The heartwarming moment of the 2016 Australian Open has now become the nicest of 2017 as well.
During his straight-sets win over Aussie Omar Jasika at the Open last year, French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga helped a distressed ballgirl after she was hit in the face by a ball.
Tsonga wrapped his arm around the girl and escorted her off the court, to the applause of the crowd.
And on Sunday night, Tsonga tweeted he had received a letter from that young ballgirl – named Giuliana – to thank him.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you for helping me out on court during your round 2 match,” she wrote.
— Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (@tsonga7) January 22, 2017
“I’m not sure if you remember me but I was the ballgirl you escorted off court.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to apologise for the times when you asked for the ball but I did not service it to you or acknowledge you.
“I had picked up a virus which I was unaware of and it caused me to become dizzy and lightheaded. This also affected my vision and hearing.
“I apologise for not being able to perform my duties as a ball kid to the high standards that are expected.
“Thank-you so much for the kindness that you showed me. I really appreciate that you were able to see that I needed some help and were kind enough to escort me off court.
“Thank-you again, Giuliana – AO ball kid no. 180.”
Giuliana was wrong. Jo certainly did remember her.
Can Fed break the drought?
There’s probably never been a more popular man at Melbourne Park than Roger Federer.
The 35-year-old is gunning for his fifth Australian Open title at the 2017 tournament, and his first Grand Slam win since Wimbledon in 2012.
He hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2010.
With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray bundled out of the Australian Open early, we asked punters if they thought Federer could make the 2017 tournament his Grand Slam drought breaker.
Is this worth a DQ?
An Italian tennis player has paid the ultimate price for an on-court dummy spit, getting kicked out of the Australian Open for hitting a ball kid.
Maria Vittoria Viviani, 17, was controversially disqualified from the girls’ competition, after striking the ball in frustration towards the left side of the court, hitting a ballkid in the process.
Viviani had just lost the first set 6-2 against China’s Xin Yu Wang, but was immediately disqualified for the outburst.
The impact was minimal, according to Italian media, and Viviani is seen apologising immediately to the ballkid.
Maria Vittoria Viviani was defaulted in her R1 junior match for this… pic.twitter.com/6HnUeuBDK6
— Graham (@juki_tennis) January 22, 2017
The decision to disqualify the 17-year-old divided viewers on social media, with some suggesting the Italian had been hard done by.
@juki_tennis ouch. That was hardly anything… harsh. But I guess better to crack down and be strict in the juniors.
— SimonSays (@simonsaystennis) January 22, 2017
Federer = GOAT
Roger Federer is one of, if not the most loved player on tour – and it’s his on-court achievements that bring his deserved admiration.
His win over world No.5 Kei Nishikori on Sunday marked Roger’s 200th win against a top-10 player.
— Val Febbo (@VFebbo96) January 23, 2017
Not only is it more than any other active player, but his longevity to continue to beat the world’s best is unparalleled.
His first top-10 win dates back to February 1999.
Roger, you are the greatest.
Photo of the day
Ballkid boosts racquet?
Being a ballkid has its benefits. Rubbing shoulders with the sports best players, front row seats to classic matches, and free memorabilia?
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2017
It’s highly unlikely, after this kid returned the racquet to a players box, but one can dream.
Age is just a number
Don’t tell these players they’re too old to dominate.
Venus Williams, 36, Serena Williams, 35, Roger Federer, 35, and Mirjana Lucic, 35 in March, all will play in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Turning the corner that is 30 once meant something in the sports world. Not anymore.
David, the Goliath
David Goffin became the first-ever male player from Belgium to reach the last eight of the Open, with a 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2 win over good friend Dominic Thiem.
Goffin will play Grigor Dimitrov in his second grand slam quarter-final.
‘Only in the movies’
Serena Williams has barely done a press conference at this tournament without her recent engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian being mentioned.
And even after her fourth-round win over Barbora Strycova, the media still wanted more details.
When asked how they first met, Williams responded: “Literally by chance. It was just … I was sitting down, and he sat next to me.”
A reporter responded: “Nobody introduced you. You were just at a restaurant?” Williams: “No … that doesn’t happen anymore, right?”
The reporter: “Only in the movies.”
Williams: “Right? I live in a movie and in a fairytale in my mind, so I guess eventually it was bound to happen.”
Near two-decade drought broken
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s first win at the Australian Open came in 1998.
Nothing unusual about that.
But the Croatian’s second win at the tournament didn’t come until this year – a massive 19-year drought.
She got rolling after her round one triumph, too, booking a spot in the quarter-finals with a 6-4 6-2 win over American Jennifer Brady on Monday.
What’s on for Tuesday
Roger Federer takes centre stage once again on Tuesday night as he continues his remarkable run for an 18th grand slam title against Mischa Zverev on Rod Laver Arena.
In the other men’s quarter-final, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga plays fourth seed Stan Wawrinka in another tantalising day nine match-up.
American veteran Venus Williams tops the list for the women’s draw, against Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova while giant-killer Coco Vandeweghe will face seventh seed Garbine Muguruza.
For the Aussies, Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua carry the flag in the women’s doubles for a place in the semi-final if they defeat French pair and No.1 seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
Games to watch
From 11.00am – Rod Laver Arena
Venus Williams vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Coco Vandeweghe vs. Garvine Muguruza
Stan Wawrinka vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
From 7.00pm – Rod Laver Arena
Roger Federer vs. Mischa Zverev
Ash Barty & Casey Dellacqua vs. Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic