December 29, 2012 | 08:18 PM
For a world #1, $250,000 for a title win after only two matches was a lot of money - 40 years ago. By today's exhibition standards, it sounds like charity work: it's taken a million to lure Pete, Roger, Rafa and Joker to exos in far flung lands. Joker and opponent Nick Almagro traded as many good natured smiles and looks as smashes throughout much of the match, but because of the timing and nature of the event as a mini-tournament played in Australia-like heat, the tennis was played at a higher level than one-off exos, as if the result mattered.
The two men were even until a 1st set tiebreak when, inexplicably, Joker's forehand started finding the net and Nick went up 6-3 (he closed it out 7-4). Joker broke early in the 2nd and ran out the set 6-3, and started the 3rd just as well before Nick broke back to even the match at 4-4. At 4-5 on his Nick's serve, after Joker hit a crosscourt backhand pass that left Nick face down on the blue court, the Spaniard tightened up and made a couple of mistakes that cost him the match.
Official events on both the ATP and WTA tours start Monday in Brisbane, Chennai or Doha, and next week in Auckland or Sydney. While the top men are spread amongst the three events this week, all the top women are in the $1 million Brisbane International. To see the draw:
Meanwhile, beginning today eight top men and women including Joker and John Isner, are participating in the 5th annual Hyundai Hopman Cup, a team event featuring eight nations represented by one man and one woman each in the only approved event of its kind during the calendar year (it does not count for ranking points on either tour). Play includes men's singles, women's singles and mixed doubles - the Davis and Fed Cups should follow so rational a format and occur in an uncontroversial time period like this (ironically, this event carries the name of the all-time winning Davis Cup coach, Harry Hopman).
This year's teams and participants:
#1 seed SERBIA (Group A): JOKER IVANOVIC
#2 seed USA (Group B): ISNER VENUS
#3 seed ITALY (Group A): SEPPI SCHIAVONE
#4 seed SPAIN (Group B): VERDASCO GARRIGUES
#5 seed GERMANY (Group A): HAAS PETKOVIC
#6 seed S. AFRICA (Group B): ANDERSON SCHEEPERS
#7 seed FRANCE (Group B): TSONGA JOHANSSON
#8 seed AUSTRALIA (Group A): TOMIC BARTY
In deference to Joker's schedule in Abu Dhabi, Serbia is scheduled to play last, starting Monday vs. Italy. The USA plays S. Africa tomorrow, along with France vs. Spain. The top team in each Group will play the final on Saturday, televised on ESPN2.
In today's matches, Spain overcame S. Africa 2-1 after Anderson led off with a 7-6, 6-4 upset of Verdasco, and Australia swept Germany with Tomic defeating Haas 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 and Petkovic retiring from her singles down 4-6 and withdrawing from the doubles.
ATP Results; WTA