Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Holidays

by Craig Hickman

I hope this season brings blessings to all.

Many of you have asked about Savannah in recent weeks. Life has thrown her some curve balls and until further notice, she has asked that I let you all know she's putting this blog on hiatus. She appreciates your readership but mostly your concerns about her well being. Keep her in your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

All About Control

by Craig Hickman

Serena Williams of the U.S. holds her trophy after defeating Venus Williams of the U.S. in their Ladies' Singles finals match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 4, 2009.

Serena Williams of the U.S. holds her trophy after defeating Venus Williams of the U.S. in their Ladies' Singles finals match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 4, 2009.


It's been a mighty long time, but I'm feeling the need to rant this Tuesday. MadProsseah brought us the news and I posted the ITF press release about Serena's penalty in his entry.

The release itself is a fraud, the perfect representation of the fraudulent organization that released it.

As an astute commenter on another forum asked, "If she's not suspended....what does this one mean?"

3. Ms. Williams is hereby suspended from participation in either the 2010, 2011 or 2012 US Open, as the case may be, except that any such suspension will not be imposed if no further Grand Slam Major Offence conviction occurs through and including 2011.

It means that the ITF is trying to control her.

Read the rest...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

World Tour Finals Final

by Craig Hickman


The one who defeated Roger Federer en route to this final should take the title.

Oh, wait. They both did that.

Okay. So. The one who returns serve most aggressively should take the title. Nikolay Davydenko is capable of serving into the corners when you least expect him but Juan Martín del Potro won't be as frustrated by the Russian's delivery as he was by the Swede's so he should find himself with more looks to break serve. But Kolya returns serve about as well as anyone, leads their head-to-head 2-1, and gave del Potro quite a shellacking at this event last year. Still, the Tower of Tandil is a different player now than he was a year ago.

I've no doubt both of them can hoist the tour's final 2009 trophy, so I'll take another third-set breaker, a tub of popcorn, and may the most composed man win.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

World Tour Finals Day 7 Preview

by Craig Hickman

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Nikolay Davydenko of Russia celebrates winning the match during the men's singles round robin match against Robin Soderling of Sweden during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 27, 2009 in London, England.

Group A has the advantage. Roger Federer and Juan Martín del Potro had a day off, Robin Soderling and Nikolay Davydenko did not.

The Russian has the shortest turnaround and the worst record of all against his opponent. I still don't understand why Kolya hasn't been able to defeat the world No. 1 even once. They have played tight sets, but Kolya always manages to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I'm not sure Raja will be in any mood to even allow him to get close today. I'll be surprised if the Swiss doesn't win in straights.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates a point during the men's singles round robin match against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 26, 2009 in London, England.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25:  Robin Soderling of Sweden celebrates winning the match during the men's singles first round match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 25, 2009 in London, England.

I, for one, am going to thoroughly enjoy watching the Rude Power boys duke it out. They've split their only two meetings with the Argentinean winning their only match in 2009. But that was way back in Auckland, which seems like a lifetime ago. The Swede won a set last night to avoid facing Raja in this round, so let's see what he has left to bring against del Potro. I see a third set breaker. Bring on the popcorn.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina celebrates winning the match during the men's singles round robin match against Roger Federer of Switzerland during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 26, 2009 in London, England.

Day 7 - Semifinals Order Of Play

Day Session: 12.30 pm GMT (7.30 am ET)

Mirnyi/Ram vs. Cermak/Mertinak

Followed by
[1] Roger Federer vs. [6] Nikolay Davydenko

Night Session: 7 pm GMT (2 pm ET)

Bhupathi/Knowles vs. Bryan/Bryan

Followed by
[8] Robin Söderling vs. [5] Juan Martín del Potro

There should be no night session for the semifinals. In both singles and doubles, it gives the day-session winners an advantage they don't need heading into the finals tomorrow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

by Craig Hickman

Happy Thanksgiving to those who observe it today.


Raja has clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking, but he could still be eliminated if the US Open champion defeats him in straight sets and if the Scot defeats the Spaniard in straights. At least that's what Jimmy Arias said yesterday.

Switzerland's Roger Federer shows off his 2009 ATP World Tour Champion trophy at the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament in London, November 25, 2009.

Round Robin Day 5 Order Of Play

Center Court - 12:30 PM Start

Nestor/Zimonjic vs. Bhupathi/Knowles

Followed By
[4]Andy Murray vs. [7]Fernando Verdasco

At 7pm
Cermak/Mertinak vs Fyrstenberg/Matkowski

Followed By
[1]Roger Federer vs. [5]Juan Martín del Potro

Yesterday's Results

Rafael Nadal of Spain changes his shirt during his ATP World Tour Finals tennis match against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in London November 25, 2009.

Group B Singles
R Soderling (SWE) d N Djokovic (SRB) 76(5) 61
N Davydenko (RUS) d R Nadal (ESP) 61 76(4)

Robin played well, but Djoke was beyond tired. The second set was a capitulation. The more the lithe Serb misfired, the better the lumbering Swede scrambled about the court.

Kolya never really let Rafa in the match and when he did, the former world No. 1 didn't really know what to make of the opportunity. The first man eliminated (?), Rafa can return to Mallorca and start getting ready for next season. Yeah. I'm suggesting he skip Davis Cup.

Group B Doubles
B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) 63 64
L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT) d M Mirnyi (BLR) / A Ram (ISR) 46 64 16-14 - saved 3 M.P.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ATP WTF Day 1 and Day 2 Orders of Play

Round Robin Day 1 ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, 22 NOVEMBER, 2009

CENTRE COURT – start 12:30 pm

[1] D Nestor (CAN / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs [8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
Not Before 2:15 pm
[4] A Murray (GBR) vs [5] J del Potro (ARG)
At 7:00 pm
[3] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Knowles (BAH) vs [5] F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK)
Not Before 8:45 pm
[1] R Federer (SUI) vs [7] F Verdasco (ESP)

ORDER OF PLAY – Round Robin Day 2 MONDAY, 23 NOVEMBER, 2009

CENTRE COURT – start 12:30 pm

[2] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs [7] M Mirnyi (BLR) / A Ram (ISR)
Not Before 2:15 pm
[2] R Nadal (ESP) vs [8] R Soderling (SWE)
At 7:00 pm
[4] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT)
Not Before 8:45 pm
[3] N Djokovic vs [6] N Davydenko (RUS)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ATP WTF - The Draws

by Savannah

The rumors turned out to be true and Andy Roddick, a fixture at the ATP Finals for the last seven years, has withdrawn due to injury. Here are the singles and doubles draws for the tournament.

Singles Draw

Group A

Roger Federer (SUI)
Andy Murray (GBR)
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP)

Group B

Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Robin Soderling (SWE)

Doubles Draw

Group A

Daniel Nestor-Nenad Zimonjic
Mahesh Bhupathi-Mark Knowles
Frantisek Cermak-Michal Mertinak
Mariusz Fyrstenberg-Marcin Matkowski

Group B

Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan
Lukas Dlouhy-Leander Paes
Lukasz Kubot-Oliver Marach
Max Mirnyi-Andy Ram

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be the first alternate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tennis Miscellany

by Savannah

Sometimes it's amazing what comes out of people's mouths.

