Triple fault

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Exactly when did the squeaky clean sport of tennis become scripted by John Grisham -- and none of this appears to be all that fictional.

I mean, where do you begin? Poison. Espionage. Match-fixing. Cocaine. Gambling.

This isn't an episode of Desperate Housewives. This is the ATP and WTA and the Davis Cup we are talking about.

"Every sport has had its day and, for some reason, it's our turn," said Karl Hale, the tournament director of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. "You have cycling and doping scandals, and baseball with steroids. For some reason, it's our turn getting suspicious stories. You have to remember, these stories are 90% unsubstantiated.

"We've been in communication with the ATP (men's tour) and they're very concerned about what is going on. Right now, they are trying to sort through all the stories. They're aware of some of the suspicious activity and will take the necessary actions."

Begin with the Tommy Haas story. This may be about tennis, but this may be about something else entirely.

Haas, the story goes, was to play a Davis Cup match against Russia in that weird world tournament that has no beginning, no middle and no end. Only Haas insists he was poisoned, which cost him his match and now the matter is under investigation.

Do I believe Haas was poisoned?

Even without proof, yes, I do. This kind of story has happened before, in other places, other sports, other ways. It happens in bars with date rape drugs. It happens in figure skating with baseball bats to the knees.

It can happen in tennis where, as Hale said: "The sport was traditionally upper crust and the elite of society." Apparently, the elite of society can poison each other, if need be.

Then there is the Martina Hingis story.

You remember Martina? Teenage sensation. Swiss Miss. Pavel Kubina's former girlfriend. On the comeback tour after early retirement, Hingis tested positive for cocaine usage.

When the results went public, Hingis instantly claimed her innocence and then contradicted herself by just as instantly announcing her retirement.

She would not fight to save her good name, but insisted she did nothing wrong.

"I have a hard time believing this one," Hale said. "I know Martina and I'm surprised by the whole thing. She has always been a great champion, very professional. I'd like this one to play itself out before I'm convinced she was involved with cocaine."

Then there's the Nikolay Davydenko story.

The No. 4 player in the world is accused of throwing a match on Aug. 4 in Poland, bringing into question the spectre of corruption in tennis. Overseas, there is significant legalized gambling on tennis matches.

Since the Davydenko story first broke, major tennis officials from all over the world met in England to discuss at least 100 other matches where results were dubious for one reason or another. This coming before the story of the Italian tennis player gambling on matches, just not his matches.

All this, in conjunction with the apparent Haas poisoning and the apparent drug usage of Hingis has brought tennis into a spotlight it has never before known.

Sure, baseball can survive Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds because it is baseball. But there are serious questions whether cycling can survive its own demons and, with tennis marginalized in North America, you have to wonder if any of this will stick.

"I believe in the players," Hale said. "I believe in 99% of the players are true ethical athletes. So far, there have been a lot of stories, a lot of allegations, but not a lot of proof of anything. I don't know if this will affect our tournaments, affect attendance, unless all these allegations are proven true.

"What I worry about sometimes are the entourages of tennis players. Who's hanging around? Who are the people? You have good entourages and bad entourages."

And much to sort out for a sport that shockingly finds itself deep in scandal.


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