Sean Calvert: Ban bitterness does not serve Troicki well

Troicki is back on tour this week in Gstaad
Troicki is back on tour this week in Gstaad

In this week's look at what's making the headlines in the world of tennis, Sean Calvert gives us his views on the return to the tour of Viktor Troicki...

"This attitude of: "they (the ITF) really wanted to put me down and ruin me completely," doesn't become him and will only hamper his progress back up the rankings..."

Weather permitting, Viktor Troicki will set foot on court in Gstaad on Thursday for his second match back on the ATP World Tour after serving a 12-month doping ban.

To sum up for the few who aren't aware of the scenario the Serbian was handed an 18-month ban for failing to supply a blood sample at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2013, which was later reduced on appeal to 12-months.

Having served that sentence Troicki is back - but with his world ranking having slipped down as low as 847 as of this Monday.

But far from being delighted to be back on court and wanting to forget about his mistake and I stress the use of the word 'his' mistake, Troicki was quoted before his comeback win over talented Austrian Dominic Thiem as saying: "The ITF tried to destroy my career, and I will never forget what happened."

This comment simply adds to the collection of prior dramatic statements, such as: "I feel like I'm being treated like a criminal," or "I feel they wanted to use me, to put me down for a long time to set an example," being among various other outpourings of grief.

All of this is self pity of course and perhaps shows why a player of his high level of talent has often been found wanting in the mental side of the game. Put simply, he doesn't have the mental strength to be a contender, despite a career high ranking of 12.

I could argue the finer details of the incident, but the basic facts of the case are that Viktor claims to have a fear of needles and, feeling unwell after losing his match in Monte-Carlo, he claims he was told by the ITF official that he could take the test the next day. The official denies this.

Quite how taking the blood test the next day would assuage his fear of needles is up for debate, but I digress.

Rather akin to a child attempting to escape blame for an episode of naughtiness, Troicki uses the "because he (or in this case, she) told me to," defence - and as we all know that's not going to cut it.

"The funny thing is that the doctor who gave me the wrong instructions, she continued working," Troicki groaned.

"She just continued doing her job and that's because she doesn't have rules. We players have rules and she just has instructions to follow. For me that's kind of silly. She made a mistake and she hasn't been sanctioned by anyone."

But that's precisely the point Viktor. The players do have rules and the bottom line is that they and they alone are responsible for ensuring that they're followed.

Ignorance of the law is no defence and, unfortunately for Viktor, and Marin Cilic, who also had to serve a ban last year, the buck stops with them.

Now, the usual route back for any player who has been away from the game for any prolonged period of time is to battle one's way back up the rankings in low level ITF events and Challengers and this is apparently where Viktor has a problem.

He doesn't seem to realise the massive advantage he has by being very good friends with the world's number one player, Novak Djokovic, who will open doors for his mate at plenty of tournaments around the world - and big ones at that.

Wild cards will come at events that most players ranked in the 800s in the world can only dream about - okay he may get some tough draws in some of them - but losing points in round three of an ATP 500 are roughly the same as a making a Challenger final.

In short he's going to get an awful lot of help and he should be seeing this the same way that an injured player who's been out for a year would look at things.

Fine, there are protected rankings in some instances, but there are countless examples of players coming back from equally long spells away and he doesn't have to look too far for one, as his other Serbian Davis Cup pal Janko Tipsarevic hasn't played since week 43 last season.

They should be hitting the comeback trail at roughly the same time, but Viktor doesn't seem to be seeing any positives - even after a year off to contemplate.

This attitude of: "they (the ITF) really wanted to put me down and ruin me completely," doesn't become him and will only hamper his progress back up the rankings.

Look at Pablo Cuevas. Ranked at 1,009 in April last year due to back and knee problems and two weeks ago he won his maiden tour level title in Bastad.

Cuevas didn't play at all from the French Open in May of 2011 until June of 2013, from which point he played 10 Challengers among Tour level events before winning the Swedish Open a year later.

These are the things that Troicki should be looking to for inspiration, rather than continuing to bemoan a situation that was essentially of his own making.

Maybe Viktor should give Robin Soderling or Mardy Fish a call and see how they're doing if he wants a taste of those with equal if not more ability who were unable to complete their careers.

And who's to say he can't go on to do well in Gstaad this week? He's already beaten Dominic Thiem and is in to 26.025/1 to land a second tour level career title.

I would consider it possible, but unlikely and Andrey Golubev looks a decent wager at around 2.56/4 to beat him in round two today, but it's certainly a winnable tournament for Troicki on his best form.

With sixth seeded Gilles Simon and eighth seeded Thiem already out, Fernando Verdasco and Marcel Granollers are likely opponents for Troicki should he defeat Golubev (first career meeting) and I would expect Granollers at around 9.28/1 to be the finalist from that half of the draw.

Two more wins this week and Troicki will leap up a couple of hundred places in the rankings - and this is his first week back on the tour. Not a bad return.

Coming back from adversity is something near enough everyone has experienced in their lives and Troicki is in a very privileged position to have the assistance to do it here. He just needs to realise it.

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