Simona Halep Hits Out At ITF Over Handling Of Her Doping Suspension - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Hits Out At ITF Over Handling Of Her Doping Suspension



Simona Halep at the 2022 Madrid Open - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Simona Halep has claimed that she sent the International Tennis Federation evidence proving that she didn’t deliberately take banned substances but the governing body then denied ever receiving it. 


The two-time Grand Slam champion is currently prohibited from participating on the Tour after testing positive for roxadustat following a test that was conducted during last year’s US Open. Roxadustat is a prescribed medicine which has been shown to increase oxygen intake. It is in the same category as EPO, which is another blood-boosting drug, on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. 

Halep has broken her silence on the ongoing case for the first time this week by giving an extensive interview with Tennis Majors in which she confirmed she is still waiting for her case to be heard. The Romanian says she has sought the help of ‘experts’ to find out why she has tested positive for a banned drug who conclude that it was due to contamination of a supplement she took. 

“I had never heard about it (roxadustat) so I didn’t know how I could take it, and actually how it could be in my urine,” Halep told Tennis Majors.
“After a lot of work, they found out that there was a contamination, a supplement contamination, and that’s why the quantity was so so low in my body. A contamination is when someone takes an authorised supplement, but the company who sells it makes a mistake, and there’s a very low quantity of substance that should not be in there. The experts have worked a lot to find the reason of this contamination and they found out that the supplement was contaminated with a very low quantity of substance.”

Quizzed about who these experts are, Halep said she is not able to disclose their names but describes them as ‘extremely experienced’ in this area. Adding that both concluded it was a case of supplement contamination through their independent investigations. 

Once these findings were established, Halep said she sent the evidence to the ITF last December but the organization denies ever receiving it. The ITF has not commented on this claim. 

“I have sent the evidence to the ITF and they denied it. I sent it in December when we first worked on it. The ITF denied it and we are still going through it,” she said. 
“Since the ITF denied it, the only chance this case has to be solved is to go to the tribunal to have a hearing about my case, and present all the evidence that my positive test was contaminated.”

After a duo of cancellations in her hearings, Halep is unlikely to present her case to a panel until the end of May which would be seven months after she was first notified of her doping violation. A process which she has criticized as unfair. 

“I had a big hope that I could go to the tribunal to have a hearing and then I would know if I could play Indian Wells or not. (A) hearing on February 28th didn’t happen because the ITF requested more time to do additional testing. Even if I was looking through that, the hearing was postponed to March 24th. The ITF requested that the hearing on March 24th should be cancelled.” Said Halep. 
“I did not agree with that because as the rule says, a player that is provisionally suspended is entitled to get an expedited hearing. Everything takes so long. I asked the ITF to lift my sanction to be able to play but they also refused it.”

Despite her ongoing battle, the 31-year-old is determined to continue her career once she is allowed to do so. Halep has won 24 WTA titles and has been runner-up at 18 other tournaments. She has also earned more than $40M in prize money and won over 550 matches. 

I really want to play again because I love this sport and I want to play for the big titles again. I have worked all my life for this.” She stated. 
“Until now, tennis has always been my life. I feel that I want to do it again when I come back. I want to be as strong as I was before, even more if it’s possible. I’m working for that and I know I’m going to struggle because it will be almost eight months without playing an official match and all the pressure there was about this case. I strongly believe that if I work hard, I can play at the highest level again.”

It is reported that Halep’s hearing will take place on May 28th but this hasn’t officially been confirmed. 

UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, the ITF has issued the following statement:-

“The ITF has had no involvement in the management of this case, as the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is managed and enforced by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) on behalf of the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams.” An ITF spokesperson has stated.


Iga Swiatek Criticises WTA’s Reform Of 2024 Calendar



Iga Swiatek has hit out at the WTA by claiming that only a handful of players were made aware of changes being made to the Tour calendar before they came into effect.


In recent weeks there has been an increase in frustration among players on the women’s Tour with letters being sent to the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, about their concerns. Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body. According to The Athletic, some of the concerns that have been raised relates to higher pay on the Tour, adjustments to scheduling to help support players, expanded childcare and calls for a member of the PTPA to be present on the WTA Player’s Council.

The WTA has also been in the firing line concerning their management of the Tour finals which took place in Cancun last month and was won by Switek. Some of those who took part complained about the court conditions and lack of preparation they had. The stadium court wasn’t fully constructed until the same weekend the tournament began. 

Although, for the world No.1 her principle criticism concerns the 2024 calendar and the rules in place reagrding playing in mandatory events. Swiatek says some of the decisions have been made following discussions with ‘third parties’ and believes players are not being listened to. 

