Maria Sakkari ‘Scared’ Of Anti-Doping Testing Measures After Halep Ban - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari ‘Scared’ Of Anti-Doping Testing Measures After Halep Ban



Maria Sakkari - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Former world number three Maria Sakkari has revealed the anti-doping testing procedures used to ensure tennis players are clean are “scary” and “stressful”.


On Tuesday the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) banned former French Open and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep for four years for two separate breaches of the Anti-Doping Programme (TADP), and the discovery of a prohibited substance – roxadustat – at last year’s US Open as well as anomalies in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

Speaking at the San Diego Open, a WTA 500 event where Sakkari is the third seed, she was asked whether she trusted the doping authorities.

“The way they are handling every situation with any athlete is just scary” she explained. “We are going to get to a point where we are not going to even be taking electrolytes. That’s how I feel. Thankfully I haven’t been in that position and I never want to be. I am being very careful with anything that has to do with supplements. But I don’t know what’s the process with how things are done behind closed doors. I don’t know who has a say [with what’s going on], I don’t know, it’s not in my knowledge.”

When asked about how things could improve, for example communication to players, she answered: “I would for sure improve the ‘Whereabouts’ App they have – it’s horrible, it doesn’t work well and it’s supposed to remind you every day about your timeslot but it doesn’t. They tried to improve it but it’s not working very well.”

Given how much professional tennis players travel globally, following them across international borders with accurate testing procedures is proving difficult and adding anxiety to some competitors. 

“For us, we travel so much compared to other athletes and it’s just very stressful” said Sakkari. “I wake up almost every night to use the bathroom, and if that’s close to my timeslot, then I am just thinking ‘do I go, do I not go, do I wait until they come, it’s just something very stressful.”

But however hard and inconvenient the current testing processes are, Sakkari admitted that “it was good for the sport and sport in general, and that we have to keep it clean.”

Former world number one Halep has made it clear she intends to appeal the ban as she fights through ‘the hardest match of her life’, and she remains suspended from all tennis related activities until October 2026.

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Aryna Sabalenka Survives Scare, Wades Into Ball Quality Debate At China Open



Aryna Sabalenka overcame a stern test against Britain’s Katie Boulter to book her place in the third round of the China Open on Tuesday.


The top seed was forced to dig deep during her 7-5, 7-6(2), win over the world No.56. In both sets Boulter had a chance to serve them out but was denied by a determined Sabalenka who battled back. The Belrussian faced 12 break points during the match but she managed to save 10 of them.

“She’s a great player. I’m just super happy to win this match,” Sabalenka said afterward.
“In the key moments, I played a little bit better than her. I think it was all about the last games in each set.’
“I’m super happy that I didn’t give her easily those sets. I kept fighting, keep trying. That’s what made the difference.”

Sabalenka now leads Boulter 3-0 in their head-to-head with their latest meeting being the first time the Brit has played a current world No.1 player. She is bidding to become the fourth player to win both the Australian Open and Beijing titles within the same season and the first to do so since Naomi Osaka in 2019. Two out of her five WTA 1000 titles were won on Chinese soil.

“The courts are really great. I would say it suits my game really well. The atmosphere is amazing,” Sabalenka commented.
“It’s been a while, like four years (since she last played in China). I’m a completely different person and a completely different player right now. I know better how to use these courts, how to play on these courts.”

A prominent subject being discussed during this tournament has been regarding the quality of the tennis balls which Daniil Medvedev describes as like a ‘grapefruit’ after being used for a couple of games. He has also voiced concerns that using different balls at various tournaments is contributing towards a rise in player injuries with others on the Tour expressing similar comments.

Sabalenka has backed up Medvedev’s remarks about the ball changing after two games and admits she would prefer different ones being used.

“I cannot imagine what’s happening with the men’s game because the rallies are longer and the ball’s getting even bigger,” she said.
“Today after a couple of games, the balls were getting heavier and bigger. Because of that, the game was getting slower. It’s tough.;’
“It’s tough conditions. I don’t know, but it seems to work good for me, so I’m like, It’s okay. (But) I would prefer probably different balls for this surface.”

Sabalenka will play Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in her next match.

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‘My Brain Works Different’ – Coco Gauff Talks Positives From Online Criticism After China Open Win



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Many of the world’s top players have fallen victim to online criticism but Coco Gauff sees it as a source of inspiration. 


