Passing Shots: The case for and against Viktor Troicki
Random thoughts, observations, links and other goodies from the tennis world this week …
• What a week. And to think, we thought the big story was going to be Roger Federer's getting a cow.
• A few players have rallied to Viktor Troicki's defense after he was suspended for 18 months for failing to provide a blood test:
• But Kevin Anderson's wife, Kelsey, was a little less sympathetic, cracking a joke that referenced Troicki's epic meltdown at the Italian Open:
• Is an 18-month ban too harsh for skipping a blood test? I can see the argument. The two players who actually tested positive for a banned substance this year were given shorter bans. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was suspended for eight months after testing positive for a stimulant. Federico Romboli was issued an eight-and-a-half-month suspension for testing positive for diuretics. Troicki is getting more than twice that and he didn't even test positive for anything (Troicki gave a blood test the next day and the results came back clean).
But in a sport that is heavily shaded by a growing cloud of suspicion, I'm in favor of strict and harsh penalties if they act as a deterrent. It's important for the athletes to understand that skipping out on a test is just as bad as testing positive, if not more so. Otherwise, if you know you'll test positive, why wouldn't you bail on a test knowing that the sanction is lighter than actually testing positive?
• Bernard Tomic has had a difficult 2013. The Guardian really didn't need to add to it:
• Meanwhile, Croatian media are reporting that Marin Cilic failed a drug test in Munich. Cilic's manager said, "There will be no comment until we are able to comment." An ITF spokesperson told SI.com that the federation does not comment unless a player has been found to have committed an anti-doping offense by an independent tribunal once the investigation process is complete. Stay tuned ...
• Benoit Paire is apparently a spokesman for Maui Jim sunglasses now. And iPods. And hipster beards:
• Things you don't see every day: Withdrawing from a tournament due to ... traffic.
• Is Martina Hingis going to make a comeback in singles? Who knows. On Tennis Channel, Lindsay Davenport said she wouldn't be surprised if the Swiss Miss did so. Rennae Stubbs told me on the No Challenges Remaining podcast that she's hearing that Hingis does plan to play singles in the fall. But in this interview with Sports On Earth, Hingis dismisses the idea. Meanwhile, she's taken her third wild card into a doubles event, this time at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
• It's a bit worrisome to hear that Bob and Mike Bryan had to withdraw from both the BB&T Atlanta Open and next week's Citi Open in Washington, D.C., because of Bob's shoulder injury. The twins are going for the calendar Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.
• Greatest thing I heard all week: Ted Robinson is attending the Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert at Candlestick Park on Friday night.
• You know you watch way too much tennis when you notice that ESPN has changed the font on its scoreboard chyron. I was duly mocked in the press room.
A few notes from the the press room at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif.:
• After making her second straight Premier semifinal, Jamie Hampton was asked by a local reporter about her power game. Hampton looked puzzled. "You think that that's my style? That I like to hit the ball hard? That's disappointing," she said, laughing. "I like to think of myself as a player with a lot of variety, likes to come forward, I can slice. I like to think that I have a lot to offer for the game. Of course, I like to hit the ball hard. I am a girl in that sense. I'm kind of sad that you think of my game like that," she said with a smile.
• How's this for ball-bashing: Hampton's hot shot against Nicole Gibbs was one for the scrapbook:
• Don't expect to see Hampton's family courtside anytime soon. Hampton said it's been a while since her mother has been involved in her tennis. "It's not that she doesn't want to; it's just that it's hard for me sometimes," she said. "My mom was with me 24/7 when I was a kid. Through all of the practices, through all of the matches. It can be tough. She can be tough on me. It can be hard. ... We're very close. She did everything for me."
• Varvara Lepchenko might become a California girl. Lepchenko has left USTA coaching and is working with Roger Smith (former coach to Sloane Stephens and Donald Young) on a trial basis and may move her training base to Los Angeles, where he's based. "Everything's so expensive here," she joked. "So I'll have to play better to make it down here."
• Madison Keys looked like she had a good cry before coming into press after her straight-set loss to Vera Dushevina in the second round. "Yeah, it was pretty bad," Keys said of the match. "My timing was off, just everything was off. It just wasn't a very good night and it was frustrating." The quick conditions were tough for her to handle. "It's definitely probably one of the fastest outdoor hard courts I've ever played on," Keys said. "Obviously, you have to work with it and figure it out."
• Stanford's Gibbs, making her pro debut, started it off with a good win over Kiki Bertens before losing to Hampton. The two-time NCAA champion is looking forward to seeing how much her game will grow now that she can just focus on tennis. "I've loved Stanford and I think I've grown so much and a lot of my growth has been overcoming a ridiculous schedule," she said. "Now I have the opportunity to dedicate my full time and energy to tennis. All of my thoughts, everything. It sounds funny, but when you're channeling all your energy into getting smarter and getting good grades and all that stuff, it's really valuable but it's really draining on your tennis."
• Dominika Cibulkova is now working with the Slovakian Fed Cup captain as her coach. I asked her if her new coach was more positive than Zeljko Krajan, the notoriously tough coach she worked with for almost two years. "Well, of course," she said. "I think everyone is more positive than him."
•Thing I learned this week: The Stanford football team can be a loud bunch. The players showed up in force to cheer on Gibbs during her second-round match, and their vocal support definitely got into Hampton's head.
•Second thing I learned this week: Don't heckle Hampton by yelling "Roll Tide!" The Stanford football team made that mistake and the Auburn, Ala., native proceeded to turn things around, rolling to a 4-0 lead in the third set and winning the match. • Agnieszka Radwanska is sticking to her blonde dye job at least until the U.S. Open. "To be honest, now more people prefer blondes now," she said. "I think they always did."