The Media Relations manager of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Ben Nichols, has branded Head’s remarks on Maria Sharapova’s ongoing doping case as ‘inappropriate’ in an email sent to ubitennis.net.
The prestigious sporting equipment and clothing company has been vocal in their support for Sharapova, who currently has a sponsorship with them. During the Australian Open, Sharapova failed a drug test after testing positive for Meldonium, a substance which was added to WADA’s list of banned substances on January 1st 2016.
On March 11th Head posted a statement of support for Sharapova and questioned the justification for suspending the former world No.1. A week later on March 19th, the CEO of Head, Johan Eliasch, called for the WADA to publish the scientific evidence they used to ban the drug.
“It appears WADA has banned the substance based upon the number of athletes using it rather than its actual efficacy in improving performance. The meldonium investor and drug manufacturer claim the drug should be taken by athletes who wish to protect their health.” Eliasch said during a lengthy statement.
HEAD’S support of Sharapova has been welcomed by her army of fans, however, questions has been raised about their vocal support before her doping hearing has taken place. Ubitennis contacted Nichols in regards to this matter and he has stated that it is ‘inappropriate’ for any public party to comment on an ongoing doping case.
“It is inappropriate for WADA, and indeed others, to comment on the specifics of cases until the International Federation or National Anti-Doping Agency in charge with the result management of the cases has issued their decision.” Mr Nichols told Ubitennis.
Grindeks, the Latvian company that makes Meldonium, said yesterday that the drug could potentially ‘take months’ to leave a person’s body depending on other factors. This leaves the possibility that an athlete could have taken the substance in late 2015 (when it was legal) and still fail a drugs test in 2016. Nevertheless, Nichols stated that athletes have been given sufficient notice about banning the substance and if this scenario occurs, they will need to provide evidence.
‘The date an athlete sample is collected is the date any subsequent anti-doping rule violation is asserted to have taken place. At any hearing that follows, the onus is then on the athlete to explain how the substance was in his or her body.” He said.
Regarding the legitimacy behind the banning of the substance, Nichols has hit back at critics. He said WADA conducted a very detailed investigation in the substance and gave ‘all stakeholders involved’ a chance to speak about the substance prior to their decision to ban the drug.
“Meldonium was placed on WADA’s monitoring program for 2015, at which time it was being monitored for patterns of misuse”. The WADA head of media told ubitennis.
“During what was a very thorough consultation process in 2015, all stakeholders had the opportunity to submit their comments regarding meldonium”.
Nichols also stressed to Ubitennis that all WADA signatories was notified in September 2015 that the substance would be added to the 2016 list.
“There can be no question as to the procedure that was followed, which established Meldonium as a banned substance as of 1st January 2016.” He later added.
Since the banning of Meldonium, there has been over 100 failed positive tests. Apart from Sharapova, other athletes include 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Yuliya Efimova (swimming) and 2013 European indoor 800 meter champion Nataliia Lupu (athletics).
WADA is currently appealing for more money to be invested in the organization. Their president, Craig Reedie, has called for extra funding for his organization to help tackle doping in sport. He has called for sponsors as well as broadcasters to help fund the WADA. Their current budget is approximately $26 million per year. To put this figure into perspective, BT Sport and Sky sports paid £5.1bn for live Premier League TV rights for three seasons from 2016-17. This equates to $14.5 million per match.
One proposed idea in the fight against anti-doping is to fine the sponsor every time a athlete fails a drugs test. The idea is that if the sponsor was involved, it could act as a greater deterrent for athletes. Putting this idea to Nichols, he remained neutral on the idea, however, he said that ‘time has come’ to look for ways to increase WADA’s funding.
“Regarding funding, the WADA President was very clear in his recent speech that he believes the time has come to look at other ways of increasing funding for anti-doping, including asking major sport sponsors to help fund clean sport”. Mr Nichols concluded.
Grigor Dimitrov Praises ‘Surreal’ Achievement Ahead Of Indian Wells Semis
Grigor Dimitrov hailed his recent career milestone as he moved into the Indian Wells semi-finals.
Grigor Dimitrov has praised his recent career milestone after reaching the Indian Wells semi-finals.
The Bulgarian overcame Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz in three sets to reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells.
