Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova on Tuesday hailed the reduction of her two-year doping ban as one of the “happiest days” of her life, immediately targeting a return to action in April next year.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) cut Sharapova’s ban to 15 months, saying she was not an “intentional doper,” after the 29-year-old tested positive for the banned medication meldonium at January’s Australian Open — throwing her glittering, money-spinning career into serious jeopardy.
“I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March, when I learned about my suspension, to now, one of my happiest days, as I found out I can return to tennis in April,” said Sharapova, who has 35 WTA singles titles and more than US$36 million in career earnings.
Reducing the ban after she appealed, the Lausanne-based CAS “found that Ms Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and that while it was with ‘no significant fault,’ she bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of 15 months is appropriate.”
In the panel’s more detailed, formal decision, it said: “Under no circumstances ... can the player be considered to be an ‘intentional doper.’”
AP and Reuters, TOKYO
With temperatures soaring, Nick Kyrgios made sure an injured fan at the Japan Open had plenty of water.
The sixth-seeded Australian yesterday advanced to the second round by beating US qualifier Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2, but the match was suspended for about 10 minutes in the first set after a fan fell on some steps in the stands.
Kyrgios sent some water up to the injured spectator while temperatures rose to 31oC at the start of the second set.
Kyrgios next faces Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, who beat Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1.
Second-seeded Gael Monfils also advanced, defeating Japanese wild-card entry Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-1.
However, top seed and home favorite Kei Nishikori was forced to retire from his second-round encounter with Portugal’s Joao Sousa after he sustained a buttock muscle injury while leading the first set 4-3.
Having won the tournament in 2012 and 2014, the 26-year-old Nishikori was chasing his third Japan Open title, which would have put him one behind Stefan Edberg’s record four wins in Tokyo.
“It was hugely disappointing to have to retire from my match,” the world No. 5 said. “It is possible that the injury was due to an accumulation of fatigue and stress, but I came into this tournament with a lot of rest and feeling very ready. I will get examined and hope to recover in time for my next tournament.”
Taiwan’s Chan sisters yesterday advanced to the third round of the women’s doubles at the China Open in Beijing, while Chuang Chia-jung and partner Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine were eliminated.
Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan defeated Vania King of the US and Romania’s Monica Niculescu 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 to set up a quarter-final against Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena and Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia today.
Chuang and Bondarenko were beaten 6-1, 5-4 by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova.
In the women’s singles Angelique Kerber beat Barbora Strycova 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), while in the men’s singles David Ferrer defeated Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4.
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World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday eased past her Thai opponent to advance to the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open. The Taiwanese star toppled world No. 46 Supanida Katethong 21-16, 21-11 in 29 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. “I think I played OK today. I am feeling a little better than last week,” Tai said. Tomorrow, Tai faces Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The two have faced each other six times, with Tai beating the world No. 21 in all six matches. Tai on Sunday reached the final of the Yonex Thailand Open before losing decisively against Carolina Marin of Spain.
LOOKING TO REPEAT: World No. 7 Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the round-of-16 at the Toyota Thailand Open, after winning the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday Taiwan’s world No. 7 duo yesterday eased past the US’ world No. 37 pairing at the Toyota Thailand Open to reach the round-of-16 in Bangkok. Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Phillip Chew and Ryan Chew 21-14, 21-11 in just 24 minutes. Lee and Wang, who won the men’s doubles title at the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday, next face the world No. 34 pairing, Canada’s Jason Anthony Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen again beat Thailand’s world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, after edging past the Thai player in the opening round of the Yonex
Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,