Chilean player banned for life

Tennis’s anti-corruption program has landed another small fish, as Chile’s Mauricio Alvarez-Guzman got a lifetime ban.

The U.K.-born Guzman, 31, reached a career-high ATP ranking of No. 1050 in 2010. He never played a main-draw match, even at the Challenger level.

Alvarez-Guzman was found guilty of offering a player €1,000 to lose a set at a Challenger in Germany in Aug. 2016 (he didn’t even play it). 

The previous month, he was found guilty of buying a wild card to a Futures in Turkey. He retired, down 2-6, 2-4 in his first-round match.

(You’d hope they would go after the Antalya event as well, right?) 

ITF sells junior rankings sponsorship

Doesn’t it feel as though the ITF is making every little bit of its business available for a price?

The latest is the adding of IMG Academy as the presenting sponsor of its ITF Junior World rankings.

Given the IMG Academy’s main goal is to produce junior players, it’s almost like having the “NCAA College Football Championships – presented by the SEC”. 

While it’s good exposure for the Academy, the optics – given the new rules concerning juniors and the new Transition Tour – make the optics a little dodgy, to say the least.

Fed Cup playoff draws Tuesday in London

The Czech Republic and the U.S., the last two Fed Cup champions, will face relegation in April.

After all four road teams won last weekend, the ITF announced the seeds for April’s World Group I and II playoff ties.

The draw will be streamed on the Fed Cup website at 7 a.m. EST Tuesday.

The Group I seeds are the Czech Republic, the U.S., Germany and Belgium. They will face Canada, Latvia, Spain or Switzerland.

In Group II, the seeds are Russia, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Slovakia. They will face Brazil, Italy, Japan or Kazakhstan.

Errani faces Bencic first time back

Sara Errani is back on the court for the first time in eight months.

And she’s not exactly easing in. The 31-year-old will open Italy’s Fed Cup tie against Switzerland against their No. 1, Belinda Bencic.

Errani served part of a doping suspension between August and October 2017, while appealing it.

The former No. 5’s ranking had dropped to No. 281 when she returned that October. She played furiously and was back at No. 72 when she had to stop for another eight months after appeals were denied.

(Update: Bencic won, 6-2, 7-5. But Errani looked surprisingly good).

New job for umpire Dumusois

Gold-badge umpire Damien Dumusois of France has been appointed to the ITF/Grand Slam officiating team.

As well, he will be the Regional Officiating Officer for Africa as the contact for French-speaking countries, to work on a pathway to job opportunities.

Dumusois was a contract umpire for the ATP Tour for eight years, and part of the ATP Elite team for four, until the end of 2018. He’s been gold badge since 2010.

He has umpired four men’s singles finals at the French Open, among other major assignments including two ATP Tour Finals.

TIU supervisory board chair named

The Tennis Integrity Unit – we can call it the “British Tennis Integrity Unit” – has named the “independent chair” for the new supervisory board being set up to monitor it.

Jennie Price, a career sports administrator formerly the CEO of Sport England, will be the woman in charge.

Price was selected “following an extensive international search carried out by external specialists.”

The Independent Review Panel listed a new supervisory board as one of its recommendations.

The IRP released its final report last December, after nearly three years of study.

Nine people replacing four

Integrity review panel submits final report

The new supervisory board is replacing the 11-year-old Tennis Integrity Board. That was made up of ATP CEO Chris Kermode, WTA CEO Steve Simon, ITF president David Haggerty and Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook.

All of those men, we’d imagine, had many other issues on their plate.

That’s why the IRP included this observation in its report.

“The TIU has not been subject to adequate supervision or strategic direction from the Tennis Integrity Board (“TIB”), which was established by the International Governing Bodies to oversee the TIU. This has principally arisen as a consequence of the TIB’s deference to the independence of the TIU.”

Strong on sports participation

Price’s resumé lists the attracting of “1.6 million more people to participate regularly in sport” and “her leadership of the multi-award winning This Girl Can campaign which significantly increased activity among women and girls” as highlights of her time with Sport England.

