Australia’s junior tennis ranks a cultural melting pot including Greeks

Source: SMH

Naiktha Bains is another promising youngster.Naiktha Bains is another promising youngster. Photo: Angela Wylie

Australian tennis has something cricket would dearly love, an asset that was sprinkled through the outside courts on Sunday as if the host nation’s representation in the junior tournament had been engineered by the United Colours of Benetton. Behind Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis a multicultural melting pot is on the rise.

Olivia Tjandramulia was born in Jakarta, moved with her family to Queensland when she was eight, yet has never felt like an outsider. ”We’re from all over the world, which is really exciting, you’re not the only one that’s from somewhere else,” she says of her peers in the elite junior ranks.

Brian Tran, Priscilla Hon, Omar Jasika, Akira Santillan, Seone Mendez, Linda Huang, Andrea Dikosavljevic, Marc Polmans. Plotting their heritage is a virtual trip around the globe, through Asia, eastern Europe, South Africa, South America. And back to New Zealand and Destanee Aiava, a 13-year-old with Maori parents who validated her special exemption into the girl’s singles draw with a first-round win on Saturday.

Face of the future: Olivia Tjandramulia plays a forehand in her first-round junior girls' match against Nozomi Ohya of Japan on Sunday.Face of the future: Olivia Tjandramulia plays a forehand in her first-round junior girls’ match against Nozomi Ohya of Japan on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

When Scott Draper was an up-and-comer, and later a Davis Cup player, he was surrounded by names as Anglo as his own: Woodbridge and Woodforde, Stolle, Arthurs, Rafter, Hewitt, Fromberg. Mark Philippoussis and Andrew Ilie stood out.

Now the developmental manager for Tennis Australia, Draper envisages a time in the not-too-distant future when the wheel will have turned full circle and the names of old Australia will be in the minority.

”One hundred per cent,” he says. ”Of all the kids coming through who have ability, most aren’t from Anglo backgrounds.”

Omar Jasika in his first-round junior boys' match against Wei Qiang Zheng of China on Sunday.Omar Jasika in his first-round junior boys’ match against Wei Qiang Zheng of China on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

Oliver Anderson is an exception and the 15-year-old Queenslander reflects on the phenomenon in that refreshing manner of the young, who either don’t notice difference or don’t give it a second thought.

”A lot of the best players in Australia are from ethnic backgrounds, [we’ve got)] a lot of young Asian players, they’re always very skilful,” Anderson said after his first-round win on Sunday. ”[But] I’ve never really thought about it, tennis is a huge sport I guess.”

Draper agrees, adding that it’s also a world sport and one that appeals to migrant parents who hail from countries that care little for the traditional Australian sporting obsessions of football, netball and swimming. Often, their old life is not as affluent as their new one could be. ”That’s why these players are so damn hungry, they want to make a living out of the game and their lot in life and tennis is a good vehicle for that,” Draper says.

Talent: Brian Tran.Talent: Brian Tran. Photo: Angela Wylie

He sees the change as a mirror of the nation, where the sketch of the ”typical Australian” is not what it was. Draper is certain Tennis Australia knows full well the strength such diversity brings and it is something they impress upon their young charges. ”We try to foster the concept of having great respect – it’s one of our values we talk about, respecting difference. We all come from different parts of the planet, [so] respect what that place is and that person, what they bring to the table.”

The same code applies to staff, who Draper thinks can do more to understand the different cultures that underpin the lives of the young people they nurture. ”When it comes to educating athletes and parents, sure it’s OK to say, ‘These are our expectations, this is what we’re after’, but we need to spend more time understanding their background, what that means … We probably haven’t done enough in that area.”

In the Open’s first week, inspiration was readily at hand. Thanasi Kokkinakis nods in agreement at how Australian tennis has benefited from its exotic mix; he looks to his parents from Greece, his mate Nick Kyrgios’ Greek father and Malaysian mother, and sees a bright future for his sport.

”It’s a good question, I’m not too sure,” Kokkinakis says of why Australian tennis is anything but a white-bread pursuit. ”A lot of genetics are involved in tennis, that helps a lot. A lot of Europeans come here because they love the lifestyle as well, a lot from the Asia Pacific countries, too.

