There’s a doctor on court in Linz

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Tennis players know a lot of doctors. They don’t often play against one.

Mihaela Buzarnescu is an exception. The 29-year-old Romanian lefty received her PhD in Physical Education and Sport last December.

And she’s having best year of her career after a decade at the lowest ITF levels.

Buzarnescu qualified for her first major at the US Open. And she qualified for her first WTA Tour main draw this week in Linz. She upset No. 4 seed Anett Kontaveit in the first round and is in the quarters.

From No. 351 in January, she’ll break into the top 100.

Match-point retirement for Stevenson

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Nearly 37 and ranked No. 715, American Alexandra Stevenson keeps soldiering on.

But if there’s anything that has marked her career in the days since she was so promising, it’s the number of times she has retired in matches.

With her latest, in the final round of qualifying at a $25K in Australia this week, our unofficial count has her at 70 for her career (in singles). 

But this one was extra-special.

A Twitter follower noted the late ending to the match and sure enough, Stevenson stopped when she was match point down.

Integrity Unit gets another small fish

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The Tennis Integrity Unit’s latest catch is Samuel Ribeiro Navarrete, a 24-year-old Spaniard with no current ranking.

Ribeiro Navarrete received an eight-month suspension and a $1000 fine. The TIU found he placed 28 bets on tennis online between January and March, 2013. None were on his own matches. 

The TIU’s last suspension came in August when Marius Frosa of Romania, 21, received the same sanctions. He had three accounts, and placed 12 bets during a one-year period ending June, 2015 – none of them on himself. 

Frosa was ranked outside the top 2,000 at the time. His career earnings are $2,320.

Here’s the ITF’s 2018 Prohibited List

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The International Tennis Federation has released the list of prohibited substances for 2018.

The changes go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2018

Says the ITF:

“All players are responsible for acquainting themselves, and ensuring that each Person from whom they take advice (including medical personnel) is acquainted, with all of the requirements of the Programme, including knowing what constitutes an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under the Programme and what substances and methods are prohibited, and ensuring that anything they ingest or use, as well as any medical treatment they receive, does not give rise to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.”

Click here to see the full list.

More crucial of course, is the document that lists the changes from the 2017 list to next year’s list.

That’s here.

Here are a few highlights.

Alcohol no longer prohibited

“After careful consideration and extensive consultation, Alcohol was excluded from the Prohibited List. The intent of this change is not to compromise the integrity or safety of any sport where alcohol use is a concern, but rather to endorse a different means of enforcing bans on alcohol use in these sports. The four International Federations (IF) affected by this change have been alerted sufficiently in advance in order to amend their rules and to put in place protocols to test for alcohol use and appropriately sanction athletes who do not abide by the rules of their sport,” the ITF writes.

“Control of the process will allow IF more flexibility in applying rules or thresholds as they see fit. The National Anti-Doping Organizations are no longer obliged to conduct tests but may assist IF and National Federations where appropriate.”

Monitored List changes

Two substances that had been on the list of monitored substances (as meldonium was in 2016) have been removed “because the required information on prevalence was obtained.

Those are Mitragynine and telmisartan (brand name Micardis, typically used to treat high blood pressure).

Two more were added, “to evaluate misuse in sport:  2-ethylsulfanyl-1H-benzimidazole (bemitil) in- and out-of-competition and Hydrocodone in-competition.  

Bemitil (also known as Metaprot and AntiHot) appears to be another of those substances that got on the watch list because of its extensive use by Russian and East European athletes. It was first developed in the 1970s. 

According to this site, its main purpose is “increasing the physical and mental performance in people exposed to stressful conditions, and accelerating the recovery process after physical exertion. That makes it useful for athletes, especially for bodybuilders and runners. What is important is that Bemitil can be taken by healthy individuals.”

It’s available at the “Dr. Doping” site, among many other sites, which probably doesn’t help its case.

As for hydrocodone, an addictive pain killer, it is a nearly exclusively American product. The statistics a few years ago were that Americans consume 99 per cent of the hydrocodone produced. It’s the opioid contained in Vicodin.

For now, that doesn’t mean either of these substances are banned. They are just being monitored.

Removal of Glycerol

In consideration of the information published in scientific articles since 2012 that particularly addresses the ability of glycerol to influence the athlete‘s plasma volume and parameters of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), the magnitude of glycerol-derived effects is regarded as minimal. Therefore, glycerol has been removed from the Prohibited List.

Changes on the cannabis side

The category Cannabimimetics, e.g. “Spice, JWH-018, JWH-073, HU210” was changed to “synthetic cannabinoids, e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabimimetics”. The synthetic cannabinoids are one of the main classes of novel psychoactive substances that have constantly emerging new drugs and changing availability. The previous list of examples continues to be prohibited, but are currently used less commonly. “Other cannabimimetics” replaced these examples.

• Cannabidiol is no longer prohibited. Synthetic cannabidiol is not a cannabimimetic; however, cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants may also contain varying concentrations of THC, which remains a prohibited substance.

Top juniors skip ITF Junior Masters

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The ITF Junior Masters in Chengdu, China next month will award rankings points for the first time this year.

It also awards $160,000 in travel grants.

But that hasn’t stopped many of the world’s top juniors from saying no.

Top seed amongst the girls is No. 2 Whitney Osuigwe, the junior French Open champ. Chinese No. 1 Yibing Wu, who went straight from the US Open junior title to a Challenger title, leads the boys.

But in all, just five of the top 10 girls and four of the top-10 boys will be competing.

Belgium, USA exercise hosting options

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The new rules put in place at the International Tennis Federation annual general meeting last August allow for Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams who have reached the finals to automatically have choice of ground for their first-round ties the following season.

What wasn’t clear at first is that this wasn’t an automatic.

So after the draw took place Sept. 20 in London, the teams not initially drawn to play at home were given two weeks to exercise the option.

To no one’s surprise, both Belgium’s Davis Cup team and the U.S.’s Fed Cup team exercised those options in short order.

Belgium, which meets France in the Davis Cup final, had been drawn to play away in Hungary. Instead, they will play at home Feb. 2-4, 2018.

And the USA Fed Cup team, which travels to Belarus for the final in Minsk Nov. 11-12, also was drawn to play away, against the Netherlands.

The Americans now will host the tie, to take place Feb. 11-12, 2018.

Eternal moonball rally hits 140

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The video only shows the last 70 shots of this rally between Magdalena Frech and 17-year-old Amina Anshba in Leipzig, Germany this week.

And it’s five minutes long.

While the stamina is impressive, it’s unfortunate it took 140 shots before someone (Anshba) opted to take one out of the air.

Anshba lost the tiebreak 9-7.

It’s not close to the record, though.

That’s believed to be a 29-minute, 643-shot rally at a women’s tournament in Richmond, Va. in 1984 between Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner. The match itself (two sets) took six hours, 31 minutes.