Are tennis players cheats?
An expose by BuzzFeed and the BBC would have us believe so.
An investigation into a match allegedly tanked by Nikolay Davydenko in 2007 against a lower-ranked Argentine opponent, Martin Vassallo Arguello,
uncovered a series of anomalies in games lost by top-ranked players in both men and women’s tennis.
Eight of the top-50 men’s players at the Australian Open are under the scanner.
In the past, match-fixing was felt to be restricted to the lower echelons of the tennis hierarchy where journeymen lost games in exchange for cash which they could hardly hope to see in their journeymen careers.
But now, the scourge of cheating appears to have spread its tentacles all over the pristine sport.
Novak Djokovic—amongst other players—disclosed that he was approached in 2007 but he refused. Roger Federer and Serena Williams have called for names to be revealed.
The investigating team indicts gambling chains across countries such as Russia and Spain. But they have no real luck pinpointing guilty players as they had neither the authority nor permission to access players’ phone and bank records.
There exists no definitive proof of collusion with punters and guilty players can continue to bluster their way through this crisis.
It is up to the tennis authorities to ensure more transparency in the way the game is played.
Perhaps, it would help if more lower-ranked players were able to earn a living from the game. This view is opposed by Federer again who feels that cheats exist at every level and increasing prize money at lower rungs is not the solution.
Whatever the outcome of these new revelations, it is certain that upsets will be looked upon with suspicion in the future and not simply considered a glorious uncertainty of sport.
It’s a pity, really, because everyone loves an underdog.
Players have been calling for a reduction in the number of tournaments they participate in a season. They claim that the unrelenting touring takes a toll on mind, body and spirit and they are unable to be consistent and motivated enough throughout the arduous season.
The authorities would do well to look into these complaints but the players do themselves no favours by opting to partake of the bounties of exhibition games in their off-season.
Greed certainly greases the wheels, one way or the other.
Marin Cilic is in the semis of the US Open once more.
Last year, he won his maiden Slam knocking out Asian hope Kei Nishikori in the process under the watchful eye and tutelage of his countryman Goran Ivanisevic.
Tennis fans all remember Goran not just for his histrionics on court, his big booming serves but also for the fairy-tale ending to his career where he won his first and only Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2001 after succumbing at his earlier two final appearances at the sport’s Mecca.
Cilic has been plagued with a shoulder injury this season. He missed out on the Australian Open and has had indifferent results—by his newly exalted standards—losing in the fourth round and quarter-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively.
The Croat has flown under the radar at his Grand Slam homecoming in New York.
It’s always difficult returning from an injury.
No one knows that better than Cilic’s coach, Ivanisevic, who was unseeded at his maiden Grand Slam triumph, only playing with the benefit of a wild card.
But it’s Del Potro, another US Open winner, that similarities can be drawn with.
The 2009 US Open champion first suffered a left wrist injury in 2010.
He returned only after a nine-month break.
He was back to his best only in 2012 ending the year ranked No.7. He returned to the top 5 in 2013.
The recurrence of his wrist injury saw him missing out most of the 2014 season.
He returned briefly in 2015 but withdrew from the Australian Open with the injury flaring up again.
He has been operated since and is now rehabilitating.
Can Marin Cilic break the hoodoo?
Since 2003, except for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, no US Open champion has returned to claim the title.
The title has not been defended successfully since 2008 when Federer won the last of his US Open titles.
The singletons in the club—in terms of US Open titles in the modern era—include the likes of Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith,Ilie Năstase,Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas,Mats Wilander,Boris Becker,Marat Safin,Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Cilic takes on a formidable foe in Novak in the semis. It could be either Federer or Wawrinka in the final. Interestingly, all the semi-finalists have at least one Slam to their credit. Wawrinka is the only one without a US Open title.
A trivial bit of trivia about Cilic is that he is yet to clinch an ATP 500 or Masters title.
It’s going to be a slug-fest. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Is Stan Wawrinka on the verge of yet another Grand Slam title?
The Swiss No. 2 just gets luckier and luckier.
