March 11th, 2016

Friday Tennis Blog: Indian Wells Kick-Off, More Sharapova Fallout, and Concussions



AliConcussion worries are coming to the forefront in youth (and adult) sports across the board. Last year the NFL was rocked by numerous lawsuits from players over concussions, and the Concussion movie that starred Will Smith (that frightened numerous NFL players who weren’t already wary). Last year U.S. Soccer, the governing body for the sport in the U.S., banned heading the ball for players age 11 and under. Former U.S. national team hero Brandi Chastain this week announced she will donate her brain after death to the Concussion Legacy Foundation to be studied. She suffered two concussions playing in college and occasionally “saw stars” after heading balls. The answer, says Laila Ali, is tennis. “I don’t want my kids to play that kind of contact sport where you can get hurt,” said Ali, who has watched her father Muhammad Ali suffer with head-trauma-related ailments, speaking to Fox 5 New York. “When I was [boxing] I loved it and I wasn’t concerned about it…but it’s my kids! There’s no way around it, you’re going to get hurt if you box.” Laila Ali played tennis prior to her undefeated run in women’s boxing, and says she regrets not pursuing tennis professionally. “I played tennis growing up, but I didn’t stick with it,” she said. “I wish I would have because I would have been out there with Serena…You can be very successful in tennis and you can make a lot of money…and you don’t have to take the beating you do in football or boxing.”



Maria Sharapova at the press conference announcing her positive drug test

The empire of “the world’s most marketable female athlete” (according to Forbes magazine) Maria Sharapova took a hit this week when she revealed in a press conference on Monday that she had tested positive for the newly-banned substance meldonium at this year’s Australian Open in January. The Florida- and L.A.-based Russian will face a ban to be announced, expected to be anywhere from eight months to four years. Sharapova says she has taken meldonium for 10 years after early signs of diabetes and other issues. Sharapova will have to forfeit approximately $400,000 in prize money from the Australian Open in addition to ranking points from the tournament. “I made a huge mistake. I’ve let my fans down, I’ve let the sport down. I don’t want to end my career this way.” WTA CEO Steve Simon said, “The matter is now in the hands of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and its standard procedures. The WTA will support the decisions reached throughout this process.” Sharapova has her supporters and angry detractors among WTA players. In the meantime the Russian has lost big sponsors such as Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer, while the media is digging up some fascinating past uses for meldonium and is now finding it is a staple for many Russian athletes in all sports.



Jack Sock got his hair cut correct in the U.S. spirit last weekend at Davis Cup in Australia

Pro golf is going the way of pro tennis, experimenting with dual-gender events…R.I.P Bud Collins, perhaps tennis’ greatest promoter to date. Collins’ health started downhill after a fall at the 2011 US OpenBillie Jean King made an equality push this week at soccer’s world FIFA HQ in Zurich, at a keynote speech telling new president Gianni Infantino to hire more women for senior jobs. FIFA has no women in top management jobs…All journalists in Indian Wells want to talk to players about is Maria…Are your favorite courts among these 20 “bucket list” tennis destinations?…Carolina Wozniacki loves a good steak and has a crazy workout routineSerena Williams followed her sister Venus on a vegan raw food diet until chicken and tacos came calling.

American Men’s and Women’s Draws at Indian Wells


John Isner

The women’s draw got underway on Wednesday, and the men started Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Here is a look at the American men and women in the field and their first round opponents/results through Thursday:


(9) John Isner (USA) vs. BYE, then Donald Young (USA)/Andreas Seppi (ITA) winner
(21) Jack Sock (USA) vs. BYE, then Juan Monaco (ARG)/(Q) Michael Berrer (GER) winner
(30) Steve Johnson (USA) vs. BYE, then (Q) Alexander Sarkissian (USA)/John Millman (AUS) winner
(31) Sam Querrey (USA) vs. BYE, then Jiri Vesela (CZE)/Thiemo de Bakker (NED) winner
Rajeev Ram (USA) d. (Q) Noah Rubin (USA), next vs. (17) Bernard Tomic (AUS)
Denis Kudla (USA) vs. Denis Istomin (UZB)
(Q) Ryan Harrison (USA) d. Dusan Lajovic (SRB), next vs. (10) Marin Cilic (CRO)
(Q) Bjorn Fratangelo (USA) vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS)
(Q) Tim Smyczek (USA) lost to (WC) Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
(WC) Mackenzie McDonald (USA) vs. (Q) Vincent Millot (FRA)
(WC) Jared Donaldson (USA) vs. Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
(WC) Frances Tiafoe (USA) d. (WC) Taylor Fritz (USA), next vs. (15) David Goffin (BEL)


serena williams us open(1) Serena Williams (USA) vs. BYE, then (Q) Laura SIEGEMUND (GER)
(10) Venus Williams (USA) vs. (Q) Kurumi Nara (JPN)
(21) Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. BYE, then Genie Bouchard (CAN)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) lost to Annika Beck (GER)
Vania King (USA) d. (Q) Taylor Townsend (USA), next vs. (5) Simona Halep (ROM)
Irina Falconi (USA) lost to Carina Witthoeft (GER)
CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) d. (Q) Kiki Bertens (NED), next vs. (16) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Christina McHale (USA) d. Caroline Garcia (FRA), next vs. (4) Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Madison Brengle (USA) d. Misaki Doi (JPN), next vs. (25) Johanna Konta (GBR)
(Q) Nicole Gibbs d. Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM), next vs. (23) Madison Keys (USA)
(WC) Alison Riske (USA) lost to Lucie Hradecka (CZE)
(WC) Samantha Crawford (USA) lost to Danka Kovnic (MNE)
(WC) Lauren Davis (USA) d. Nao Hibino (JPN), next vs. (7) Belinda Bencic (SUI)
(WC) Jamie Loeb (USA) lost to Zarina Diyas (KAZ)
(WC) Shelby Rogers (USA) d. Mariana Duque-Marino (COL), next vs. (18) Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

They Said It

sharapova head“She is a megastar. So it ends the conspiracy theory that tennis has no stomach for big cases.”
Richard Ings, the former chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, speaking to the New York Times on Maria Sharapova’s positive drug test result

“If I was ever going to announce my retirement, it would probably not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.”
Maria Sharapova at her announcement this week — not about her retirement — that she tested positive in a drug test from the Australian Open

“Around the time of the US Open [last year] I was hoping, like, maybe a couple years.”
— 18-year-old American Taylor Fritz on breaking into the Top 100 ahead of schedule

Tennis on TV This Weekend

(EST, times subject to change)

2pm-12am — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel

2pm-12am — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel

2pm-12am — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel