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Wed, Jan. 22

Aussie Open begins; classes starting soon

Serena Williams and Roger Federer opened their first major of the year with easy wins over their opponents at the Australian Open on its 100-year celebration. Where will it go from here?

Agassi, who had to withdraw from an earlier tournament with a hip flexor problem, is at this moment still in the draw. Unfortunately he's on the same side of the draw as Roger Federer and they'd meet in the quarters with continuous wins.

Lleyton Hewitt sure looks good. He's beefed up and wants to do well here, especially with it being the centennial. It's kind of funny, Roger Federer just brought Aussie Tony Roche aboard as his tennis coach, who has spent a lot of time working with Hewitt in the past. More possible incentive for Hewitt?

Andy Roddick and Marat Safin have been playing well, but in my humble opinion, they are not as mentally tough (most of the time) as Federer and Hewitt. But that doesn't mean they can't really be on their game and do damage to anyone at anytime.

Federer is quoted as saying, "Some one will have to be playing really well to beat me", which may be the understatement of the year. He certainly has his motor running on all cylinders and, barring injury, he's the male player to beat.

Women-wise, Serena Williams seems ready to do damage this year. But a handful of Russian women could, and most likely will, continue to claw their way to the top this year.

Newer names to the game like Kuznetsova, Zvonereva, Myskina Sharapova and Dementieva will tongue-twist us for a while, but better get use to the pronunciation because they are the WTA's future champions.

Reports say this could be Lindsay Davenport's last year on the tour, even though she ended 2004 in the No. 1 spot in women's world rankings – without winning a major. Is she hungry enough to do damage Down Under? We'll see.

ESPN2 is televising this event in the time frame primarily from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. (EST) with the finals on the 29 of January from 3:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., for you tennis die-hards.

Don't you just love it when tennis turns the corner to another year and the seasoned and freshman players converge to see who's the best? I do.

"YC Tennis Classes Begin Jan. 24–Evening Classes Feb. 21"

It's not just watching the sport of tennis that makes it fun, but playing it. Yavapai College offers a smattering of different time slots for learning the game at all levels, for credit or enrichment at only $38 for 30 hours of instruction.

Afternoon classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from noon-1:20 p.m. are on the agenda.

For those of you who work 9 to 5, evening classes are available as of Feb. 21 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-6:50 p.m.

Don't miss out. Call 776-2199 to register by phone.

"String Tension Update"

Many times you've probably heard the statement when you've had your racquet re-strung: "String it at the higher tension for more control and at the lower tension for more power."

That is a true and false statement.

The speed of the ball leaving the string bed of your racquet doesn't really change with more or less tension applied to your racquet. What does change is the trajectory of your shots.

What changes the speed is the racquet frame stiffness and swing speed.

The reason a ball travels farther at the same speed is because it leaves the string bed at a higher trajectory when the racquet is strung at the lower end of the recommended tension.

The statement that should say: "String your racquet at less tension for more depth and tighter for less depth."

"Local Tennis Thoughts"

•We are certainly going to miss local tennis players Tom Mitchell and Hewson Lawrence who both passed away recently.

These two players were original members of the Prescott Racquet Club when it opened in 1985 and were active up until recently on the courts in the area.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family and loved ones.

•The girls did it. In a recent clinic I was running there were six participants: three women and three men.

I split them up and had them play some games to 10 points against each other, and the women pulled off the win. Congrats to Robin Fox, Dinah Lunsford and Kellie Shanahorn, the spoils to Greg Jones, Steve LaFleur and Tom Winker. Better luck next time.

•Upcoming tennis events:

Sunday, Jan. 30, "New Year A-B-C Doubles at YC; noon-4 p.m. Call 445-1331.

Saturday, Jan. 29, PRC Grand Prix Singles. Call 778-0708 to enter.

•Local tennis players Myron Hartz and Brian Buchholtz met each other in the final of the year-end 3.0 NTRP Masters Tournament where Buchholtz prevailed 6-4, 6-2. A great job by both players.

•Those of you who saw my son Lleyton helping to clear the courts after the last snow, don't turn me in for putting a 3-year-old to work. He does it for room and board.

(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or

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