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By Ajay Tyagi
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CONTROVERSY....! A word that draws more attention than the best things in life one could ever possibly imagine. We wonder, sometimes, whether there is any walk of life where there is any dearth of it. Throw in a pinch of the 'controversial spice' in your recipe and it will be good enough to even the most 'hard-to-please' connoisseurs of the world.
So what is it that makes us all so fond of it. Is it our constant need to have an opinion about anything and everything happening in the world. Sports arena is somehow one of controversy's favourite destinations. And when we talk about tennis, things take an extreme angle.
In terms of drama and excitement, both on court and off it, the year 2009 became a monumental season. Although, it was for more negative reasons than positive. Let's take a look at some of those stories which created quote a stir all year round -
5. Wimbledon Centre court allotment controversy -
The famous All England Lawn Tennis Club, venue for the prestigious Wimbledon Championships came into the limelight during the 2009 event when the Centre Court roof was unveiled for Dinara Safina-Amelie Mauresmo match. However, this wasn't the only reason the centre court was in headlines. It was noticed by players and media alike that several high seeded female players were not scheduled to play their matches on the centre court as opposed to the lower ranked players with great looks and glamour getting them a chance to showcase their talent and beauty on the best court in the world. Defending champion Venus Williams was scheduled to play on Court No.1 and Serena Williams on Court No.2. The most surprising aspect of the entire controversy was that the AELTC spokesperson Johnny Perkins did not even bother denying it - "Good looks are a factor." An unknown source from the BBC, on the other hand, went a step ahead and openly released a statement, according to 'The Mail' stating - "No one has heard of many of the women now, so if they are pretty it definitely gives them an edge. Our preference would always be 'a Brit or a babe' as this always delivers high viewing figures."
The truth is, despite a landmark year in the AELTC's golden history, 2009 will remind the fans across the world how beauty and glamour was given an edge over 'sheer brilliance' on court.
4. Shahar Pe'er denied entry in Dubai
Dubai, one of the biggest and popular cities in the world, hit the headlines in the tennis arena last year when an Israeli player Shahar Pe'er was denied a Visa to play at Dubai Tennis Championships. The Israeli star had the necessary WTA points to qualify for the main draw and despaite her qualification, the refusal for visa stirred quite a controversy. The United Arab Emirates government stated that due to the protests against her at the recently held ASB Classic in Auckland, the government has decided not to allow her to play in their country. The major reason behind the refusal was the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the 2008-09 Israel-Gaza conflicts.
Players around the world condemned the decision and came out in support of Pe'er. Eventual champion Venus Williams openly criticized the refusal during the trophy presentation, and 2008 men's champion Andy Roddick chose not to defend his title due to the inadequacy. WTA chief Larry Scott also issued a statement about reviewing Dubai as the venue for future tournaments. In addition to all this, primary tournament sponsor The Wall street Journal, dropped their sponsorship from the event immediately.
The issue remained in the memory of everyone for the rest of the year and finally the UAE government decided to grant Pe'er visa for the 2010 event.
3. Richard Gasquet kiss n' tell
The Sony Ericsson Open in 2009 brought troubled times for French tennis star Richard Gasquet, who tested positive for using 'Cocaine' during that time. An immediate suspension followed and a twelve month ban by the ITF came into effect. The Frenchman, however, disagreed with the judgement and appealed in the court of arbitration, citing that the cocaine got into his body because of him kissing a woman in a night club. On the basis of the evdences provided, the tribunal favoured Gasquet and lifted the suspension.
A few weeks later, WADA challenged the ruling of the independent tribunal and asked CAS to look further into the matter. Finally in December, Gasquet was freed of any doping offence by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
CAS said that it accepted Gasquet's argument that he was inadvertently contaminated after kissing a woman in a Miami nightclub on the day before the test. The tribunal supported his story and felt that because "no more than a grain of salt" was recorded in the sample, a long ban would have been an injustice.
After what turned out to be the most critical times of his sporting life, Gasquet took a sigh of relief - I am totally relieved. I went through a nightmare for eight months," said Gasquet."I am happy to be 100% cleared. It was very difficult for me, I'm glad it's over. Mentally, it was very tough. I could have done without all this but now I'm happy to be back on the tennis courts. My goal is to make it back into the top 10."
2. Agassi's Confession Controversy
Former world champion Andre Agassi came into limelight years after retiring from the professional sport in 2009 when he revealed some of the darkest secrets of his life through his autobiography - 'OPEN'. In the book, Agassi confessed to have used 'Crystal Meth' during the year 1997. He also revealed the fact about lying to ATP officials during the same time. Soon after the revelations, a large number of players invoked strong criticism including tennis-legend Martina Navratilova, who called the entire incident 'Shocking'. Fellow players including Sergi Bruguera and Marat Safin condemned the act and asked for the title and prize-money return that the American earned during that span of time.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, showed it's concern over the matter and expressed the desire to investigate whether any charges can be brought against the American. The entire controversy sparked doubts over ATP's proficiency in handling such issues.
Despite all the criticism, Agassi received solid support from players like Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. Over the entire controversy, Agassi managed to find some words of conclusion - "I knew it wasn't going to be pleasant waters, but again nothing really worthwhile in life comes without great sacrifice. How do you regret your life, how do you regret telling the truth? This is the only chance I have to communicate the power of my journey. That's why I called the book 'Open.' That's why it took me three years to write it. I want this thing to impact millions of people I've never met,"
1. Serena's US Open tirade
Serena Williams has developed a habit of topping every list related to the world of tennis even if it is for all the wrong reasons. The year 2009 turned out to be landmark year for Williams who won two Grand Slam titles and the yearend championship to finish a perfect season. Unfortunately, there were plenty of instances that made the 2009 season less than perfect for her too.
During her U.S. Open semifinal match against Kim Clijsters, Serena found herself in the heat of the moment because of an alleged incorrect foot fault call, made by the lineswoman and showed her outburst in the form of her infamous tirade. Serena, unhappy with the line call that got her match point down, threatened the line judge saying - "I will take this ****ing ball and shove it down your throat" which caused the tournament organizers to levy an instant point penalty which ended the match immediately.
The entire controversy evoked mixed responses where some considered the outburst to be an obvious response to such crucial mis-judgement by the lineswoman, and others condemned the act openly.
The USTA levied an immediate US$ 10,000 fine for the American's misconduct, highest in the sporting history for such un-professionalism. The Grand Slam committee then took the matter in it's own hands and put Williams on two year Grand Slam probation, during which a single behavioural issue mistake would cost subsequent suspension from Grand Slam events. A further fine for a whopping US$ 175,000 cost the tennis great a lot more than just humiliation.
Apart from these headline making incidents, there were a few more moments that evoked a series of coffee table discussions. Serena Williams-Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez scuffle at Roland Garros, Svetlana Kuznetsova's claim of citing roof closing as her primary reason of losing the quarterfinal match, Virginie Razzao-Marion Bartoli & Lisicki-Wozniacki on court tiffs were some of those heated instances that raised a lot of eye-brows and concerns over the sanctity of Sportsmanship.
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