Murray attracts praise in defeat

Jean-Francois Caujolle, tournament director of the BNP Paribas Masters, singled out Andy Murray for special praise at his end-of-event review and disclosed that next year there could be a dramatic change to the format in Paris. There is a powerful case, Caujolle believes, for the tournament to become a 32 rather than 48 man draw - "for it is quite normal that the draws become progressively smaller in order to arrive towards the Masters where there are only eight players."

He said Murray had been a victim of the current numbers and the consequent pressure it places on scheduling with only one court at the Palais Omnisport of a standard required for an event of this prestige. "[Murray] ended one match on Wednesday at 1.45am and there had been a real problem with the scheduling that day because we had six matches to play on he Centre Court," Caujolle said. The problem had been exacerbated by Marat Safin's three set loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, after which there was an extended retirement celebration for the Russian that put another spanner in the works.

"The next day Murray had to play on Court No 1 (against Radek Stepanek) and sincerely I believe he would not have lost that match if it had been on the Centre. He was a victim of those problems we have with a tournament with 48 players. He was extremely decent and said nothing about it. He just said the other player was better than him."

Caujolle revealed that his plans for a reduction in draw size would be put to the ATP Board next week. He also declared that an ATP 250 tournament would be scheduled in the same week as Paris next year - "so we are not only guaranteeing the existing jobs of the players but creating new ones," he said. "I trust it will be possible."

To make a long story short the TD is saying that his facility is not up to the standards of an ATP 1000 event. Interesting. Will the event be moved somewhere else? And what is the purpose of the proposed ATP250 event to be held during the same week? Is that to make the guys who don't make the cut for Bercy feel better? Are we seeing the ATP go the way of the WTA and splitting their tour in two?

Film at 11 folks.

Of course I'm using the term "Journalist" loosely...

The Shame of American tennis journalists continues. During his post match presser after his loss to Radek Stepanek Andy Murray mentioned that there will be over 200 journalists attending WTF. What he didn't mention is that none of them, not one, will be American. What the hell is up with that?

(Andy)Murray made a point of mentioning in the press conference after his defeat to Stepanek that he had heard there would be 200 journalists attending the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena. That is a pretty formidable level of media interest but the Net Post hears that not one of those writers is coming from the United States; whether Andy Roddick comes or not. It is quite some dark moment in tennis-writing history that not a single member from America will make the trip, and this from the richest nation in the tennis world. Truly terrible news.

The link is the same one posted above.

Since applications for credentials have to be in a month or two before the tournament I'm not sure Andy Roddick's injury should be used as an excuse here. I mean this is the end of year Championships for the ATP, the sport that these guys spend time covering for us. I can understand bloggers not being sponsored but ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, among others, have been giving tennis a lot of coverage lately so I find it amazing that not one credentialed journalist will be coming from here.

The Davis Cup final will be played December 4-6 between Spain and the Czech Republic. I don't think I have to speculate about what the coverage will be on this side of the pond.

End Note

The exhibition season will be underway shortly for both the men and the women. I won't be posting as often but I do plan to do my "Coaches of the Year", best matches of the ATP and best matches of the WTA. I'm also going to a "Tennis Year In Review". This was one of the most bizarre years in recent memory.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bercy Crowns A New Champion

by Savannah

I kept falling asleep but from what I saw Novak Djokovic won a battle of will with Gael Monfils to win the Bercy Masters 1000 on Sunday.

With Bercy the regular ATP season comes to an end. Next weekend the championship playoff begins in London. I still can't believe they kept the name that renders the tournament name the ATP WTF. Whatever. At least the players all get a week or so off to rest. For those who don't know who the Final Eight and the alternates are here is the list. There is a lot of speculation surrounding whether an injured Andy Roddick will play. That's why I'm showing down to #11

Rank Player Points

1. R. Federer (SUI)
2. R. Nadal (ESP)
3. N. Djokovic (SRB)
4. A. Murray (GBR)
5. J.M. del Potro (ARG)
6. A. Roddick (USA)
7. N. Davydenko (RUS)
8. F. Verdasco (ESP)

9. R. Soderling (SWE)
10. J. Tsonga (FRA)
11. F. Gonzalez (CHI)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

The push is on. One of my best tennis friends Tweeted yesterday that the Andre Agassi story has run it's course, that it's time to move on. I beg to disagree my friend. The tennis establishment has just started it's full court press and some of the things I'm reading go beyond pushing for "compassion" for the man who disgraced the ATP.

Stephanie Myles
asked why there is so much animosity towards Agassi and includes the following anecdote:

Swedish player Joachim Johansson urged fans on his blog not to buy the book because it was a "cheap public-relations ploy." He also said that when he first came on tour in 2004, "everyone" was talking about how the ATP had covered up a positive test from Agassi, and that he thought people would be "relieved" the truth came out.

There is also this:

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal condemned him, the general tone being "our sport is clean, and this hurts us all."

How, exactly? Agassi has been retired for three years. This happened in 1997. Do they lead such a sheltered existence that they don't even know what crystal meth is?

You can sort of see where Nadal is coming from; he has denied performance-enhancing drug rumours for years, so he's probably touchy about that subject. And he's young.

But Federer? We thought he was a little savvier than that, and a lot more gracious.

And this.

Another critic was former No. 1 Boris Becker, who, given his Eurotrashy lifestyle, was probably lucky he got away with a slip-up or two himself.

"You could forget about it if he had had too many beers or smoked a joint. But we are talking about one of the worst drugs," Becker said. "He has won many Grand Slams, some of them against me. If he won those because he was on speed it's simply unfair."

Then of course Martina Navratilova comes in for her criticism.

The revelation in Agassi's memoirs that he used the drug crystal meth for much of 1997, at the lowest point of his long career, brought virulent reactions from every corner of tennis - except for the Americans, who mostly stood firmly behind their icon.

Well, all except for Czech-born American Martina Navratilova, who compared Agassi to disgraced baseball pitcher Roger Clemens.

I guess Martina, who has said some pretty douchey things in her time, didn't get the memo in time. She's said to be backing off her statements.

Notice a pattern here? Just in case you don't it seems that the Europeans are lined up firmly behind condemning what the revelation does to the sport of tennis while the Americans are taking the stance that AA is a great man and that this little thing of having a positive drug test ignored, is just a tempest in a teapot. Tanking matches? No biggie. He's fessed up. Give him a pass. There are a few players from Eastern Europe and South America who might disagree with you.

Sergei Brugera of Spain has already said that a review should be made of Agassi's Olympic medal from 1996. And Marat Safin, who has been vocal throughout said the following today:

PARIS (AP) -- Former No. 1-ranked Marat Safin believes that Andre Agassi should give his tennis titles back after confessing he tested positive for a banned substance during his career and lied about it to the ATP.

Agassi admitted in his autobiography ''Open'' that he used crystal meth in 1997 and failed a drug test, a result he says was thrown out after he lied by saying he ''unwittingly'' took the substance.

Safin, who plans to retire this month, said in an interview with L'Equipe newspaper on Tuesday that Agassi should ''give his titles, his money and his Grand Slam titles'' back.

''I'm not defending the ATP, but what he said put it in a delicate position,'' Safin said. ''The ATP allowed him to win a lot of tournaments, a lot of money. It kept his secret. Why does he need to be so cruel with it?''

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won 60 titles, including eight Grand Slams, during his career. He recently told The Associated Press that he had to speak about his lies because he couldn't live with it anymore.

''If he is as fair play as he says he is, he has to go to the end,'' Safin said. ''You know, the ATP has a bank account and he can give the money back if he wants.''

