Australia’s Fed Cup team aiming to end final drought

Fed Cup is like Davis Cup’s little sister, the sibling that struggles to be noticed, the one that suffers a minor identity crisis beyond its dedicated inner circle. It has shortened its name – in 1995, from Federation Cup – to reboot its image, and tried various formats over its 51-year life. This is semi-final weekend, in Brisbane and Ostrava, but a more significant event for immediate members of the tennis family than those beyond.
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For Australia, regardless, it is been a long time coming. Fully 21 years, in fact, since a team that included Nicole Provis and Liz Smylie contested the 1993 final against Spain, and we must rewind to Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s day, 1974, for the most recent of our seven titles. This year, from the 95 countries entered, only Australia, Germany, Czech Republic and Italy remain.

Locally, there is little tennis of note between Januarys, and, despite the awkward timing, a healthy attendance is expected for the Easter hardcourt tie on Pat Rafter Arena. A host line-up headed by former US Open champion Sam Stosur, in-form Casey Dellacqua and teen star Ash Barty will meet a near-full-strength German squad led by world No. 7 Angelique Kerber, with only Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki remaining in the northern hemisphere for the switch to red clay.

”It’s great that tennis is again in the minds of the public, because a lot of people think the Australian Open finishes and tennis goes quiet for the rest of the calendar year,” says Australian captain Alicia Molik, noting the timely boost for the women’s game, in particular.

”I’m proud to be Australian to know we always have an exceptionally strong team represent our nation. I know Davis Cup, maybe the last 10 or 15 years has had some great results, but I feel like the women have really been leading the charge the last few years, particularly with rankings [and] tournament wins, and I’m really proud to be a part of the competition.”

On paper, the Germans are favoured to advance in this one, with Kerber clearly the highest-ranked, and the comeback from multiple injuries of former top-tenner Andrea Petkovic boosted by a recent title win in Charleston. Yet although Stosur has not passed the third round of a WTA tournament since January, world No. 53 Dellacqua reached the last 16 at the Australian Open and the quarters as a qualifier at Indian Wells, and has already logged three top 20 wins in 2014.

”I’ve had a lot of tennis, and I’ve beaten some really good players along the way throughout the year, so I feel really good,” said Dellacqua, who will play Kerber in an all-lefty second singles rubber, following Stosur v Petkovic, and was also named to partner Barty against Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in Sunday’s doubles. ”Obviously I’m going to have some tough opponents, and obviously opponents that are ranked a lot higher than me, so it will be tough, but I’ve got to back myself and believe that I can do it.”

Stosur, meanwhile, maintains she has not become dispirited by her modest recent results, and nor does the player unsurpassed for Australian Fed Cup singles wins expect the magnitude of the 40-year drought to prove burdensome. ”Obviously, we know that it’s there and we would definitely love to be in a final, but I don’t necessarily think there’s any more pressure on us because of that fact.”

Petkovic spoke of Germany’s comparable 19-year gap between semis, and 22 since its last title, and of ”really trying to write a piece of history for our country. I know Australia is trying to do the same thing and I think it’s going to be a great head-to-head.” The odds should be even, said Petkovic, with any numerical superiority balanced by the home court, and crowd, and long journey to get here. ”Ranking-wise, on the paper, we are the better team, but in Fed Cup anything can happen, and I think just anyone who followed Davis Cup the past weekend saw that really Davis Cup and Fed Cup are competitions [with] their own rules, and ranking doesn’t matter at all.”

Molik is adamant her team can cause an upset, just as the 2012 version did on clay in Stuttgart in what was the 12th and most recent instalment of a rivalry that Australia leads 8-4. The captain is hoping the Germans remember Stosur’s dominance of the last one, vividly, and will remind Dellacqua – from whom a singles point could prove crucial – of her impressive winning record in a season in which she is at No. 26 overall. ”We’ve got the team to win,” says Molik. ”No doubt about that.”

Which, if it eventuates, would mean a November home final against the Czechs, or an away fixture against defending champion Italy, and Australia’s Fed Cup team would have achieved for the first time in four decades what the Davis Cup lads last managed in 2003. From a local perspective, a big moment for a little sister who could do with a little more attention. All things being, well, relative.

