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Martina and The Snowballs (Watercooler) 01/04/2008 - 1:10 PM

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Housekeeping note: Make sure you tune in tomorrow morning for an important, happy announcement that is sure to bring a smile to many of your faces! - Pete

As most of you already know, the ITF independent Anti-Doping Tribunal handed down its decision in the case against Martina Hingis yesterday. The Tribunal categorically rejected Hingis's appeal. Hingis, the 3,456th consecutive athlete who, after testing positive, vociferously denied the charge and proclaimed her innocence, has been suspended for two years - which has become a moot point given that Hingis also announced her retirement shortly after the original doping charge was made public.

I urge you to read the entire report of the Tribunal. I found that some parts of it read like the script of a Monty Python movie. There's this whole thing about the doping control officer being "Mr Snowball" (his wife, Mrs. Snowball, was the one who actually supervised the urine-sample delivery process). And how about that bit (paragraph 36) about how Mr. Snowball thought it "strange" when the Firekitten gave Mrs. Bosanquet a kiss. Anyway. . .

I'd be the last person to advocate lynching people who have used or even just tried cocaine (among other things it would make me a horrible hypocrite, wink-wink), but the recreational drug is a prohibited substance and, at the end of the day, either you have rules or you don't. (Excuse me, I need to run to the men's for a moment!). Many people will think it a shame that this positive drug test will become part of the Hingis legacy, but something that came up while Pete Sampras and I were working on his book has led me to re-consider that (Back in a sec, where the hail is that danged Kleenex?).

You may remember that Petr Korda won the 1998 Australian Open (it was his only Grand Slam singles title, and in winning it he prevented Marcelo Rios from taking one) and rose as high as No. 2 in the world rankings.  Months thereafter, after a drug test administered at Wimbledon, he became the first high-profile tennis player busted under doping rules that finally acquired teeth when tennis became an Olympic sport again (in order to be an Olympic sport, tennis must embrace the stringent drug-testing policies of the International Olympic Committee). Korda tested positive for nandrolone, which is to dopers what a Big Mac is to fans of fast food. Banned for a year, Korda (like Hingis) basically said "To hail with it", and left the tour.Korda

Now here's the funny part. In 1997, Korda hung a surprising loss on Sampras at the US Open of 1997. This was one of the strangest matches in Pete's career, and it played out under ugly conditions, including at least one rain delay. Korda hung in there to win the match in a fifth-set tiebreaker - it was one of the few times in Pete's career that he had a match under control and let a guy come back to win. But in light of the Korda bust of a few months later, its perfectly acceptable to speculate on what role doping might have played in that win by Korda. After all, one of the things doping can increase your strength and stamina - two critical areas for the human pencil,  Korda.

Pete will re-visit this issue in his book, and it wouldn't be right of me to publish his thoughts here. But here are mine:  Korda was a player who gave Pete fits on more than one occasion. The guy was a brilliant shotmaker who seemed to play his best when he had nothing to lose. He was also a weird dude - he defaulted from the US Open after beating Pete that year, on the grounds that he was "sick" (it was an incident reminiscent of the Gasquet default at the US Open; in fact, there are a number of similarities between Korda and Gasquet). Still, if you connect the dots, even Korda's upset of Sampras is tainted.

The funny thing, now, is that nobody made that big a deal out of the Korda suspension and fine back when it happened. And while Korda lost all his appeals and had to return over half-a-million dollars in prize-money, it's fair to ask if that was sufficient punishment for a guy who won over $10 million in his career - plus earned hefty sums in appearance feels, exhibitions and endorsement fees.

I'm not sure that's sufficient punishment, and it isn't because of how I feel about Petr Korda. It's because how I feel about Marcelo Rios.

Rios was denied his one and only major, and it may have been because his opponent had the benefit of doping. I wonder how Rios felt after Wimbledon in '98, seeing that the guy who beat him in Melbourne had been found guilty of doping. I think that the ITF should have stripped Korda of his Australian Open title and awarded it to Rios.