A lawyer by profession, she was Chief Executive at the UK national recycling body WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). After that, she took on the Sport England job for a decade. She was private practice in the construction sector in Great Britain before that. And she also is a trustee of the Canal and River Trust.

She left Sport England last May to pursue other projects.

Price has no previous background in tennis (or, we’d imagine, sports gambling). She will preside over a nine-person board. Representatives from the WTA, ATP, ITF and the Grand Slam Board will take up four of those spots. So, essentially, the old “Tennis Integrity Board”.  

She will recruit four more “independent members” to join. The Board will “operate along the lines of a corporate board, providing strategic guidance and independent oversight of the unit.”

Gambling sponsorship still in tennis

The Sportsradar conundrum

Hopefully their first order of business is to look at the relationship between the revenue earned from selling data/scoring rights.

The issue with Sportsradar and the lowest-level ITF tournaments was one of the keynote recommendations of the IRP. The report found that some 80 per cent of the betting took place at those levels.

So that seems to be the key issue. Let’s hope that it’s something that will be resolved by having nine people in a board room instead of four.

*Davis Cup* adds sponsors La Liga and LV

Kosmos and Davis Cup have announced two new deals.

La Liga, the football league for which Kosmos front man Gerard Piqué plays, has signed a four-year deal to be “a” sponsor for the “Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals” that also includes this year’s qualifiers.

The release hails La Liga as “the best football league in the world”.

Louis Vuitton will be “Official Davis Cup Trophy Partner”.

The luxury brand has been commissioned to design a case, much like at the 2018 World Cup and the 2017 French Open.

No word if “La Liga” will be on the case.

Giudicelli and Haggerty on Lille hotseat

To his credit, Bernard Giudicelli – arguably the most despised man in French tennis, maybe ever, right now – knew he was entering hostile territory and didn’t duck the occasion.

Or maybe he simply was oblivious, in the way the 60-year-old French Federation president has appeared to be oblivious to the wants of French tennis players and fans. 

David Haggerty had to know he wouldn’t fare much better with the knowledgeable French crowd. But he was front and centre as well.

He didn’t duck the media, either, trying to convince everyone that despite the death of the Davis Cup, all would be well.

The American ITF president, the man with the 1980s center part who always looks like he wants to tug frantically at the neck of his dress shirt à la Rodney Dangerfield, was Public Enemy No. 2 in this “final” French final.

Or, as the hashtag would have it, “LaDer” (the last).

The embattled Giudicelli is the man many French tennis fans blame for this whole Davis Cup mess. He went against wishes of most with in donating France’s 12 hefty votes to the “yes” side. It was a big reason the sweeping Davis Cup changes in Orlando, Fla. passed last August.

But there he was was at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, in his usual front-row seat in the ITF’s “Presidential Tribune” behind the court. He was suited, booted and with his trademark thin-lipped, slightly crooked smirk set in permafrost.

Unfortunately for Giudicelli, his team went down to defeat. It was another personal defeat for him in recent months. He couldn’t gladhand, take credit or accept congratulations both perfunctory and heartfelt from other dignitaries with similarly posh seats. 

Make us dream,” Giudicelli wrote the night of the Davis Cup finals dinner as he blocked … somebody in the group shot. (Facebook)

Booing the “bad guys”

Some 23-24,000 piled into the Stade Pierre-Mauroy each of the three days of the Davis Cup Final. And they booed.

They booed Giudicelli. They booed Haggerty. There were banners. People tweeted. The fact that the team – an underdog from the start – was losing didn’t help matters.

As the curtain came down on Davis Cup as we all know it, the mood was pretty dark.

Giudicelli not delivering on promises

French fans’ banner: “118 years, the ITF killed me”. A few meters away, Bernard Giudicelli and David Haggerty”

Giudicelli was elected in Feb. 2017 on a performances and results-based platform (and no doubt no small amount of behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Because that’s usually part of how these elections are won).

So far, on the men’s side, that plan has resulted in not a single French player ending the season inside the top 25 – for the first time in a long time.

