterday blamed the “abhorrent ”
conditions in Auckland for her 6-4, 6-7 (5),
6-4 defeat to unheralded American Madison
Brengle going as far as saying it is the least
favourite conditions she has ever played in.
Tickets are already sold out for the rest of the
tournament but Budge said the weather issues
over the last few days and the early departure
of both Serena and Venus Williams could
affect interest for next year’s tournament.
“It does do a fair bit of damage but probably
more for next year,” Budge told Radio Sport ’s
D’Arcy Waldegrave in terms of player interest
for the 2018 event.
“It ’s around how that message is delivered in
the dressing room and we don’t want to get
a reputation as a windy tournament. We’ve
certainly been hammered by the wind and
rain over these last few days and also from
a fan perspective as well. There have been
fans who’ve been disappointed by rained out
matches the last couple of days and then really
long matches yesterday. So it ’s a tough one for
all parties involved.”
Budge said it was out of his control what
happens on the court but said many players
had come up to him in the last few days
to comment that this is their favourite
tournament of the year.
“It is what it is. You put all the finishing
touches on the tournaments as you possibly
can but there’s two things you can’t control
and that ’s player performance and weather and
unfortunately those have hurt us a little bit in
the opening days.”
Based on her post-match comments it seems
Auckland might not be on Serena’s wishlist for
the 2018 season.
“At least I can get out of these conditions
so I can get somewhere better, and warmer
weather too,” she said in a brief post-match
press conference. “I would say it ’s my least
favourite conditions I’ve ever played in.
Again my opponent played in the exact same
conditions — she was able to adjust better
than me. She obviously did a much better job
than I did. I really abhorred these conditions.”
“I can take solace in the fact that the
conditions won’t be like this in Melbourne
(for the Australian Open). This is almost not
a great opportunity to assess your game to be
Budge said he had not had a chance to
talk to Serena following her defeat but will
catch up with her team at the Australian
Open this month to discuss a possible return
to Auckland. “I’ll sit down and have that
conversation in Melbourne. We’ ll go away and
chat to her team. At this stage we’ve got to
focus on who’s going to win this tournament
and make sure the men arrive fit and healthy
for next week as well.”
Radio Sport tennis commentator Matt
Brown predicts we will not see Serena back. “I
struggle to think she’ ll come back in the future.
That might just be it — a one-off appearance
in Auckland for Serena Williams.” he said.
It was announced on Tuesday that plans are
being made to build a roof for the ASB Tennis
Centre with $10.5 million of the required
$18.5m in place with work starting after the
2018 tournament. Budge said however a roof
would not have made a difference yesterday in
terms of the wind.
“The wind would have still come through
the stadium design. Unless you went to a
completely closed off venue which then
changes the entire dynamics of the event.
We’d then become an indoor tournament as
opposed to an outdoor tournament. A roof
would have helped us the first couple of days
but it wouldn’t have helped us yesterday.”
“ While I personally like a little bit of wind
because I think it ’s a great leveler and adds to
the event, when you’ve got pretty strong gusts
like we had yesterday it ’s certainly very tough
for the players. In saying that, it was the same
conditions for everyone.”
Budge seemed more confident in Venus
returning to Auckland after the former
champion pulled out of the draw yesterday
with a wrist injury. “ The relationship with
Venus is outstanding. She called me to the
dressing room yesterday and gave me a heads
up before going through all the formal stuff
she needs to do. She was very apologetic. She’s
all class Venus. While we’re very disappointed
she’s had to withdrawal with injury, I think if
there’s anyone that probably has a little bit of
leeway it ’s probably Venus Williams.”
Paul Coll has been
handed a timely New
Year’s boost, being named
player of the month for
December by the world
squash governing body.
Coll won the biggest
tournament of his career
when going on giant-
killing run at the Channel
VAS Championship in
which lifted the 24-year-
old to 20th in the world
rankings, was enough
to see him handed a
monthly honour by the
Coll is the first New
Zealand male to be
ranked in the world top-
20 since former world
champion Ross Norman
retired in 1995.
Making the month even
sweeter for Coll was his
partner, Belgian player
Nele Gilis, being named
women’s player of the
World No 38 Gilis
won a lower-tiered
tournament in France,
the 20-year-old beating
New Zealander Amanda
Landers-Murphy in the
final. — NZN
Olympian Courtney Atkinson
will undertake a 243km journey
from one side of the South
Island to the other next month
in his first attempt at the
Kathmandu Coast to Coast
World Championship event.
The one-day race, on February
10, is also known as the Longest
Day, an 11-plus hour multi-
sport race starting from the
Serpentine beach near Kumara
and finishing in New Brighton,
Atkinson, of the Gold Coast,
has been named Australian
ambassador for the race’s
naming rights sponsor,
Atkinson represented Australia
in the triathlon at the Beijing
and London Olympics, where
he was the best-performed
Australian male triathlete at
A decorated endurance athlete,
Atkinson will have just 12 weeks
to get himself ready for the
race — including getting used
to kayaking — a sport he is not
traditionally familiar with.
