Hugo Kelly reports from Rod Laver Arena:

Tennis watchers are asking: what was Mark Philippoussis’s teen fiancée,
Barbara Alexis (nine-inch pumps, shorty shorts, no bra) doing courtside
yesterday during his final Australian open hitout? Answer: fetching
refreshments. “Babe, could you get two yellow Gatorades?” called out
the
Scud mid-session, and Barbara bounced up to fetch the colour-coded
coldies.

The most eye-catching thing to come out of practice was 29-year old Scud’s
statement: “my best tennis is ahead of me”
(http://www.theage.com.au/news/tennisfeatures/double-fault/2006/01/15/1137119010263.html). Yeah, right. Philippoussis will have to start by
running down balls at practice, something he wasn’t doing yesterday.

Today’s opening matches feature the first – and possibly last –
appearance at the tournament of the Williams Sisters. Which would be a
bitter disappointment to the sports media, midway through its attempt to
answer the only question of significance in women’s tennis: “How Big is
Serena’s Ass?”
http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,17796261%255E11088,00.html

Li Na is China’s top ranker
player and their contest on centre court
tonight should signal the end of Serena’s Open. Insiders expect the
Chinese player to take the match in three sets – a result paying 5-1 on
the local tote (http://www.tab.com.au/sportsbet/index.asp)
this morning.

The Chinese is lean, fit and hungry; Williams is, er, just hungry. And
the pro punters have responded, backing Li head-to-head from $3.40 to
under 2/1. At that price, she still represents good value against an
under-prepared Williams, who may have lots of spare time for shopping
(www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,17803294%255E28957,0
0.html) after tonight.

Venus looks safer this afternoon against Bulgarian firecracker Tzvetana
Pironkova. But she will want to be on her game: on her day, the feisty
Bulgarian has the shots and can beat-up on anyone, including her
coach/boyfriend, who’s been subject to any number of her loud locker
room antics.

Team Williams – if not the tabloid media – will be hoping Pironkova
keeps the white line fever off court today, while we will discover
tonight whether Serena’s buttocks hold up to the Chinese challenge.

* Hugo Kelly will report irregularly over the next fortnight from the
Australian Open locker room.