Not a single French player made a Slam quarterfinal for the first time since 1980. And, according to former FFT presidential candidate Alexis Gramblat, the number of registered players has dropped below one million.

“Having been around the FFT board members during this final Davis Cup weekend, I can tell you: they’re going to miss it, too. No more day passes from the retirement home, no more appetizers, fewer occasions to feel important …”

Now, with the help of his vote, it’s RIP to Davis Cup.

And the irony is, it might all have been for naught. 

If Giudicelli thought that going with the flow would buttress his odds of getting the job he really wants – next president of the ITF – those ambitions were dealt a severe blow.

Giudicelli was ousted from the ITF executive and as chair of the Davis Cup committee last month.

He can’t even think of running for president for four years.

Of course, he’s appealing.

Giudicelli taking ITF to the CAS

No, don’t talk to us

When France played Spain in the semifinals, Giudicelli didn’t really have the chutzpah to go into the locker room.

“Giudicelli, you’re a sellout!” yells one supporter.

He wasn’t welcome. It looked like his players pretty much ignored him at the draw ceremony, as well.

A few weeks ago at the Paris Masters in Bercy, Giudicelli was booed when his face appeared on the big screen in the arena.

And he was booed again at the Davis Cup final.

Testy moments at the official dinner

The official Davis Cup dinner was scrapped as a concept last year, in an attempt by the ITF to “reduce the number of player commitments”. As if that would somehow convince the top players to compete in every tie.

But at this weekend’s final, with so many sponsors and presidential guests on freebie trips to feed and water, it had to be done.

The gibes are more often playful during the speeches at these things. But at this dinner, on Tuesday night, captain Yannick Noah went rogue. In his final tie as captain, clearly unworried about burning bridges, he was pointed.

He addressed Giudicelli and Haggerty with a few cutting remarks. Per l’Équipe, they included, “You probably scoff at losing my respect”. And, “I’m sorry you can’t sit though a five-set match”. 

“Flabbergasted, the ITF members waited for the storm to pass. Until Team France stood up and applauded,” L’Équipe wrote.

“Make us dream,” Giudicelli wrote the night of the Davis Cup finals dinner as he blocked the only young(ish) French men’s prospect, Lucas Pouille, in the group shot. (Facebook)

Haggerty booed

There was no sign of Giudicelli when Haggerty was conscripted to hand former French Davis Cup player François Joffret the “Davis Cup Award of Excellence”.

With 35 Davis Cup ties as a player, Jauffret holds the French record.

Giudicelli
(Photo: ITF)

A two-time French Open singles semifinalist, Jauffret later was the national technical director for the French Federation. The 75-year-old currently sits on the board of directors.

The award is presented, per the ITF story, to an “individual from the home team who has made a lasting impact on that nation’s Davis Cup history and who represents the ideals and spirit of the Davis Cup competition.”

Haggerty put on his best used-car salesman smile.

As it turns out, the selection of Jauffret, more than deserving, may not have been so accidental.

Let’s just say that Haggerty’s presence was duly noted.

Haggerty hissed and humiliated … he’s only getting what he deserves. And where was the criminal president of the FFT? Afraid of being humiliated? It will come.
“Thrown into the arena to give an award to François Jauffret, ITF president David Haggerty earns a torrent of boos. A knowledgable public.”

Haggerty and the medals – a one-man show

After that little scene, for some inexplicable reason, the ITF decided Haggerty should be a one-man show for the medal and trophy presentations.

It was bad enough that it seemed to take forever – at least a half hour – to set up what appeared to be rather a simple stage.

The delay ensured that many of the fans who might have wanted to stick around to acknowledge their team one last time  – the Davis Cup, one last time – might lose patience.

In the meantime, a distraught Pouille was being comforted in the hall as both teams kind of milled around.  

Giudicelli

The Croats wanted to get back to the earnest celebrations. The French just wanted to drown their sorrows, and perhaps leave before they lost it.

