* ESPN begins coverage of the Australian Open Monday with 2-4 p.m. segments through Thursday when the semifinals arrive. The women's final next Friday will be live from 9-11 p.m., same as the men's final from 10 p.m. on Jan. 30. Mary Carillo will attempt to inject some life into the regular commentary provided by the "Listless Brothers," Cliff Drysdale and Fred Stolle.
* If the players are so hung up with that unkempt, long-pants look in college hoops, why don't they just leave their warm-up togs on?
* In case you misplaced your abacus, be informed the rate increase for Basic/Plus service laid on United Artists Cable subscribers as of Jan. 1 was a hefty 7 percent.
* For the first time since Gene Sarazen carded that famous double eagle at Augusta, there are season badges (alias tickets) available for The Masters. But get this, they're only available in four- and six-day packages through a travel agency costing massive amounts. What's your guess, will the tourney's partner, CBS, come down hard on this scam?
* Maybe one of the reasons ABC felt a need to move ex-Channel 2 staffer John Saunders of ESPN in as host of "Wide World of Sports" replacing Frank Gifford is, in one memorable 25-word segment some time back, the "Giffer" got yachtsman Dennis Connor's name wrong, the name of the Aussie boat wrong and the standings in the America's Cup competition wrong. . . .
Home Team Sports sponsored a food for the less fortunate drive at a recent Capital Centre Bullets game and realized more than 2 tons of food. Good thing John Williams isn't still around. . . . The cable TV job Jim Palmer coveted with the Florida Marlins went to Gary Carter, who turned down a radio job in Montreal. . . . Larry King still doesn't have a New York outlet for his afternoon talk show beginning in 10 days, but with 230 stations already signed on, who cares?
* Three cheers for Bill Walton, newest member of NBC's NBA studio cast. He appears just obtuse enough to say almost exactly what he thinks on most subjects. The net has a double-header Sunday, Michael Jordan of the Bulls (of course) at the Spurs at 1 p.m. followed by Blazers at Jazz. . . . The NHL on ESPN is tomorrow night (8), not tonight, the Rangers visiting the Kings in Los Angeles.