This & That: Wimbledon Days 1&2

by Savannah

It’s kind of appropriate that Day 2 ended with a double fault by the woman who has perhaps benefitted the most from what passes for the WTA hype machine. Even after she admitted – she had no choice- that she’d been doping for ten years and that while every single athlete on the planet got the email and stopped taking that PED she alone missed it and according to some of her stans, was being persecuted by people out to get her for various and sundry reasons. The WTA broke its own rules to shoe horn her into a tournament a week before she should’ve been eligible and then proceeded to vilify events that wouldn’t give her a WC into the Main Draw. The subtext of all the hype was that she didn’t need meldonium, and that she was going to rise quickly through the ranks of a weak tour taking her “rightful” position in the top five. Things have not gone quite as planned though. Her days of bullying and screaming at people while not gone are not having the effect they once did. No one cares anymore.

Except they should. The women’s tour has long been seen as the poor cousin of the men’s tour. Many male players openly mock the women who sacrifice just as much as they do to play a sport many see as “effete” and “niche”. For the WTA to sacrifice it’s reputation for one player is pathetic. In any other sport – ANY OTHER SPORT – titles won while doping would’ve been stripped. Instead she was allowed to return as if she had been out for an injury. The hypocrisy surrounding her return and the return of a player who has won 23 Grand Slams after suffering major postpartum medical complications is there for all to see. All of the people “outraged” that Serena Williams was seeded sat on their hands while the women’s tour made itself into a laughing stock. When so called journalists can’t see the difference between the return of a doper and the return of a true champion the word “journalist” shouldn’t be applied to them.

From a US perspective the other big news on the women’s side was Sloane Stephens going down to defeat in Round 1 after making the Final at Roland Garros. It was only news to those who willfully ignore Stephens history and want to make her into someone she’s not.

Stephens showed up in London on the Friday before play began. Keep in mind most players had already been in town for at least a week: some had been there longer.I have no idea why Stephens showed up late, didn’t play a warm up event, and thought she was going to breeze into the second week of Wimbledon. She was woefully unprepared both mentally and physically and it showed.

Sloane is lazy (as attested to by former coaches) and arrogant. I guess it’s a good thing that she slinked out of London without going the route of fellow US player Jack Sock who is lazy, arrogant, crude and rude. Then again that seems to be a requirement for US men so maybe singling out his behavior isn’t warranted.

But back to Stephens. She will continue to get a free ride from the US media because her surname isn’t Williams. They want to show her off as that woman of color who didn’t have to come from outside of the US tennis system. Good luck with that. I wonder how long Kamau Murray is going to stick around?

There are two Petra Kvitova’s. One is a big, clean hitter of the ball, who can be a bit of a serve bot due to her lack of good movement and yet can come to the net if it’s on her own terms. Then there is the woman her fans call “P3tra”. You can always tell when P3tra is on court because she’s incapable of hitting winners or taking control of the court. Petra came to Wimbledon as fit as I’ve ever seen her and even I thought that she’d make a deep run and possibly win it all, especially since she’s won five tournaments this year on multiple surfaces. The evil twin made her appearance though and Petra will be able to rest and prepare for her next event.

In all fairness I did see about three minutes of the match and Petra seemed to be grabbing at her right hip.

It’s also a thing that being as fit (thin) as she is she just might not be used to playing at that weight. The paunch is gone, she’s mostly muscle now, and should’ve been able to wage war on her opponents. Instead she’s gone. Somewhere P3tra is laughing.

Then there is the weird case of Caroline Garcia. I know she’s the top ranked woman in France but every time I sit down to try and watch her my mind wanders. I wish I could say she works my nerves or has irritating on court habits but as far as I can see she doesn’t. She seems to be a very nice young woman. You don’t play professional tennis if you’re not hyper competitive but when she takes the court I wake up when her match is over. My feeling is that she doesn’t do anything “special” and yet I can’t say that with authority because, well, she bores me. At least Johanna Konta repels me. I don’t watch her matches but that’s because she just makes me want to scream. Or throw things. Or something.

I watched some of Vera Zvonareva vs Angelique Kerber earlier today. Vera showed flashes of the player she used to be but it was pretty obvious that Kerber would win. If Vera is playing this time next year her results could be better.

I expect that there will be a renewal of the Eugenie Bouchard hype. She made it through Qualies and won her first round match. Look out world!

I’ve been watching mostly women’s tennis so far. I plan to do so for the rest of the week.  This way when I talk about all of the women playing the same and looking alike I’ll have a frame of reference.

End Notes

I absolutely love the Adidas shorts kit. it looks cool without the player being half naked and allows freedom of movement.

Serena isn’t in a full body compression suit but she is wearing compression hose. Once again the same people who criticized the cat suit are hot and bothered by compression hose. They need to focus on her tennis and the fact that after going through what she did she’s back on court and playing competitively.

There is no easy answer at the present time re seeding of players coming back from maternity leave. I stick to my proposal that a panel of tennis players who have given birth, assisted by medical professionals, be consulted. The player’s on the panel should have given birth within the last five to ten years or so. If, like Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka a player has had a complication free vaginal delivery there should be nothing special done re ranking. On the other hand if there were life threatening complications that force a player to need special care and attention well after her baby has been delivered the special panel should consult with the ITF and the WTA about her return and how it should be handled, especially if the player was top ten when she went on maternity leave.

And please, miss me with that noise about paternity leave.

©2018 Savanahs Tennis World. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This and That

by Savannah

It’s been quite some time since I’ve used up cyber ink to post about tennis. A lot has happened hasn’t it? Where to start? How about with some positives.

A couple of years ago I chose a then virtually unknown teenager named Alexander Zverev as my one to watch. As I write this he’s made his first ATP M1000 final defeating John Isner in three sets. It should’ve been over in two sets but for a bit of a walkabout by Sascha in the second set but there’s no need to quibble. Of course now everyone and their brother is on the Zverev bandwagon and it feels good to say I was one of the first to see his potential. His emotions are under much tighter control now but those diva-ish moments still happen.

Venus Williams is still striding her way through women’s tennis head high and ruining peoples days. She doesn’t win everything anymore but she goes deep enough in tournaments to keep her ranking in the top ten. Good for her.

Speaking of Venus someone asked why Tommy Haas is still playing at his age. I answered this way. Both Haas (never been a fan) and Venus could be thinking the best years of their tennis lives were disrupted by injury and illness. Now that they’re as healthy and fit as they can be they want to do what they love and that is play tennis. Why not? Tennis journalists were praising Andre Agassi to the heavens if I recall correctly. Martina Navratilova played until she couldn’t anymore. There’s precedent for this. If an older player manages their schedule and adjusts their training and diet to keep them in peak form I say let them play.

While senior players are looking after themselves and enjoying their wins it seems the Brits are in a spot of bother about their stars. When I say that of course I’m talking about Andrew Murray who, after losses on his least favorite surface said he felt maybe he should be worried. It’s not that he was losing he was losing early. Murray just turned 30 and is now at the age where back in the day tennis players would be looking for something else to do. That said, I think the Brits need to calm down. Murray’s style of play is, at least in my opinion, an acquired taste. When he’s on he’s on. When he’s not, he’s just not. They’re also trying to downplay that he had shingles, a very painful skin condition and one that takes a while to recover from. I guess they’re freaking out because after Murray there really isn’t anyone. Yes they’re pushing Kyle Edmund and legend in his own mind Dan Evans but really Edmund, if he can find a way to beat his contemporaries on a regular basis, could become top twenty it looks like that possibility is still in the realm of wishful thinking.

As for the British women who is there besides Johanna Konta? It looks as if Laura Robson, once the fair haired girl (and like Konta also an Aussie import) won’t be more than an ITF player. Heather Watson? Again nothing has changed. When she reaches the business end of a shot, let alone a match, her decision making makes you wonder where her brain is. Every now and then she stirs herself to get a good result but for the most part it’s second, maybe third round, and out.

Meanwhile in the US we’re not much better off than the Brits. At least their man is ranked number 1. Diminutive Lauren Davis has been our most consistent player. I don’t see Madison Keys winning a major although with the right draw she could come close. Catherine Bellis, Louisa Chirico, Taylor Fritz, and Reilly Opelka are the ones getting all the hype from the USTA but it was Frances Tiafoe who got a win over Jeremy Chardy and young Ernesto Escobedo who are out there doing the hard work. As always with US tennis it comes down to expectations based on who you are vs talent no matter who you are. That’s why Naomi Osaka is playing for Japan and not the United States. The USTA didn’t want her. The Japanese federation jumped right in and the rest is history. Unfortunately Tiafoe, whose family is from Sierra Leone, and Escobedo, whose family comes from Mexico, have not other rich Federation ready to come in and throw money at them. Both young men are American by birth so it’s the USTA they have to deal with.

