Top 5 Moments in Tennis This Week (6/11/16)

This was a busy week in tennis…

5. Latest Tennis Honorees – Since retiring in 2014, Li Na has had a child and is aimed at reinventing herself as a business woman bringing tennis to China via a tennis academy. She has now been named the new Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. In similar news Amelie Mauresmo received her Tennis Hall of Fame ring alongside this year’s inductees, Justine Henin and Marat Safat.

4. Rio Olympics continues to be controversial beyond the Zika Virus, Brazil’s economy and uprisings. While Serena and Venus Williams continue to share their reverence for the Olympics, John Isner and others are skipping the biggest sporting event citing scheduling, injury or even more complicated reasons. Granted, the players not going, likely won’t medal, so they are likely more concerned with the effort they will need to expend while gaining no ranking points. The no-go list includes: Dominic Thiem (Austria), Feliciano Lopez (Spain), Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyriogios (Australia). Note, tennis tournaments at the 2016 Summer Olympics will be staged at the Olympic Tennis Center, from August 6 to 14 . The competition will be played on a fast hard-court surface. 

Caroline Wozniacki’s recent ankle injury cost her more than two months on the tour. It may cost her an olympic spot; she has appealed the decision and is awaiting the ITF’s decision on June 30th. This week she returned to competition but lost in her second match back to Kontaveit  6/7 (5), 6/3., 7/5.

3. Marion Bartoli‘s on court interviews are awkward. She looks uncomfortable and so do the players. No one wants to talk about her obvious weight loss, but given John Inverdale’s sexists comments in 2013, one may surmise that she is having a difficult time with her self-image. She does not look healthy and hopefully she has loved ones who are helping her through what ever health or mental crisis she is enduring. In her commentary during the French Open she divulged Serena’s adductor injury. She learned this information in the locker room where she was not acting in her role as a journalist. Bartoli’s actions are foul. She released off-the-record information. Regardless of who the player is, this behavior is unconscionable.  This is yet another example of the need for professionally trained journalists in tennis. Tennis continues to hold the microphones for its retired stars who don’t always understand their new roles.

2. Grass season is upon us. In preparation for Wimbledon players have four tournaments to choose from in Europe this week. Federer returned from injury to Stuttgart (the Mercedes Cup) losing to Thiem in the semifinal 63. 6-7, 4-6.  Del Poldro’s come back was stopped by the rain and ultimately by Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4. At the s-Hertogenboosch (Ricoh Open) Mladenovic defeated Bencic, to enter the final against Vandeweghe tomorrow. I eagerly anticipate this power match. Also looking forward to Aegon Classic Birmingham and Aegon Championships London.

1. Maria Sharapova has not kept a low profile but this week as she awaited her meldonium ruling. Her Twitter timeline filled with vines of her practicing, re-tweets of the ‘Be Back in 5 Minutes’ sweatshirt, there was the release or re-release of a Russian documentary about her, and Clickhole used her quote as click bait. I wish I could say that ‘tennis’ was my first word, but I’m Russian, so my first word was whatever the Russian word for ‘tennis’ is.” One could confidently say that Sharapova was expecting to be playing tennis soon if not at Wimbledon or at the Olympics.

When the thirty-three page verdict was released, the news was viral and spread beyond sports media to news media. She is appealing her two-year suspension. This has cost maria her #2 ranking, reputation and some estimate nearly fifty million dollars thus far. While some sponsors cut ties with her in March, others had placed their relationship on hold. Surprisingly, with this news Nike, Head, and Evian have all said they will stand by her. Though the ruling appears to be comprehensive, her supporters are pinning their hopes not only on the term ‘not intentionally’ but their belief that the decision is flawed due to the lack of scientific evidence. Anticipating the backlash, the report notes, “If she had not concealed her use of [meldonium] from the anti-doping authorities, members of her own support team and the doctors whom she consulted, but had sought advice, then the contravention would have been avoided.” The report concluded, “She is the sole author of her own misfortune.”

Response has been mixed. Murray and Federer have minced no words. They support the ban. WTA players are not supporting Sharapova. The WTA sent an email asking players to refrain from discussing the matter. Martina Navaratola and Chris Evert both believe this maybe the end of Sharapova’s career given her age, shoulder injuries and the length of the ban. Meanwhile some are pointing to her importance to the sport, character, professionalism during her career and the press conference in which she ‘bared her soul and apologized’ as reasons for reducing her penalty. Any reduction in her sentence will stamp WADA and ITF impotent moving forward. In finding that Sharapova’s actions, “was a deliberate decision, not a mistake,” it is unclear why the ban was not the maximum of four years. TDP 10.2.3 gives ITF too much leeway. How do you prove that a player knew his or her actions would violate Anti-Doping Rules? Presumably, it is not enough to circumvent the intent of the rules for ten years, not declare the drug as required, not share it with your team, not share it with other medical professionals tasked with your health and then plead ignorance. Baffling…

10.2.3 TADP
ITF Tennis Doping Program 2016

Bonus-Is it good news that many are asserting that Sharapova’s doping case has propelled Serena Williams to the number one earning position on the Forbes list? I don’t have the energy to unpack how problematic this statement is for the players and the sport.

Till next week…

UPDATED 6/12 Coco Vandeweghe beat Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-5 to win her second title.

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