LONDON — Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has criticized the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for not doing enough to make her aware that meldonium had been added to the list of banned substances last year.
Sharapova’s initial two-year suspension was reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication the Russian had been taking within the rules but which was then reclassified as a banned drug.
Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances at the start of 2016 after mounting evidence that it boosted blood flow and enhanced performance.
“Why didn’t someone come up to me and have a private conversation, just an official to an athlete, which would have taken care of the confidentiality problem they talked about later?” the 29-year-old said in an interview with The Times.
Sharapova did, however, say that she had become “complacent” and was responsible for failing the drug test.
“Ultimately the fault was mine,” she added. “I had been getting clearance on everything I was taking for seven years and I became complacent.”
Sharapova is due to return to competitive action at the Stuttgart Grand Prix which starts on April 24.
Second-seeded John Isner advanced to the US Men’s Clay Court Championship quarterfinals Thursday, beating Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Isner set up a match against fellow American Ernesto Escobedo, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 winner over Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro in the afternoon session at River Oaks. Isner won the 2013 title.
Fourth-seeded Steve Johnson of the United States also advanced, beating Germany’s Dustin Brown 7-6 (12), 6-4. Johnson will face fifth-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a 7-6 (4), 6-1 winner over Argentina’s Nicolas Kicker.
Third-seeded Sam Querrey of the United States and eighth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won night matches to set up a quarterfinal.
Querrey beat Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 6-4, and Bellucci outlasted Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Top-seeded Jack Sock of the United States faced Germany’s Tommy Haas in the late match. Sock won the event in 2015.
Top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov lost his opening match at the Grand Prix Hassan II, bowing out against veteran Tommy Robredo 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 Thursday.
The 34-year-old Robredo, now ranked 385th, saved seven of nine break points and converted all three chances he got to win on Dimitrov’s serve.
Robredo will face Benoit Paire in his first tour-level quarterfinal match since he reached the semifinals at Shenzhen Open in 2015. Paire beat Radu Albot 6-2, 6-2.
Fourth-seeded Mischa Zverev was also eliminated, losing to Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-4, while fifth-seeded Paolo Lorenzi advanced by beating Gianluigi Quinzi 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-4.
Strykova moves up
Top-seeded Barbora Strykova saved two set points to beat Carina Witthoeft of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the Biel Ladies Open second round Thursday.
The 18th-ranked Czech let slip a 5-3 lead in the second set, then twice faced set point against the 69th-ranked Witthoeft before forcing the tiebreaker.
Strykova’s 17-year-old compatriot, Marketa Vondrousova, also advanced to a first career quarterfinal at a tournament debuting on the WTA Tour.
Vondrousova, a left-hander ranked No. 233, eased past 60th-ranked Annika Beck of Germany 6-1, 6-3.
Second-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain exited, losing to Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-2. — Agencies