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Drug,ugly distraction

— 14th October 2016


Tennis’ 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’ up and coming stars and at times those who have lost their 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 had 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 put together his most impressive season and by far his most consistent.  Working out the clay court performance bugs had 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 thought it’s coincidence that Murray won his third grand slam title right after Lendl rejoined the team?  Nevertheless the ultimate goal would 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 had 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 had been that the decision undermined 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.

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