Canada Day in Budapest (and Antalya)

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The tennis nation of Canada had an excellent day on Sunday.

And the more well-known names – Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov, Denis Bouchard – weren’t even involved.

On the down side, the understaffed Fed Cup team was no match for Romania in Cluj-Napoca over the weekend. Carol Zhao, Bianca Andreescu and Katherine Sebov – all but Andreescu making their singles debuts at the World Group level – won just one set in three matches. 

The Canadians did salvage a point in the dead doubles rubber on Sunday.

But everywhere else on Planet Tennis Canada, there was hardware.

First up on Sunday was Rebecca Marino, who is returning to pro tennis after a five-year absence.

The 27-year-old followed up her victory at a $15,000 ITF Pro Circuit event in Turkey last week with another title on Sunday, in a similar event.

Marino won three qualifying matches in the first title run. So she has now gone 13-0 in her return (including one walkover) and hasn’t lost a set.

Pospisil wins second straight

Later Sunday, Marino’s fellow British Columbia native Vasek Pospisil won his second straight title on the Challenger circuit.

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Flashback: Vasek Pospisil as a junior 10 years ago, at the 2008 Australian Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Pospisil won the Open de Rennes two weeks ago without dropping a set.

In between came the four-set loss to Borna Coric of Croatia in Davis Cup, and some physical woes.

But Pospisil bounced back in Budapest, managing to put together five victories even if he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent.

He won this title after getting through back-to-back-to-back three-set matches in three days in the final rounds.

In the final, he defeated promising teenager Nicola Kuhn 76 (3), 3-6, 6-3.

Kuhn returned to court a little while later, and helped Canada to a third trophy on Sunday.

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Flashback: Auger-Aliassime at age 14, in Sept. 2014. Not so long ago. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

He and fellow 17-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime upset the No. 1 seeds, Marin and Tomislav Draganja of Croatia, 2-6, 6-2, 11-9 to win the doubles title.

The kids had a roller-coaster ride in the match tiebreak. They were up 6-2 and serving. Suddenly, they were down 7-6, with the Croatian brothers about to serve the next two points.

But they took both those points, and finally converted on their third match point.

Auger-Aliassime was immediately headed to the big tournament in Rotterdam, where he has a wild card and will make his ATP Tour main-draw debut against Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

Rising rankings

When the 24 ranking points she has earned over the last two weeks finally hit the computer, Marino’s ranking will have gone from zero – or infinity, depending on how you look at it – to approximately No. 732.

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Flashback: Rebecca Marino as a junior 10 years ago, at the 2008 Australian Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

(A few years ago, before players like Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin made comebacks, you needed to have earned points in three tournaments before you could get a WTA Tour ranking. That was amended.

Now, if you earn 10 points in any one tournament, you qualify. But points from $15,000 ITF tournaments take a minimum of one extra week to show up).

Pospisil’s singles ranking of No. 85 might, at best, move him up one spot because of the points he was defending from the San Francisco Challenger a year ago. But on the plus side, he didn’t lose any ground.

Pospisil would have made the Rotterdam qualifying, and given himself a chance to earn more. But his success in Budapest meant he couldn’t get there in time.

Auger-Aliassime’s doubles ranking will vault from No 1092 to inside the top 500. He’s a fine modern-classic doubles player (a junior US Open doubles champion with fellow Canadian Shapovalov when he was just 15). He just hasn’t played much.

Rebecca Marino back in three months

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Great news for Canadian Rebecca Marino.

The 26-year-old Canadian decided to return to play after nearly five years in retirement.

But because of the anti-doping rules regarding reinstatement – rules she wasn’t aware of – she was unable to play in this week’s ITF tournament in Saguenay, Quebec.

A six-month period in the anti-doping required is required before a retired play can be reinstated.

But the ITF told Tennis.Life Monday that in Marino’s case, the period will only be three months.

Marino has filed for reinstatement Friday, and will be eligible to return on Jan. 20, 2018.

That’s great news; originally, it appeared she could only return in April at the earliest.

The waiting period was extended to six months as of Jan. 1, 2015, according to the revised WADA code. Per the ITF, that six-month period applies only to players who retired after that date. 

Marino comeback delayed indefinitely

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SAGUENAY, Québec – Canadian Rebecca Marino was all ready to start the second chapter of her tennis career.

She traveled to Montreal from her home in Vancouver, practiced for a few days, and made the five-hour drive to Saguenay Friday.

The plan was to arrive at the $60,000 ITF Pro Circuit tournament there before the 6 p.m. deadline to sign in for the qualifying and prepare for a first-round match on Saturday.

But the 26-year-old forgot one detail.

It was a crucial, significant detail.

Marino never told the International Tennis Federation, the Canadian anti-doping program and Tennis Canada that she was coming back to play. In fact, she didn’t notify them at all.

And that means Marino can’t play – for at least six months.

Retiring easier than un-retiring

The official retirement form is filed with the WTA. It’s a simple form – eight lines including name, last tournament played, official retirement date, e-mail and so on.

The retirement then is on-passed to the ITF, which runs the anti-doping program. And then the player is placed on the federation’s retirement list.

It’s not mandatory. But by not making it official, players subject themselves to all of the restrictions and rules – and tests – of the anti-doping program.

Marino was added to the list, effective Feb. 20, 2013.  

Marino

If a player wants to “un-retire”, they have to reverse the process. And that includes alerting all of the proper authorities.

Marino
The ITF spells out the criteria for a player returning from retirement. And there needs to be six months of active duty in the anti-doping program.

The reinstatement form isn’t that much more complex than the retirement form.

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The rules for reinstatement are fairly clearly spelled out.

Marino can appeal it. But the only stated reason for waiving the six-month period is “where the strict application of that requirement would be manifestly unfair to a Player,” per the ITF rules.

It doesn’t spell out what it considers “manifestly unfair”. But in other areas, such as provisional doping suspensions, it indicates that such exceptions are rare.

No exceptions – not even a former No. 1

The reasons for that pre-return testing period are obvious, and so need not be stated here.

It’s a rule that got retired American player Andy Roddick a few years ago, when he wanted to play doubles with his great friend Mardy Fish to help him say goodbye to pro tennis at the US Open.

As it happens, Roddick officially retired four days before Marino did, on Feb. 16, 2013. In his case, a three-month period on the anti-doping program was required, and there wasn’t enough time.

Eventually, Roddick did apply for reinstatement, which became effective July 16, 2015.

Why Marino didn’t know about this or didn’t make sure she completed whatever paperwork was required is a question mark. Tennis Canada would not make her available to answer a few questions, not even on site. 

The Vancouver native only began training again with an eye towards coming back to the game at the beginning of September. Even had she looked into all the details on the very first day she stepped on the court for real, she still would have been more than four months short.

Tennis.Life had contacted both the ITF and the WTA Tour this morning just to ensure that Marino had, indeed, completed the reinstatement process (sometimes you have an intuition …).

But with the WTA Tour having basically shifted operations to Singapore for the Tour finals, no immediate response was forthcoming. As for the ITF, well, it was … Friday afternoon. If either provides additional information, we’ll update the story.