Dimitrov backed his win over US Open champion Daniil Medvedev in style to reach his first masters 1000 semi-final of the season.
However reaching the semi-finals wasn’t the only achievement as he sealed his 100th masters 1000 win of his career.
Speaking after the match Dimitrov described it as ‘surreal’, “I didn’t know until everyone started mentioning it now,” Dimitrov said in his post-match press conference.
“Really I’m very humbled. It’s such an amazing thing. I’m so thankful to everyone, to everybody that is in the team, that has worked in the team. Last but not least my family.
“It feels like I want to say surreal because I never thought turning pro that I’m going to have let’s say a hundred matches at such a level. I’m very fortunate to be able to put myself in that position over and over, especially throughout the tough years, injuries and so on.
“It clearly means a lot to me. I really appreciate it. I’m very, very humbled on it. Like I’m smiling inside. I’m smiling inside. I think it’s a beautiful thing. I’ll keep on going hopefully another decade.”
Dimitrov’s first masters 1000 win came against Marsel Ilhan in 2011 at Cincinnati and the Bulgarian’s only trophy at this level came in 2017 when he beat Nick Kyrgios in the final of the same tournament.
Now Dimitrov will look to win his second masters 1000 title of his career as he takes on Cameron Norrie in the last four on Saturday.
Norrie currently leads the head-to-head 1-0.
Ons Jabeur Used To Be Rejected By Sponsors For Being Tunisian, Now She Is A Tennis Trailblazer
The Arab tennis sensation has made history following her latest win in Indian Wells and is hungry to achieve more.
Entering this year’s BNP Paribas Open Ons Jabeur has already achieved a series of firsts for an Arab tennis player. However, it is her latest achievement which has earned her praise from the likes of Andy Murray and Billie Jean King.
The 27-year-old Tunisian continued her fairytale run at the tournament on Thursday by defeating Anette Kontaveit 7-5, 6-3, to move into the semi-finals. In doing so she has guaranteed her place in the world’s top 10 next week for the first time in her career. It is a milestone which had never been achieved by an Arab player – male or female – in the history of the sport until now.
“This is a dream coming true,” said Jabeur. “I always wanted to get there, to be No. 1 in the world.’
“Top 10 I know is the beginning. I know I deserve this place for a long time since I was playing well. But I want to prove that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be one of the top 10 players.” She added.
The breakthrough has been a long time coming for Jabeur who first rose to prominence a decade ago when she became the first North African player to win a junior Grand Slam title at the 2011 French Open. Since then she has steadily climbed the rankings. This year she won her maiden Tour title at the Birmingham Open, becoming the first Arab woman to do so. She also reached the final of tournaments in Chicago and Charleston, as well as reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
After establishing herself as one of the best players in the world, Jabeur admits her journey to the top has not been an easy one. Coming from a country such as Tunisia which doesn’t have such a comprehensive support system for tennis players was difficult. She explains that finding sponsorships was difficult at times with some not wanting to do deals with her due to where she came from.
“It is much different to come from my country than being American or French or Australian. They have not just the example of seeing players playing in front of you, but more tennis clubs and even more tournaments,” she said.
“I’ve been rejected by sponsors because of where I come from, which is so not fair. I didn’t understand why before. I accepted it. I dealt with it. I am really proud of the person I became today, just not relying on others.’
“Everybody probably had a difficult career. I’m not saying I have the most difficult one. I just wanted to really do this. It’s my dream. I didn’t want to depend on a sponsor or someone who doesn’t even care about tennis or doesn’t even care about sport in general.”
Those sponsorship difficulties are a thing of the past and it is likely Jabeur will attract more interest from companies following her entry into the world’s top 10. On social media various former Grand Slam champions have praised her latest milestone. On Twitter Andy Murray commented that Jabeur’s entry into the world’s top 10 was ‘very cool’ and Billie Jean King described her latest win as ‘historic.’
“It shows how important it is for me to achieve this. Being recognized by legends, honestly, it just gives me even more the power to work harder and be like them one day, maybe, a Grand Slam champion.” Jabeur said in reponse to those comments.
Coming into Indian Wells, achieving a ranking high wasn’t the first thing on her mind. Instead, it was trying to close in on securing a spot in the WTA Finals next month. She is currently ranked eighth, which is the final qualifying spot, in the WTA race after overtaking Naomi Osaka.