I mentioned the ATP top player so it’s only fair to mention the WTA’s top ranked player, Angelique Kerber. She’s not having fun this year at all. She’s ranked number one because Serena Williams is expecting her first child in late summer. Keep in mind the WTA rushed out PR touting her attaining the top ranking before the new rankings were official at the end of last year. There was all kinds of talk from tennis journalists about how she would dominate. Welp. Once again we see it’s easier being the hunter than the hunted. She may fluke her way to another Slam but right now it looks as if she’s running scared. Waiting in the wings is Karolina Pliskova. Her game is still what it has been, one dimensional and if you make her have to move and bend you’ve got a good chance of beating her. But if things continue as they are she could be the next number one player.

If you think I’m talking about everything but the one topic that is dominating the tennis world I am. There isn’t much to say on the subject. I’ve felt from the beginning that the ITF recommendation of a four year ban was the right way to go. The two year ban, while a slap on the wrist in my opinion, was a good compromise. When the CAS threw out the ITF report and decided, based on nothing but PR, that the suspension should be reduced there was nothing to do but throw up your hands.

What’s even worse is that the WTA has pulled out all the stops to try and make it seem everyone, her peers and the press, thought she’d be done wrong and that the doping ban was equivalent to an injury or pregnancy break. It’s not. Thankfully the French Tennis Federation threw a huge bucket of cold water on those who, in my opinion, were leading the charge to destroy women’s tennis with their shenanigans. No Main Draw Wild Cards for dopers. End of story. To avoid a second embarrassment she and her team rightly decided that they would accept what they’ve got and play Qualies at Wimbledon.

Steve Simon, the hapless head of the WTA, has put a lot of effort into trying to rehabilitate a doper. Meanwhile it’s almost impossible to see a women’s tennis match and it doesn’t seem that anything is happening on that front. In the final analysis tennis fanatics are tennis fanatics. If they can’t see the version they love they’ll look at what is available. By the time the WTA get’s it’s thumb out of it’s ass they will have lost many fans to men’s tennis which is easy to see on many platforms.

So many have worked so hard to promote women’s tennis as a sport not a side show. It hurts to see it reduced to its current state. Yes I’ve said this before and I have to keep saying it. I don’t get paid to write this blog so I’m beholden to no one but myself. If Steve Simon is representative of the upper echelon of US tennis no wonder the USTA is in the state it’s in. Maybe if they stopped giving each other awards and focused on marketing the sport and developing talent no matter where it comes from maybe, just maybe, a US player can hold up a trophy from a major tournament.

End Note

Roland Garros. While the clay season continues in Europe and South America this tournament is the official end of the clay court season for much of the main tour. As usual I’m sad to see it come to an end. From the start of the Golden Swing to the last match in Paris I feel you see tennis at its best. The physical and the mental, combined with creativity, all come into play during a clay court match in the way it doesn’t on other surfaces. Each shot is a question or an answer. The ante is raised during each rally until someone makes a declarative statement meant to close out the discussion. It’s beautiful to watch.

© Savannahs World 2017 All Rights Reserved

Positive Changes Are Coming

by Savannah

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) made announcements on March 30 that will affect tennis in two ways: how it’s governed and how the tours will be organized.

Let’s look at organization first.

One of the problems often cited by those who are deeply into the sport is the fact that many people play at a “pro” level but rarely, if ever, make any money doing so. Some say it’s because of this that match fixing is rampant at the Challenger and Futures levels. Yes those are terms usually used to refer to the lower levels of mens tennis. In women’s tennis you have various levels based on the amount of prize money an event pays out. The ITF, in a press release, said the following:

In order to address..issues, the Board has approved the implementation in 2019 of a new ITF Transition Tour, featuring a new category of interim tournament at entry-level that will better aid the transition from junior to professional tennis and ensure a continued opportunity for players from any nation to join the player pathway. These tournaments will be held within a localised circuit structure that reduces costs and increases opportunity for players, and reduces staging costs for organisers.

Transition Tour tournaments will be created through the repositioning of the existing $15,000 (Level I) tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit that will no longer be held as part of the Pro Circuit in 2019.

