The Davis Cup final in the middle of November marked the end of the regular seasons on both the men’s and women’s Tour. The focus is already being turned to the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open at the end of January.
The 2013 schedule begins in the first week of January and even during the close season break players attend demanding training schools to maintain their fitness. The early season events are played outdoors on hard courts in the Southern Hemisphere in preparation for similar playing conditions at the Australian Open.
The first Grand Slam tournament of the year sees more upsets than the other three majors. This is due to its early date in the schedule when players may be not fully fit or attuned to tournament play.
There is a substantial gap between the final of the Australian Open and the start of the European clay court season so a later slot in the calendar would make sense.
The autumn series of internationals continues at the weekend with six matches on Saturday involving European teams and opponents from the Southern Hemisphere. The best match looks set to be played at Twickenham where England meet South Africa.
England were strongly fancied to beat Australia last weekend and some judges even suggested they could cover a handicap of seven points. In fact they not only failed to overcome a negative start but actually lost the match to an Australian side that played better than their recent form would suggest was likely.
The odds compilers set the line at 10 in favour of Scotland for their match against South Africa. In fact South Africa won the match by 11 points to make it a winning bet for those who believed they could cover the spread.
England toured South Africa in the summer and two defeats were not offset by one draw. South Africa’s average supremacy over those three matches was six points. That number of points generally equates to home advantage so on recent form the match this weekend is one that England can win.
During a different England regime South Africa have won the last three meetings at Twickenham, most recently by 10 points two years ago. After the World Cup debacle there has been a change of coaching personnel within the England camp and the side have a new captain. In a match that is very close to call the bookmakers see South Africa as two point favourites.
Wales have now lost their last five internationals and are on their worst run of results for the last two years. The ideal visitors to the Millennium Stadium may not be world champions New Zealand and Wales will do well to restrict the margin of defeat to within the handicap start of ten points.
England lost the First Test against India by nine wickets. The new captain, Alistair Cook, led by example by scoring 176 in the second innings but that contribution was not enough to prevent a heavy defeat.
Conditions in India generally favour a definite result rather than the draw. The weather is rarely a factor and the key to determining the outcome of any match is whether any side can take 20 wickets.
First innings totals are well above average in India and the home side were just too good for the England bowlers during their first knock. A commanding first innings lead was established and India then went through the formalities of dismissing England cheaply enough to win the match despite Cook’s efforts.
There are unlikely to be significant changes in team selection or playing conditions for the Second Test. The full five day match schedule will take place unless there is a freak tropical storm that could cause some delays.
Back next Friday.