Net Talk: Wild rage about Troicki
Our Andy Schooler says there's something not right about Victor Troicki's wild card in Gstaad this week.
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Victor Troicki returned to tennis with a bang on Monday but the fact he was even able to do so sits rather uncomfortably with me.
When the former top-20 star took out eighth seed Dominic Thiem in Gastaad, he was playing for the very first time since his suspension for missing a doping test last April had finished.
But rather than playing in front of one man and a dog like other players ranked outside the world's top 800, the Serb was instead featuring on the main ATP World Tour in the picturesque Swiss Alpine setting.
It was like he'd never been away - thanks to the wild card he was handed by the tournament's organisers.
For me, to give a player who has only just served a drugs suspension an immediate wild card back into the big time, rather than offering such an invite to, for example, an up-and-coming Swiss youngster, isn't right.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some right-wing lunatic who feels Troicki's mistake should see him punished for all eternity. In fact, I consider myself fairly liberal.
But part of Troicki's punishment, to me, is the requirement to fight his way back up the rankings after losing almost an entire year's worth of points. It is as much part of the sanction as the actual 12-month ban itself.
If that involves a few weeks at the third-tier Futures level and then several more in Challengers, so be it.
However, with Troicki clearly having kept his game in good shape - he has practised with world numebr one and good friend Novak Djokovic during his competition ban - it may only take a few more wild cards before Troicki is able to earn enough points for a return to the top 100 and, with it, directy entry in many leading events.
Perhaps it is the particular circumstances surrounding Troicki's suspension that have made it more acceptable for him to be rushed back to the top in the way he has been.
It is important to point out that Troicki never tested positive for any drug. His ban all came about due to his failure to take a blood test. He claimed an official in Monte Carlo gave him permission to return the following day to give a sample after he explained he was feeling ill. That didn't wash with the ITF and although the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the length of the suspension from 18 months to 12, it still said Troicki had been in the wrong.
The Serb must have been aware of the importance of the testing procedure - he is now 27, not some inexperienced teenager.
Perhaps Troicki's explanation has struck a cord of sympathy in Gstaad. I decided to ask the organisers why they had allowed Troicki a wild card but following the answer I'm afraid we're still not really much wiser.
Julien Finkbeiner, vice-tournament director, simply danced around the doping issue. Asked why Troicki had been awarded his wild card, he simply said: "Viktor Troicki is a marquee player for the tournament as a former number 12 of the world and a Davis Cup winner."
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who take the opposite view to me and feel he's served his time. End of story.
This is indeed true and he certainly should not be criticised for accepting the invite offered to him.
But I wonder what kind of message the decision really sends out.
Tennis is a sport in which there has been a significant debate about doping over the past few years with some of the top players having led calls from within that not enough was being done by administrators to ensure the sport was drug-free and its image kept clean.
Plenty of good work has been done and strong messaes sent out. This week's decision was not one of those.
Perhaps my thinking is naive in a tme when sport is money and money is sport.
Finkbeiner's "marquee" comment speaks volumes.
Raise things to another level and ask what would happen if it were one of the Big Four just coming back from such a suspension?
The answer: I suspect tournaments would be falling over themselves to offer up wild cards.
Tournament directors may be looking after their own but decisions like this one only serve to harm the collective good.
I feel a little aggrieved that my 6/1 pick in Bogota, Ivo Karlovic, did not deliver the goods this week. Serving 39 aces in the final and holdng his serve throughout.was not enough for the Croat.
What made it even more frustrating was that the man on the other side of the net is hardly someone you'd associate with guts and determination, namely Bernard Tomic.
To be fair it was a fine effort from the talented Australian who undoubtedly has the ability to be a big star; it's the heart and off-court exploits which have always been the problem. However, getting the boot from renowned sports agency IMG earlier in the week seemed to rile him in a positive way and it will now be interesting to see if his victory provides a springboard for further success during the North American hardcourt swing.
This week, I've gone for a 16/1 shot in Umag - my full betting preview can be found by clicking here.
On a note related to my piece on Viktor Troicki, the Serb is trading at 20/1 for Swiss Open glory with our betting partner Sky Bet at time of writing.
What you may have missed
Bernard Tomic and Leonardo Mayer won titles on the ATP World Tour, while Caroline Wozniacki ensured she gained plenty of headlines, winning in Istanbul on the same day her former fiancee Rory McIlroy won golf's Open Championship. Mona Barthel was the week's other WTA champion, in Bastad, where the British doubles pairing of Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith reached their maiden final.
Patrick Mouratoglou confirmed he would be continuing as coach of world number one Serena Williams.
This week in tennis
All week – The ATP World Tour rolls into Gstaad in Switzerland, Umag in Croatia and Atlanta in the US - the latter kicking off the US Open Series and the official countdown to the final Grand Slam of the season. It's a quieter week for the WTA with the only main-tour level event taking place in Baku.
Sunday - The first wild card for the US Open will be decided when the women's Wild Card Challenge reaches its conclusion in Lexington, Kentucky. One US female will have done enough over the past few weeks to book her place at Flushing Meadows.
Tennis has been played in some pretty unlikely places over the years - who remembers the famous helipad shots in Dubai a few years back, or the 'magic carpet' rolled out in Doha?
Both those stunts involved a certain Roger Federer and last week Twitter was abuzz with pictures of the latest venue he took the game to - none other than the Jungfraujoch in the Swiss Alps, more than 3,000m above sea level. It was all part of publicity for the Lindt chocolate brand.
You can see the spectacular setting in this picture, posted by the USA Today journalist Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming).
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