Safin, who will retire after this week's Paris Masters, won the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open. The 29-year-old Russian said he isn't going to write his autobiography when his career will be over.

''Me, I don't need money,'' he said. ''The question is: Why did he do this? What is done is done. Does he hope to sell more books? It's absolutely stupid.''


A lot of the turmoil in men's tennis has had the Europeans vs The Americans as a back drop. The more that becomes public about this situation the more understandable the bad feelings on the other side of the pond and south of the border become.

The WTA and The Belgians

Stacey Allaster has made the following statement:

BALI (Reuters) - The governing body of women's tennis would like to see the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revise its 'whereabouts rule' to give players more flexibility when they are competing.

Last week, Belgian players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse were both handed one-year suspensions for failing to notify their national doping agency where they could be reached, under a ruling the WTA believes is a little too stringent.

"Basically each quarter, they (the players) go in to the computer system and have to give at least one hour a day where they're going to be," WTA Tour chairman Stacey Allaster told Reuters.

"There's no doubt that this anti-doping program is rigorous and I think everyone in sport who is part of the WADA code are all united that we want to have a clean sport.

"This rigorous testing for out of competition, which is really what the whereabouts rule is about, is meant to ensure the integrity of the testing system and the integrity of the sport.

"But I think together with the (men's tour) ATP, we do believe that the procedures for reporting during competition could be modified. I think when the athletes are in competition it's easy for WADA to see where the athletes are."

Allastar sympathizes with players at an event who find it difficult to inform authorities where they are going to be on a daily basis.

"If I'm at a tournament I don't know when my match is, I don't know when I'm practicing. That does become challenging for the athletes in competition," she added.

"So together with the ATP we have been advocating through the International Tennis Federation, to WADA, to make procedural changes to the reporting structure of the whereabouts program in competition."

Really Stacey? I'm waiting to see if they manage to pull this off before another Belgian player returns to the WTA tour.

End Note

Richard Gasquet's hearing is today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

I think this is the picture "vw" asked about.

More people seem to be upset about Yanina Wickmayer than Xavier Malisse who tearfully said his career may be over.

When you're watching a Final and the commentators say they don't understand why the player playing the better tennis is winning with no analysis whatsoever I'd say fanboyism in the broadcast booth has reached it's height. Shame on you Koenig and company.

I kind of like that the Paris Masters ends on the 15th and WTF starts on the 23d.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Warriors

by Savannah

Congratulations to Team Italy. To absolutely no ones surprise they steamrolled the young American team on their chosen home court.

Andy Murray enjoyed a straight set win in Valencia.

Novak Djokovic needed three sets to overcome the Basel crowds hometown favorite.

Aravane Rezai was given a walkover by her opponent in Bali after winning the first set 7-5.

She thus becomes the first winner of the event.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boris Becker's IQ and Andre Agassi

by Savannah

Sometimes you come across something, a picture, a short story, a novel, that brings you up short and makes your jaw drop in total shock. I'm posting this article by Dennis Fitzgerald that left me speechless. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

It's interesting how we all loved Andre Agassi (well, OK, not everyone) when he was exuberant, energetic, telegenic star in his younger days. Glamming it with Hollywood stars, enjoying life as tennis' man about town. And winning too.

Now, he is retired, still beloved by many. But apparently he hasn't lived up to other folks' expectations. He committed the mortal sin of being.....mortal! He exposed himself, along with some not so pretty demons, in a book. Self-serving, according to some. To sell some books, according to others.

Well Agassi didn't have to tell his story. Or tell the story he did. But it was his choice. For better or worse.

For those who don't like what they have read about him already, OK don't buy the book (and get the full picture). For those who feel that Andre let them down, my condolences. But I am curious. Just when did you ask Andre to be your personal guide and savior? And what did he say when you asked him?

While Andre made choices in his life (some I bet he regrets), and choices as to what he included in his book (don't know if he regrets any of those just yet), don't we all make choices in our lives? Are we all to be judged (and condemned) by random acts throughout our lives? And just why are celebrities put to a higher moral standard anyway? As a collection their moral standards are pretty low, if you ask me.

Andre bringing shame to himself? And tennis?

While Martina Navratilova's comments really burn me, and make me so annoyed at her pomposity. Shrillness. And sheer hypocrisy. I put it down to a lack of intelligence. And compassion. Ironic, because she always craved compassion and understanding from everyone else, but apparently is incapable of showing it to others! If gay marriage were legal, what number wife would Martina be on by now? You see what goes around comes around.

Becker's comments were just as ridiculous. But then Becker's IQ was a lot lower than a weak second serve. But he made up for it with an enormous ego. And Becker ought to be at the top of the list as far as former pros not making any comments at all about Agassi. I guarantee you that John McEnroe, among a few others, will not make any public comments and especially no public criticism at all of Andre.

For Becker to have admitted he was addicted to prescription drugs, and then take Agassi to task? Puh-lease. Take a good hard look in the mirror Becker.....then again perhaps we ought to pry Becker away from the mirror since I always suspects he spends far too much time admiring himself....or perhaps check in to Reality Hotel before making any further public comments. When you check into Reality Hotel, you get a healthy does of true introspection.

Rules Are Rules

by Savannah

I thought I was finished with the WTA for this year. Yes there is a tournament being played in Bali Tthe women who won the WTA Interational events are playing for their own trophy. I've said before I have no idea why they're playing this tournament at this time but out of respect for the players I've held back on criticism of the event.

Then a funny thing happened. A few weeks ago Belgian player Yanina Wickmayer was cited for missing three appointments with the anti doping people. She said that she had trouble with her password or some such nonsense but it was said that she'd receive nothing more that a slap on the wrist and be able to continue playing hence her presence in Bali.

While on the road to Bali a lot happened in tennis and suddenly Wickmayer found herself suspended for a year for flaunting the WADA rules of availability. Her fans are up in arms about it and many have said the suspension is unfair. I don't. Rules are rules. To let her get away with thumbing her nose at the controls put in place to ensure the sport is as clean as can be would allow other players to offer a "the dog ate my homework" defense for missing checks.

You should know that whenever something like this happens an "official statement" is put out by the WTA and sent out to the media. I kept looking for it last night but went to bed without seeing an official mailing.

It turns out that I was looking in the wrong place. An official statement was issued and is posted below. The statement was posted on the tournament web site. It was made by Stacey Allaster.

Following the withdrawal of Yanina Wickmayer from the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, WTA Tour Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster stated:
"As reported this morning, the Flemish Doping Tribunal has informed Yanina Wickmayer that effective immediately they are suspending her from competition due to three filing failures under the Belgian anti-doping whereabouts programme. With this information Yanina herself has voluntarily withdrawn from the tournament and as a matter of policy the tour will not make comment on an ongoing tennis anti-doping matter."

"Yanina can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport."

Wickmayer’s place will be taken by tournament alternate Vera Dushevina, who will play Anabel Medina Garrigues in the last match on Friday. However, she will not inherit Wickmayer’s 1-0 record in the Group.

Kimiko Date Krumm will advance to the semi-finals from Group C, as even if Garrigues beats Dushevina to match Date Krumm’s 1-1 win/loss record, Date Krumm will advance having a head-to-head win/loss record over Garrigues at this event.

Many are saying that this is because of Andre Agassi's admissions regarding his use of crystal meth and the ATP allowing him to get away with it. It could be, I don't know. It's going to be very interesting when Justine Henin returns to the tour after her eighteen month retirement.

