The Latest from the Tennis World

Tennis’s fall season has always been notoriously slow with regards to events or major talking points and for the most part, this fall hasn’t been any different.

Nevertheless, the fall usually gives tennis’s up and coming stars, and at times those who have lost their a chance to make a final impression on the season and build up some momentum towards the next season.  On that note, this fall hasn’t failed to disappoint either.  The biggest difference from last year has been the controversial doping scandals that have plagued tennis, all year.  Here are a few thoughts on some of the latest happenings in the tennis world over the last few weeks.

  • In pursuit of Inspiration

Novak Djokovic hasn’t been feeling particularly spry lately.  The top ranked Serb has a red hot Scot – Andy Murray – breathing down his neck for that treasured number one ranking, and real reason to worry.  Murray just swept through the field in Beijing, and is still showing the kind of consistency, late into the season, that has marked his campaign all year.  What’s worse?  Djokovic has cited a lack of inspiration for most of his recent sub-standard performances.  Let’s hope he finds it soon.  Murray and the rest of the field are feeling very inspired at the moment.

  • Man on a Mission

Like I said earlier, Andy Murray is feeling pretty inspired.  He is still on course to putting together his most impressive season and by far his most consistent.  Working out the clay court performance bugs have boosted his game immensely.  It also helps that he’s got Ivan Lendl back in his corner – the coach he’s historically, had the most success with.  Anyone thinks it’s coincidence that Murray won his third grand slam title right after Lendl rejoined the team?  Nevertheless the ultimate goal will be to claim the World Number One ranking.  A feat the Scot has never achieved before.

  • Signs of Progress

It’s old news.  Grigor Dimitrov stormed the tennis world in 2009, inspiring comparisons to the great Roger Federer.  He continued to do so and steadily worked his way up the rankings until 2014 – his best season till date.  Then he inexplicably lost his way.  Maybe it was the pressure of finally knocking on the door of stardom.  Maybe it was the expectation that got to him.  A lot of people have varying theories, but I still believe that Grigor’s biggest undoing lay in the fundamental purpose of his game.  For a long time, it appeared that purpose, was to hit a terrific shot.  If it was, he definitely achieved his goal.  Dimitrov was a perpetual lock for hot shot of the week, and not much else.  Recently his game has started to take on a different look.  The exuberant and unnecessary displays of talent have largely reduced and there is a slight improvement in the construction of his rallies, particularly on big points.  The result?  A solid finalist display in Beijing last week – he defeated Rafael Nadal on the way to the title match.  He’s not there yet, but at least it is something to build on.  With Dimitrov, we’ll take it week by week.

  • The Escape Artist

Maria Sharapova is not the most well-liked tennis player at the moment and some would argue, for good reason.  Not only did she publicly admit to positively testing for Meldonium earlier in the year, she went through an equally public case with WADA, the ITF and eventually CAS.  The end result?  A 24 month ban was reduced to 15 months by WADA – some of which had already been served.  Most of the players haven’t been too happy about the final decision, even as it is respected.  While the general consensus has been that the decision undermines the integrity of the Anti-doping system, it is by far not the only factor in this integrity erosion.  A lot of questions still surround WADA’s drug classification system, as well as the lesser issue of TUEs.  Major or minor, these incidents have all served to carve out a rift between the sporting authorities, the players and the fans.  Let’s hope that just as the Maria doping scandal marked the beginning of a large doping misadventure, the final ruling ends what has been an ugly distraction in the world of tennis, this year.

As the tennis world moves on to another popular Chinese city for the Shanghai masters event, one can only hope so.



3 replies »

  1. Prior to this blog post I was unaware that there was such a doping scandal in the tennis world. Majority of my intelligence on the matter came from maria Sharapova’s doping scandal, and personally I think you have highlighted this scandal quite well – starting wight he title ‘The Escape Artist.’

    Do you think as someone who is obviously passionate about doping that her end result of a 24 month ban, being reduced to 15 months by WADA was fair? In my opinion, it isn’t! Those who test positive should have a life ban. Why? Because unlike dopers, their competitors have worked extremely hard to get to the point of the career they are at without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

    I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions of this matter. I currently run a campaign called Don’t Dope and would love your feedback. Thanks for your time!

    • Hi Isabella. Your thoughts and insights into the doping manner are very interesting and it has got me thinking. First of all I’d like to commend you on your efforts to campaign against doping and its ill effects on sport.

      I’ll start by saying that Tennis has been relatively fortunate to go without really crippling doping scandals. There have been a few minor hits over the years – Mariano Puerta, Richard Gasquet, Victor Troicki, and Marin Cilic come to mind. However, the Maria Sharapova scandal has certainly been the biggest in maybe the last two decades or so.

      When it comes to punishment, we could debate that all day. I agree, it is highly unfair to players who have worked honestly and stayed within the rules. Unfortunately, these decisions aren’t so black and white. One of the reasons I believe Maria’s sentence was reduced (and it was reduced by CAS, not WADA) was simply because WADA couldn’t conclusively prove that Meldonium actually provides any performance enhancing benefits. And therein lies the problem. To have a clear cut judgment, we need to have a Jury that is clear cut on what constitutes doping or not.

      Here are some questions to consider.
      When would you say Maria started doping? When she was prescribed Meldonium by her doctor about a decade ago or the moment WADA banned Meldonium? P.S. take into account that WADA knew she and other Athletes were taking Meldonium, for a long time.

      What do you think of TUEs? Does it blur the line of cheating? Am I not cheating if I am legally authorized to use a banned substance that is proven to enhance my performance and someone else is not legally authorized but is using it anyway?

      Is cheating in this example the fact that I am breaking the law, or that I am taking a banned substance as permitted by the law? The drug doesn’t care how I take it, it will still do what it does… Enhance performance.

      So a lifetime ban should be reserved I think for severe cases and repeat offenders like a Mariano Puerta for instance. I thought a 24 month ban for Maria was standard enough. I think she was very fortunate to have it reduced. Does it send a message of leniency? Perhaps. Did it expose a system that needs to be fine-tuned? Definitely. I’m all for fine-tuning. I think that will be the best way to combat what is becoming an alarming trend in sports.

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