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The Monday Slice: A ban could save Gasquet

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First Serve

Richard Gasquet will have plenty of time for reflection during the time he will spend on the tennis sidelines after testing positive for cocaine.

The French world No. 21 could be banned for up to two years by the ATP Tour, but who knows if even that period will be long enough for him to work out where it all went wrong.

Back in 2002, Gasquet was a 15-year-old without a care in the world and apparently on the brink of superstardom.

Tennis is full of tales of brilliant juniors who fail to adapt to the professional game, but Gasquet was already making a splash against the men at a tender age. Before his 16th birthday he took a set from eventual champion Albert Costa at the French Open and would become the youngest player to finish a season inside the top 100.

Perhaps fittingly for a player who feels most comfortable on grass, it is two epic contests at Wimbledon that have defined his recent rise and fall. Gasquet's comeback from two sets down to win a Centre Court quarterfinal against Andy Roddick in 2007 lifted him to a career high of No. 7, and it finally seemed as if he would live up to his potential.

However, he never felt comfortable with the added pressure, a fact hammered home 12 months later when he surrendered a two-set lead to home favorite Andy Murray after being in total control of the match. Since then, he has only once reached a quarterfinal of a Masters Series event and suffered a series of upset defeats.

His attitude has despaired French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget, who has learned that Gasquet can not be relied on in pressure situations. Gasquet has protested his innocence on the cocaine charge and has vowed to fight to remain on tour. However, a long ban and a chance to re-evaluate his career path might turn out to be the best thing for him.

Drop shot

Our old friend Damir Dokic has provided his regular dose of lunacy - allegedly threatening to "fire a rocket" at the Australian ambassador to Belgrade. The moronic father of former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic was detained by authorities for his actions, which appear to stem from an article in an Australian magazine that claimed he physically abused his daughter when she was a teenager.

Clean winner

Another week, another whine from Serena Williams, whose constant rants are beginning to get tiresome. This time, Williams has blamed the WTA Tour and its participation policy on her injury problems, rather than her own lack of fitness.

While Williams' ongoing chatter does the women's tour no favors, the return of Maria Sharapova from injury will add extra spice to the battle for supremacy in the women's game. Whether you like Sharapova or not, her battles with the Williams sisters generally make for compulsive viewing.

Use your frequent flyer miles

The tennis world centers on Madrid this week for sun, sangria and an excellent men's and women's event in the lead-up to the French Open. The Mutua Madrilena Open moves outdoors this year, effectively replacing Hamburg on the clay court circuit, and will be held in the impressive 12,500-seat Casa Magica.

Last week's results:

BMW Open, Munich: Tomas Berdych
Estoril Open, Estoril: Albert Montanes
Serbia Open, Belgrade: Novak Djokovic
Estoril Open, Estoril: Yanina Wickmayer
Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Dinara Safina

This week's predicitions:

Mutua Madrilena Open, Madrid (men): Rafael Nadal
Mutua Madrilena Open, Madrid (women): Dinara Safina

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