This time, it’s Andy Murray, his prospective quarter-final opponent, who lost his legs against a fitter, smoother South African Kevin Anderson.
Wawrinka faces a much easier adversary in him.
Roger Federer is expected to be his antagonist in the semis should he get past the latest version of Richard Gasquet as the 17-time-champion quizzically put it.
This semi-final could be anyone’s. I give the edge to the younger man.
Novak Djokovic takes on on last year’s winner Marin Cilic in the other semi-final.
Should Djokovic win, he should be odds-on favourite to clinch another Grand Slam and repeat the kind of success he had in 2011.
Should Cilic win , Wawrinka would have a much better chance of winning the third Slam of his charmed, revived career.
Can he? Will he? The tennis Gods will let us know—very soon indeed.
Every time he makes a Grand Slam final nowadays, his fans go wild with delirium believing that an 18th Grand Slam is inevitable. Yet, the man comes up short. In 2014, it was Djokovic in five sets at Wimbledon.
This year, it was the Serbian again in four sets.
The Swiss last won a Grand Slam in 2012, beating Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in succession to clinch the title. It was also the year he was last ranked No. 1.
It is this ability to clinch Slams that has eroded over the years. The 17-time-champion no longer can produce the tennis required to beat the rest of the Big Four when it matters, where it matters, in successive best-of-five encounters.
This is unlikely to change as age catches up with one the modern greats of the game.
That is the bad news.
The good news is that he is not the only one suffering a loss in invincibility.
Nadal ceded his domination over the French Open this year losing to Djokovic who in turn surrendered his chance at a Career Slam by losing to Fedex’s fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.
That is the other piece of good news. Novak, if Roger can’t beat you, Wawrinka surely must.
Murray is not quite among the invincibles. Yet, he is a potent force on the comeback trail.
For Roger to win another Slam, the draw must be favorable enough to have him encounter just one of the above three at any stage in the tournament and preferably not the Djoker.
This is the blueprint for (immediately) imminent Grand Slam success for the Original Man.
What she said:
“I will do a chocolate deal for product only. No need for money.”
Caroline Wozniacki is less interested in the money endorsements bring her and more about how a company and its products make her feel.
The Dane tennis star desires a chocolate deal because Swiss master, Roger Federer, left a huge bar of Lindt in her US Open locker.
What she really meant:
“I want what chocolate can do for me. I have chocolate on my mind.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“It’s got to be Swiss chocolate or nothing. Belgian will just not do. And it should be shaped like Rory (McIllroy).”
Roger Federer is still a champion.
Flying under the radar, the 17-time Grand Slam winner fought tooth and nail taking the championship match into the final set last Sunday.
Novak Djokovic may have clinched his seventh Slam. But no guesses for who walked away with the plaudits and the kudos.
Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov are amongst heirs-in-waiting to the Big Four. But for now, they are just that.
Brazil’s shocking disintegration against Germany in the semi-final and the consequent shellacking had their fans in tears.
No consolation for them in the third place match either. Holland walked away with the honours—a meeting their coach Van Gaal derided as leaving one team feeling a loser despite having reached the semi-finals. His exact words:
“But the worst thing is, I believe, that chances are that you lose twice in a row. A tournament where you’ve played so marvellously well, that you go home as a loser just because you could possibly lose the last two matches. So, this has got nothing whatsoever to do with sports, not in my view.”
It’s Germany versus Argentina tonight in the final. Two former champions, two great gladiatorial sides.
Germany hold the edge on current form. But Argentina have Lionel Messi.
The Barca galactico was completely out of sorts in the quarters and the semis; the man-to-man marking rendering him ineffectual. Can he do a Maradona and take Argentina home?
Knock-out games are less about scoring and more about attrition. It’s about waiting and hoping that your opponent makes a mistake and then capitalising on it and drawing the shutters down.