“Simply being able to sit in
the kayak for over four hours
is going to be the biggest
challenge,” he said.
“Other wise I’m using what I
learned and what ’s worked for
nearly 20 years at the peak of my
triathlon training. I’m training
multiple times a day and trying
to emulate the conditions where
possible on the Gold Coast. ”
Atkinson tackled the course
last year over a weekend with
five-time world Championship
Longest Day winner Richard
Ussher, who is now the event ’s
race director, and Ussher’s
wife, three-time winner and
defending women’s one-day
champion Elina, saying it was
“It ’s much longer than an
ironman and the terrain is much
harder than riding up a road or
running a marathon,” Atkinson
“It ’s a massive challenge but I
just love the course. The terrain
is what makes the event so
unique. The distance is one thing
but the challenge, beauty and
roughness of the course is what
is so exciting about it.”
Entries for the Coast to Coast
officially close on January
15, after which there is a
late penalty fee added to the
standard entry fees.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
The hopes of the 2016 New Zealand
modified speedway champion,
Greymouth’s Steve Thompson, were
dashed last night when a tangle with
another Greymouth driver forced him
to stop mid-race in the Komatsu New
Zealand Modified Championship grand
final at Greenstone Park, Cobden.
After day one of the event on Monday,
Thompson and fellow local driver Brandon
Parkinson were in the top five and in with
a chance of making the podium.
The second day ’s racing was held
yesterday after being postponed on
Tuesday due to the weather.
After some exciting racing, the results
of the qualifying races put Thompson in
second place and Parkinson in fourth place
on the final grid. Other local drivers to
qualify were Atama Holland, Iain Whyte
and Tyler Stanton.
The final race for the championship was
20 laps for the 20 qualifiers.
Local hopes were ruined in the final
when a tangle between local hopes
Thompson and Parkinson resulted in
the power lead falling off Thompson’s
battery, causing him to stop and Parkinson
could not stop in time. He collided with
Thompson and was relegated to the back
of the field.
Thompson and Parkinson were the two
quickest cars over the weekend but missed
Stratford driver Richard Pierce led the
race and was headed to win his second
New Zealand title from another Stratford
driver, Farron Lowry.
Third place was retained by the current
New Zealand No 3, Jamie Fox.
Parkinson raced well from the back of
the field to fifth place before he ran out of
laps to improve his placing.
The final race was started three times
after Maurice Hedley rolled on the
opening lap, putting paid to his chances
and another clash on the opening lap
decreased the field to 15.
The drivers will next head to
Christchurch for the Modified GP title
and hopefully redemption for Thompson
to show he is still the one to catch in the
Day 1.— Ministocks: Paul Archibold
1, Sarah Bellis 2, Andy Monk 3. TQ:
James Thompson 1, Morgan Frost, Daniel
Jenkins 2 equal. Stockcars: Tony Stanton
1, Logan Tomlin 2, Colin Cameron 3.
Production saloons: Ron Koole 1, Wayne
Stanton, Scott Woodhouse 2 equal.
Day 2.— Streetstocks: John O’Callaghan
1, Mark Petch 2, Mark Reeves 3. TQ:
Rodney Thompson 1, James Thompson 2,
Sean Brown 3. Ministocks: Matt Cook 1,
Dave Davies 2, Sarah Bellis 3.
The next meeting at the Cobden track
will be on February 11.
PICTURE: Craig Baker
Brandon Parkinson heads the field and was the best of the Greymouth drivers in the 20-lap New Zealand modifieds speedway final last night. Steve Thompson, second from
left, who failed to retain his NZ title, attempts to find a way past Jonas England of Wellington, middle, and Blair Luscombe, of Stratford.
Dual Australian Olympian Courtney Atkinson got a taste of what to expect in the Kathmandu
Coast to Coast next month when he went over the course recently.
COAST TO COAST
Aussie Olympian to tackle Longest Day
Tangle ends Greymouth
NZ Modified title hopes
Nele Gilis and Paul Coll
ASB TENNIS CLASSIC
Tournament director unsure if Serena will return
Karl Budge watches as Serena leaves the
Perth Glory are set to
confront a blast from the
past when they take on
the Wellington Phoenix
in tonight’s A-League
clash at nib Stadium.
Smeltz was a fan
favourite during his
three-year stint at Glory,
but he will be enemy
No 1 tonight when he
lines up for the Phoenix.
Smeltz has signed on
with Wellington for the
rest of the A-League
season, and he is expected
to make his return off the
bench against Perth.
The 35-year-old will
not be wearing his usual
No 9 — that has already
been taken by team-mate
Kosta Barbarouses. So
instead, he has been given
permission by FFA to
wear the No 99.
Phoenix have enjoyed
somewhat of a revival
since coach Ernie
Merrick quit his post.
Wellington have snared
one win and three draws
under co-coaches Des
Buckingham and Chris
Greenacre. Phoenix hope
the addition of Smeltz
will boost their attack.
Smeltz set to face Glory
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