Transition Tour tournaments will offer ITF Entry Points instead of ATP/WTA ranking points, with the two systems linked to ensure that the more successful players are able to use their ITF Entry Points to gain acceptance into ITF Pro Circuit tournaments.

The ITF’s proposed restructuring will radically reduce the number of professional players competing for ATP and WTA ranking points. The ITF’s extensive modeling work has led to a recommended professional player group of no more than 750 men and 750 women players. This new approach will
introduce a clearer and more effective professional pathway and ensure that prize money levels at ITF Pro Circuit events are better targeted to ensure that more players can make a living from the professional game.

Some say this is just shuffling deck chairs while others say it’ll make a somewhat chaotic process better. It’s hard to say. The ITF is giving itself, and the tours, two years to implement this new system. I think it’s a good idea. The tours have been unable to regulate themselves around the issue of Challenger/ITF events so it fell to the ITF to try and impose order. All people can offer now is opinions. 2019 will be here soon enough.

Another issue the ITF chose to address at it’s upcoming meeting has to do with the granting of Wild Cards (WC’s) when a player comes back from a drug suspension.

You have to be naïve to think current events have nothing to do with them deciding to look at putting in writing what would in any other sport be common sense. A WC is a reward for a job well done. A player can be given one if they’ve worked hard and achieved certain milestones in his or her career in terms of wins. It’s also given to a player who had achieved a high rank and due to injury or pregnancy had to take time off from the tour. It perverts the meaning of a WC when it’s given to a player coming off of a drug suspension no matter how long the suspension was for.

Needless to say the news didn’t break in the US. It was reported in Danish sports media and quoted Thomas Kønigsfeldt, one of the sixteen members of the ITF Board of Directors who is quoted as saying the following:

He said that current rules allow wildcards to be decided by tournaments without consideration to what caused the players’ absence or loss of ranking. Instead, a period of one year without wildcards should be enforced for players returning from bans for anti-doping rule violations, so that they are not viewed as being treated favorably by the tennis system.

“We need clear rules, and it is clear that this is not the case here. I have a clear sense that the ITF Board of Directors has agreed that we must do everything possible to combat doping.”

He goes on to say players and other board members feel the same way he does.
Good. I don’t understand how tennis can say it’s anti doping then turn around and reward dopers. It’s really not a good look.

At any rate the ITF seems to be stepping up and taking the sport in needed directions. Let’s see what happens going forward.

© 2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

2017 Indian Wells This and That

by Savannah

The big guns will begin play over the weekend at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California. Women’s Main Draw play began March 8th and the men began play March 9th. Despite this being early in the tournament there’s been enough news to keep tennis fans not only busy but scratching their heads.

Let’s start with the Wild Card situation. The following players all received WC’s into the Main Draw:

Frances Tiafoe
Stefan Kozlov
Taylor Fritz
Reilly Opelka
Bjorn Fratangelo
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Nicole Gibbs
Taylor Townsend
Danielle Collins
Irina Falconi
Kayla Day
Jennifer Brady
Donna Vekic

The only two who made it through are Bjorn Fratangelo who played a very disinterested  Bernard Tomic, and Donna Vekic, the only non American to receive a WC and the only one to make it to round two in what I assume was a competitive match. By that I mean her opponent was trying her best to win.

And yes it does seem as if she and her boyfriend are a package deal at majors these days. There were signs of relief from some tennis professionals when she made it through to the next round. I guess they were sick of the word “undeserved” being thrown around when she was mentioned.

I’ve been a tennis fan a long time, longer than I’ve been blogging. I’ve also been in the corporate world where a lot of underhanded shady shit goes on. That said I’m well aware that a Federation can grant WC’s to whomever it wants. We saw the same thing in Australia in January where only local talent got Main Draw Wild Cards (MDWC’S). That’s fine. Just don’t bitch and moan when your players are shut out at events in Europe. Sadly, most US players right now are cannon fodder for the top players. Their one dimensional games just don’t cut it against players who can actually strategize and construct points during a match. Let me take a minute to discuss one WC, Danielle Collins.

I’m sure she’s a nice person. She’s easy on the eyes and wears a kit that puts all of her assets on display. She’s been a NCAA champion two times. Sorry USTA, she’s not ready for prime time. Monica Puig made her look like a ball kid getting a hit with a pro player. She had no business in the MD of a tournament this big.

To be fair I did see some of Reilly Opelka’s match. He’s got a hell of a serve.

