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Posted: Wednesday April 7, 2010 12:30PM; Updated: Wednesday April 7, 2010 5:38PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

Odesnik outrage, Roddick clay-court prognosis, more mail

Story Highlights

It's fundamentally wrong for Wayne Odesnik to compete after HGH guilty plea

Andy Roddick's Miami win doesn't improve his clay-season prospects

Plus: Inside ATP rankings, Fed's head, WTA's spotty TV coverage, more

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Despite pleading guilty to importing HGH, Wayne Odesnik is participating in the Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston.
Despite pleading guilty to importing HGH, Wayne Odesnik is participating in the Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston.
AP

Jon, I have to wonder why Wayne Odesnik is playing in the Houston event. As you noted last week, he pleaded guilty [to importing HGH] and there is no doubt of his guilt. I wish the guy hadn't done it, but he did and should not be allowed to play, effective immediately. What's broken down here? Can't the ATP suspend the guy until a formal review takes place? What about the tournament director? Shouldn't he have the ability to deny access to any player he wants? Odesnik beat his first-round opponent (who wasn't happy about having to play him). We want to be a clean sport and yet there is no process in place to prevent him from playing. What gives???
-- Tim, New York

Dozens of you, surprised by seeing Odesnik's name in the scores barely a week after news of his guilty plea, asked the same question. Here's Barbara Travers, at the ITF:

"Wayne Odesnik is entitled to due process under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, just as you and I are entitled to this protection under our legal systems. He has not as yet been found guilty of a doping offense under the rules of the TADP and therefore is allowed to play. In order not to prejudice the player's ability to defend himself in his criminal case, the TADP decided to await the outcome of those proceedings rather than run concurrently, but began the process immediately once the decision of the Australian Court was taken. The player is entitled to put forward a defense and this can take some time and he has elected not to take a provisional suspension. Whether or not we feel this is good for the image of tennis, he has that right and the ITF and ATP have an obligation to honor it. Again the TADP affords every player the right of due process. We believe that this is in the long-term best interests of everyone concerned."

I'm not quite sure I get this. It seems to me that if he's already pled guilty to what amounts to an anti-doping violation, due process has been granted. And especially given that the burden of proof is surely higher in a criminal court than in any TADP proceeding, I can't imagine what defense could be put forth to avoid a suspension. This is a damned-either-way situation, but there's just something fundamentally wrong about letting Odesnik continue to compete, given the circumstances.

To your points, you can't blame the Houston tournament. Events can't make these determinations independently (see: Shahar Peer in Dubai), and if they tried to ban eligible players, they might even risk facing a fine/sanction from the tour. However, I do agree with you that the ATP could have (and should have) stepped in here. Although the ATP has turned over its anti-doping program to the ITF -- we can discuss the wisdom of this at another time -- surely a guilty plea in a criminal matter enables the ATP to invoke a "Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game" clause, and suspend the player ASAP, even as the anti-doping proceeding plays out.

But I think most of the blame falls on Odesnik. Simply put, in the face of some pretty damning circumstances -- again, we're talking about a guilty plea here -- he should have had the good graces to lay low for a few weeks. In the event, however unlikely, that there are mitigating or exculpating circumstances, he'll get back to work soon enough. In the event that the ITF imposes a suspension (as expected), he's likely going to have to forfeit his rankings and prize money this week anyway. By playing this week, he is making a bad situation worse and putting an awful lot of parties in an awkward position.

Jon, I hope you can shed some light on my question, as it has driven me crazy for years! In the latest ATP rankings, I noticed there were a few "ties." For example, both Stanislas Wawrinka and Juan Monaco have accumulated 1,630 points, yet Stanislas is ranked ahead of Juan (23 vs. 24). In total, there are eight pairs of players tied in total ranking points. Yet in not one case are they ever tied in their ranking position. Why is this? Why aren't Wawrinka and Monaco both tied in the rankings at No. 23? To take it a step further, if sometime in the future the oddest of oddities happens and both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are atop the rankings, both having accumulated 10,500 points, what then? Will the ATP show them as tied at No. 1? This doesn't look like the case, according to the pattern as noted in the latest rankings. There must be something else that is being taken into consideration. If so, what? If two players have accumulated the same ranking points, why would one be ranked higher than the other?
-- Junior Martinez, Victorville, Calif.

Never fear. The mighty Greg Sharko is here:

The ties are broken by the player with the most mandatory tournament points, meaning Grand Slam and ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

Is it me, or do commentators classify the wisdom of attempting a drop shot as either "nervous" or "brilliant" based purely on said attempt's success or failure? Is that fair?
-- Sandra J., San Diego

I don't think that's necessarily the case. There are definitely "bail out" drop shots that express a lack of confidence and "tactical" drop shots that are used strategically. To me, the fine-line classification is between "aggressive" and "foolish." If you pull off that screaming forehand up the line, you're bold and gutsy. Miss it by a few inches and you're impatient.

Hard to make predictions, I know, but everyone must be wondering how Andy Roddick's win in Miami will carry over to the clay-court season. He played some crazy defense against Nadal, and if he uses that with a consistent power game, I could see him making an interesting splash in the next few months -- er, interesting enough to not lose much momentum heading into Wimbledon.
-- Greg Tunning, Atlanta, Ga.

That's pretty optimistic. Clay is just a different beast. If Roddick gets to the second week in Paris, it will be an achievement.

Sponsorship is always great, but Lumber Liquidator behind the server?
-- Joel, New York

As a wise man said, "Sponsorship is always great."

Anyone who saw Donald Young play Nikolay Davydenko back in 2007 in New Haven (a night match Young had a legit chance to win against a top player in the world), saw Young's potential as a top 10 player. Is it just me, or would Young have his best shot at improving dramatically if he hires coach Brad Gilbert, given B.G.'s ability to bring out the unfulfilled potential of Andre Agassi, Roddick (in terms of Slams won) and a teenaged Andy Murray? Young, currently ranked 141st, turns 21 in July. Yes, he's still young, but 21 is just a year away from his tennis prime (according to Gilbert, who views it as ages 22-26).
-- DB, New York, N.Y.

Ironically, I'm told that Gilbert worked briefly with Young on an informal basis last summer. For whatever reason, the relationship didn't develop into anything formal. I agree with you that Gilbert's track record speaks for itself. On the other hand, Agassi, Roddick and Murray are elite, elite players. Young has -- and I hope that's the right tense -- a lot of potential. But we're talking about a kid with limited weapons, questionable work habits and not a great strength or fitness foundation, who's won only a handful of tour-level matches. There's also the "parental propinquity" issue. Most coaches aren't going to react well to having a helicopter parent. But I suspect that for a coach of Gilbert's prestige, the thought of "co-coaching" -- much less being undermined -- is a deal breaker.

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