Tennis

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Mahesh Bhupathi: Run with your mind


“After a certain distance,  you run with your mind,  not with your legs.” 

—Mahesh Bhupathi. 

Rajdeep Sardesai, Sania Mirza se panga mat le


How could a seasoned journalist like Rajdeep Sardesai appear so crass, insensitive and sexist on national television?

That’s the question that must be uppermost in the minds of most of his fans (I am one of his many admirers—he also happens to be a Xavierite)  when the veteran journo committed a faux pas by asking India’s number one female tennis star, Sania Mirza , the following query:

“Amidst all the celebrityhood, when is Sania going to settle down? Is it going to be in Dubai? Is it going to be in any other country? What about motherhood… building a family… I don’t see all that in the book, it seems like you don’t want to retire just yet to settle down.

…You don’t talk about retirement, about raising a family, about motherhood, what’s life beyond tennis is going to be…”

The response was swift and acerbic—typical Sania.

“You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway, that’s the question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number ones in the world we become, we don’t become settled. But eventually it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that.”

Sardesai quickly backtracked realising his erroneous line of questioning.

He said:

“I must apologise, I framed that question very badly. I promise you, you’re right, I would never ask this question to a male athlete…”

True, very true. Such a question would never be put to a male sportsperson.

Neither should it be put to any sportsperson.

There was very little logic  or reasoning to Sardesai’s enquiry. These are the type of questions every single career woman (or man)  learns to field  from ‘friendly’ , inquisitive neighbourhood ‘aunties‘—not from a TV presenter of Sardesai’s caliber.

While not detracting from the many sacrifices she has made to come so far,  it must be pointed out that Mirza is in her late 20s—not late 30s. She is a happily married, healthy young woman. She can have it all—should she choose. 

The interrogation was improper. And Sardesai had his just desserts.

Mirza was on television promoting her autobiography ‘Ace against odds’ coauthored with her father Imran Mirza and journalist Shivani Gupta.

Roger Federer almost pulls off another miracle


He almost pulled off another miracle,  didn’t he? 

After coming back from the dead against Marin Cilic in the quarters, Roger Federer was leading 2-1 against Milos Raonic only to lose his bearings—figuratively and literally—failing in the last two sets in yet another gruelling five-setter. 

The Swiss missed the French Open this year—his first Grand Slam since 1999,  ending an unbelievable streak of appearances. 

With Novak Djokovic knocked out early,  die-hard Fed fans believed this was his best chance to clinch his 18th Slam. But it was always going to prove an uphill battle for a 34-year-old. Realists would not begrudge another championship for the great but their expectations are always tempered and tinged with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

In the end, it proved to be too much even for the tennis machine. The cracks and the strain were visible towards the end of the fourth set with Roger dropping his serve in the final game to lose the set without taking it into another nail-biting tie-breaker. 

But he had done enough to revive Wimbledon out of its stupor. 

Britain’s favourite son,  Andy Murray,  might clinch yet another title on the hallowed grass of the All-England Championship. 

But for many,  this Wimbledon is simply to be Federer’s thing of beauty—forever. 

Marcus Willis’ fairy tale at Wimbledon ends with Roger Federer


Marcus Willis will have that beer.

He’s earned it.

Capturing seven games in his second round match against Roger Federer he surely deserves one.

The man owes it all to a girl—a girl he met this February, a dentist named Jennifer Bates.

He fell in love, turned himself around and found himself in round two of this year’s Wimbledon earning himself 50,000 pounds.

Brexit might have taken its toll on the UK’s currency but that could not dim the

£30-an-hour part-time Wokingham tennis coach’s joy.

Beating Ricardas Berankis, ranked 54, in the first round was unexpected.

But qualifying for Wimbledon proper required him to win six gruelling matches.

As Goran Ivanisevic, his idol, put it:

“I love this story. This is great.

Pre-qualifying, then qualifiers, winning the first round against a not easy player. Berankis can play.

It’s just great. Perfect. He will go on Centre Court or Court One.

The biggest match of his life and he has won already. For him he is a winner. He is the story of Wimbledon and it cannot get better than this.

He cannot beat Roger Federer, no chance but he does not care. He has won already seven matches and he won Wimbledon for him. This is it.

He will go on Centre or Court One. He is the happiest man, whether he comes to the match sober or drunk it doesn’t make any difference.

Everyone will love him and support him and Roger will be nice to him.

Eventually maybe not but it’s going to be great. I think he should quit after this. Retire. Because this is it.

It does not get better than this. Great, well done, I’m really so happy for the guy.”

Roger Federer had nothing but respect for Willis. He treated him as a top-50 player because “because that’s the level he was playing at”.

Willis sounded both disappointed and upbeat after his loss.

He said:

“It sounds funny, but I’m disappointed to lose. I went out there trying to win.

I’ve had a fantastic few weeks, and this has been great, but there’s life after Wimbledon, and I want more. More experiences like this. I have to knuckle down and work harder.

I’m absolutely exhausted. I might wait and calm down. But I’ve earned myself a beer, I think.

I haven’t thought (about marrying Jennifer) , to be honest. This whole few weeks have been a bit of a blur. But I do like her quite a bit.

Amazing. It’s not my standard Wednesday.”

Has he seen Wimbledon, the movie?

“I haven’t. People are telling me about it, but I’ve never seen it, really. I’m not a massive film watcher. I’m quite fidgety. I’m more of a doer than a watcher.”

Andy Murray, his fellow countryman, batted for Willis insisting that journeymen deserved more money.

He said:

“The first thing is we need to improve the prize money at Futures level. I think it’s stayed the same since the 1980s. The cost of everything has gone up massively since then so it’s impossible to stay at that level for more than a couple of years.

Someone like Marcus, if he had lost in the pre-qualifying at Wimbledon, we wouldn’t have this unbelievable story and he might not be coming back to play in January. You never know. There has to be more money at the bottom of the game.

It’s a difficult one.Because now players are breaking through later than they ever were before so they are obviously finding ways to hang around. A lot of the guys play club tennis to try to make some extra money, which helps. We don’t have that in this country. You can travel to Europe and do that. In Spain they have a few more money tournaments.”

Willis is ranked 772 in the world.

But for the match against Federer he dressed up wearing not just  Roger’s classic white Nike bandana headband but an R.F.-branded shirt as well.

At the end of the match, he was not just another pretender but Marcus WillisWillis,  a 25-year-old from Slough,  able to trade blows with the best in the business.

For most people, the story will be about Marcus’ two magical weeks at Wimbledon.

But Willis knows better.

It started earlier, much earlier, with a girl named Jennifer.

Leander Paes: Parents and champions


“Parents who wish to mould their kids into champions must recognise that the support system of the family is essential for an athlete’s success. Without your support, your child’s dreams will never grow wings.”

—Leander Paes.

Venus Williams: Fashion and function


“Fashion is very important for me, so (whatever I wear or design) always has to be fashionable. But clearly it also has to be functional. They go hand-in-hand. I wouldn’t pick one over the other. But it’s easy to design something functional without being fashionable. It’s about challenging yourself to push it a little bit.”
—Venus Williams.

Harvard Business School has a celebrity student—Maria Sharapova!


Maria Sharapova is full of surprises.

Just when her detractors and critics believed that she must be moping around waiting and hoping for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reduce or revoke her suspension, Sharapova—the magician—pulled out a rabbit from her proverbial hat.

The long-legged Russian beauty is going to school at Harvard.

The shrewd businesswoman that she is, Maria probably realised that time spent away from the court can be best utilised learning how to run her Sugarpova business better.

While it sounds like a wonderful idea, it’s also an opportunity for her to reflect on her particular situation.

James Blake who spent two years at Harvard but dropped out to pursue his tennis career had some advice for the suspended player.

 

Sharapova is the not the only woman player to opt for Business Administration when returning to studies.

Venus Williams is a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Indiana University East.

The tuition fees and living costs is small change for Sharapova who presides over a multi-million dollar empire.

The DNA India titled their report on the news flash:

Real woman of substance: Maria Sharapova to go to Harvard Business School

That seems a tad overdone but there are worse things Maria Sharapova could do away from the sport.

Update: Sharapova will be attending a two-week executive education program at Harvard—not the full-fledged MBA. 

Her agent, Max Eisenbud, told The Associated Press that it involves just two classes on campus.

Read more at:

Leander Paes: Traditionalist


“I may wear an earring at times, fool around with the way my hair is styled and I love to play around with fashion. But, deep down I am a traditionalist.
—Leander Paes.

Leander Paes: Pressure


“As a human being, I have never felt pressure. Or rather, you feel pressure but you know how to handle it.”
—Leander Paes.

Independent Tribunal deems Maria Sharapova guilty of negligence: Analysis


Maria Sharapova has been found guilty of committing a doping violation and has been sentenced to a two-year ban period backdated to January 26, 2016—the day she failed her drug test in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

Is the ban justified? Should Sharapova have been dealt with more leniently?

Let’s try and seek some answers, shall we?

The Independent Tribunal appointed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) consisted of Charles Flint QC, Dr. Barry O’Driscoll and Dr. José A. Pascual.

John J. Haggerty of Fox Rothschild LLP and Howard L Jacobs represented Maria Sharapova and  Johnathan Taylor and Lauren Pagé of Bird & Bird LLP presented the case for the International Tennis Federation.

Sharapova was subjected to an additional out-of-competition test on the 2nd of February, 2016 in which meldonium was discovered as well. For the purposes of the tribunal, the results were treated as a single anti-doping violation.

The judgment rested on four legs of a just table:

“(1) Whether the player can establish that the violation of article 2.1 was not intentional within the meaning of article 10.2.3. If so, then the period of ineligibility to be imposed is 2 years; if not, the period of ineligibility to be imposed is 4 years.
(2) Whether under article 10.5.2 the player can establish that she had no significant fault or negligence, in which case the period of ineligibility may be reduced to a minimum of 1 year.
(3) Whether the ITF is estopped from asserting any fault on the part of the player.
(4) Whether the player can invoke the principle of proportionality so as to avoid or mitigate the sanctions that follow from the rules.”

The ITF’s case rested on whether they could prove that Maria Sharapova knowingly disregarded the risk of contravening the anti-doping rules and thus committed an intentional violation.

Sharapova’s lawyers sought to prove that the ITF were well aware that she had failed a Mildronate test in 2015 and thus she ought to have been warned by the ITF explicitly that she would come under the scanner given that Mildronate had been added to the banned substances list.

The ITF were , however, provided the list of last year’s offenders only in March this year; privacy and security concerns are the reasons offered for the list not being provided to the ITF earlier. This effectively negated any assertion from the defendant that the ITF couldn’t assert any fault on Sharapova’s part.

Sharapova submitted that she was first prescribed the said drug in 2005 by Dr. Anatoly Skalny of the Centre for Biotic Medicine in Moscow. She was prescribed a list of 18 medications in total for a “mineral metabolism disorder, insufficient supply of nutrients from food intake and other abnormalities which made it necessary to boost the immune system.”

The prescription for Mildronate was as follows:

“Mildronate 1-2 X 10, repeat in 2 wks (before training or competition)
1 hr before competition, 2 pills of Mildronate
During games of special importance, you can increase your Mildronate dose to 3-4 pills (1 hr before the match). However, it is necessary to consult me on all these matters (please call)
30 minutes prior to a training session: Mildronat – 1 Capsule. 30-45 minutes prior to a tournament Mildronat 2 capsules”.

The drug was also further recommended whenever:

“complaints arose regarding fatigue related to overexertion,[or] lowering of the immune functions, appearance of inflammatory processes, lab results abnormalities in the fat and carbohydrate metabolism (glucose, cholesterol, insulin), affecting the myocardial functions (magnesium, phosphorus deficiency, elevated AST etc.) 8.”

