LOOKING for a new practise partner?

Look no further than Matthew Gombolay.

Matthew who? We hear you say.

Actually it’s Professor Matthew Gombolay and he’s a professor of robotics at Georgia Tech University in the US.

Professor Gombolay has for the past couple of years, been building Esther, a tennis-playing robot that mimics the movements and strokes of a human.

Not just a ball machine, but a robot that goes a fair bit beyond that.

Esther is an acronym for Experimental Sport Tennis Wheelchair Robot, and a tribute to Dutch wheelchair player Esther Vergeer.

The robotic device has a racquet connected to a single arm, and is able to cover both ends of a tennis court on wheels. And Gombolay’s team at Georgia Tech have been able to program Esther to recognise when a ball is coming towards it, and hit a return.

Now they plan to program it to be able to play a rally.

“What really excites me is that it could be a partner for me one day,” Gombolay said recently.

“It can also be my opponent. It can help me train. I could have it pretend to be the one guy I always lose to because he can exploit this weakness in my game.”

We can see the ads now, for the US Open in 2030 … ‘Sponsored by AI’. Or maybe sooner?

AUSSIE Henry Young made history during the week, becoming the first competitor aged 100 to compete at the ITF Masters World Individual Championships.

Mr Young, from Adelaide, was a fighter pilot in World War II and celebrated his 100th birthday last month.

The 2023 ITF Masters World Individual Championships is for players aged 65 and over.

“It’s nice to be the first,” he said of his record-breaking achievement.

“It’s something that nobody can ever take away from me.”

Young proved he is not just making up numbers in the 90+ category either. He had a 6-2 6-3 victory over 95-year-old Spaniard Mateo Camps Simon in the opening round.

WIMBLEDON’S controversial expansion plans took a positive turn last week after planning officials gave local councillors the green light to grant planning permission.

The plan includes 38 grass courts and an 8,000-seater show court, but has been met with objections from residents, environmental groups and local MPs.

A 450-page planning report recommended that councillors give permission when they meet next week.

It is the first step in the process as the application also has to be approved by Wandsworth Council, whose borders also cover part of the proposed site.

The decision would then be referred to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Greater London Authority.

The planning application, which was initially tabled in July 2021, is in two parts.

Part one is for 38 grass courts for Wimbledon qualifying, lake alterations, a new boardwalk and maintenance buildings and part two includes initial planning permission for the 8,000-seater show court.

The objections from several local resident groups continues though with a coalition of groups vowing to stop the development, which is given the green light, will not be completed until 2030 at the earliest.

An Injured Rafa Nadal bows out of the Australian Open in January.
Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

RAFA Nadal’s return to the court at the Australian Open in January is not as clear cut as many may think.

Nadal admitted last week the is still in pain and training is not as straight forward as he or his advisors may have planned.

“My first realistic option to be back on the professional court would be January in Australia,” Nadal said.

“But right now, I really can’t confirm something I don’t know. Nothing has changed in the last few weeks except for the fact that I’m training a bit more than before, which is an accomplishment for me and my mental health.

“I’m not training without pain. I’m in less pain than I used to be, but I’m still in pain.

“However, this pain allows me to do more and more things eventually. Things would be different if I had zero pain. I could give you a date for my return if I had zero pain because I would have time to prepare myself for that.”

FORMER World No. 1 Ash Barty shared a gorgeous picture of herself carrying her son Hayden last week, while again stating she had no time on her hands to look at a return to the court.

Barty joked that another Aussie great, Pat Rafter, stood a higher chance of picking up the racket than she does.

“I don’t have the time. I don’t have the time to train, I don’t have the time to prepare,” she said.

I’m certainly not coming out of retirement. Pat may be more likely, than me.”

Novak Djokovic and Goran Ivanisevic with the mens singles trophy at Wimbledon in 2021. Photo: AELTC/Bob Martin

CROATIAN news magazine Nacional has reported that Goran Ivanisevic is earning “between €6-10k” every week for coaching Novak Djokovic. ($6.5-11k US).

An annual earn of somewhere between €300-500k, or between $320 and about $550k.

Ivanisevic also, according to the magazine, has bonuses that earn him 10 per cent of Djokovic’s prize money whenever the Serb wins a Grand Slam.

In 2023, that equates to three Grand Slam wins and not dar short of half a million dollars!

SAUDI Arabia is closing in on hosting a new ATP Masters 1000 event, or a combined ATP and WTA 1000 event, in 2025. The country has never held an ATP or WTA 1000 event.

Naomi Osaka in better days with boyfriend and father of her daughter, Cordae.

IF a Twitter or X comment is any indication, former World No.1 Naomi Osaka and rapper boyfriend Cordae, are no longer an item.

In July, Osaka and Cordae became parents when Osaka gave birth to a baby girl they named Shai.

But months later Osaka has sparked rumours of a split after her cryptic post on X. “I just want someone that will watch the sunset with me.”

Osaka and Cordae are no longer following each other on social media and Cordae didn’t make any posts about Osaka’s birthday on last week.

Emma Raducanu with then coach, Andrew Richardson, at the 2021 US Open. Photo: Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

EMMA Raducanu has opened up on her merry-go-round of coaches saying the reason may be because she “asks too many questions”.

“I ask my coaches a lot of questions,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“On certain occasions they haven’t been able to keep up with the questions I’ve asked and maybe that’s why it ended.”

The 2021 US Open winner split with her fifth coach in two years in June when she parted ways with Sebastian Sachs.

The Brit has not played since losing to Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart in April.

Raducanu is hoping to get back into competitive action soon.

“I will be coming back with probably a lower ranking, but I’m actually looking forward to starting again, kind of resetting,” she said.

“I still have new goals, new things I want to achieve. But I’ve still got like 15 years left in my career, so there’s no rush.”

Boris Becker won’t be returning to Winbledon in 2024.

AND finally …

Talk of Boris Becker returning to Wimbledon next year seem to be way off the mark.

Becker will coach young Danish player Holger Rune, but he will be unable to attend Wimbledon because of his conviction for tax evasion.

Becker was deported from the UK after serving eight months of a 2½-year sentence and would not be able to return for some time.

Under UK law post-conviction travel bans can last for many years, with some predicting his deportation order could last for 10 years.