x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai Tennis Championships: Serena Williams complains drug tests are not fair

The newly installed world No 1 faces Marion Bartoli on Centre Court at the Aviation Club in the second round.

Hospitalised two years back, Serena Williams regained her world No 1 ranking this week ahead of her campaign in Dubai. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Hospitalised two years back, Serena Williams regained her world No 1 ranking this week ahead of her campaign in Dubai. Julian Finney / Getty Images

DUBAI // Serena Williams has questioned the financial efficiency of the International Tennis Federation following calls by leading men's players for an increase in anti-doping measures.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, the world's two top-ranked male players, have said in recent weeks that more blood tests should be carried out to ensure the sport remains as clean as they believe it to be.

Federer, while conceding funding is an issue, suggested the four grand slam hosts could provide help with finances, but Williams, the women's world No 1, yesterday said she is already frequently tested both in and out of competition and instead questioned where the ITF money is being spent.

It is understood tennis spends US$1.3 million (Dh4.7m) on drug testing annually, yet in 2011 - the most recent statistics available - the ITF performed only 21 out of competition blood tests from a total of 131.

The frequency of testing has increased in the past year but questions remain.

Djokovic, the three-time Australian Open winner, said last month in Melbourne that he had not been blood tested for "six or seven months", while, in contrast, Rafael Nadal said in Chile last week during his comeback from a seven-month absence that he had been blood tested three times in that same period.

Williams suggested she feels she has been tested more than most.

"I get drug tested a lot - all the time," the 31 year old told The National.

"I don't know about anybody else on the Tour, maybe [the ITF] put all their money into drug testing me.

"I get blood tests, so I don't understand - maybe they should branch out a little bit."

As it stands, tennis employs a system that demands players keep authorities up to date with their whereabouts for one hour each day, allowing for random out of competition tests. Williams said that, regardless of where she is in the world, the testers will often appear, joking she should visit less far-flung destinations to assist them.

"They are always at my house. It doesn't matter if I am in Paris or [the United States]. I was literally in Mauritius and they were there - and, you know, Mauritius is really far, let me tell you. So, I guess they spend all the money on tickets to come where I travel ..."

Williams is in an exotic location once again this week as she prepares to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, an event she has failed to win in two previous attempts.

The 15-time major winner, officially reinstated as the world No 1 on Monday after reaching the final of the Qatar Open last week, said the UAE's $2m tournament has been marked on her calendar for months.

"I've never won here and it's the one tournament that I really want to do well in this year," Williams said. "I've been looking forward to coming here. There's a feeling that you have made it if you come to Dubai and certainly where I am from, it is this city that people want to travel to."

The US Open and Olympic champion is the overriding favourite at the Aviation Club this week following yesterday's withdrawal of the top seed Victoria Azarenka through injury.

Victory this week would complete a remarkable two-year period for Williams, who has gone from laid flat on her back in hospital to becoming the sport's oldest ever top-ranked woman.

"I haven't really had a lot of time to reflect because it has been so much, so fast," she said.

"It is literally two years ago that I was in the hospital, so definitely looking back it is pretty awesome and incredible to achieve so much."

Williams faces Marion Bartoli of France tonight on centre court.

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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