Dr. Ford Vox expressed the opinion that “Dr. Skalny was, in the light of Ms Sharapova’s family history, justified in prescribing Mildronate both as a cardioprotective agent and as a preventative agent for diabetes.” and that the Russian scientific literature supporting Mildronate’s clinical use to compensate for an immune deficiency was strong.

The medications were verified against the WADA Prohibited List and were found in compliance.

Maria Sharapova at the 2007 Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova at the 2007 Australian Open. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2012, Sharapova discontinued her association with Dr. Skalny and retained a nutritionist Nick Harris instead.

She continued to self-medicate though with three substances: Magnerot, Riboxin and Mildronate.

Her nutritionist was not informed that she continued the above drugs.

Sharapova’s use of Mildronate was never disclosed either to WTA or WADA and the only documentation of her use was the correspondence between her and Dr. Skalny.

In 2015, WADA announced that usage of Meldonium would be monitored both in and outside competition.

Six percent of athletes tested positive for Meldonium in 2015 under the monitoring program.

Meldonium was added to the Prohibited Substances List for 2016 on 29 September 2015 by WADA and published on its website.

The ITF published the same on 7 December 2015 on its website.

Plastic wallet cards listing the prohibited drugs were handed over to Sven Groeneveld, Ms Sharapova’s coach by Neil Robinson of the WTA sometime in January 2016.

Two emails were mailed out by the WTA and the ITF respectively to players with references to the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme but there was no intimation of changes to the Prohibited List or specifically addition of Meldonium to the list.

24 samples taken from tennis players tested positive for Meldonium in 2015 (just over 1% of tennis players)—five of which were Ms. Sharapova’s.

However, results from WADA are reported to sports bodies only on an aggregate basis.This ensures confidentiality of the players’ results.

The ITF had no way of knowing that Meldonium was being used by Sharapova in 2015.

The tribunal found that the decision by Sharapova not to disclose her use of Meldonium on her doping control form was deliberate.

Max Eisenbud, Sharapova’s manager, claims to have no training as to how to distinguish a prohibited substance from a legally allowed drug and that he was encountering personal problems i.e. separation from his wife because of which he did not take his annual vacation which he usually utilized to check his wards’ adherence to the prohibited list and hence failed to review the 2016 list.

The tribunal found Eisenbud’s testimony ‘incredible’.

The triune also found that Sharapova’s continued use of Meldonium was “consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels”.

Did Sharapova intentionally break the rules?

Article 10.2.3 states:

“The term, therefore, requires that the Player or other Person engaged in conduct that he/she knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation or knew that there was a significant risk that the conduct might constitute or result in an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and manifestly disregarded that risk.”

The tribunal found her use of Mildronate unintentional as per the above Article.

Hence she was not handed a full ban of four years

Was she negligent?

Conscientiousness is the personal responsibility of a player and thus Sharapova’s professed indifference to checking the Prohibited List landed her squarely in the cross-hairs of the tribunal who found her guilty and handed her a ban of two years.

Sharapova sought to invoke estoppel on the basis  that “the ITF (a) failed to notify her of the test results obtained in 2015 (b) failed to distribute the Prohibited List to her and (c) failed to publicise the amendments to the Prohibited List.”

The Tribunal found no basis for this claim.

The Tribunal also found no extreme or unique circumstances under which principles of proportionality could be invoked to reduce the sanction.

The only concession granted to Sharapova is the back-dating of her punishment to the date of her Australian Open failed drug test.

The tribunal concluded:

“The contravention of the anti-doping rules was not intentional as Ms Sharapova did not appreciate that Mildronate contained a substance prohibited from 1 January 2016. However she does bear sole responsibility for the contravention, and very significant fault, in failing to take any steps to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible. If she had not concealed her use of Mildronate from the anti-doping authorities, members of her own support team and the doctors whom she consulted, but had sought advice, then the contravention would have been avoided. She is the sole author of her own misfortune.”

The decision of the tribunal can and will  be appealed by the Russian in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Source: Text of tribunal verdict on ITF website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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