Random Thoughts

Usually it’s the WTA that’s getting dragged for it’s horrible draws. It seems that like everything else these days the WTA has been out done in that department by the ATP. By now you’ve all seen the mens singles draw. Speaking as someone who’s seen some cakewalks given to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic the one Andy Murray just got beats all of them. Federer must be green with envy. What the hell were they thinking? I know, I know they want Murray to win here. Shouldn’t he have to play some tennis on the way to the Final though? Whoever comes out of the bottom part of the draw will be match tough. Sometimes that’s better than la-de-dahing your way to a Final. We’ll see.

What is the ATP to do about Tomic? Some commentators hinted that ATP brass was court side observing his effort, or lack thereof, against Fratangelo Thursday. I don’t think he gave a fuck. He roused himself to look as if he were trying in what turned out to be the last game of the match and made Fratangelo need five match points to win it. He gave himself away when a shot he made was called out and he challenged just for the hell of it. When it was called in he was visibly annoyed and put his hands on his hips and hung his head. That was the only part of the match I saw. Two things have to happen: Tennis Australia has to stop giving him money and the ATP needs to heavily fine him and start denying him appearance fees if he gets them. The only language he understands is money. He can live large all he wants as long as he does the work that his job requires. Will anything be done? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Thanks to Alizé Cornet the WTA had to remove it’s horrible Tweet regarding an article that supposedly showcased how happy WTA players are to see a convicted doper descend from the heavens back onto the Main Tour. It’s bad enough that the headline bore no resemblane to what was really being said in the article. The WTA was forced to take the tweet, and the article down. Ms Cornet, who is out injured, also deleted her tweet. Of course nothing ever dies in cyberspace so if you didn’t see the exchange here’s a screen shot:

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Right now the doper and her team, along with WTA head Steve Simon, are trying to strong arm the FFT (French Tennis Federation) into granting her a WC into the French Open main draw. More WTA players are ignoring the gag order the WTA imposed and speaking out. Even Angelique Kerber said something against the doper being shoehorned into Stuttgart. ATP players have joined in the fray. They may get what they want but it’s not going to be pretty.

By the way Steve where’s that WTA streaming platform we were promised? Maybe less time should be spent trying to rehab the image of a doper and more time spent making sure your product is visible to the fans you still have? Fans shouldn’t have to resort to low quality betting sites to see women’s tennis. Fans shouldn’t have to miss almost all of women’s play except for one match featuring one of the Blonde Brigade from Canada. What a joke.

Also, don’t think we’ve forgotten that post congratulating Kerber on regaining the number one ranking while Serena Williams is still in place at the top. It was unseemly. Uncalled for. Disrespectful. But hey, keep pushing that doper!

End Note

Francesa Schiavone was never considered marketable by the WTA. She’s not blonde. She’s got an aggressive on court demeanor. Her on court noise was not considered that of a competitor like another players. Until recently, she’s been one of the top ranked players. Age has seen her performance level drop. But fans, including this one, watch her matches. After all the nonsense yesterday this was the saddest thing I read, and a testimony to how low the WTA has fallen and how badly it treats it’s players.

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Many of us tweeted our support to Franny. Let’s see what her tour does.

The Asian Swing 2016

by Savannah

Both the ATP and the WTA are winding up their sojourns in Asia. The WTA will return for it’s end of year events in Zuhai and Singapore while the ATP will end it’s year on indoor courts in Europe.

We’re several years into what is now called the Asian Swing, enough time to evaluate the growth of the sport especially in China. Japan has had high level women’s and men’s tournaments for awhile as evidenced by it’s “Prince of Tennis” anime cartoon. It’s the addition of China, and that country’s stated goal of adding a fifth Slam to the tennis calendar. As we know the Australian Open has rebranded itself the Asian Pacific Slam and it’s my opinion that the Australian Open isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Will Beijing, Shanghai or maybe Wuhan be upgraded? That remains to be seen. Of the three only Beijing brings both tours to one place. It’s also questionable whether a Slam so soon after the US Open is feasible. Travel stress would affect the players and the time differences will affect the number of viewers in countries that are outside of the Asia Pacific rim.

The other problem that stares you in the face is the lack of butts in the seats. The venues themselves are beautiful. Shanghai’s lotus style main court is architecturally beautiful and is my personal favorite but all of the tennis venues in China have their own “specialness”. The only thing missing is fans. These are huge stadiums and the visuals are horrible when the camera pans the venue and the fans are maybe two to three rows deep around the edge of the court, if that. It’s also obvious that the problem isn’t unique to one tour. Both tours have had their best playing to empty stadiums.

