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Ruling in Maria Sharapova appeal postponed to September

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — A ruling on Maria Sharapova’s appeal of her two-year doping ban has been postponed until September, ruling her definitively out of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Monday that Sharapova and the International Tennis Federation agreed to defer the decision, which had been due to be issued by next Monday.

CAS, the highest court in sports, said both parties wanted more time to prepare their case and also cited “scheduling conflicts.”

A verdict is expected by Sept. 19, the court said.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player, tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January and received a two-year ban from the ITF. She filed an appeal last month, seeking to overturn or reduce the sanction.

The parties agreed then to an “expedited procedure” that would allow CAS to issue its ruling this month. Had the suspension been annulled, that would have made Sharapova eligible for the Olympics in August.

The decision to push back the ruling to September also rules out any possibility of Sharapova being cleared to play in the U.S. Open, which runs from Aug. 29-Sept. 11.

“Due to the parties requiring additional time to complete and respond to their respective evidentiary submissions, and several scheduling conflicts, the parties have agreed not to expedite the appeal,” CAS said in the statement.

Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, said the decision was by mutual agreement and will give her team additional time to prepare its case.

“CAS is the court of final appeal and this extension will be helpful.” Haggerty said in a statement. “We are hopeful Maria’s suspension will be reduced, but in all cases, these additional two months will not impact our expectations of what can be achieved.”

Sharapova acknowledged taking meldonium before each match at the Australian Open. She said she had not been aware that meldonium, also known as mildronate, had been banned by World Anti-Doping Agency as of Jan. 1.

An independent three-person panel appointed by the ITF ruled that Sharapova did not intend to cheat because she didn’t know meldonium was banned, but that she bore “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for the positive test.

Sharapova said she first was prescribed the Latvian-made drug, typically used for heart conditions, for medical reasons in 2006.

Her ban is due to end on Jan. 25, 2018, which would keep her out of eight Grand Slam tournaments, along with the Olympics.

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.