Fed Cup

Mary Joe Fernandez is taking the United States team of Vania King, Alexa Glatch, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber into Italy to determine who will claim the Fed Cup starting Saturday. No one gives them a snowball's chance in hell. I should remind you that during Fed Cup and Davis Cup I bleed red, white and blue. Go USA!

End Notes

I have no intention of watching 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

It wasn't just the meth. It's not just the on court rages. And no it's not the hair piece. Can we forget the hair piece? Now it's admitting that he tanked his 1996 AO semifinal match to Michael Chang so that he wouldn't have to play Boris Becker.

My friend Lucio Lopez provided me with a side by side translation from the Spanish of Marcelo Rios 2004 statements. I like to put the original language in the translation since there are nuances that may not translate well into English. Lucio did this in between performing his regular life duties as a doctor. Thank you Lucio.
Está claro que el tenis mundial vive un momento de ebullición tras la salida a la luz de los casos de doping del argentino Mariano Puerta y del británico Greg Rusedski. Y más aún luego de las declaraciones de este último, que afirmó que "de los mejores 120 del ranking de la ATP, hay 43 con índices de nandrolona por encima de lo permitido".

It is clear that tennis is going through a boiling point after the doping cases of Argentine Mariano Puerta and British Greg Rusedski have seen the light. Even more so after the latter’s declarations, where he stated that “of the best 120 in the ATP ranking, there are 43 with levels of nandrolone above the permitted”.

Ahora, el chileno Marcelo Ríos alimentó la controversia. En declaraciones publicadas por el diario La Tercera, el Chino disparó contra la ATP. "Yo sé que si le detectan a (Andre) Agassi nandrolona, no lo van a decir. El es un tipo muy fuerte en el tenis y el tenis se vendría abajo si lo agarran con doping. La ATP no lo diría", acusó Ríos.

Now, the Chilean Marcelo Rios has fueled the controversy. En public declarations published by La Tercera newspaper, El Chino fired against the ATP, “I know that if they detect nandrolone in Agassi, they will not say it. He is a very strong person in tennis and tennis would devaluate if they match him with doping. The ATP would not tell.”, accused Rios.

El ex número 1 del mundo se refirió a ciertos "privilegios" que recibirían los tenistas más reconocidos. "Los sudamericanos lo hemos discutido bastante. Es un tema complicado. No tengo problemas en decirlo: siempre nos preguntamos quién te certifica que le hacen el control a Agassi o quién le hace el examen a Sampras...", afirmó Ríos.

The World ex –number referred to certain “privileges” that the more known tennis players would receive. “(We) The South Americans have discussed it a lot. It’s a complicated issue. I have no problems in saying it: we always wonder who certifies that Agassi is controlled or who performs the exam on Sampras…”, stated Rios.

Y contó una anécdota sobre un hecho muy llamativo que involucra directamente a Andre Agassi durante un torneo del circuito. "Hay un caso en Australia donde hubo un control y él (por Agassi) desapareció diciendo que al hijo lo iban a raptar".

And he told an anecdote about a very suspicious event that involves Andre Agassi directly during a tournament in the tour. “There’s a case in Australia where there was a control and him (Agassi) disappeared saying that they were going to kidnap his son.”,0,3308_5832_47763787,00.html
Ti, this article status the same things, I’m only translating the new stuff that appears.
El "Chino" profundizó aún más y recordó un hecho en especial: "Hay un caso que hubo en Australia (N de la R: en 2002), donde hubo un control y él (Agassi) desapareció, diciendo que al hijo lo iban a raptar... A mí me encantaría mandar a que le hicieran dóping y yo decir 'oye, yo quiero ver y certificar que se lo están haciendo'. Porque no sé quién manda, quién decide a quién se lo hacen".
(the bolded part is the Australia anecdote again, what follows after the bold is new):
“… I would love to have him tested and say “hey, I want to see and certify that he’s being tested”. Because I don’t know who’s in charge, who decides who is tested.”.

yo sé que si le pillan a Agassi nandrolona, no lo van a decir. El es un tipo muy fuerte en el tenis, y el tenis se vendría abajo si le pillan un dóping. El ATP no lo diría. Son organizaciones tan fuertes que Agassi sería un problema si sale positivo
(same MO, this one adds to the ATP keeping silent if Agassi were to be caught comment)
“…They are such strong organizations that Agassi would be a problem were he to test positive.”
(I assume that Rios refers to Andre as an organization)

En Pontevedra, Florida, donde está el cuartel general de la ATP, no reaccionaron muy agradados ante los dichos de Ríos, pero la respuesta fue más técnica que pasional: "Los procedimientos son muy básicos y están claramente especificados para todo el mundo en nuestra página web ( y se demuestra cuántas veces se le han hecho controles a los jugadores... Nosotros no tenemos favoritos y tampoco tenemos algo contra los sudamericanos", di-jo a La Tercera Greg Sharko, director de Comunicaciones de la ATP, quien además no cree que por estas declaraciones el "Chino" pueda recibir una sanción.

Más al oeste, en las oficinas de Agassi Enterprises, en Las Vegas, evitaron realizar cualquier comentario hasta que Perry Rogers, representante del tenista, regrese de un viaje de negocios en Los Angeles.

In Pontevedra, Florida, where the ATP headquarters lie, Rios’ comments did not sit very well, but the answer was more technical than passionate: “The procedures are very basic and are clearly specified for everyone a tour website ( and it shows how many times the players have been tested… We don’t have favorites and neither do we have anything against the South Americans.” said to La Tercera Greg Sharko, director of ATP Communications, who Besides doesn’t believe that “El Chino” could be sanctioned for his statements.

Further to the West, in the offices of Agassi Enterprises, in Las Vegas, they avoided any commentary until Perry Rogers, his manager, returns from a business trip in LA.
Nuestro deporte está a la cabeza en los controles antidóping", opinó el estadounidense Agassi. "El tenis está limpio", añadió su compatriota Roddick. Rusedski denunció días atrás que más de 40 jugadores controlados por la ATP dieron positivo por nandrolona, como él, e insinuó que este esteroide está ampliamente difundido en el circuito. Sin embargo, la Asociación dijo que 36 tenistas presentaron niveles elevados de la sustancia, pero que estaban debajo del nivel considerado dóping (dos nanogramos por mililitro). A las críticas del inglés se les sumaron las del chileno Marcelo Ríos, ex número uno del mundo. "Son organizaciones tan fuertes que Agassi sería un problema si sale positivo. La ATP no lo diría", declaró Ríos.

“Our sport is at the head in antidoping controls.” expressed the American Agassi. “Tennis is clean.” (present tense) , added his compatriot Roddick. Rusedski denounced in recent days that more than 40 players controlled by the ATP came back positive for nandrolone, as him, and insinuated that this steroid is spreaded amply in the tour. However, the Asociation said that 36 players presented high levels of this substance, but that they were below the level considered as doping (two nanograms per milimeter). Former world number one, Chilean Marcelo Rios, added to the British’s critiques. “They are such strong organizations that Agassi would be a problem were he to test positive. The ATP would not tell.”, declared Rios.

Then there are these comments by Nicolas Escude of France made in 2002. Emphasis mine.