When thinking about tennis lackluster performance in China so far I remind myself about how the Chinese dealt with ice skating. Their first athletes in the sport were pretty bad but now they’re at the pinnacle of the sport. Right now it appears that the women are progressing ahead of the men but there doesn’t seem to be any one ready to make the break through yet. Time will tell. Until that happens I think things will stay as they are with crowds in Japan and to a lesser extent in South Korea but low attendance in China.

This and That

Not one, but two British newspapers weighed in on the shameful displays put on by World Team Tennis in regards to Maria Sharapova . If you haven’t read either article here are the links.

The first is by US based sports writer Andrew Jerell Jones.

The second is by a British bases sports writer Oliver Brown.

Not one US sports outlet found it in his or her best interests to call the event what it really was – a blot on the sport of tennis and a slap in the face to clean athletes everywhere.

Tennis Channel acted as if the suspended doper was coming back from an injury related sabbatical and not still serving a doping suspension.

Despite the disgraceful behavior by the USTA, the WTA and Head there is an individual who if it wasn’t for her status as the mother of women’s tennis would’ve been raked mercilessly over the coals by fans. I have no idea why she, or anyone involved thought this was the best thing to do for the sport they love. I just hope they all wnet home and scrubbed the dirt off when the event was over.

It’s one thing when a fan site high handedly bans all discussion of the subject. It’s another when the pro’s, who know better, try to help a doper sweep her offenses away.

©2016 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

The Verdict Part 2

by Savannah

There’s a reason long legal documents should be read over a period of time. For a non legally trained mind the task becomes tedious – either you fall asleep or you get distracted by the latest foible of a favorite actor or singer, or immersed in a new television show.

Yes I’m copping a plea. I totally missed the tidbit of information buried in Paragraph 93 Section C of the CAS Report on one Maria Sharapova. I’m opting to post the whole of Paragraph 93.

93. In addition, the Panel notes that:
a. There had been no significantly publicized case of a Meldonium positive in
Olympic sports and no prior case at all in tennis;
b. The Player took a public position acknowledging that she took Meldonium
and that she accepted responsibility therefor, and she did so in a very public
way, calling a press conference, on her own, that brought worldwide
publicity to her case and to the use of Meldonium going forward;
c. The Panel gives no weight to the fact that the ITF later rejected her
application for a TUE to use Mildronate; that action in part precipitated her
appeal of the charges in this case, and so it could not be used as a basis to
justify a longer sanction as requested by the ITF.

Interesting isn’t it? Section C seems to say that Ms Sharapova tried to get what would be a post dated TUE for the ailments she claimed to be suffering from and the ITF wasn’t having it. It was after that rejection that the decision was taken by Sharapova and her team to appeal the ITF’s final decision.

I’ve also noticed that the CAS reached it’s decision based what can only be called bold faced lies. To the ITF Sharapova said that she failed to read the emails, the cards, or the notifications by RUSADA, her tennis federation. According to the CAS report no one tried to notify her leaving she and her agent (who was allegedly in charge of keeping her anti doping regimen up to date) in the dark. She’s now taking the position that she is a victim of an ITF vendetta aimed not only at her but all Eastern Europeans.

So where do we go from here? Despite the PR blitz by her and her fans she is still suspended and will have to serve out the remaining months of her now 15 month suspension. Will she be able to go back to using meldonium? If she does it’s my understanding that to do so would subject her to a second doping violation since the drug is still banned by WADA. Will she find a doctor to confirm her need of angina medication in the States and apply for a TUE based on his or her diagnosis of her health? Or will she compete PED free to avoid another ADRV?

There are more questions. Will the WTA fight to get her favorable draws? I think that’s a given. Will the ITF be intimidated by Sharapova’s threat to sue the organization?

There’s no doubt that the WTA still thinks of her as the face of women’s tennis. The fact that the WTA almost immediately issued a statement that basically said “order restored” while it still hasn’t let fans know where women’s tennis will be streamed in 2017? Talk about priorities.

It’s just amazing to me that an athlete, currently under suspension for a doping offense, is being treated like a queen by tennis media. Tennis, and the thousands of clean athletes who play at the pro level, deserve better.