”They love the tennis here and it’s just great for the sport.”

Just as the ”Special Ks” have been great for the juniors who hope to follow in their footsteps very soon.

”They’re really inspiring me to step up the level a bit more,” Tjandramulia said after her gutsy three-set girls’ juniors win on Sunday.

Anderson spoke for all of the next wave, no matter how near or far their family tree stretches. ”They’ve been doing unbelievably,” he said of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis. ”I’ve been seeing them in the locker rooms and around the place, they’ve been having so much fun. I’d love to do that in a year or two.”

General Mills, late to the Greek yogurt craze, now making a big push


General Mills is launching a new marketing offensive for its Yoplait Greek yogurt, pitting it in a taste test against rival Chobani.

General Mills is launching a new marketing offensive for its Yoplait Greek yogurt, pitting it in a taste test against rival Chobani. Bloomberg

General Mills Inc. will launch a new marketing offensive this week for its Yoplait Greek yogurt, an attempt to take back precious market share lost in the past few years.

It will be a tough slog. Golden Valley-based General Mills was late to the Greek party, while its rivals – notably Chobani – turned a niche product into the yogurt category’s dynamo. And Chobani is on an offensive of its own.

General Mills made progress over the past year by reformulating its standard Greek yogurt and finding success with a new lower-calorie product called Yoplait Greek 100. Still, General Mills, one of the world’s yogurt giants, has only a high single-digit share of the U.S. Greek yogurt market.

Yoplait is engaging Chobani head-on in a TV ad blitz, rolling out the time-honored taste test.

In a national “Taste-Off,” as General Mills calls it, consumers sampled two Greek yogurts, without being told which was which. One was Yoplait’s blueberry, which mixes fruit into the yogurt. The other was Chobani’s blueberry, which features fruit on the bottom.

“We are so committed to making a Greek yogurt that tastes great,” said Carla Vernón, Yoplait’s marketing director. “We feel the commercial is an opportunity for people to taste it for themselves – tasting is believing.”

The Taste-Off marketing campaign is also running via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with General Mills asking consumers to do their own taste tests between Chobani and Yoplait.

Not surprisingly, Yoplait wins the TV taste test. But General Mills has good reason to highlight taste. Its initial Greek yogurt product was not only a latecomer, but was seen by some consumers as an inferior product. The first Yoplait Greek wasn’t made through the “straining” production method common to Greek-style yogurts.

But late last summer, Yoplait released a new strained Greek yogurt, complete with a packaging makeover and a new marketing campaign.

The reconstituted Greek product came on the heels of Yoplait Greek 100, a yogurt with 100 calories, 30 to 40 calories less than a conventional Greek yogurt. Yoplait Greek 100 did $150 million in sales during its first full year, the biggest-selling new Yoplait product in at least 20 years. It provided a spark to General Mills’ entire Greek yogurt business.

“Yoplait Greek is performing well with sales up 75 percent [in General Mills’ current fiscal year],” Credit Suisse stock analyst Rob Moskow wrote in a research report this month. “But it is still a relatively small portion of the company’s yogurt portfolio, and we question whether it has the authenticity to compete with brands like Chobani in the longer term.”

General Mills still has a huge chunk of the overall U.S. yogurt business, but the Greek category has grown at the expense of its conventional Yoplait products. The result: “The company is now suffering its fifth year of (overall) market share erosion,” wrote Goldman Sachs stock analyst Jason English in a research report last month.

General Mills’ success with Yoplait Greek 100 is now getting a stiff challenge from Chobani, which last month released its own 100-calorie Greek yogurt. “We believe the recent launch by Chobani of its Simply 100 line puts (General Mills’) most popular Greek yogurt product in the cross hairs for competition,” English wrote.

Chobani is also upping its heretofore rather minimalist marketing efforts, including running an advertisement during next month’s Super Bowl.

Greek Unpaid Electricity Bills Grow By €4 Million Per Day


Judging by the collapsing Greek yields, which at this rate may drop below US bonds soon enough, the Greek economy has never been stronger.