Drug Testing Under Fire

Nicolas Escudé, along with several top French players, harshly criticized the ATP for its drug-testing program in interviews with Le Parisien, a French publication. Escudé was quoted as saying, ''To say tennis is clean, that's wishful thinking.'' Also criticizing the tour's chief executive, Mark Miles, Escudé added: ''They tell me there are files that can't be opened. What can they be, if not files on doping? If these files exploded, tennis would be in bad shape for six months. But it would be a bad thing for a good cause.''

ATP Tour officials defended themselves by citing the intense testing scrutiny the players are under. Last year, in ATP events alone, there were 542 in-competition tests and 50 out-of-competition screenings. The top 10 players were tested an average of 3.8 times each.

This year, the Tour has increased testing in competition by 20 percent and out of competition by 100 percent, David Higdon, a Tour spokesman, said.

The majors also conduct drug testing of players. In the past year, only one player, Argentina's Guillermo Coria, has violated the Tennis Anti-Doping Program. He tested positive for metabolites of nandrolone, which he said he unknowingly consumed while taking a contaminated nutritional supplement. But as rigid as the Tour's testing is, there is no screening process in place for EPO, a banned endurance booster.

''We're always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve,'' Miles said.

Last month, the ATP switched from a United States-based testing company to a Swedish firm, in part because of its advanced blood-testing capabilities. Soon, the ATP hopes to incorporate an EPO test into its Tennis Anti-Doping Program.

In the same Tennis Notebook NY Times reporter Selena Roberts reports the following:

Juan Carlos Ferrero was concocting a devilish blend of drop shots and forehand winners in a cold drizzle when Andre Agassi ended the young Spaniard's assault with the crook of his finger.

Agassi motioned to the chair umpire, who summoned the French Open referee, Stefan Fransson, to the court. After a few words with Agassi, and a nod toward a baffled Ferrero, Fransson suspended the men's quarterfinal match around 7 p.m. even though play on the outside courts continued.

Call it the perks of superstardom and the trickle-down effect of star power. That's how the annoyed Spaniards saw it. Thirteen minutes into the resumption of play, after a five-hour rain delay that had halted the match in the sixth game of the first set, Agassi had lost two of the first three games.

Down by 6-3, 1-0 and with Ferrero locked in on his shots, it was to Agassi's advantage for his opponent to sleep on his hot start. Who knows if Ferrero can replicate the same flawlessness on Thursday?

Visibly upset after the match was suspended for the day, Ferrero said, ''I didn't say anything'' when Fransson came onto the court at Agassi's request. One person from Ferrero's camp added: ''Andre canceled the match. No one asked Juan Carlos.''

Although he could not explain why the juniors kept playing on the outside courts today, Fransson dismissed the notion that Agassi influenced his decision to end play on center court. ''I can't do much about the perception,'' he said.

Agassi did not stick around to discuss the matter. Wearing a ski cap on his head, but still in his tennis shorts, Agassi hustled out of the building 15 minutes after the match was suspended.

In his wake, there was anger. Not only did the decision to suspend Agassi's match disrupt the 22-year-old Ferrero's groove, it also meant that Alex Corretja's rain-delayed quarterfinal from Tuesday had no chance to be completed, either. If it was too dismal on center court for one match, it was too dismal for Corretja's.

''Yesterday, he played until 9:45 p.m., to when you couldn't see,'' said Corretja's coach, Javier Duarte. ''Tonight, it's early. Why now? I don't like it.''

Corretja wouldn't have needed much daylight to win his quarterfinal against Andrei Pavel. It would have been no contest. After Corretja left the court with a lead of 7-6 (5), 7-5, 4-5 on Tuesday night, Pavel left Paris today to be by his wife's side for the birth of their baby.

''I've been here all day,'' Corretja said. ''I've been waiting and now I don't know what to say.''

He'll have to wait for Thursday. So will Ferrero. Perhaps seeking a turn in momentum, hoping to ice Ferrero overnight, Agassi managed to end the day early with the crook of his finger.

Maybe this answers some of the questions about why no one is really rallying around Agassi. And this is just what is known publicly.

I'll end with Marat Safin's comment.

"How they will escape this situation -- this is the ATP's and Agassi's problem."


Despite being diagnosed with H1N1 Tommy Haas expects to play Bercy.

Serena Williams now holds the WTA 2009 earnings record. Her winnings totalled $6.5 million.

There are people trying to talk up an ATP version of Bali. My first response is no. So is my second.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures from Bali.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WADA Is Not Backing Down

by Savannah

As Pam Shriver said yesterday the bad part of the Agassi drug admission is not that it happened but that he lied and the ATP appears to have assisted in perpetrating that lie. Here is an article from the online Guardian that lays the issue out from a drug testing point of view.

The tennis authorities are have been asked to investigate "the possibility of perjury" or a "breach of the law" by Andre Agassi following the former Wimbledon champion's admission that he lied in a letter to the ATP after he tested positive for crystal meth in 1997.

David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is to write to the ATP and the ITF because he believes "this is not a dead issue".

The move comes after more damaging revelations emerged last night in which Agassi declares that his father, Mike, asked him to take the illegal amphetamine, speed, before playing and that he took it.

...his brother, Phil, warned him that the pills their father was giving the player were not simply caffeine, but speed.

"One night, Phil asked me to promise him something: 'Don't ever let Paps give you any pills to take'," writes Agassi of his brother's advice in an extract of the book which is being serialised in the German newspaper Bild.

"The pills are something else...speed. They are really tiny, white and round. Don't swallow them, no matter what happens. "

Agassi, however, still took the tablets handed to him by his father before a national tournament in Chicago. "This will help you. Swallow it. He puts the pill in my hand. Tiny, white, Round. I swallow it and I feel good. Not much different. A bit more alert.

Agassi writes that his father was giving him caffeine pills before every match to boost his performances.
"Wada's position is simple," said Howman. "The tennis authorities should investigate a possible breach of the law by Agassi, if he lied on oath about this, and also a possible breach of the law by his lawyers. If his lawyers knew at the time he was lying, then that is extremely serious.

"There are limitations over what he can do, but we don't believe this is a dead issue. We believe the authorities should be investigating the possibility of perjury."

Wada are due to send out letters to the authorities this week.

I'm not quite sure what reaction the Agassi camp thought it would get but I'm sure this was not on the list.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Last Woman Standing...and The Other Weekend Winners

by Savannah

Years ago Richard Williams said that his younger daughter would be the best. As usual Richard proved prophetic. The year 2009 saw Serena win two Slams and the SEWTA Year End Championships to end the year ranked Number One. Congratulations on a great year Serena!

Nuria Llagostera Vives, left, and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 2009 Doubles Champions Doha

The Weekends Winners

Sergei Stakhovsky St Petersburg Champion 2009

Jurgen Melzer 2009 Champion Vienna

Ivan Ljubicic 2009 Lyon Champion


Julian Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut won Lyon
C. Fleming and K. Skupski won at St Petersburg
L. Kubot and O. Marach won at Vienna

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Week That Was

by Savannah

Now that Andre Agassi has admitted his use of meth went on for "a year or so" the ball is now firmly back in the ATP's court. When all is said and done it is the ATP that has to explain why it accepted the now admitted lie of drinking the wrong glass of soda or whatever and allowed Agassi to avoid drug testing that caused other - dare I say lesser - players to lose their source of income.

