Wow. What a week we just survived in Tennis Land. Four tournaments across the hemispheres, two doping scandals and a couple wrecked champs. Do we really have to keep going? I feel like we could all use an extended summer vacation.
First, the good news. We had four very likable champions this weekend in Cibulkova (Stanford vs. Radwanska), Isner (Atlanta vs. Anderson), Youzhny (Gstaad vs. Haase) and Robredo (in Umag, preventing Fognini from winning his 3rd title in a row!). Both Mikhail and Tommy were representing for the thirty-somethings, cold comfort for fans of Mr. Thirtysomething Himself, Roger Federer, who crashed out in his first match in Gstaad vs. Daniel Brands. Since then, we’ve heard that 1. Roger’s back is killing him and 2. he may not play Montreal and 3. he has no idea how his game is going with the new racquet and 3.(via Tennis.com):
“A change like this (racquet) is very important but I honestly can’t tell right now due to my low level. It’s hard to analyze anything,” he said (in Gstaad). “I still don’t have even enough information to try and explain. I have no clue where I am right now with the racquet change.”
“No clue!” Not exactly what we’re used to hearing from the perpetually savvy RF. This guy is the McKinsey and Co. of tennis pros – his every move is considered and calculated to maximize his performance. So we Fed Fans are understandably stymied. Do we hope he plays Montreal, encourage him to stick with the new stick, beg him to go on bed rest for the rest of the season? In a nutshell – yes! Or no! Whatever you want, Roger, seriously. This Fed Fan, at least, has decided that 2013 will be Roger’s “lost season”, where he goes off the grid to whatever degree is pleasing to him until he’s ready to reemerge. Perhaps he just needs to take a week or two to regroup for Cincy. Maybe he needs to skip the US Open (could you imagine!?) At this point I’m just giving him a pass. Dude deserves it. (As does Maria Sharapova, who pulled out of both Stanford and now the upcoming Rogers Cup in Toronto due to a hip injury she sustained at Wimbledon. Gives her more time to talk smack with Jimmy Connors! Can you tell I’m looking forward to their first time on court together?)
I give Tommy Robredo very little love on this site, mostly because I’ve decided he’s boring and superfluous – the Julien Benneteau of Spanish tennis – but then I read this quote from him after his big win this weekend and realize that he’s not only a living, breathing human being but a damn thoughtful one at that. My bad, Tommy (via Tennis.com):
“I’m more than happy,” he told (reporters after the match). “I’ve been a professional for nearly 15 years and this is my 12th title, so there have not been many times with trophies. I love the emotion. Before the match, I was talking to my coach and I was saying, ‘It’s lovely to be waiting to play a final and you are nervous.’ Money can’t buy this feeling, and I’m lucky to be part of this sport and lucky to have the chance to feel these feelings.”
I’m still holding out on Julien, however.
So, on to the juicy stuff.
We’ve had lots of fun in previous years breaking down the embarrassing behavior of Novak Djokovic’s parents. There was that visit to the radio station, the controversy over the Serbian Open and yes, the notorious “King is Dead!” comment. I wonder if Nole bothered to roll his eyes at the latest from Dad Srdjan, who has for some reason decided to sling a couple fresh arrows at Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal via the Serbian press. Quotes (and translation) via USA Today:
“Federer is perhaps still the best tennis player in history, but as a man he’s the opposite. He attacked Novak at the Davis Cup in Geneva, he realized that he was his successor and was trying to discredit him in every way. Novak’s success is an amazing thing and something that one can not understand.”
Really, Federer is the worse man in history, Srdjan? Or are we just counting the years since the dissolution of Yugoslavia? I’m hoping something was lost in translation. His thoughts on Nadal are a bit more intimate:
“Nadal was his best friend while he was winning. When things changed, they were no longer friends. It’s not sporting.”
Honestly, I’m surprised Mr. Djokovic hasn’t moved on by now. That Davis Cup tie was way back in 2006, before Nole had developed as a champion. If anything, Roger’s disdain helped toughen him up. As for that stuff on Nadal, I think Nole’s proven that he’d rather kick ass than be buddy buddy. I imagine Novak is not so keen on his dad rehashing old news – is there anything more embarrassing than one’s parents interjecting themselves into your career and friendships? It’s like: “Daaad! Stay out of it, already!” Then again, at least he’s no John Tomic. (Seriously, this is just a sad situation. Bernie needs therapy.)
To be fair, Mr. Djokovic does have some nice things to say about Andy Murray (“I have never, not even for a second, felt jealousy from Andy’s family”) and some inspirational things to say about family, love and getting through unimaginably tough times (click here for more). And I always prefer unfiltered honesty to political correctness – it makes for much better headlines!
Srdjan’s gossip is cotton candy compared to the bombs dropped over the tennis world this past week: an 18 month ban for Viktor Troicki for avoiding a blood test in Monte Carlo and a reported three month suspension for Marin Cilic, who tested positive for a banned substance (perhaps “incautious use of glucose”) in Munich this April, Croatian media is reporting. What I find interesting about the latter story are the reports that Cilic is already serving this suspension – his disappearance from the draw at last week’s tournament in Umag was a big tell (via the the Daily Mail). It’s a bit unsettling that a player can be serving a suspension while the public remains clueless.
By the way, in the course of researching Marin’s suspension, I realized that he parted ways with long time coach, Bob Brett, in May – after that sketchy test. “I will be alone at tournaments for the next few weeks, while I clear my thoughts and decide my next step.” Cilic told Croatian media before the French Open. Supposedly Marin didn’t hear about the test results until Wimbledon, but still, I wonder why Marin suddenly needed time to think?
But luckily for Cilic, a three month ban in tennis is little more than an enforced training block – something that most players would welcome (without the stigma of a failed test, of course). It’s Serbian star Viktor Troicki who is facing a much harsher 18 month suspension (the ITF announced he’s banned until January 24, 2015 – spanning six Major tournaments) after refusing to give a blood sample after losing 6-1, 6-2 to Jarkko Nieminen in the first round of this year’s Monte Carlo Masters. Troicki, explaining that he was seriously sick after that loss and suffering from a long held phobia of needles (inherited from his father), claims that he received assurances from the on-site Doping Control Officer charged with taking his blood that a written explanation to Dr. Stuart Miller at the ITF would be enough to get him out of the blood test.
Here is a portion of the letter that he wrote to Dr. Miller:
“I was not able to do the blood test today since I was feeling very bad…for the blood test I asked kindly to skip it this time, since I get very dizzy after giving the blood out so even before the test I didn’t feel good, so I felt it would be even worse for my health condition to do it today. I always did blood tests before, and I do them in the future, but today I was not provide blood sample. Thank you very much in advance for your understanding”
Bottom line: This is about a drug test not writing a note to get out of P.E. class!
Unsurprisingly, the ITF is not buying Troicki’s claim that the Doping Control Officer led him astray. Viktor and his seemingly oblivious coach should have known better – even if he did receive false reassurances from the DCO (the ITF believes her own claim that she never promised Troicki anything).
I read the surprisingly readable full decision from the tribunal on the ITF website (highly recommended, if you haven’t checked it out already).
It’s an understandably rough situation for Troicki, who claims to be “destroyed and exhausted” by the decision. He plans to take it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Phew! This is all a lot to think about – and with multiple tournaments going strong this week. The WTA and ATP are both in D.C. for the Citi Open. The ATP plays on in Kitzbuhel, Austria (enough with the clay, already!), and the ladies have a big one in Carlsbad, California.
So. . .What are you thinking about this week?