Open honour as Barty asked to carry trophy on court for women’s final

She might not be on Rod Laver Arena with a racquet in hand for the women’s final next week, but it doesn’t mean Ash Barty won’t be on centre court.

The Herald and The Age have been told there are special plans in place for the reigning champion.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley presents Ash Barty with the 2022 Australian Open trophy.Credit:Eddie Jim

The recently retired, and now pregnant, star of Australian tennis has made it clear she doesn’t like the attention, which is why Tennis Australia wants to keep things on the down low.

But this column has been told Barty is set to carry the Australian Open trophy onto Rod Laver Arena before the women’s final next Saturday night.

It doesn’t necessarily mean she will present the trophy to the winner of this year’s tournament. That decision won’t be made until the two finalists are known, giving Australian Open officials time to select a former player of most significance to the winner.

Last year Tennis Australia managed to surprise Barty during the celebration ceremony when Australian tennis royalty and close friend Evonne Goolagong Cawley emerged from Champions’ Walk to present the then world No.1 with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Kyrgios manager smashes Cash

Nick Kyrgios’s manager has taken aim at tennis icon Pat Cash after he criticised Tennis Australia for “bending over backwards” to help the 27-year-old prepare for the Australian Open.

In the latest chapter of the ongoing feud between two of Australian tennis’s most fiery characters, animosity between the pair has grown over the weekend following the retired champion’s comments about Kyrgios’ charity match against Novak Djokovic on Friday night.

Speaking on SEN Radio last week, Cash criticised Tennis Australia for offering up Rod Laver Arena for a match he deemed a favour to an underdone Kyrgios, who hadn’t played over the summer following his withdrawal from the United Cup in Sydney.

Nick Kyrgios and Pat Cash.Credit:Getty

The comments have riled the Kyrgios camp, with the world No.21’s close friend and manager Daniel Horsfall telling The Herald and The Age that Cash was out of line.

“Cash is clearly out of touch,” Kyrgios’ manager said just hours before the Australian withdrew from the tournament due to injury. “I honestly can’t remember the last time he said anything positive or supportive of Nick and Tennis Australia.

“Tennis Australia did a fantastic job. That practice match was going ahead either way. It could have been on a back court for all they cared. RLA gets used all day a week out from the Australian Open. I don’t know why he thinks it’s different for NK or Novak.

“As far as I am concerned, we are only here because of the fans. Not only did TA manage to let fans see two superstars, they donated all proceeds to charity. Anyone who has an issue with that really isn’t a fan of the game in my opinion.”

Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios after their exhibition match last Friday.Credit:Getty Images

Horsfall was replying to comments made by Cash on Melbourne radio last week.

“In what country, in what grand slam … would you have Wimbledon suddenly pulling out centre court or court 1 because Andy Murray needed a practice match,” Cash said.

“It’s hard to believe. They certainly wouldn’t do it at the French Open … They’ve [Tennis Australia] bent over backwards to help Nick to get some matches and to do this, I don’t know.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas gave Nick Kyrgios short shrift at the net after his defeat at Wimbledon last year.Credit:Getty Images

The Kyrgios camp has not forgotten the comments Cash made last year during the Australian’s fiery clash against Greece’ Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It was absolute mayhem – he [Kyrgios] was lucky to even get through the first set,” Cash said on BBC at the time.

“He should have been defaulted in the first set. Something’s got to be done about it. It’s just an absolute circus. He has brought tennis to the lowest level I can see as far as gamesmanship, cheating, manipulation, abuse, aggressive behaviour to umpires, to linesmen.

“Is it entertaining? Yeah, possibly. It’s gone to the absolute limit now. [It’s] the gamesmanship, the abuse he was giving. Tsitsipas got sucked right into it, so it was entertaining and fascinating, but for me, it’s gone too far now.“I have no problems with a bit of gamesmanship but when it gets to that level I think it’s just out of control.”

Nowitzki hits the Open

NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki is in Australia on a speaking tour led by his former Dallas Mavericks teammate Chris Anstey.

Nowitzki, whose first love was tennis, was invited to hit the practice courts at Melbourne Park with fellow German Alexander Zverev last week.

Dirk Nowitzki and Alexander Zverev pose after a hit last week.Credit:Getty

He was a guest of Tennis Australia inside a suite at Rod Laver Arena on opening night. He was joined for dinner by his wife, Jessica Olsson, before watching Iga Swiatek and Daniil Medvedev in action on centre court.

Nowitzki is a huge tennis fan and has organised a number of pro tennis celebrity classics in Dallas over the past few years. He even managed to convince Dallas superstar Luka Doncic to play last year.

Like mother like daughter

Elizabeth Mandlik will make her Australian Open debut on Tuesday. The name might not sound familiar, but it holds special significance in the tennis world.

Elizabeth is the 21-year-old daughter of four-time grand slam champion and 1980’s sensation Hana Mandlíková.

Mandlikova won her four titles (1980 and 1987 Australian Open, 1981 French Open and 1985 US Open) representing Czechoslovakia before switching allegiances to Australia in 1989.

Her daughter, Elizabeth, will represent the US on Tuesday when she takes on Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. Mandlik was awarded a lucky-loser entry into the tournament after a late withdrawal from the main draw.

Political rally

Former Australian tennis player turned politician John Alexander is back courtside. The two-time Australian Open doubles champion has been pre-occupied in recent years.

Alexander came to Parliament in 2010 beating incumbent Bennelong MP Maxine McKew three years after the former ABC journalist defeated then-prime minister John Howard.

Alexander retired from politics last year. He hasn’t wasted any time getting himself back in the sport he loves. He was spotted heading into Melbourne Park on day one having secured a range of media commitments.

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