Of course, the ITF has no such protocol in place. So I would suggest that the ITF adopt a policy of awarding all the matches won by a convicted doper for a specific interval (three months? six months? a year?). I mean, dopers presumably benefit from their illicit actions, at least in some cases (nandrolone, as opposed to cocaine) for some time before they're busted. So why not let the record show that?

Here's something else to consider, if you don't think that a doper here or a doper there can really influence the game very much. The record that may very well be the foundation of Pete Sampras's legacy is his six consecutive years as the year-end No. 1 player. Pete sealed that record in 1999, tying Jimmy Connors in '98. Guess who was really pushing him, near the end of the year, and threatening to actually make Pete have to play him in the year-end championships in order to secure the top spot?

Correctamundo. Marcelo Rios.

Now, imagine if Rios had the added benefit of winner's ranking points at the Australian Open. That could have given him enough of a cushion to finish as the year-end No. 1, with a major to boot. This become critically important because Rios pulled out of some events at the end of the year, which helped enable Sampras to catch and surpass him in the rankings.

Personally, I'm not sure you could re-adjust things like ranking points in order to mete out justice to dopers. That gets awfully complicated. And who knows what Sampras himself would have done, if Rios had won in Melbourne? You certainly can't take Pete's No. 1 ranking away, because Korda was a doper and you had to make restitution to Rios.

To me, the key thing is the titles anyway. So I would urge the ITF and other Lords of Tennis to agree that in addition to the usual punishment,  dopers be stripped of any victories or titles they won for a specified time before their positive test. Give the Ws, if not the ranking points, to the guys they beat. In my mind, Rios is the 1998 Australian Open champion and Petr Korda is the doper who never won a major legitimately.

This rant began as a speculation on Hingis's legacy, so let's bring it full circle. Korda, who to my mind committed a far worse offense than Hingis, is happily playing on the senior tour, acknowledged as a Grand Slam champ, and (presumably) livin' large. Even Pete Sampras bears him no ill will, which speaks well for Sampras. I've always felt that it's much easier to forgive than to forget, but in tennis, people seem to forget with equal facility.


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Posted by Jenn 01/05/2008 at 10:46 AM

oh crap! Well, I have to head to work very soon. Either guy deserves to win today as far as good level of play. Rafa really should not be in this position, but he has failed to take advantage of some good opportunities. C'est la vie.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:46 AM

Man, Moya is one tough nut to crack!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 10:47 AM

moya looks unbeatable right now...

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 10:47 AM

Vamos Carlos!

It's deuce!

I fancy his chances in a breaker.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:47 AM

I can't believe it. Now Rafa has to serve to stay in the match : (

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 10:48 AM

moya's girlfriend looks like Keira Knightley...

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 10:49 AM

The crowd is just going NUTS there - its looks like such fun! (not that i'm not having fun with you guys mind you...)

ToF that sounds very complicated. i have 2 smallish screens - so have tennis tennis everywhere!

and 40 all on stan's serve. and murray needs a haircut. badly.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:49 AM

Calm down Rafa. Concentrate, you can do this!

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 10:51 AM

Go Stani

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 10:51 AM

OK, now for a TB as Rafa holds to love.

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 10:51 AM

I got Murray on the big screen (it's a fierce battle there as well) and Rafa taking this match to a TB.

If this goes to three, my money on Rafa.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:51 AM

Here comes the tie break!

Posted by abbey 01/05/2008 at 10:52 AM

why couldn't rafa serve like that serving for the set? grr...

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 10:52 AM

Another crap shoot - Moya/Nadal.....

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 10:52 AM

6-6 tb number 2, I need a new heart valve..

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 10:53 AM

WHERE IS HAWK EYE????????

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 10:54 AM

nice hold for rafa.

i can't help but compare these guy's level of play with the Djoker's - these men are definately loaded for bear; Djoker looked like he was NOT ready for the season to start.

oops - what's up? mhm - hard to tell if that was long... he was right there. needs to shake it off.

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 10:54 AM

Now - Moya me bucko - need to stay focused ... remember 3:0 against Nadal is NO guarantee

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:54 AM

Well, Rafa in a deep hole now : (

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 10:55 AM

is there a convenient moya bias for the line calls?????

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 10:56 AM

Rafa gets one back, but now he has to hold his serves.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 10:58 AM

imo, even 6-0 against rafa is never a gimmee.

but as a fed kad - i have a very very healthy respect for this man's game!

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:00 AM

Carlos with three MPs :-(

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 11:00 AM

Can you belive this??

One more point ....

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:02 AM

this is exhausting just watching

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:02 AM

Now 6 all....

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 11:02 AM

Loosing concentrating - it's a killer....Mr. M you should have had a winner there!!

Damn - should have had TWO winners - come on now Moya - get it together...

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:03 AM

Rafa gets the second one back. Vamos Rafa!!

Posted by abbey 01/05/2008 at 11:04 AM

OMG! very exciting stuff

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:04 AM

Rafa saves another MP - 7 all

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:05 AM

..and now Rafa has a set point.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:05 AM

Another match point saved! Vamos Rafa!!!

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 11:05 AM

Moya just that fraction tired ... shots now going off....

Can he take it in set 3??

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:06 AM

Set point for Rafa on Carlos' serve!

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:07 AM

9-8 Rafa - on his serve

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:07 AM

Almost two hours and 30 mins

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:08 AM

Vamos Rafa!

*Performs scissor-kick*

One set all.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:08 AM

argh! Carlitos! sigh. amazing tie breaker from Rafa - held his nerve, didn't let that bad call at the beginning overset him.

Game on for the 3rd! Lets see if Carlos can put this out of his head and play on.

Posted by vanfan 01/05/2008 at 11:08 AM

ahh well, that's that. rafa should steamroll in the third set.

Has Rafa's recent injury woes affected his play today?

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:09 AM

I hope everyone's nice and comfortable. Here comes the third set!

Posted by abbey 01/05/2008 at 11:09 AM

what a match! the little girl can stop crying now.

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:09 AM

Oh, freaking hail.

Well, youth will prevail now, I'm afraid.

Oh, Carlos, Carlos.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:10 AM

la-di-da, we have 3rd set, la-di-da.....I am so glad!!! wawrinka-Murray has completely fell from the surface of the earth as far as I'm concerned!

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:10 AM

ok - now what's going on with Murray and Stan?

Posted by Snoo Foo 01/05/2008 at 11:10 AM

I nominate Crying Cheerleader Girl for Shanghai Mohawk Kid of 2008.

Posted by Pierre 01/05/2008 at 11:11 AM

Ahhhhh, that little girl is so cute.

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2008 at 11:11 AM

Hate to say it - but don't see Moya being able to take another set from Nadal - he's too pooped - shots now going way off that he should have been making....

Hope it at least stays competitive ... could be a run away...

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:11 AM

And now, I may turn my attention to my TV for a moment - I'm watching a scoreboard, following it up by glancing at a tiny video on screen, and all the time I have Murray's match going on on my 42" TV...Murray just saved a BP (with a drop shot that worked, for once).

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:12 AM

oddly enough - looks like the 'other' match is also shaping up to be a cracker. bothmean defending well - trading breaks - covering the court well.

Posted by vanfan 01/05/2008 at 11:13 AM

Wish I had a little coverage on my 42" plasma. Sucks!

Posted by .com 01/05/2008 at 11:15 AM

Is this going to be the longest match (best of three sets) OF HISTORY?

Posted by Snoo Foo 01/05/2008 at 11:17 AM

the nanner looks larger than ever, armwise. Or is it just cuz he appears to be busting out of my teensy monitor, as opposed to the spacious tv screen, or cuz I've been watching the likes of muzzah, kolya, fishy, nole etc. for the past week and the nanner looks massive in comparison?

That TB was de-luxe.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:18 AM

lol Rosia - kadness is its own form of lunacy, no??!! but I'd be doing the same (and have done) when my guy is only on the small screen!

Posted by rudy3 01/05/2008 at 11:19 AM

i love her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:20 AM

Hey Ros, on many feeds if you double click the little video screen it goes to full screen mode.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:20 AM

gratuitous knee shot! where's mici?!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:21 AM

if murray wins this title he will become the new ATP number 8.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:23 AM

That little Rafa KAD with the pom poms IS cute : )

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:24 AM

Oh, jb - why must my two favourites both be playing simultaneously?

