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.


Karen said...

Thought I would give everyone a laugh with this article written by Simon Reed regarding Andy Murray. It is just absolutely brilliant. You cannot make this stuff up.

Matt said...

On an unrelated topic of fallen WTA heroes...

Whatever happened to Alexandra Stevenson?? Were there personal reasons behind her rapid decline in the rankings??

And Nicole Vaidisova..?? Do you have any goss Savannah?? Does it have something to do with Stepanek?? My theory is yes!!!!!!!!!

rabbit said...

To be fair though, Roger's comments on Agassi were not as harshly critical as Rafa's. Rafa called Agassi a "cheater" if I remember correctly.

“It was a shock when I heard the news,” said Federer at a sponsor function. “I’m disappointed and I hope there are no more such cases in future. The sport must stay clean.” He added that the now-retired 39-year-old Agassi “has done a lot for tennis. He raises millions of dollars for his foundation for disadvantaged children.”

I personally agree more with Rafa than with Roger on this.