Bomber midfielders happy to have Ryder back

Easter Feaster: David Zaharakis is looking forward to Paddy Ryder feeding him the ball again Photo: Pat ScalaPaddy Ryder’s return to the Essendon side is being warmly welcomed by his teammates. The athletic ruckman has been sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury, and midfielder David Zaharakis indicated that Ryder’s absence has been evident around the stoppages.
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“The midfielders are happy that Paddy Ryder is back in the side. We can start winning some hit-outs which is great. He’s obviously a big asset for us,” Zaharakis said on Friday.

“It enables the midfield to be proactive around stoppages and win some of our own ball off our own ruckman, so that’s great for us.

“You can dictate more to the opposition, whereas last week we were trying to read off [Aaron] Sandilands the whole time.”

Zaharakis was confident that the Bombers would not suffer when they take on St Kilda on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium despite coming off just a six-day break following their game in Perth last Sunday, which resulted in a 53-point loss to Fremantle.

“The boys recovered pretty well. We do have a six-day break, which is short but training on Wednesday was great. It was probably the best it’s been for two or three weeks,” Zaharakis said.

The 2011 best and fairest winner downplayed any lingering effects of the oppressive heat which confronted them in the Dockers defeat, or the flu which had swept through the club.

“Yeah, it was pretty unusual – 33 degrees in Perth – even for Perth is hot,” Zaharakis said.

“I came down with a flu and a cold. There was a few of us who copped the flu and cold which was a nasty thing.

“The boys recovered pretty well. The boys are over all their sickness.”

Zaharakis weighed into the debate on Good Friday football, voicing his support for the concept and Essendon’s involvement in a potential game.

“I reckon it would be great,” he said.

“In the future, it would be awesome to play on Good Friday. It’s a special day and to be able to play in front of a big crowd … and to add another one to the calendar would be awesome for a player.”

‘Garcia Marquez changed the way I wrote’

Nobel Laureate Garcia Marquez dies
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The influence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate who died on Thursday, on Australian writing is something that should not be underestimated.

Garcia Marquez is best known for novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, No One Writes to the Colonel and Autumn of the Pat-riarch. And he is most closely identified with the technique known as “magical realism”.

Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, author most recently of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, said it was hard to conceive of Australian literature as it is now without Garcia Marquez’s books.

“You couldn’t have had Peter Carey’s great works, you couldn’t have had Cloudstreet, you couldn’t have had a lot of other people. It’s hard to imagine any of those books were possible without the revolution that Marquez ushered in for the novel.”

Flanagan said what Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers were grappling with in their writing was how to reconcile the great European and North American traditions of the novel with worlds that had a fundamentally different experience and make an art that didn’t seek to ape that of Europea and North America. “For me he was a liberation because in his Macondo (the setting of One Hundred Years) I saw my Tasmania.”

It’s a view with which Carey concurs: “Garcia Marquez changed the way I wrote. He opened a door that I had just been hammering on. He wrote about his place in a way that was new and fresh and completely different. I was struggling to do the same thing about my own country and he was completely inspirational.”

Speaking from his home in New York, Carey, whose new novel, Amnesia, will be published in October, said he misunderstood a lot of what Garcia Marquez did, thinking often that he was inventing things that were actually firmly grounded in his life.

“But like many other people misunderstanding him and reading and being thrilled by – he changed how we wrote. The truly great writers feed and change the people who come after them and they are kept alive by the love of succeeding generations of writers who are really nurtured by them.”

According to Flanagan, Garcia Marquez had reunited the great radical art of the novel with a popular audience. “He understood magical realism as a true realism. He understood that conventional realism was insufficient to describe the dreams and nightmares and the ways people actually experienced life and the utterly extraordinary world of every day of Latin America.”

Because Garcia Marquez was grounded in the idea of journalism – he worked as one for several years in Colombia and in Europe – he always said he invented nothing. According to Flanagan, the Anglo world’s misreading of magical realism led to “a very maudlin and sentimental idea of the invention of the fabulous. It led to an enormous amount of bad writing and bad books.”

Last year’s Miles Franklin winner, Michelle de Kretser, said she preferred the Colombian’s earlier books. “Things like No One Writes to the Colonel is absolutely wonderful. What I liked about them partly was that they opened a whole world to me.”

But she agreed that while magical realism became something of a fad – “I didn’t like it in the work of people like Isabel Allende” – what Garcia Marquez did was extraordinary. “I always thought it was closely connected to a child’s point of view. So in the way a child sees fantasy and reality as one and the same. And also the tendency to hyperbole and exaggeration, which is very typical of the way a child sees the world.”

Flanagan said magical realism had been a response to social realism, which Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers, who were ideologically of the left, felt had crippled them artistically but also politically.

