Sunday, February 1, 2004

French doubles team celebrates Down Under(wear)

Australian Open notebook

By John Brock and Dennis Passa
The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Call it The Full Aussie. Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro won the Australian Open doubles title, then celebrated by stripping to their underwear and throwing most of their clothes and towels to the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.

The Frenchmen kept their title by beating American twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (4), 6-3.

After the trophy presentation, Llodra and Santoro began shedding their clothes. Llodra emptied his sports bag and walked off the court bare chested, dangling the team's trophy in one hand.

"It wasn't a bet," Santoro said when asked if he were auditioning for the stage production of "The Full Monty" in Melbourne.

"And we didn't plan it ahead of time," Llodra added. "We were just having some fun."


AUSSIE KIM: Kim Clijsters has lost three straight Grand Slam finals to Justine Henin-Hardenne, but she hasn't lost her sense of humor.

Clijsters, nicknamed "Aussie Kim," became a local favorite since her engagement to Lleyton Hewitt. After Saturday's loss, she told the crowd she appreciated their knowledge of not just tennis but sports in general.

"You know your sports," Clijsters said at the ceremony after the match, "and that's why I am very proud to be marrying an Aussie as well."

Clijsters later said there was little chance she would switch nationalities.

"I'll never say never, but I don't think I'll be playing under the Australian flag," Clijsters said. "I don't really plan to have a very long career because one day I wouldn't mind having a family as well."

The 20-year-old Clijsters is unsure how much longer she'll play.

"As long as I enjoy it, I'll keep going," she said.


SHARK'S SEATMATE: Lleyton Hewitt and Greg Norman sat together during the final between Hewitt's fiancee, Kim Clijsters, and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Hewitt caddied for Norman at the Australian PGA tournament in December. Norman said he had never seen Hewitt play and hoped to watch him at the Australian Open, "but only if he's still around late in the second week."

Hewitt was beaten by Roger Federer in the quarterfinals and has been a cheerleader for Clijsters since. Norman is in Melbourne for next week's Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne.

Clijsters lost to Henin-Hardenne 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.


DIFFERENT STROKES: On the women's tour, the Grand Slams are ruled by the Williams sisters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Among the men, variety rules.

If Marat Safin beats Roger Federer in the men's final, the Russian would become part of the longest run of different men's Grand Slam champions in the Open era.

Safin would be the ninth straight different Grand Slam winner. The streak started with Thomas Johansson's victory in Melbourne in 2002, and includes Albert Costa (2002 French Open), Lleyton Hewitt (2002 Wimbledon), Pete Sampras (2002 U.S. Open), Andre Agassi (2003 Australian Open), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003 French Open), Federer (2003 Wimbledon) and Andy Roddick (2003 U.S. Open).

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