That’s how Holland and Argentina played out their semi-final. It made for extremely boring viewing. Van Gaal repeated the mistakes of the 2010 final against Spain when Holland played hard and foul ruining any possibility of their moment in the sun. Hoping to win on penalties should be a strategy for relative minnows such as Costa Rica, not for the team that has dazzled the world with its brand of Total Football over the past four decades.
The first Test Match between India and England got underway this week at Trent Bridge.
The hosts presented the visitors an Indian wicket: flat and lifeless.
The match has already produced a record of sorts. The final wicket partnerships in the first innings produced two hundred-plus partnerships.
If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami showed that the wicket held no devils, Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson rubbed in the curator Steven Birk’s face in it with their world record stand of 198—the highest ever in Test cricket.
Birks copped some criticism for the state of the wicket.
“We wanted to produce a pitch with pace, bounce and carry which hasn’t happened unfortunately. There’s quite a lot of moisture underneath but it’s a hard surface on top which is why it’s lacking pace. The moisture readings taken earlier in the week were quite high and we haven’t seen enough of the sun to really bake it out.”
Ian Botham’s take on the pitch:
“You might as well be playing in Chennai with this wicket.”
Jimmy Anderson had similar views:
“Two days out we could see the pitch was not going to have huge amount of pace in it. That is something you just got to try and put out of your mind. We are as frustrated as everyone else watching.”
Has the mandate to ensure matches last into the final day hastened the death of Test cricket? Indian fans stayed away—their ratio a paltry 10:90.
Draws occur in Tests all the time. It’s the nature of the result that makes all the difference to the enthusiasts.
Shanghai Masters shootout: Murray rains on Federer’s parade
What he said:
"Tonight I can see myself in the mirror and say, Yeah, you fight enough."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is satisfied with his level of play despite losing his third successive Sunday match to Roger Federer in 15 days. (via Tennis-X.com)
The Frenchman succumbed to the Swiss master at the World Tour Finals in London.
What he really meant:
“Starting with the man in the mirror, I’m not asking him to change his ways. Just lose a little less.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Man, Roger fights more.”
What he said:
"I have never named a locomotive before, let alone one bearing my own name.”
Fedex or the Federal Express has a locomotive named after him—The Federer Express.
Roger Federer was honoured by National Suisse with a locomotive bearing his name and image.
Federer is the Suisse’s brand ambassador.
The National Suisse will contribute to the Roger Federer fund for every kilometre the locomotive travels.
Jeannine Pilloud, Head of the Passenger Division at SBB railways, said:
“Our passengers are world champions in rail travel. Now they can look forward to meeting Roger Federer, the best tennis player of all time, on all inter-city routes.”
What he really meant:
“How would you like to do the Loco-motion with me?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Why can’t my sponsors be normal and name an airplane or a ship for me?”
What he said:
"Lock them in a room and throw away the key until they come out."
Shanghai Masters tournament director Michael Luevano insists that the only way to resolve tennis player concerns is to get all the governing bodies—ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam tourney organisers—involved.
He called for a summit, “They need a summit with the Grand Slam present, the ITF present, the WTA present and of course the ATP."
"It’s like voting for the Pope. Stay there [in the meeting] and we’ll wait for the white smoke."
Talking to BBC Sport, Luevano said that it is frustrating to lose top players to withdrawals and injuries.
Referring to Roger Federer’s withdrawal from his event, the Shanghai Masters boss said:
Especially with someone like Roger, we want him in the game for five more years.
If he’s not comfortable with how his body is feeling, and we just happen to be the tournament he can’t make, then so be it.
Luevano called for a balancing of players’ demands and tournament needs:
It is very complex [the calendar debate]. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of historic events, established market places.
By wanting to shorten the season, someone is going to suffer dramatically.
I think a lot of progress has been made by the ATP and from the tournament side what we’re looking for is player commitment which is how we build the event.
What Luevano really meant:
“Decisions and solutions don’t get made without coming to the dialogue table. Oh, by the way, can you ensure that my Shanghai sojourn continues in the mix?”
What Luevano definitely didn’t:
“There are plenty of empty rooms and seats right here in Shanghai. Let’s do it—now!”