Spears hit with doping suspension

American doubles specialist Abigail Spears is suspended after a test during the US Open came back positive for prasterone (DHEA), testosterone and metabolites.

Those substances, per the ITF rules, trigger an automatic provisional suspension.

Spears took to Instagram to take responsibility, apologizing to her doubles partners and saying that after testing clean for nearly 20 years, she had consulted a reputable doctor after being “unwell for an extended amount of time” earlier in the year.

She took supplements he recommended for diagnosed vitamin deficiencies without going through the WTA or WADA.

At 38, it’s a tough blow.

Struggling Errani invents new serve

The struggles of Sara Errani with the serving yips since she returning from serving her doping suspension have been well documented.

But when she has served underhand over the last few months, it’s been the typical almost dropshot-like, sliced and very slow serve.

She has gotten a lot of hate. Like it’s a … choice.

But as she takes on an ITF clay swing in South America, Errani has come up with a brilliant new twist: she’s backing off the baseline, and mixing in a swinging topspin volley into the serve box.

Hard times call for creative measures. Gutsy.

Olympic/Paralympic test event completed

The ITF mobilized to Tokyo, Japan last week for a test event that put the future Olympics tennis venue through its paces.

The tournament was called the “All-Japan Championships”, and it featured a very good calibre of players. No top-300 players, but a lot of pros affiliated with Japanese clubs. 

The top-ranked player on the women’s side was Momoko Kobori (WTA No. 326). On the men’s side, it was Yuta Shimizu (ATP No. 362).

There also was a wheelchair exhibition.

The Ariake Coliseum court is all refurbished. No. 1 Court is done. A third show court is not yet built.

No respect for Karolina Muchova

The lack of respect for 22-year-old Karolina Muchova, who upset No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova and reached the quarterfinals at her first Wimbledon, is unfortunate.

Muchova is No. 68, and will be at a career-high No. 43 Monday. She went from the qualies to the final in Prague, among other results this year.

And even as she reached the second week, the WTA website still hasn’t updated her information – nor has the Lausanne tournament next week.

And yet, the WTA was able to provide a “glamour” shot to Lausanne of … No. 100 Fiona Ferro.

(They could have asked the ITF – or Tennis.Life).

Delgado named ITF consultant

With the departure of Andre Sa – gone to Tennis Australia in March – the ITF has named Andy Murray coach Jamie Delgado to replace him as Player Relations Consultant.

Alongside Rennae Stubbs, it’s an “on-site representative role that strengthens the ITF’s communication with players as well as coaches, agents, the tours and tournaments.”

You’d hope this role would be getting in the trenches on the ITF Circuit, the events they actually run. They might have avoided the disastrous “Transition Tour” with some real-life feedback.

But it seems to be more of a liaison with the top-level Tours.

Prague champ Teichmann right back on

Much ado was made about the fact that Rabat champion Maria Sakkari and finalist Jo Konta had to play their first-round matches at the Premier Mandatory in Madrid the day after their final.

Ignored in all this were Prague champion Jil Teichmann and runnerup Karolina Muchova.

They, too, had a tournament this week.

Muchova took a late pass on the $60K ITF in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Teichmann, ranked so low she was in qualifying on the original list, ended up in the main draw and is going as planned.

She drew … countrywoman Timea Bacsinszky in the first round.

Who’s Benjamin D’Hoe? He bets

In the ongoing battle to curb the scourge of match-fixing, the Tennis Integrity Unit has suspended one Benjamin D’Hoe.

In a universe where whistle-blower Marco Trungelliti is having a tough time, the TIU has given D’Hoe, a 22-year-old Belgian with no ATP ranking and an ITF ranking of 386, a six-month suspension and $3,000 fine for betting on tennis.

Most of it (all but a month and $500) could be suspended.

D’Hoe self-reported. He placed over 900 (!) “mostly low-value bets” on pro matches during a 27-day period in 2017. None of them were on his matches.

We all feel safer now, right? 

Tokyo Olympic tennis schedule set

The official schedule for the tennis event at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo has been announced.

It will take place from Saturday, July 25 to Sunday, Aug. 2, during the event’s first week. The Olympics conclude Aug. 9.

Men’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles gold will happen on what the event is calling “Golden Sunday”. The women’s singles will be played on “Super Saturday”. The men’s doubles goes Friday.

Matches will be at Ariake Tennis Park. The men’s and women’s WTA events held there in September were relocated last year, as the venue was renovated for the Games.

Gabriela Sabatini receives Chatrier Award

Former player Gabriela Sabatini is the 2019 recipient of the Philippe Chatrier Award.

Named after the former ITF President, the award is given to “individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the sport of tennis both on and off the court.”

Per the release, Sabatini “spends a significant amount of time promoting tennis and helping children around the world, working with UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Olympics and as an Athlete Role Model at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games.”

It will be presented in Paris at the ITF Champions Dinner, during the French Open.

ITF revamps senior tennis, too

The ITF is not just instituting major change on the pro circuit.

Even the seniors (the over-35s) are feeling it.

A “strategic development plan” for 2019-2021 was announced in January.

And now, for July 1, come changes to the seniors’ ranking system. In the meantime, as the new ITF Tour did, they will have shadow rankings.

(A quick sampling reveals that most players’ rankings have changed).

They’re talking about things like “evening and weekend” formats, shortened formats and, on the plus side, expanding the number of tournaments.

Currently, some 75 per cent of ITF seniors events are held in Europe.