Giudicelli

When they were finally ready, surely they could have gotten someone else up there to help Haggerty?

Maybe Giudicelli for the French finalists’ hardware?

Giudicelli

Hmmm, okay. Probably not the best idea.

Maybe fabulous Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, also front-row for the whole thing, for the Team Croatia victory spoils? That would have injected a ray of light into a rather shaded situation.

Giudicelli

No. Even longtime Davis Cup sponsor BNP Paribas – always a very big presence in protocol-type occasions wherever the competition is played, was conspicuously absent.

There wasn’t anyone from Kosmos Tennis, the Piqué-fronted company that dangled a potential $3 billion payout to burn the old format to the ground and build a new world sporting behemoth.

And so, Haggerty had to put a medal around the neck of each of the six members of Team France and Team Croatia. And in between each, he had to hustle over and get their replica trophies and hand those to them as well.

Mahut has a few things to say

First, France.

Most of them sort of pretended they didn’t know him. Although, gentlemen to the core, they all shook his hand.

And then came … Nicolas Mahut.

Mahut had a few things to say to the ITF president. And he was intent upon firmly holding onto Haggerty’s hand while he did it – on the off chance the American tried to flee.

Giudicelli

It was a pretty long conversation, considering how public it was.

Later, Mahut would only say he was … asking Haggerty what he thought of the quality of the match.

His trophy handoff was a drive-by.

Giudicelli

Pierre-Hugues Herbert decided to raise his arm and look up at the crowd while Haggerty was putting the medal around his neck.

Giudicelli

Meanwhile, Pouille wasn’t finding any serenity at all.Giudicelli

By the time he got up to receive his medal he, too, preferred to look anywhere but there.

He almost forgot to shake Haggerty’s hand, too. But the light went on just in time and he offered up a cursory effort.

Giudicelli

Noah dispensed with the niceties. He just grabbed the medal and awarded it to himself.

The runner-up ceremonies – at home, after such an emphatic loss – were never going to be sweetness and light. (And yet, they still might be more absorbing than those at next year’s neutral venue championship – unless Spain wins it).

Bu add to that the enmity towards the men they perceive as the architects of the Davis Cup destruction, and it was sad, and dark and poignant.

In a final move, as soon as he felt safely out of sight, Mahut wrenched the medal off his neck. He did so as though it were contaminated.

Giudicelli

It was a gesture that neatly summed it up.

The Dave and Bernie show

Gerald Piqué, the Spanish soccer star who is so much the face of the “new Davis Cup” that Roger Federer once mockingly said he had little interest in the “Piqué Cup”, wisely stayed away.

He had a game in Madrid Saturday night – at his day job – which helped make that an easy call.

So it was up to the other two to bear the brunt.

Giudicelli

It would be surprising if Haggerty and Giuicelli were ever friends. Both are good politicians in their own ways, and share a similar ambition. But they come from completely different worlds.

And it’s been apparent that Giudicelli’s ambitions were not just to be the French federation president, but to ascend to the big job with Haggerty’s first term ending next year.

Their alliance of convenience worked for a year or so. It helped ensure they passed the reforms that both were looking for. For Haggerty, his job security likely depended on it. For Giudicelli, it was insurance that he’d remain close to the centre of power inside the ITF as a board member, and chairman of the Davis Cup committee. From there, he could plot his future course.

But Haggerty had to face the wrath from inside and outside the ITF. There was a perception that he had skirted the bylaws to keep Giudicelli in his post– to ensure he kept his 12 votes. There were stipulations about board member behaviour, and Giudicelli’s defamation conviction back home seemed to require his ouster.

But then, once the vote was secured, Giudicelli was bounced. From both jobs. There is no French representative with the ITF for the first time in … forever.

Giudicelli out of ITF board, Davis Cup committee

This weekend, these two perceived bad guys once again had a whole lot in common.

You wonder if they ever even talked about this. If they sat ensconced in their five-star suites at the official hotel, wondering what the future will bring – For them, and for the Davis Cup.