“I came here stressed a lot with the race. I know so many players were playing here. I really didn’t look much at the ranking, but I knew I was kind of not far,” Jabeur explained. “I was talking to my mental coach and I told her, this is too much. But I told her, I need to do this, I need to go through this to be able to win a Grand Slam one day. To go and win a Grand Slam, you need to kind of take this step.”
Jabeur is a win away from becoming the first Arab woman to reach an Indian Wells final and the first from an African country since Amanda Coetzer back in 1994. Standing in her way is Spain’s Paula Badosa who knocked out former champion Angelique Kerber in her quarter-final match.
“I always said she’s one of the most talented players in the world,” Badosa said of her Tunisian rival. “She’s having an amazing year. It’s nice seeing all these players that we were like a few years ago outside the top hundred now being top 10, top 20, fighting for the finals. It’s amazing. I’m super happy and I’m happy that I can play her.”
Earlier this year at the Miami Open Jabeur defeated Badosa 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-5, in what was their first Tour meeting since 2015.
‘I Want To Keep Pushing’ – Cameron Norrie Breaks New Ground In Indian Wells
Starting the season ranked 74th in the world, Norrie has surged up the rankings and is now through to the last four of a Masters event for the first time in his career.
For those who do not follow the men’s Tour week-by-week they may be unaware that Cameron Norrie has won more matches in 2021 than Novak Djokovic.
The 26-year-old Brit has enjoyed a breakthrough season on the Tour where he has reached no less than five ATP Finals, winning his first title at the Los Cabos Open in Mexico. A former top 10 junior player and No.1 collegiate player at the Texas Christian University, Norrie has reached the third round at three out of four Grand Slams this season. To put that into perspective, before this year he had only ever done so once in his career. 2021 is also the first year Norrie has recorded multiple wins over top 10 opponents after beating Dominic Thiem in Lyon and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.
Given Norrie’s recent surge and consistency, his run at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this week isn’t as surprising as some might think. Seeded 21st in the draw, he thrashed a lacklustre Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2, on Thursday. Prior to the clash, he described the match as ‘the biggest of his career leading in’ and with good reason too. The win has resulted in no fewer than three new milestones. Through to the semi-finals of a Masters tournament for the first time, he will make his top 20 debut next week and overtake Dan Evans to become British No.1 for the first time.
“It was never really a goal of mine, but it’s definitely a great bonus to be British No. 1,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I want to keep pushing. I think I’ve got a lot of things to improve on, but I think it’s one of those things you’ve got to enjoy.’
“Yeah, it’s nice to show some of the hard work from Facu (his coach) and I that have been putting in over the last kind of five years after college. It’s showing, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Norrie is guided on the Tour by coach Facundo Lugones who have known him since school. Lugones was set to work in the finance industry following his studies at Texas Christian University but ended up travelling with Norrie on the Tour back in 2017 and has done so ever since.
“He’s so passionate about tennis. He’s given 120% every day. He takes care of all the little details, everything, so he’s a phenomenal coach,” Norrie commented.
“He’s always willing to learn and listen to others. He’s great friends with a lot of the other Argentinian coaches who have a lot of experience and played on the tour. Great coaches, as well. So he’s around the best guys in the world, and he’s listening to what they are saying.’
“It’s cool because every time I do something for the first time, he’s doing it, as well. So it’s cool to do it together. He brings a lot. He offers a lot of help, and he’s a great guy altogether.”
The next task for the soon to be British No.1 is a showdown with Grigor Dimitrov in Indian Wells. The Bulgarian is a former world No.3 player who has been producing some of his best tennis in recent days. After knocking out top seed Daniil Medvedev, he saw off Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in three sets on Thursday. In both of those matches Dimitrov had to come from behind to win.
“I’m just really pleased to be playing my best level at these bigger events,” said Norrie. “I’m just enjoying the process and enjoying playing the bigger matches. There is always going to be a bigger match and a bigger opportunity. I was just happy with how I handled myself in terms of the situation.”
Should Norrie beat Dimitrov on Saturday he would become the fourth British man to reach a final in Indian Wells. Following in the footsteps of Greg Rusedski, Tim Henman and Andy Murray.
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