Why couldn't they have been playing each other? :-)

At least I can watch back the recording of the match in DOha - no recording of the web stream though.

Deuce on Carlos' serve.

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:25 AM

I agree that Rafa seems massive, especially his, um, rear admirables.

I'm not sure getting bigger is the wisest course of action for him, can't be good adding weight (even if it is muscles) to his knees.

Posted by zonie 01/05/2008 at 11:25 AM

Rafa should take this third set, it would seem, but Moya shows no signs of fading away.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:27 AM

radek beware carlos is becoming the new net kingmaster!

Posted by highpockets 01/05/2008 at 11:27 AM

Please win this Rafa ... the Youz wants revenge.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:27 AM

Carlos still very much in this match.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:29 AM

Rosia - the only thing worse is your 2 favs playing each other AND not having tv coverage..!

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:29 AM

Will either of these guys have anything left in the tank for Youzny?

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:30 AM

And Murray takes the first set....

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:30 AM

Papo -

No.

And if Moya wins this, it's a pity.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:31 AM

Rafa's running backhand really is something!

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:32 AM

Can't beleive this is a semi. no matter what - the final will be anticlimatic.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:32 AM

Carlos has bp!

Posted by highpockets 01/05/2008 at 11:33 AM

Papo, don't think so either.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:34 AM

6-4 murray taking the first set (not surprised despite the h2h being in the waw's favour)

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:36 AM

God, he saved another one.

I'm rooting for Carlos here, but it's good to see the heart and fight of Rafa Nadal at the begining of the year. He would need it later on.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:36 AM

Darn it all! Rafa just can't get out of this game : (

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:36 AM

Oh no. Moya breaks.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:38 AM

Gotta hand it to Carlos. He's applying relentless pressure and showing no signs of fading. Come on Rafa, break back!

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:39 AM

All Carlos has to do is hold his serve now. Lets see if Rafa can come back.

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:40 AM

Moya simply deserves this match.

Rafa, on HC, is a top 20 player, and so is Moya.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:40 AM

what's also a bit anticlimatic is when you go from the toned bronzed high energy Spaniards to the pale-lanky, kind of unprepossessing guys in doha....

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:41 AM

No - Carlos at 4-2. This video stream keeps breaking up - hard to follow all the points.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:41 AM

Moya with an ace to go up 4-2. Things not looking good for Rafa.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:41 AM

4-2 for moya, this is a nightmare happening, sorry moya-fans...

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:41 AM

Ugh god. Should have been the final.

Moya would have nothing left.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:43 AM

Are UFEs starting to creep into Rafa's game? Come on Rafa!

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:47 AM

Moya continues to push Nadal. Not only must Rafa hold this game, but he still has to break back or it's all over. Vamos Rafa!!!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:47 AM

3-4 this is why I adore Rafa!!! but will it be enough?, I'm not sure, carlos is soooooooooooo on today.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 11:48 AM

"what's also a bit anticlimatic is when you go from the toned bronzed high energy Spaniards to the pale-lanky, kind of unprepossessing guys in doha.... "

LOL ToF! but sadly - just oh so true!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:50 AM

I'm starting to imagine a Nalbandian-Moya showdown with such a net game...and we all know what Nalbo did to Rafa...

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:50 AM

Over three hours and Moya still there and winning! I he trying to pull an Agassi?

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 11:51 AM

Rafa has a BP

Posted by Or 01/05/2008 at 11:51 AM

From 30;0 to 30 all.

Come on Carlos, you can't choke this away now.

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:51 AM

Okay, break point Rafa. Make it happen!!!

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:53 AM

Double fault from Moya! Another bp for Rafa.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:53 AM

well that's official carlos moya has gotten hold of gonzalez' forehand!!!!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:54 AM

deuce number 45865

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:54 AM

Rafa is killing me here : (

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:55 AM

Another double from Calos?

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 11:57 AM

deuce number 45866, my neck muscles are so tense, everything is cracking when I try to move my head...

Posted by Papo 01/05/2008 at 11:57 AM

Now it's Carlos who can't get out of his service game. Vamos Rafa!!!

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