I really don't care about the hair or his jealousy because his then wife was doing her job. I refuse to be sidetracked by bullshit. What I do care about is the information given by players while this was all going on. I care what Nicolas Escude and Marcelo Rios said. I care what the ATP didn't say or do. I care about titles that may have been won while a player was "under the influence". I care that the "tennis press" (an oxymoron at this point) seems to have been an active participant in the cover up.

In the final analysis the sport of tennis has been damaged not because of a hair piece. It's been damaged because fans now know that anti drug testing was done on every Spanish player at some ungodly hour of the morning. We know that Belgian players were recently hauled before the anti drug administrators for missing drug tests. We know about Guillermo Canas and Guillermo Coria. We know about Volandri. And heaven knows we know about Richard Gasquet kissing the wrong girl and Mariano Puerta ingesting his wife's meds. And now we know that TPTB may have actively participated in covering up drug use by a man who was at that time one of it's star players. It was a secret only to the fans since players knew what was going on and spoke about it. Because the allegations were in the foreign press the US press could ignore it.

The last thing the ATP wants is for a completely independent look at just what was going on in men's tennis, specifically United States tennis, at that time. Who are the seven players who had positive tests that were ignored? At this time the only two players I'm willing to give a pass to are Pete Sampras and Michael Chang. Everyone else, Borg, Agassi, John McEnroe, is fair game.


It's been a strange week. The White Group, which consisted of "the future of women's tennis" has shown that they are really not ready for prime time. Between the tears, playacting, inability to handle the heat of the desert not to mention "fractured" backs that became "unfractured" and you have a soap opera. Meanwhile the "old biddies" of the Maroon Group seem to be doing just fine, nagging injuries and all. Almost all of the women in the Maroon group are pushing thirty and yet we've seen better tennis from them. If the future of women's tennis consists of drama taking the place physical and mental toughness we're in the deep end of the pool kiddies.


Anil John posted the following in the online edition of the Gulf Times.

Dinara Safina may be missing out on a large fan base because many in this part of the world are unaware she is a Muslim or simply don’t care. Both attitudes are based on some serious fault lines.
Now, I know all about keeping religion away from sport and that sports stars should be appreciated for what they do on the court and not on the basis of what faith they belong to. But in Safina’s case I don’t mind sticking my head out and ask some tough questions.

The lack of adulation for Safina is strange and incomprehensible for the simple reason that the Muslim world is so desperately short of women role models.

When Moroccan male tennis players such as Younes el-Aynaoui – a winner in Doha – and Hicham Arazi were regulars at the Qatar Open, fans packed the stands to cheer their every shot. But when Safina plays there’s hardly a ripple of excitement. It’s a question that demands serious answers. Is this because Safina is a woman, one is tempted to ask.

I find this a very odd time for an article like this to appear regarding Dinara Safina and tangentially her brother Marat Safin. With all the other pressure on Dinara right now does she really need a controversial issue like this on her shoulders? It's never really been a secret, their profiles on Wiki clearly state their religion, so my question is why now?

Anne Keothavong gets my "Heroine of the Week" award for asking why everyone is so surprised about Agassi. Once again those pesky foreigners seem to be much more informed than those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

There are actually three men's events taking place this week in Lyon, Wien, and St Petersburg. The results have been interesting to say the least. Add Horatio Zeballos to the top fifty after his performance this week after his breakthrough performance in St Petersburg.

Cara Black and Liezel Huber have secured the number one ranking in women's doubles for the third consecutive year. Congratulations ladies!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Marcelo Rios on Agassi

by Savannah

Thanks to Craig for finding a translation of comments the Chilean former number one made regarding drug testing and Andre Agassi. It's little wonder that Chino was hated by the American tennis establishment.

Scandal in Tennis

Rios thinks that the ATP protects Agassi of doping "I know that if nandrolona were found on Agassi, they would not disclose it. He is a very prominent, very popular player and if he were to fall, the world of tennis would fall with him. The ATP would not say it. They are such a large dependent organization that it would be a problem if Agassi or Sampras tested positive", attacked the Chilean, ex- Nº1 of the world. The Marcelo Chilean Rios, ex- Nº1 of the world, accused the organization of the ATP of never openly disclosing certified drug tests on Andre Agassi. When commenting on the situation of dopajes of the Argentinean Mariano Puerta and, specifically, of the Englishman Greg Rusedski, whom respectively tested positive of clenbuterol and nandrolona, the Chilean not only lamented the incidents but accused the ATP of favortism. In his third radial commentary since the 2 of January on the microphones of Chilean Radio, Rios directly blamed the Association of Professional Tennis players (ATP) of not wanting to surface similar cases of doping of the more famous players, focusing instead on the "lesser" players of the tour. "[We]the South Americans have discussed it repeatedly. It is a complicated subject. I do not have problem in saying it: we always said (we asked ourselves) who publicly certifies the doping tests of Agassi or Sampras ?". The Chilean left-handed person remembered a case in Australia 2002 "where there was a control and Agassi disappeared, saying that they were going to kidnap his son..."

"I would love to be able to see and certify Agassi's doping tests because now I currently have no idea who is doing the test, and who decides who gets it and who doesn't."

"I know that if they were to find nandrolona on Agassi, they wouldnt say it to anybody. It would taint his reputation and bring tennis down dramatically. ATP would not say it. It is such a large organization that it would be a problem if Agassi tested positive ", he charged. The newspaper La Tercera consulted the ATP, in Pontevedra, Florida, and obtained an answer by them stating that "the procedures are very basic and clearly are specified for everybody on our website ( and it publicly states how many times controls to the players have been performed". "We do not have favorites nor do we hold something against the South Americans", said Greg Sharko, director of Communications of the ATP. In the offices of Agassi Enterprises, in Las Vegas, they avoided making any commentary until Perry Rogers, representative of the tennis player, returns from a business trip in Los Angeles.

According to the statistics of the ATP, during 2002 1,428 controls were made and amongst the most frequently tested players of that year, the Russian Marat Safin, the Argentinean Juan Ignacio Chela, the Czech Jim Novak, the Swiss Roger Federer and the Swedish Jonas Bjorkman, appeared with ten controls each.

The translation was posted by tennis head undomiele HERE

I highlighted the Perry Rogers factoid because there has been speculation that Agassi revealing the meth information has to do with his split from his long time friend and confidant.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not So Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

A lot has come out since I last posted about the Agassi situation. It seems that a lot people spoke out in 2003/2004 about the drug situation in men's tennis. You have to give it to tennis fans. They know how to find the dirt.

7 Players Exonerated in 2004

ATP trainers provided electrolyte supplements

Seven top male tennis players who tested positive for nandrolone were exonerated by the ATP on "clearly unsustainable grounds", the World Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday.

WADA said in a statement that more positives had come to light despite the ruling body of men's tennis (ATP) withdrawing contaminated electrolyte supplements which it believed were the source of the banned anabolic steroid.

Testing of the suspect electrolytes failed to show up traces of nandrolone-related products, WADA said.

The ATP announced last July that players might have taken banned substances in supplements handed out by ATP trainers. It asked WADA to set up an investigation of the seven positive dope tests involving players between August 2002 and May 2003.

In its report WADA was scornful of the ATP's inconsistent disciplinary process covering the seven cases.

The allegation that an ATP-supplied electrolyte might be responsible for the positive test was made by just one of the players, the fifth charged, WADA said.

An ATP investigation "found through questioning ... that most of the 43 players with positive or elevated tests claimed (in retrospect) that they had used the electrolyte replacement product provided by trainers," WADA said.

