Off-Court Issues from Men's and Women's Tennis That Must Go Away

Jeffrey Ruth@@ruthjeffreyaFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2013

Off-Court Issues from Men's and Women's Tennis That Must Go Away

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    According to legend, P.T. Barnum once claimed that there is no such thing as bad publicity. If that were true, then men's and women's tennis would be in good shape.

    It's not true.

    Off-court storylines have plagued the game, as they have other professional sports. From bad blood between players, to parent-coaches who are out of control, to doping and gambling, tennis is hurting itself.  Perhaps, everyone should learn from Andy Murray, who famously revealed that he is, "fairly boring," to avoid scandals.

    The following professional athletes, and their family members, ignored Murray's advice.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova Fight

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    Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova need to let their exciting brands of tennis do the talking. Sadly, that is not the case.

    Any storyline that qualifies for the headline, "Tennis Stars' Scandal," as The Voice of Russia reported, is automatically bad for the sport of tennis.

    The tiff began when Williams commented quite controversially about a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. As reported by ESPN, she appeared to blame the victim for being victimized. As bad as that was, it didn't stop there. Sharapova got involved.

    The Russian attacked her for trying to get attention.

    Williams fought back with comments about Sharapova's love life.

    These sort of off-court battles are bad for tennis. Fans can only hope that these top players fight just as hard when it comes to the sport they play.

Viktor Troicki Suspended for Doping

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    It is really bad news for tennis when a scandal gets reported in a non-sports outlet.

    That is what happened, however. Bloomberg Businessweek covered the doping suspension of Serbian player Viktor Troicki in their July 25, 2013, news. Despite Troicki's denials of the facts and circumstances of the case against him, it appears that the story is here to stay, at least for a while.

    That is bad for the game.

    Even worse is that he is not alone in bringing this cloud upon men's tennis. According to Bob Brett, Marin Cilic's former coach, the Croatian failed a doping test as well, a statement he confirmed with The Guardian and was reported by Matt Cronin of 

    These are perfect examples of a situation where no news would be good news.

Bernard Tomic's Father Does the Hitting

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    In professional tennis, the players are supposed to do the hitting. In Bernard Tomic's camp, that isn't always the case, apparently.

    Sports Illustrated reported in May 2013 that Tomic's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, wanted John Tomic, Bernard's father and coach, banned from the sport. Appearing publicly with a heavily bandaged nose and neck, Drouet claimed that the elder Tomic head-butted him.

    A court case is now pending.

    Drouet himself identified just why this is bad for tennis. Not only is it a scandal, but worse than that, it is a scandal in a, "sport of gentlemen."

    The sport does need more gentlemen, especially not parent-coaches who cross the lines.



Novak Djokovic's Father Takes on the Best

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    Novak Djokovic's father, Srdjan Djokovic, needs to stay out of the limelight, too.

    USA Today reported that he had some very unkind words regarding Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  The good news is that he admitted that the Swiss player is "the best player in history."

    The bad news is he didn't keep his mouth closed after that sentence.

    He would go on to describe the two as not being as classy as his son. It is clear that Mr. Djokovic does, indeed, know something about acting without class or decency.

    This off-court storyline must go away for the good of the sport.

Agnieszka Radwanska Takes It All Off

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    If Srdjan Djokovic took on the best, Polish player Agnieszka Radwanska took it off.

    She recently appeared in a photo shoot for ESPN The Body Issue nude. While this may not be "immoral," as Radwanska explained to, it is a distraction from the sport.

    By even having to explain how the photos were not meant to be offensive, she was implicitly acknowledging the problem. Her job is to play and promote tennis, not to bring off-court issues to the fore.

    She certainly shouldn't be bringing any other "issues" to the forefront.

    Distractions of this nature are bad for men's and women's tennis.

Honorable Mention: Gambling and Match-Fixing

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    Fortunately, there is an off-court storyline that got away.

    In 2007, the dominant scandal for men's tennis was match-fixing. From prominent players like Nikolay Davydenko to journeyman Alessio Di Mauro, irregularities were showing up in betting sheets worldwide.  Di Mauro would be fined $60,000 and suspended for nine months.

    Others, like the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych and Jan Hernych came forward with their knowledge of attempted match-fixing in Russia.

    Etienne de Villiers, ATP executive chairman and president at the time pointed to the "honesty and integrity" of tennis as the reason why fixing the problem was so vital. The good news is, this particular off-court story did retire from the public eye.

    One can only hope the aforementioned scandals do, too.