The Verdict – And The Arrogance

by Savannah

These amazing paragraphs appear towards the end of the CAS Report on the appeal by Maria Sharapova of her two year ban due to doping by the ITF.

100. The Panel wishes to emphasize that based on the evidence, the Player did not endeavour to mask or hide her use of Mildronate and was in fact open about it to many in her entourage and based on a doctor’s recommendation, that she took the substance with the good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules and her anti-doping obligations, as it was over a long period of her career, and that she was not clearly informed by the relevant anti-doping authorities of the change in the rules. After
its de novo review here, the Panel has determined it does not agree with many of the conclusions of the Tribunal, except as otherwise specifically indicated herein.

1 01. Finally, the Panel wishes to point out that the case it heard, and the award it renders, was not about an athlete who cheated. It was only about the degree of fault that can be imputed to a player for her failure to make sure that the substance contained in a product she had been legally taking over a long period, and for most of the time on the basis of a doctor’s prescription, remained in compliance with the TADP and WADC.
No question of intent to violate the TADP or W ADC was before this Panel: under no circumstances, therefore, can the Player be considered to be an “intentional doper”.

The report is 28 pages long but I think that a reader can get the gist of things just by reading these words.

Let’s break down what is being said here.

The Panel wishes to emphasize that based on the evidence, the Player did not endeavour to mask or hide her use of Mildronate and was in fact open about it to many in her entourage and based on a doctor’s recommendation, that she took the substance with the good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules and her anti-doping obligations, as it was over a long period of her career, and that she was not clearly informed by the relevant anti-doping authorities of the change in the rules.

Word for word that sounds like the argument that the ITF rejected as unbelievable. Who are the “many in her entourage” who knew? Her nutritionist? Her coaches? Her doctors based in the United States? WTA medical staff? If anyone read the initial report it was clear that the only person who knew about her doping was her father. Sure her agent has fallen on his sword and taken the weight for not advising his client due to “personal issues” but the ITF panel saw that for the ruse it was and is. I wonder if he does the drug checking for his other clients?

If she felt meldonium was nothing more than aspirin why didn’t she list it on her medical forms? Why not tell your coaches and the medical staff you hired (or used in the case of the WTA staff) that you were taking this drug? Why didn’t you have a doctor in the country where you reside, the United States, assess your physical condition? In the original report it’s clearly stated that she relied on a prescription written in 2006 by a Russian doctor. No medical doctor worth his or her salt would allow an athlete to rely on a prescription that old without doing their own examination and assessment of the athlete. Hell, no competent doctor would allow anyone to self medicate for that long a period of time without the proper medical tests being performed. But here we have the man in charge of this hearing saying that “many” in her entourage knew. It’s a blatant lie.

They stick to the lie by saying that the case was not about an athlete who cheated but about the “degree of fault” that can be ascribed to a player. To quote:

“It was only about the degree of fault that can be imputed to a player for her failure to make sure that the substance contained in a product she had been legally taking over a long period, and for most of the time on the basis of a doctor’s prescription, remained in compliance with the TADP and WADC.”

Stunningly myopic is one way to put it. A blatant lie is what I will call it.

And yet they didn’t exonerate her. Instead they reduced the ban to 15 months. Some were hoping for her to be completely cleared. Some thought she’d should get a year because it “wasn’t her fault”. The hell it wasn’t her fault. Her PR machine created the image of a woman who was hands on in every aspect of her career, a woman who would make sure that unless she was being paid to drink water would remove the tag. A woman who called WADA when she was changing a vitamin regimen. But somehow this “strong woman” turned her most important career choice, what drugs she could legally take, over to her agent who has no medical training whatsoever and who became distracted by personal issues and din’t read the WADA notifications that began in September 2015. Talk about dereliction of duty!

The other amazing thing is that WADA is called out for not making a special effort to reach out to Eastern Europeans who took the stuff like candy. Really? Wouldn’t that be discriminatory? Why should one group get favored treatment over another? That this argument was accepted by the CAS is setting an amazing precedent. Going forward can’t an athlete say that he or she didn’t understand the notices because they weren’t given a special outreach due to some circumstance or another?

I suggest that everyone read both reports.

The ITF should’ve given her the four years they wanted to.

Oh, and what does the woman who benefitted from the mental gymnastics seen in the CAS report? Did she express her gratitude and ask that everyone move forward? No.

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Yeah. I’d call that arrogance.

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