WADA said the independent tribunals which exonerated the players made an "extraordinary series of findings" founded on two principles - shifting the onus of proof to the ATP to show it was not the source of the positive tests, and precluding the ATP from sanctioning players based on positive tests because it might have been responsible for those positives.

Briton Greg Rusedski was cleared of doping offences in March after an ATP-appointed tribunal found the ATP could have been responsible for his positive nandrolone test.

Rusedski admitted in January he had tested positive in a test taken in July 2003. The WADA review did not cover his case.

It should be noted that Guillermo Canas was banned for the same thing Rusedski was given a pass on.

Circling the Wagons - It Wasn't Me

Charles Bricker posts this in defense of the ATP.

If you're upset about the way the ATP handled the Andre Agassi drug case back in 1997, don't even try to hang this one on former CEO Mark Miles.

I just got off the phone with Mark and he explained that all decisions about drug violations is the 100 percent province of an independent, ITF-appointed panel of certified experts who have no direct connection whatever with the ATP, and that neither Miles nor any other ranking ATP executive has the power to override or amend that panel's decision. In any way.

That is a fact and it was reinforced today by a statement from the ATP, which reads:

“It has always been ATP policy not to comment on anti-doping test results unless and until an anti-doping violation has occurred. Under the tennis anti-doping program it is, and has always been, an independent panel that makes a decision on whether a doping violation has been found. The ATP has always followed this rule and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter.”
Miles, who left the ATP in 2005 after 15 years as its No. 1 official, was as candid as he felt he could be, but he is honoring retroactive commitments not to comment on specific drug cases that came up during his tenure at the men's tour.

"I can't comment on any case. I can't even confirm that there was a case involving Andre. And I'm not going to comment on Andre's book. But I can amplify. I've seen the ATP statement and the statement is true. The ATP program was set up to ensure that any decision on any case was decided by a panel, a tribunal. And there were no exceptions to that.

"I don't know if Andre says anything in his book that is incongruous with that," he said, and then made what I thought was a very interesting remark. "Panels have made decisions that have left some people scratching their heads," said Miles.

Agassi in 2003...

World number two Andre Agassi has rejected claims by Australia's Andrew Ilie that illegal drug use is rife in professional tennis.
Ilie's claims cut little ice with Agassi, a strong supporter of drug testing.

"The one thing that I'd like to stick to is what we do know," said Agassi after his victory over South Korean Lee Hyung-Taik.

"What we know is, while there's been a minimal amount of players caught over the last 10 years, we are probably the leading sport in reference to how often we test, how professional our tests are and how strict our penalties are.

"The talk of who might be or might not be taking drugs is irresponsible," said Agassi.

The Gag Rule

Bill Simon and the Agassi book.

I had no choice. Word was out. Andre Agassi had a new autobiography that was about to hit and it promised to be a barnburner. After all, if any athlete could write a riveting, what’s-it-all-about volume, it was Andre.

But just to get an advance copy, I had to (for the first time in 29 years) sign a non-divulgence (”squeal and you die”) contract; a seven-clause gag rule saying I would not reveal the contents of the curiously titled book, “Open,” until early November. I agreed, and on Aug. 17, Andre’s four-pound 437-page baby arrived.

For weeks I devoured every detail. Then I waited and waited some more.

Certainly, the book’s explosive details would be leaked in the media. After all, deep within the book, Andre offers up the most explosive confession in sports history, candidly detailing his first experience with crystal meth.

Note: There are also Spanish language sources that provide more information. When I have the translations I'll post them.

In Other News...

L'Equipe reports that Richard Gasquet has withdrawn from Bercy to focus on his upcoming hearing before the CAS on November 10.

Serena Williams will be the year end WTA Number 1. Dinara Safina's withdrawal from Doha guarantees Serena will be ranked Number 1 until the end of December.

It is never easy to watch someone unravel in front of the world. Once again I'm writing about the system and how it affects players. If anyone needs a time out it's Dinara. I can only imagine the pressure put on this young woman by the powers that be. She looked absolutely terrified to take the court the last time I saw her. There are a lot of people calling on her to fire her coach. Dinara said in the past that he is the coach she needs, the one who understands her temperament. I'm just saying.

I finally have Tennis Channel. And I can finally hear Lindsay Davenport commentate. She raked the players over the coals for playing so much this year before someone reminded her that Roadkill is the reason players like Safina made the Asian swing regardless of their physical condition. When the players have no control over their schedules bad things happen. She is honest and straight forward in her commentary. Good times.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Agassi - The Fallout

by Savannah

From the BBC

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) said it could not comment because it withdrew a doping case against him.
An ATP spokesman said it commented on the results of drugs tests only when a violation had occurred.

"Under the tennis anti-doping programme it is, and has always been, an independent panel that makes a decision on whether a doping violation has been found," he stated.

"The ATP has always followed this rule and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter."

BBC Radio 5 live's tennis correspondent Jonathan Overend feels Agassi's legacy could be ruined by the revelations and will also damage tennis's reputation.
"This is sure to severely tarnish the reputation of one of the great champions," said Overend.
"I think it will have underlying implications for the sport in terms of the suspicion about some of the athletes and whether or not they are on drugs.

"The fact that Agassi lied and the authorities believed him has enormous repercussions. How many other cases may there have been like this?"

From ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti

Please find below a statement from ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti concerning the statements made by Andre Agassi:

“The ITF is surprised and disappointed by the remarks made by Andre Agassi in his biography admitting substance abuse in 1997. Such comments in no way reflect the fact that the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is currently regarded as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive anti-doping programmes in sport. The events in question occurred before the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was founded in 1999 and during the formative years of anti-doping in tennis when the programme was managed by individual governing bodies. The ITF first signed the WADA Code in 2004, and the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme undergoes constant review and improvement. In 2006, the ITF assumed responsibility for administration of the anti-doping programme on behalf of the ATP and then, in 2007, also on behalf of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The ITF, Grand Slams, ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour are now unified in their efforts to keep tennis free of drug use, and this should not be overshadowed by an incident that took place over 12 years ago. The statements by Mr. Agassi do, however, provide confirmation that a tough Anti-Doping Programme is needed.”


Following Andre Agassi's revelation that he was let off by the ATP after testing positive for crystal meth in 1997, WADA chief John Fahey says he expects the ATP "to shed light on this allegation"

So far nothing from the Grand Poobah's of American tennis journalism.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Andre Agassi and Crystal Meth

by Savannah

This has been breaking tennis news all day. It sounds self serving to say that Agassi's change in physical appearance has made me suspect him of drug use for some time but it did. It also makes me wonder about that rage filled episode in 2001 that he got away with. I just didn't suspect meth. Meth is not a drug that is used casually under any circumstances.

There was supposedly an embargo on this story. It wasn't supposed to break until early November. But it's out now. It seems that the old canard applies here about people in glass houses.

The 1992 Wimbledon champion, the winner of eight grand-slam titles, also says that he has always secretly hated playing tennis and lived in fear of his bad-tempered and violent father.

Agassi, now 39, relates how he took crystal meth - possession of which carries a maximum five-year jail sentence in the US - in 1997, when his form was falling and he was having doubts about his impending marriage to the actress, Brooke Shields.

Had the positive drugs test become public, the repercussions for Agassi could have been catastrophic. It remains to be seen whether repercussions will follow his confession.

