Monday January 11th, 2010

1. Here we are, a week into 2010 and we already have a Match of the Year candidate. Kim Clijsters beat Justine Henin in a third-set tiebreaker to win in Brisbane, Australia. There are, of course, many dimensions to this result. Two Belgians, bracketed together-however awkwardly- from day one. Two former No. 1s. And, above all, two "un-retirees" playing top-shelf tennis.

Henin was competing in her first event after an 18-month layoff. But Clijsters, it's easier to forget, has only been back six months herself. It couldn't have come a moment too soon for the WTA. And while I still think Serena Williams has to be considered the favorite, the women's draw in Melbourne is suddenly mighty interesting.

2. Speaking of interesting draws, Nikolay Davydenko has now beaten both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in two straight events. Last week in Qatar, he took out Federer in the semis and then staved off multiple match points to beat Nadal in the final. True, there is a big difference between winning a Tour event and winning a major. But if Davydenko can sustain this level of play, the world may actually have to start paying him some mind.

3. Another week, another tennis suspension. All those sports fans who complain that athletes are coddled, that they're surrounded by enablers and apologists who turned a blind eye to any behavior, short of bringing firearms into a locker room? Well, fix your gaze on tennis. The latest fall gal is Russia's Ekaterina Bychkova, fined $5,000 and suspended for a month in conjunction with this incident.

Bychkova failed to report that she was asked to provide inside information and throw matches. (Important to note: There was no evidence she did anything untoward; this was an act of omission, not commission.) Some of you have already remarked this punishment seems unduly harsh and have drawn parallels with Yanina Wickmayer's dubious (and overturned) discipline. I disagree.

Keeping the sport clean and the competition honest is critically important. Relying on the players to report suspicious activity is imperative. And while Bychkova, currently ranked outside the top 100, will miss that $5,000, it is the lower-ranked players who are particularly susceptible to match-fixing.

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