“There is room for improvement,” she said during an interview with newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“As players, we are dissatisfied with the calendar for next year and the increase in the number of mandatory tournaments and restrictions related to withdrawing from them.’
“We want to change this. We need more balance and time to get back home. Sometimes, however, we beat our heads against the wall. Some decisions seem to be the result of promises made to third parties, federations and tournament organizers.’
“We find out about them after the fact. This causes frustration. Only a handful of players were aware of the calendar reform and the WTA cannot lead to such a situation again, since it considers itself an organization created for tennis players.”

The 22-year-old argues that these changes would give players more time to rest and see their families. Although Swiatek admits that she is in a more fortunate situation than some of her peers from a financial perspective. This season the Pole has earned $9,857,686 in prize money this year which is more than any other female player. 

“I hope that we will be able to change something – for example in the rules regarding withdrawing from tournaments,” she continued.
“Fortunately, I am in a situation where I can afford for my family to go on a trip with me, but not everyone can afford it. Many players rather save all their money to pay their coaches.’
“However, there is a difference between taking your family with you and returning home, when you can wash your clothes and spend time in the place where you grew up. I often miss Warsaw.”

Swiatek has won 68 out of 79 matches played this season, claiming six titles on the Tour. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. She currently has a 245-point lead over second-place Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA standings. 

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‘A Long Way to Go’ – Iga Swiatek Must Improve A Key Element Of Her Game, Says Navratilova



Martina Navratilova has hailed Iga Swiatek’s winning end to her season but believes the Pole needs to continue working on a certain aspect of her game to become a better player. 


Swiatek reclaimed the world No.1 ranking during the WTA Finals where she clinched the year-end title in Mexico. She closes out the year on an 11-match winning streak after also winning the China Open before playing at the WTA Finals. Overall, she has reached the semi-finals or better at 12 out of 17 Tour events played and has won 68 out of 79 matches during 2023. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. 

Now sitting at the top of the WTA rankings with a 245-point lead over second place Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has begun her off-season which is the period that players normally use to work on their game. 

As to what she needs to work on, Navratilova believes a key issue for the four-time Grand Slam champion involves her volleying technique. Speaking to, Navratilova says there is ‘still a long way to go’ for the former world No.1 but adds that she will become a more formidable player on the Tour if she makes improvements. 

“The thing I’d target is getting to the net. I mean, she’s gotten better but there’s still a long way to go on the volley front, particularly that first volley — the transition volley, which is probably the most difficult shot in the game,” said Navratilova. 
“I think that’s where she can improve the most. Iga still has a tendency to run back to the baseline when she really should be going forward. And if she gets that going? Watch out. She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.”

Continuing her analysis, the 67-year-old believes Swiatek can also increase the speed of her serves even more. 

“She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.” She added. 

Navratilova has also highlighted areas that she believes other players need to work on. In her view, Sabalenka’s goal should be to work more on her movement during matches. Meanwhile, for US Open champion Coco Gauff, the development of her forehand will play an important part in her game. 

Swiatek ends the season with five WTA titles to her name. 

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Naomi Osaka Eager To Reclaim No.1 Spot, Says Coach




Naomi Osaka is targeting a return to the very top of the women’s game when she begins her comeback, according to a member of her team. 


Performance coach Florian Zitzelsberger has told that the four-time Grand Slam champion is ‘balanced and happy’ with herself after taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, a baby girl called Shai. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since the 2022 Pan Pacific Open and currently doesn’t have a ranking due to her inactivity. She has already confirmed her intention to resume her tennis career in 2024 but it is still unclear as to what her first tournament will be.

Providing a glimpse into Osaka’s current progress, Zitzelsberger says she is setting her sights on chasing after more Grand Slam titles. Zitzelsberger is the co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie and has worked with Osaka in the past. He has also collaborated with the likes of Kevin Anderson, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova. 

“Where she is today is what makes working with her so inspiring,” he said. “She wants to get back to world No. 1, she wants to win Grand Slams. She gives me the impression of someone who is totally balanced and happy with herself. She’s very much grounded, mature and embracing the beauty of motherhood.”

In recent months there has been a growing trend of players returning to the sport after giving birth. Notable examples include Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki.

Zitzelsberger says his recent work with Osaka has been getting her back into shape and then working on certain areas of her game. 

“To reach the highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby!” He explains. 
“Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”

Part of the training process has been trying to change what type of player Osaka is to adapt to the current level of the women’s Tour. After winning the 2021 Australian Open, she only reached one more Tour final which was the following year in Miami. During this period, she struggled with some injury issues and has been open about her experiences with mental health. 

“She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” Zitzelsberger commented.
We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot.”

Osaka has won seven WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $21M in prize money. 

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