In his book, Agassi recounts sitting at home with his assistant, referred to only as Slim, and being introduced to the drug. "Slim is stressed too ... He says, You want to get high with me? On what? Gack. What the hell's gack? Crystal meth. Why do they call it gack? Because that's the sound you make when you're high ... Make you feel like Superman, dude.

"As if they're coming out of someone else's mouth, I hear these words: You know what? F*** it. Yeah. Let's get high.

"Slim dumps a small pile of powder on the coffee table. He cuts it, snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I've just crossed.

"There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I've never felt so alive, so hopeful - and I've never felt such energy.

"I'm seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds."

In the autumn of a year in which he pulled out of the French Open and did not bother to practise for Wimbledon, Agassi is walking through New York's LaGuardia airport when he gets a phone call from a doctor working with the ATP.

"There is doom in his voice, as if he's going to tell me I'm dying," Agassi writes. "And that's exactly what he tells me."

Agassi learns that he has failed a drugs test. "He reminds me that tennis has three classes of drug violation," Agassi writes. "Performance-enhancing drugs ... would constitute a Class 1, he says, which would carry a suspension of two years. However, he adds, crystal meth would seem to be a clear case of Class 2. Recreational drugs." That would mean a three-month suspension.

"My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I've achieved, whatever I've worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It's filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.

"I say Slim, whom I've since fired, is a known drug user, and that he often spikes his sodas with meth - which is true. Then I come to the central lie of the letter. I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim's spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.

"I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it." The ATP reviewed the case - and threw it out.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend Winners

by Savannah

Francesca Schiavone WTA Kremlin Cup Champion 2009

Mikhail Youzhny ATP Kremlin Cup Champion 2009

Marcel Granollers left, and Pablo Cuevas 2009 ATP Kremlin Cup Doubles Champions

Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko 2009 WTA Kremlin Cup Doubles Champions

The New York Times published the following interview with Stacy Allaster today.

Special Report: W.T.A. Tour Championships, Doha
Tour’s New Chief Aims to Keep Shoring Up Women’s Game

Published: October 25, 2009

Stacey Allaster, the new chairman and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, is well aware that she has a tough act to follow. Larry Scott, her predecessor and former boss, is the tennis administrator who helped convince Wimbledon to offer equal prize money for men and women. Scott also shored up the once-vulnerable W.T.A.’s finances. He signed a lucrative $88 million deal with Sony Ericsson to sponsor the circuit for six years and secured $84 million more from the Doha and Istanbul tournaments over six years to stage the Tour’s year-end championships. Most important to the players, he generated a significant increase in prize money.

In exchange, Scott got the players’ permission to make real changes in the Tour structure this season. He shuffled the calendar and the Tour’s top events, decreased playing requirements and increased the penalties for those who do not respect the new, more reasonable minimums.

The reassuring news for Allaster is that she was part of the act. She had served under Scott as Tour president since 2006. After Scott, 44, left in July to become commissioner of an American college athletics conference, the Pacific-10, Allaster, an articulate 46-year-old Canadian, was named his successor.

Like Kim Clijsters, she is a working mother. Like Scott, who was captain of the tennis team at Harvard and had a brief career as a professional player before joining the sport’s administrative ranks, Allaster has spent a lifetime in the game, first as an amateur player and later as vice president of Tennis Canada and tournament director of the Canadian Open in Toronto.

But in the midst of an economic slump, Allaster must now find a way (and fast) to keep the revenue and the player support flowing. She is in the process of negotiating an extension with Sony Ericsson and is still doing a poor job of containing her delight that she now has the former world No. 1 Justine Henin on the comeback trail along with Clijsters, her fellow Belgian.

Allaster spoke last week with the International Herald Tribune:

Q. How do you view the first year of your restructured calendar, the so-called road map?

A. I really couldn’t be more pleased. I think overall what we tried to achieve was for our players to deliver to fans and sponsors, and they did that. We made player commitment at 80 percent of our events. If we dial it back to 2007, we didn’t make player commitment at one of our commitment events. That was a big part of what we were trying to reform — bringing credibility to the Sony Ericsson W.T.A. Tour — and our players have stepped up and delivered.

I think some of the other metrics relate to the business aspect of the road map. In this economy, there was a 34 percent increase in prize money, which was incredible.

For the first time in many years, all top-10 players who were part of the bonus pool in 2009 will all receive a bonus pool payout. That hasn’t happened since 2004, and that’s all tied to their delivery of commitment. And Jelena Jankovic will receive a million-dollar bonus-pool payout.

Q. Do you have injury numbers for the season?

A. Withdrawals as a whole are down 30 percent. To give you context, the number of first-round retirements in 2009 is 17, compared with 36 in 2008. And total retirements and walkovers are at 58 in 2009, compared to 71 in 2008.

Q. Tennis Magazine in France recently conducted a poll asking women’s players to rank the most important tournaments in the world. The year-end championships came in a distant 10th, after the four Grand Slams, Miami, Indian Wells, Fed Cup, Rome and Dubai. It’s interesting that the Doha event is ranked that low despite the prize money and number of points at stake. Is there work to be done?

We are only 10 months into the most comprehensive set of reforms in the history of the Tour, so it is an ongoing process to educate the players about what are the important events on our Tour. And why are they the important events? Because they really are the financial drivers of the business.

A. I liken where we are right now on the Sony Ericsson Tour to where we were back in 2001 on the men’s tour, when we brought the Masters Series in. It was about making those nine events important in the minds of the athletes after the Grand Slams. And when we look now to the generation of male players competing, you often hear them refer to winning Slams and winning Masters Series and, in many respects, that’s now where we need to get to with our athletes.

Q. Are your players aware of doing more for the business in a tough economy?

A. Many of them talk to me in those terms, even the younger ones. They understand it. Obviously they live in a world where they’re not affected by the economy, but they’re in touch enough to know what is happening around them.

Players like Venus Williams — you could not ask for a better player leader. She’s been incredibly supportive inside the Player Council, and I can tell you she’s been actively engaged with helping with the Sony Ericsson renewal. She recently participated in a meeting in New York with me with Sony Ericsson along with Billie Jean King and Melanie Oudin. I think we know the story there: the past, present and future all understand the importance of our sponsorship partners.

It took literally a nanosecond for all three of them to say, “If my schedule is clear, I’ll be there.”

Q. The situation around Serena Williams’s incident at the U.S. Open is ongoing. It’s still being investigated by the International Tennis Federation, but do you believe a potential one-Slam suspension is too draconian?

A. I don’t want to comment on what decision they might make.

But what I will say is: Look, Serena Williams is a great champion, and she’s been a terrific ambassador and role model for the sport of women’s tennis for her entire career. And the U.S. Open situation is an isolated incident, for which Serena has acknowledged that it was a mistake and she has apologized for it.

I get the following from this:
Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters were recruited, pressed to come back by the tour. Henin's "retirement" was over any way and Clijsters, who had very personal reasons for stepping away from the tour when she did, always seemed that she would come back.

Melanie Oudin as the future of tennis? Really? Let's see where she is this time next year before we start throwing swag and crowns at her.

Why no question about splitting the tour into two parts?

I still say the woman's public statements make her seem delusional.

Marcos Baghdatis 2009 Stockholm Champion

Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 2009 Doubles Champions Stockholm

Timea Bacsinszky 2009 Luxembourg Champion

Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova won the doubles at Luxembourg.

The official portrait for Doha 2009 as released by the WTA this morning.