by Maud Watson
Despite the enthralling tennis that has been taking place in London, one of the biggest stories of the week has been Yannick Noah’s accusations that Spanish athletes are doping. Put bluntly, Noah’s comments couldn’t have been more idiotic for a multitude of reasons. First, if you’re going to accuse someone of doping, have some semblance of concrete evidence, because suggesting that other athletes suddenly appear stronger and able to significantly dominate out of nowhere is not going to cut it. Not to mention, has he taken a look at Tsonga or Monfils? They’ve no doubt achieved their builds fair and square, but there are many players who don’t cut as imposing of a figure as those two. Second, Noah put his own countrymen in an awkward position. Kudos to Llodra and Tsonga who took the high road and apologized to their fellow Spanish competitors for Noah’s comments. Finally, Noah’s solution to the problem was appalling. Rather than suggesting that authorities clean up the alleged abuse, he supports letting French athletes dope, ignoring the long-term health effects it could have on those athletes. The French Tennis Federation has condemned his comments, but they should also suspend him from any involvement with their Davis and Fed Cup teams as well as any media obligations. He cannot go unpunished.
There has been more than one upset this week in London, and there have also been some spectacular efforts from three individuals in particular. Props need to be given to Federer. True, he’d probably trade in his results this week for a major title, but he’s the only one of the Big Four who’s proven there’s still plenty left in the tank (and check out his total matches for 2011 vs. the other three, and you’ll see he’s played nearly as much). Then a big congrats to David Ferrer. He’s a bit like Davydenko in that he always seems to be overlooked. He’s played breathtaking tennis in London, however, and if this is any indication that he’s starting to find the belief against the biggest names in the game, watch out for him in 2012. Finally, hats off to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. After losing to Federer in three to start his campaign this year, he then produced top-notch tennis against Fish before taking it to Nadal when the chips were down to secure his semifinal berth. If they keep playing like this, we’re in for an exciting end to the last tournament of the season.
His overall match results at the ATP World Tour Finals may say otherwise, but Mardy Fish was one of the feel-good stories of the week. He said he was approaching the tournament with the attitude that he was just happy to be there, and that’s been evident in his whole demeanor. You can see how much it meant to him to qualify for this prestigious event, and the fact that he played that third round robin match, knowing he was already out of the running and carrying an injury, is nothing short of admirable. He also put together some fine tennis and had his preparation not been hampered by the injury, you can’t help but wonder if he might have won a few more of the key points and found his way to the semis. It’s hard to know whether or not Fish is capable of backing up his 2011 season next year, but it’s hard not to root for him to have another crack at London.
Awards Are In
The ATP Awards were announced at the front part of the week, and there were no real surprises. Djokovic took home honors for finishing No. 1 while Nadal received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his work with his foundation. Bogomolov Jr. was named the Most Improved by his peers, while standout Raonic was voted the Newcomer of the Year. But the most telling awards were perhaps those that were given to Roger Federer. Despite falling to No. 4 in the rankings and not winning a major for the first time in nearly a decade, fans still voted him their favorite player for the ninth consecutive time, a testament to the enduring quality of the brand of tennis he plays. He was also named the recipient of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, as voted on by his peers, for the seventh time in eight years. For sure, Federer has had some less-than-classy moments in interviews following tough losses, but it’s nice to see that the sportsmanship award went to the top player who doesn’t feel the need to wear every emotion on his sleeve and doesn’t violate the time or coaching rules.
That’s what Roger Draper and the LTA are asking the British Government to do when it comes to their tax laws regarding athletes competing in Britain. Currently, athletes are taxed on prize money, appearance fees, and worldwide endorsements. While taking taxes out for prize money and even the appearance fees doesn’t seem unreasonable (though they are high), the tax on the endorsements does. Nadal, who brought the issue to a head earlier in the year, and any other athlete is right to complain and can’t be blamed for choosing to play at another venue that will allow them to take home more of their hard-earned money. The question is if the government will budge, or if they think that they can continue to get away with it. They’ve already granted some exemptions, such as to those competing in the 2012 Olympics, but it’s hard to imagine tennis players boycotting Wimbledon or possibly even the ATP World Tour Finals if not given exemptions just because of the tax laws. Fingers crossed Draper and the LTA can get the government to do the right thing in this scenario.