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ITF Chief Says Ban Unlikely For Serena Williams

Saturday, November 14, 2009

By Andrew Dampf (AP) -- Top-ranked Serena Williams will most likely receive a "significant" fine but no suspension for her U.S. Open tirade, the president of the International Tennis Federation said.

Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock is expected to give his recommendation to the Grand Slam committee, which probably will announce the sanction Monday or Tuesday.

"I don't think (an Australian Open ban) would make much sense, because it would penalize the people handing out the punishment," Francesco Ricci Bitti told The Associated Press on Saturday. "For the Grand Slam committee to exclude her from a Grand Slam doesn't seem likely."

The Grand Slam committee is composed of Ricci Bitti and the four Grand Slam presidents.

Williams was fined $10,000 after her profanity-laced outburst at a lineswoman during her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters in September. A fine from the ITF could be much greater.

"A significant financial penalty makes much more sense. But it has to be significant enough for the fans (to appreciate) it," Ricci Bitti said. "Of course it may not be significant for Serena Williams, who earns tens of millions."

By winning the season-ending tour championship last weekend, Williams set the record for single-season prize money in women's tennis by topping $6.5 million in 2009. Her career prize money is a record $28.5 million.

Ricci Bitti spoke at the Fed Cup final between the United States in Italy. Serena and Venus Williams decided not to play in the Fed Cup final after meeting in the final of the season-ending championship last weekend in Doha, Qatar.

The ITF president is also involved in a request by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate Andre Agassi's recent admission that he took crystal meth in 1997.

Agassi wrote in his soon-to-be-released autobiography "Open" that he ingested the drug and then lied to the ATP to avoid a suspension after failing a doping test.

Ricci Bitti is also a member of WADA's executive committee.

"The WADA code is our reference point and in every doping case the rules are quite clear. There is an eight-year period for sanctions to apply," Ricci Bitti said. "In terms of the regulations, there is nothing that can be done because we're past the eight-year period. It's more upsetting than anything else — for our sport and for the players."

Still, Ricci Bitti noted that the ATP should have a dossier on the case.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

In another drug-related case, the ITF confirmed a one-year suspension for Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse on Saturday. The duo was suspended by a Belgian tribunal this week for failing to report their whereabouts to anti-doping officials three times during 2009.

"This reminds me of the cases of Italian players involved in betting a little while ago," Ricci Bitti said. "These players need to be aware of their responsibilities. If they don't know, this is the result.

"These cases create discussion because they're not reliant on positive tests, but there are rules to respect," Ricci Bitti added. "We're awaiting the details from the Belgian federation. These kids need to wake up. They're professionals and they earn a lot of money. They don't need to merely know the rules, they should also respect them."

Posted by Shelia

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