Souza suspended, unsuspended – then suspended again

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for Brazil’s João Souza.

(Not to be confused with Portugal’s João Sousa).

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The 30-year-old, currently ranked No. 422 after a career high of No. 69 almost exactly four years ago, is under provisional suspension from professional tennis.

The Tennis Integrity Unit is looking into “alleged breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program.”

The twist in this one is that Souza was already suspended briefly – then reinstated, briefly.

And now, he’s suspended again.

The original suspension was announced March 29 – and then mysteriously sort of disappeared.

Souza had made a “successful appeal”, per the TIU. And he was reinstated on April 8.

The veteran hadn’t played since a Challenger event in Chile in early March. But he returned to action this week at a Challenger in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It was his ninth tournament of the season.

With a ranking of No. 13 on the ITF Tennis Tour (built up on the Futures circuit in the second half of 2018), Souza can get into almost any Challenger he wants because of the reserved places for top-ranked ITF players in each tournament.

And so he posted victories over qualifier Gerardo Lopez of Mexico in the first round, and then a straight-sets upset over No. 8 seed Mohamed Safwat of Egypt.

But Souza was forced to give Marcelo Barrios Vera of Chile a walkover in the third round Thursday.

“Additional evidence submitted”

The reason why became clear with the TIU’s announcement Friday.

It indicated that the provisional suspension was re-imposed “following consideration of additional evidence submitted by the TIU”. As well, no more appeals will be allowed. 

Souza earned $860 (!!!) and seven ATP Tour ranking points in San Luis Potosi this week. Per Mark Harrison of the TIU, Souza will be allowed to keep whatever he earned from the reinstatement April 8 until the time of the forfeit.

Souza began the 2018 season on the ATP Tour, but lost in the qualifying of all the events he entered, most on the South American winter clay-court swing. By the end of the season, he was on the Futures circuit, where he won three straight tournaments to finish up the year.

He was inside the top 100 for six months, from February to Aug. 2015. That year, he earned over $320,000 and hit his career high.

But in 2016 and 2017 he grossed less than $100,000 per year and in Aug. 2017, he fell out of the top 200.

In 2018, Souza earned less than $40,000, despite playing 29 events.

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