Marcelo Rios $2,500 fine upheld

An  independent tribunal held up the $2,500 fine incurred by former No. 1 Marcelo Rios before his country’s Davis Cup tie against Ecuador in January.

Rios had appealed the fine.

The decision recounts Rios’s volunteering to answer questions at a pre-tie press conference, only to respond to the first question with, “As my personal friend Diego Armando (Maradona) used to say, suck it. I do not talk with journalists.” 

He blamed some poor history with some media members, but also said asked that his “irreproachable behavior” in the past should have been taken into account.”

That didn’t fly.

Mischa Zverev hit with major “performance” fine

MELBOURNE, Australia – The new International Tennis Federation rule for the Grand Slams followed the ATP Tour’s solution for handling first-round injury retirements.

If you were not fit to play, you could withdraw and still take home half your first-round loser’s money.

In the Australian Open’s case, that’s half of a tidy $60,000 (AUD), or nearly $48,000 (US).

But if you chose to play, and the officials at the tournament determined you didn’t “perform to a professional standard”, they would assess you a “first-round performance fine”.

And, they warned in advance, it could be significant.

Well, the first fine has been handed out. And it went to veteran German lefty Mischa Zverev, Alexander’s older brother. 

And it is significant; $45,000 US – nearly all of the first-round loser’s purse he collected when he retired down 2-6, 1-4 to quarterfinalist Hyeon Chung.

Matter of interpretation

Here’s the problem, though: it seems as though Zverev was a borderline case.

On the other side of the ledger, Zverev has a pretty significant number of retirements on his playing record. The one against Chung was the 37th of his career. 

Then again, Zverev has been injured more than most, as well.

But here’s the thing. Zverev wasn’t out of the tournament after that defeat. He was still in the doubles with Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.

Zverev was barely moving during his first-round doubles match at the Australian Open. But that apparently was enough to pass muster with the powers that decide what a “professional performance” is. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

We watched a big chunk of that match. Zverev was barely moving.

He would serve and just walk a few steps and hope the first volley was within his reach.

The “performance” fine Zverev was assessed is for “not performing up to a professional standard” in the match. The players, under the microscope here, don’t even have to retire mid-match for this to kick in, from what we can see. But that is one factor.

If feels as though the information mentioned by the German tennis writer who Tweeted above was probably available, since you’d think Zverev would consult the tournament doctor. Or, they could ask him, look into it a little and determine whether he legitimately had no shot at finishing the match before he decided to carry on and play.

Perhaps they did. Perhaps.

Only one first-round retirement

There no doubt were some players who lost in the first round who were either sick (there was a ‘flu bug going around the tournament earlier in the week, we’re told) or taking painkillers. 

No other players retired in the first round of either the women’s or men’s singles draws. The only other singles retirement so far, through the quarterfinals, was Gilles Simon in the second set of his second-round match against Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain.

Zverev didn’t get dinged for walking through his doubles match, for which he and Lorenzi each earned $9,250 AUD ($7,400 US) for losing 6-2, 6-2 to the No. 1 seeds, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.

Paire’s underhanded tactics

And what of Benoit Paire, who served half-serves and underhand serves in a 6-4, 6-2 second-round loss to Dominic Inglot and Marcus Daniell, with partner Hugo Nys.

The “professional standard” of the serving, which often didn’t break 60 miles an hour and seemed to be due to an abdominal injury, was debatable.

But Paire finished the match. And the pair collected their prize money, splitting nearly $30,000 AUD for reaching the second round.

Color this fellow unimpressed.

Paire and Nys upset the No. 13 seeds in the first round. We’ll see if Paire’s effort in this one gets reviewed.

(Side point: Paire hates it when people serve underhand to him).

(Second side point: the Frenchmen won SIX games in this match, despite that)

If the Grand Slam Board was trying to make an example out of Zverev, to ensure that the first year of the experiment with the split prize money was seen to be effective, it may well have worked.

But in the case of Zverev, it seems they failed to consider that there’s a grey area between being unable to complete, and being compromised but still able to compete – even in a losing effort.