“Unless you could acknowledge the fullness of human experience you couldn’t actually achieve a true liberating and revolutionary politics. So the politics demanded a different art and the different art demanded a different politics.”

At its base magical realism was a respect for their own experience and that idea didn’t exist in either social realism or in the work of people who tried to ape the European or North American novel.

“We were no different in Australia,” Flanagan said. “We were obsessed with writing books that were death masks of fashions and ideas and experiences elsewhere. What you got from Garcia Marquez and the Latin Americans was that you had to go into your experience on its own terms.”

Paralympian gold medallist Evan O’Hanlon takes on able-bodied athletes at Stawell Gift

Paralympic star Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift.Paralympic running superstar Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift before challenging the best sprinters in the country at next year’s national championships.
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After accomplishing everything his T38 discipline has to offer, the Canberra-based triple world champion and world record holder will take on all-comers at the 133rd running of the Gift over the Easter weekend in country Victoria.

O’Hanlon will have a 5.75m handicap for the 120m distance based on his personal best and world record time of 10.79 seconds.

It’s a time that would have been fast enough to book him a place in the finals of the men’s 100m at this year’s national championships.

The 25-year-old wants to build the profile of his sport and pave the way for disabled athletes to receive the same recognition as their able-bodied counterparts.

“I’m looking at this season as preparation for next year so I can qualify for able-bodied nationals and race against the big boys,” O’Hanlon said.

“At the nationals next year I really want to make it out of the heats, I don’t want to just qualify and run the heats and get run out.

”If I’m there, there’s other guys that will be able to do it in the future.”

O’Hanlon hasn’t raced since collecting a clean sweep of victories in the 100m, 200m and 400m at last year’s IPC world championships in July.

It was a competition he was barely fit to attend after contracting viral meningitis four weeks before it began.

O’Hanlon – who has cerebral palsy due to a prenatal stroke – spent three days in the emergency ward and was bed-ridden for another two weeks.

“My immune system was coping with it really well, then I ran a 400m race and it took it out of me and I ended up in hospital,” O’Hanlon said.

”I had really bad headaches and if I moved I threw up.

“I decided to go to world champs the day of or the day before we flew out.

“If anyone can deal with some swelling of the brain, it’s someone who is already missing part of it.”

O’Hanlon ran at the Stawell Gift in a disabled race in 2007 before the event was removed from the schedule the following year.

He says he is seeking to continually challenge and push himself after he struggled for motivation after dominating at the 2008 Paralympic Games.

”I had three and a half years where I didn’t compete very well because I was a bit lost – I was 20 years old and I had done everything I could in my sport,” O’Hanlon said.

”It took a couple of new challenges and ran in everything I could at the (2011) world championships, which allowed me to be re-focused leading into the London Paralympics in 2012.

“I’m going into Stawell with an open mind and I want to learn to race next to these guys.”

O’Hanlon is one of several Canberra-based athletes contesting the Stawell Gift.

The fastest woman in Australian history, Melissa Breen, will have a 10m handicap against the men, while Brendan Matthews (6.25m), Luke Storta (7.75m) and Jesse Matthews (9m) are also in contention.

Revived interest in holiday homes

Canberra is blessed by its diverse surrounds. Framed by mountains to the south and west, it’s just a short trip to the snow. The summer draws Canberrans in their thousands to sunny destinations along the coastline. And those after a taste of rural life are just a short drive away to the delights of the countryside. It’s no wonder so many ACT residents are investing in holiday properties.
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According to experts, now is the right time to invest. Australian Property Monitors’ senior economist, Andrew Wilson, said holiday properties were usually the last to recover from an economic downturn because they were a prestige investment.

“Prestige property sales have been a bit flat in the market and are behind in terms of growth,” Dr Wilson said.

“The positive is those in the market will certainly find good value opportunities because prices have been quite weak in the holiday home market.”

The best place to buy will very much depend on your interests and what you hope to get out of your holiday home. As the ski season approaches, Snowy Mountains real estate agents receive a lot of inquiries for properties in Thredbo, Lake Crackenback and Jindabyne.

“Out of all the sales that we do, close to 20 per cent of our market comes out of Canberra,” Forbes Styne Real Estate principal Michelle Stynes said.

You may not be able to get in before the ski season starts though, as sales usually require a 10 to 12-week transaction period. But summer in the Snowies offers a beautiful cool climate, breathtaking scenery and a hive of activity including water sports, fly fishing and mountain biking.

