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‘Political chaos’ envelops tennis as French Open approaches

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Tennis is in turmoil as the French Open approaches.

As three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka put it: “Politics have overshadowed the action on the courts.”

In a letter published Friday in The Times of London, Wawrinka decried his sport’s “worrying decline in moral standards” and outlined several aspects of the ongoing drama enveloping the men’s tour – and causing more of a racket than the rackets themselves.

“I feel compelled to express my views on this regrettable period in our sport,” said Wawrinka, who once was ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently 33rd after a series of injuries. “This episode has left many players, myself included, concerned about the direction tennis is heading in.”

There certainly has been a lot going on behind the scenes with regard to who runs the men’s professional tour, and lately it’s been spilling into public view. The conversation is sure to continue until a key vote for the ATP board of directors takes place May 14 in Rome – and through the next Grand Slam tournament, which begins at Roland Garros on May 26.

Wawrinka slammed the representatives on the board and the player council, saying the problem is not with the governing structure but the caliber of the people in positions of importance.

Wawrinka’s letter mentions “political chaos” and the “numerous conflicts of interest” that plague tennis. It also prominently discusses a topic about which he already had been outspoken: Justin Gimelstob, the ex-player, coach and TV commentator who resigned from the tour board this week after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault for attacking a former friend. While Gimelstob’s case still was pending, he was allowed to remain in his powerful ATP post.

The 42-year-old American was sentenced April 22 to three years of probation, 60 days of community service and a year’s worth of anger management classes for what prosecutors said was Gimelstob’s attack of Randall Kaplan as they trick-or-treated with their kids in Los Angeles on Halloween in 2017.

In a statement to the court, Kaplan said Gimelstob struck him multiple times and threatened to kill him.

“There is no place in our sport for those who behave like Justin. The lack of responses from people involved in the game, particularly at the beginning of this saga, when he was charged last December, was alarming,” Wawrinka wrote. “This is a situation where silence amounts to complicity.”

Wawrinka also referred to what he called a “concerted plot” to oust Chris Kermode as executive chairman and president of the ATP. Kermode’s departure was announced in March after a vote by the board of directors.

Rafael Nadal, who has won 11 of his 17 Grand Slam titles at the French Open, was among those who said they were not consulted before the decision was made to push out Kermode when his current term closes at the end of 2019.

“Many players feel that they were not represented properly throughout the last few months, during which so much has happened politically. I agree with them,” Wawrinka wrote. “I do not want to be associated with anyone who played a part in this, let alone be represented by them. I want to be represented by people with clear, strong ethical values.”

Novak Djokovic, who was involved in the Kermode situation through his position as president of the ATP player council, conceded that the business matters might have taken a toll on his performance.

After earlier-than-expected losses at Indian Wells and Miami, the top-ranked Djokovic said: “Way too many things off the court. I guess that affected me a little bit on the court.”

Wild-card entry Tipsarevic advances at Geneva Open

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GENEVA (AP) Former top-10 player Janko Tipsarevic used his wild-card entry to beat Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 7-5, 7-5 in the Geneva Open first round on Monday.

Now ranked No. 317, the 34-year-old Tipsarevic is back in ATP Tour main draws after missing the 2018 season for hamstring injuries to heal.

Fifth-seeded Radu Albot advanced to the second round on a day when two seeded players lost in the final week of clay-court warmups for the French Open.

Albot beat qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), after 92nd-ranked Hugo Dellien beat eighth-seeded Andreas Seppi 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, and seventh-seeded Matthew Ebden lost to Nicolas Jarry of Chile 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Rain cut short play and gave former No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov a day off after playing through two qualifying rounds.

More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Pliskova wins Italian Open for biggest clay title of career

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ROME (AP) – Karolina Pliskova captured the biggest clay-court title of her career by beating Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the Italian Open final.

Adding to a very consistent year from the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up, the victory will move Pliskova up to No. 2 in the rankings and makes her one of the contenders for the French Open, which starts next weekend.

“I just hope to take the tennis I was playing here to Paris,” Pliskova said. “For sure there’s going to be a chance for me if I play this way.”

Pliskova also reached the Australian Open semifinals and the Miami Open final after opening this season with a title in Brisbane, Australia. But she lost in the second round of her previous two tournaments on clay in Stuttgart, Germany, and Madrid.

“Nobody really gave me chance for this tournament – even me,” Pliskova said. “Before the tournament, I was not super confident, not thinking about the final at all. I was just happy with every match which I played. So it’s little bit like a miracle for me.”

The unseeded Konta appeared nervous at the start, double faulting then landing a backhand into the net to hand Pliskova a break in her opening service game.

In the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to break for a 4-3 lead and never looked back.

“It’s always tough playing Karolina,” Konta said. “There’s rarely really a rhythm to the match. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves. It can feel sometimes you’re fighting an uphill battle. That was the case today.”

After converting her third championship point, Pliskova went over and slapped hands with Conchita Martinez, the four-time Rome champion who she recently named her head coach. Pliskova then asked Martinez and the rest of her team to come down onto the court for her victory celebration.

“She loved clay so she knows exactly what I should do,” Pliskova said of Martinez. “There were small differences: movement, maybe to put more topspin on the balls, use drop shots – which I never use, but I start little bit, and to mix also the serves. … I know she loved this tournament. I think she prayed so I could win today.”