The 19-year-old American recently claimed the biggest title of her career at the US Open where she beat Aryna Sabalenka in the final. A milestone for the youngster who has spent a lot of her young career in the limelight. Immediately after that win, she said on the court ‘to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you’re really adding gas.’ This a comment that has resonated with other athletes, including basketball Breanna Stewart who referenced the remark in her WNBA MVP acceptance speech. 

“It was really cool to be quoted by such an incredible athlete as her, especially someone that’s older to me, way more established in her field or her sport than I am, draw inspiration from me,” Gauff commented on Stewart during her Monday press conference in Beijing. 

Gauff is back in action this week at the China Open where she is the third seed. In her opening match, she beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5, 6-3, to record her 13th tour win in a row. Overall, she has won 16 matches at WTA 1000 events so far this season. 

Looking to end her season with more silverware, the world No.3 says her approach of using negative comments to her advantage is an approach she doesn’t recommend for every player. 

“I feel like my brain just works differently,” she explained. “I still have the filters on my Instagram. I don’t see anything. I see the comments.’
“I used to not be on Twitter at all. I’m still really not on Twitter much. But sometimes you get caught up in the scroll. The way the page is, the accounts that you interact with, you see yourself. I interact with tennis a lot obviously, so those tweets come up. Obviously I see about myself, positive and negative.’
“I wouldn’t say negativity is something that’s welcome. It’s more something that I draw inspiration from. I wouldn’t recommend everybody to do that.”
“My agent and my team advise not to comment back, so I use my racquet to do it (smiling).”

Already qualified for the WTA Finals after this year, Gauff isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. Recently she accepted a wildcard to play at the Zhengzhou Open which will take place straight after Beijing. 

I wanted to have a second tournament in case this one doesn’t go as well,” she said. “I wanted matches before the WTA Finals because from the US Open to the Finals is a long stint. If you lose early here (in Beijing), the Finals is a long stint.”
“I wanted to play at least two tournaments down here.”

Gauff will next play Petra Martić on Tuesday. 

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Daniil Medvedev Reaches China Open Semis Despite Frustration With ‘Very Slow’ Balls



This week’s China Open is taking place on a hard court but Daniil Medvedev says he feels like he is playing on clay due to the types of balls being used.


The former US Open champion continued his quest for a 21st ATP title in Beijing on Monday with a roller-coaster 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, win over Ugo Humbert in the quarter-finals. Medvedev at times struggled to hold serve with him getting broken twice in the first set and then once in each of the next two sets. It was a somewhat unusual match with the world No.3 later claiming that he would not have won if it was played on ‘any other normal hard court with normal balls.’

“With these balls, it’s kind of like playing on clay,’ Medvedev told reporters after beating Humbert. “The only big difference is the bounce, which is not like on clay, so it’s still different, but it’s very slow.’
“I lost two times my serve in the first set. I won it. I lost my serve in the third, I won it 6-1. Any other normal hard court with normal balls, no chance I win a match like this. Also, no chance I lose so much of my serve. To make an ace is tough.”

It is not the first time that Medvedev has criticized the quality of balls being used and the constant changes between tournaments. He previously described the balls in Beijing as turning into a ‘grapefruit’ after they have been used for a couple of shots and says it can be impossible to hit a winner. Furthermore, he is among a series of players to raise concerns that these changes are resulting in a rise in player injuries.

Medvedev is a formidable force on hardcourt’s with him winning 41 ATP Tour matches so far this season on the surface which is more than any other player. After beating Humbert, he has now reached the semi-final or better at every current hardcourt event that is classed as an ATP 500 or above.

Despite his success and trophy tally of 20, he has yet to win the same tournament twice.

“It’s a fun story,” he commented on his record. “This week I’m here in Beijing, so I hope to make it 21 in 21 different cities. It’s going to be pretty special because I’m not sure anyone has done something like this before.”
“At the same time I hope to, in Shanghai, maybe break this story, try to win a second title in the same city, same tournament.”

Medvedev will next take on Alexander Zverev who defeated Nicolas Jarry 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3. It will be their 17th Tour meeting and their fifth this season. Medvedev currently leads their head-to-head 9-7.

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