“The summer doesn’t get enough attention,” Ms Stynes said. “Summer here is just as dynamic as winter, there’s lots to do.”

Ms Stynes said many buyers used their properties as a summer retreat and rented it out during the more profitable winter months. Properties netted an annual average of 3 to 4 per cent on rent returns.

For those who favour surf over slopes, the NSW coastline is sprinkled with an assortment of seaside havens, from bustling summer getaways to serene hidden gems. LJ Hooker Batemans Bay principal Michael Skuse said the holiday buyer market had started to pick up since Christmas.

“Interest rates are low. The market has seen an increase in turnover, but not an increase in price,” he said. “The locals in the know think it’s time to buy, that’s for sure. Holiday properties struggled during the GFC but holiday homes are back in vogue.”

Elders Merimbula principal Nicole Cooper said the majority of her inquiries came from Canberra buyers attracted to the region’s forests, beaches and climate. She said now was an ideal time to buy in the area as real estate agents were starting to see a change in the market.

“We’re finding that we’re at the tipping point in the market at the moment,” Ms Cooper said. “Previously we’ve had more properties than buyers and the buyers have had the upper hand, now we’ve got more buyers than properties so the prices are starting to rise.”

This trend is not just limited to the coast. The Southern Highlands, a picturesque holiday destination characterised by its distinct seasons, vineyards and award-winning restaurants, could soon see a shift in the market, according to Belle Property Bowral principal Di Dixon. “There’s a shortage of stock under $1 million,” she said. “Now is a very good time to buy because if stock continues to be short it will turn around into a sellers’ market.”Quirkly retreat perfect place to de-stress

When Brendan and Jo Jackson need a break from the stresses of the city they escape to the Retreat on Matthew, their three-bedroom holiday home in Batehaven.

“When you stay in Canberra, it’s hard to forget about work, but once we cross the Clyde Mountain, it’s a whole different atmosphere. It’s relaxing,” Mr Jackson said.

The couple bought their holiday home in 2010 and they picked the Batemans Bay location for its proximity to Canberra.

“The house that we picked was because it’s so quirky,” Mr Jackson said.

“It’s very small from the front, it looks like a hut, but as you go in it gets bigger and bigger.”

The Jacksons’ beagle, Zoe, accompanies the couple on their coast trips. The home is fully fenced and pet-friendly, a feature that makes it popular with holidaymakers.

“We normally get people with dogs; there’s not that many pet-friendly places down there,” Mr Jackson said.

The Jacksons usually rent the property out during the peak season and visit more often in winter when they can they enjoy the home’s wood fireplace.

Mr Jackson advises those in the market for a holiday home to look for locations close to services. Their home is just moments from the Batehaven shops and Corrigans Beach.

Bookings for the Retreat on Matthew can be made through Eurobodalla Tourism at eurobodalla爱上海同城论坛m.au.7 Bodalla Place, MerimbulaFor sale: $975,000

Life doesn’t get much better than waking up to the beautiful views of Merimbula Lake and the sounds of cascading waterfalls in your backyard.

Located in the picturesque coastal town of Merimbula, this stunning waterfront residence, on three levels, isn’t just a fabulous family holiday house or a dream sea-change home, but also a potential investment opportunity for the astute buyer.

The ground floor with separate entry is currently being used by the owner as a studio and art gallery, but could be easily converted into guest accommodation, more living areas or rental accommodation.

The second level has four bedrooms and three living areas with lake views. The light-filled kitchen opens onto an expansive outdoor entertaining area with magnificent lake views, perfect for entertaining guests.

The owners of this property are spoilt for choice with entertaining options, as there are three more outdoor entertaining areas, two decks and a paved terrace that flows into the backyard.

The master bedroom occupies the entire top floor and resembles a luxury hotel room, with a huge walk-in wardrobe, en suite, sitting room and uninterrupted lake views.

Walking out to the backyard, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a tropical resort, with tranquil lush gardens, waterfalls, ponds and the lake at your doorstep.

There’s plenty of room for cars and boats, with a double garage and a carport.

With the home located on the Merimbula Lake boardwalk, it’s a scenic 15-minute walk into town to enjoy Merimbula’s cafes, restaurants and shops.

7 Bodalla Place, Merimbula, is for sale for $975,000, through Sails Real Estate agent Kim Poso, 0418 699 591, and Elders Merimbula agent James Cravana, 0428 248 008. More photos: Domain爱上海同城论坛m.au