Before we preview this week’s ATP Tennis action the sport was stopped dead in its tracks this week when WTA world number two Maria Sharapova announced she had failed a drugs test at the Australian Open back in January this year. She will be suspended from the sport for 12 months, which will commence this weekend, and she is by far the highest profile player to fail a drugs test in the sport’s history.
Sharapova claims that the drug she tested positive for, Meldonium, is something she has taken throughout her career for health related reasons like an irregular heartbeat and to counteract the onset of diabetes. However, the substance was added to the banned list by the ITF on January 1st 2016 because WADA said there was ''evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance''.
Sharapova added: "For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know.
Whether this was an honest mistake or something more sinister on Sharapova and her team’s behalf will no doubt be revealed after any appeal but, in these cases in relation to her reputation, the damage has already been done and her sponsors have not taken any chances and have already begun to distance themselves from arguably the most famous woman in women’s sport.
On a more positive note British number two Heather Watson made it a great weekend for British sport after the Davis Cup team won when she lifted her third WTA title in Monterrey, Mexico on Sunday beating Kirsten Flipkens 3-6 6-2 6-3.
On to this week’s ATP action and the first Masters 1000 Series gets underway in Indian Wells, California USA tomorrow evening. Defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic lines up and will attempt a three-peat while 2015 finalist and world number three Roger Federer does not line up this year as he is still recuperating from knee surgery.
Over the past decade the tournament has been dominated by the top three seeds who have won eight of the last ten titles between them. Top seed Djokovic will attempt to win his fifth Indian Wells title overall and is the clear favourite to win this week while Rafael Nadal is aiming for a fourth title in this event.
Seeded players in general have dominated the Indian Wells final over the last decade. A seeded player no higher than 20 has won the last ten titles and a seeded player no higher than 12 was a losing finalist nine times in this period.
At the time of writing this article (late Tuesday evening) the main draw and full prices were still not available for the tournament. I will keep the powder dry for today and will hopefully be able to give you my thoughts on some potential tournament winners and match bets this Friday.