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Welcome to 2012

by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 3 January 2012

Tennis in 2012 has begun. While the majority of the world's population limped back into work, bemoaning the amount of Christmas pudding, mince pies and panettone consumed over the festive period, the tennis-playing peoples of the globe were already back into the tournament groove, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal beginning 2012 still in 2011, if that makes sense, with an exhibition in Abu Dhabi on 29 December.

Christmas for tennis players is no longer a time for turkey and trimmings - it is a crucial period of putting in the building blocks, lifting the weights, sprinting the lines to ensure that they are in the best form they can be once the Australian Open rolls around midway through January.

To name but a few, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova spent her off-season doing high altitude training in the Slovakian mountains, Andy Murray put in the hard yards on Miami's South Beach, and Ana Ivanovic has been coast-running in Australia. But after the hardest-working festive period you could think of, the tour's best have since caravanned back together for the early tournaments of 2012.

There are four tournaments taking place in the first week of January, the ATP event in Doha, the Hopman Cup in Perth, the combined ATP/WTA event in Brisbane, and a WTA event in Auckland. The Hopman Cup, an ITF-run exhibition event gives mixed doubles a run around outside of the Grand Slams (and this year, the Olympics), and puts pairs together according to their country of origin. It also pulls in some big names. Caroline Wozniacki is in action for Denmark, Kvitova for the Czech Republic, Li Na for China, Marion Bartoli for France, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands for the USA. On the men's side, a little less splendorous, but the likes of Tomas Berdych (CZE), Mardy Fish (USA), Fernando Verdasco (ESP) and Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) nonetheless.

Over on the other side of Australia, Brisbane boasts some equally big stage-stealers. Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Sam Stosur and Ana Ivanovic present quite a formidable quartet of Grand Slam champions, also including Andrea Petkovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Jelena Jankovic. Andy Murray headlines the men's draw, among Gilles Simon, Alex Dolgopolov, Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori.

Doha, a men's-only outing, has Federer and Nadal in situ, fresh from their Abu Dhabi pay cheques, as well as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Viktor Troicki, while Auckland, women only, features Sabine Lisicki, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Flavia Pennetta, and Britain's leading lights - Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong.

The second week of January is all about Sydney, a hop and skip from Melbourne. A combined ATP and WTA event, it will host nine of the top 10 women (subject to changes, naturally), and the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, John Isner and Feliciano Lopez.

The rest of the tour's men are either in Auckland, for their New Zealand outing, such as David Ferrer and Donald Young, or competing in the famous Kooyong exhibition, down the road from Melbourne Park, where of course qualifying will be taking place for the main event itself, the Australian Open.

A lot of tennis to be played in January then. Here it comes. 

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