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25 April 2024

Late Li, not-nude Novak and yo, Zheng


A selection of brief stories from the Australian Open on Saturday:

Late Li
China's Li Na experienced the Australian Open's notorious late, late nights when she had a midnight finish against Anabel Medina Garrigues. Li was not amused by the tardy hour, especially as she did not even come on court until 11:00 pm. "Of course now it's late already. Like before the match start I was joking with my team. I said, 'Other players start at 11:00 am; I start my matches at 11:00 pm,'" recalled the French Open champion. Li is not the first player to be put out by night play at the Open -- Serena Williams was annoyed by swirling crickets when she played until 1:00 am this week. And Li could have been on court much later, if not for a first-set injury that forced Medina Garrigues to retire from their contest.

Novak's trunks call
Everybody can breathe easy after Novak Djokovic said he'd never pose naked. Phew. But the Serb did defend a man's right to appear in Sports Illustrated in only his swimwear. "I will choose my next words very carefully," he said, when beamed the curveball during a press conference. "We should all have equal rights. But I am not thinking about that too much. I guess women are more attractive than we are. They have a lot more to show, I guess." However, Djokovic said he'd never strip off in public. "I'm not getting naked for anybody, except my girlfriend," he assured.

Yo, Zheng
Zheng Jie has got a lot more streetwise since appearing in a hip hop video sketch. Zheng, dubbed "Jay-Z" due to the constant mangling of her name by Westerners, dons tracksuit and visor and struts through a carpark in the video, set to Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder". But Zheng, who says she prefers slow piano ballads, insists hip hop is not really her thing. "Oh, I think this is not my style," laughed the Chengdu native. "After my video, every player who sees me doesn't say hello, they say, 'Yo, Yo.'"

Big Brother is watching Maria
Maria Sharapova is a keen reader, but she was not best pleased when her trainer handed her a copy of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four". The bleak world of Big Brother is perhaps not the ideal escape for a busy tennis star, but she says she has to read it to be polite. "It was never really given to me in my high school years. So decided that this is a good time," she said. "My trainer actually picked it up for me. I have to be nice and read it. He spent ê20 on it, so got to be nice. Got to use my gifts. I don't know. It was either that or the running book by (Japanese writer) Haruki Murakami, where he wrote about running. I was like, I don't think so. I was like, the worst thing about running is reading a book about running."