After years of recession, Greeks cannot even afford electricity. Credit: russavia via Wiki

After years of recession, Greeks cannot even afford electricity. Credit: russavia via Wiki

Sadly, manipulated bond levels driven by yet another bout of pre-QE euphoria (suddenly the conventional wisdom is that the ECB will conduct QE in a few months as first explained here in November) no longer reflect anything besides a massive liquidity glut and momentum chasing lemmings. Alas, as usual the reality on the European ground is much worse. The latest example comes from the Greek Public Power Corporation which has reported that Greek households and corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their electricity bills. In total, debts to the power utility from unpaid bills currently amount to some €1.3 billion and growing at an average rate of €4 million per day. Also known as the Grecovery.

Not surprisingly, it is the poorest households who have the bulk of the debt. Remember: “the rich hold assets, the poor have debt.”

Kathimerini reports more:

The lion’s share of that debt is owed by low- and medium-voltage consumers – households and very small enterprises. The total arrears of these categories amount to an estimated 600 million euros, of which some 65 percent concerns households. The debts of the broader public sector amount to 190 million euros. The arrears of corporations connected to the medium-voltage network total some 130 million euros, while mining company Larco alone has run up debts of more than 135 million euros.

So since such a substantial portion of low-income society, and in Greece that by definition means society period, is unable to even afford their electricity, the Greek state’s solution is perfectly anticipated for a country which is insolvent due to too much debt but can’t declare bankruptcy because it is ruled by a few not so good bankers: convert one’s basic social amenity into a liability, and pay it off over time. i.e., a debt.

In an effort to make it easier for households to repay what they owe and to boost the cash inflow into its coffers, PPC introduced a flexible and extensive payment plan scheme last year that over 700,000 consumers have joined. The scheme has proven so popular that the utility has given its customers the option of securing a payment plan via telephone in order to reduce long queues at its offices, as staff had been unable to handle the volume of applications.

PPC customers can now complete the process over the phone, by calling 11770 and applying to pay 12 monthly installments along with a down payment of between 20 and 50 percent. The category of socially sensitive consumers (the unemployed, those with low incomes etc) can pay their dues in up to 40 installments. Consumers only have to go to PPC offices to pay their installments.

In other words, for the low low price of €49.99, payable in 40 installments, you too can have electricity!

Which perhaps explains why the vast majority of households who had their electricity cut off opted not to fall even more in debt, but to take the short cut.

An estimated 7,500 households who had their supply cut off have now been reconnected thanks to a government decision to secure power for the country’s poorest households. There are, however, another 35,000 households, according to official figures, that have illegally reconnected their electricity supply, which is very dangerous.

Since Greece is now nothing more than a placeholder figurehead designed to preserve the stability of Deutsche Bank, the German export miracle, and the myth that all insolvent peripheral European banks are viable, who can blame them.

Greek extremist Christodoulos Xiros threatens government


Screen grab of Christodoulos Xiros making an internet statement

Xiros appears in his video in front of images of Che Guevara, two heroes of Greece’s revolutionary war against Turkey and a Greek civil war Communist guerrilla leader

A Greek fugitive who disappeared while on prison leave has threatened the government with armed action, accusing it of ruining the country with austerity measures.

Christodoulos Xiros, who was convicted in 2003 of belonging to the far-left November 17 organisation, has vowed to return to arms.

He was serving six life sentences for bombings and shootings.

He vanished in January while on leave from prison to visit his family.

In a video posted on the internet, Xiros said: “I’ve decided to fire the guerrilla shotgun against those who stole our lives and sold our dreams for profit.”

He criticises the media, the judiciary, the police and the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party, and invites Greece’s security forces to join with him.

He also condemns the two parties in Greece’s governing coalition, the conservative New Democracy and the socialist Pasok, accusing them of treason and stating that the “price of their treason is death”.

November 17 emerged in the mid-1970s and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks against foreign diplomats and Greek politicians and businessmen over nearly three decades, killing at least 23 people.

The group was named after a student uprising against Greece’s US-backed military junta in 1973, and mixed Marxist ideology with nationalism.

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