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The Monday Slice: All the wrong moves

Busted Racquet

FIRST SERVE

It's bad enough for a professional sports tour to implement a toothless, useless and self-defeating piece of legislation. To make sure that its idiocy generates a flurry of media attention and overshadows one of the biggest tournaments of the year, however, takes a special brand of ineptitude.

The WTA Tour tried to get tough at the start of this season by attempting to force leading players to compete in "premier" events or risk penalties of ranking points or suspension.

But as soon as Venus and Serena Williams stood up for themselves on a point of principle, the Tour cowered into submission and rendered its own "Roadmap" program utterly ineffective.

The Williams sisters have boycotted the Indian Wells tournament, now known as the BNP Paribas Open, for the past seven years.

It all dates back to 2001 when Venus defaulted to her sister moments before they were due to take part in a nationally televised semifinal in front of a capacity crowd.

That prompted boos and outrage – and when Serena emerged for the final the next day the family claimed it was subjected to racist abuse, with father Richard Williams insisting it was the worst case of prejudice seen since "they killed Martin Luther King."

While the actions of some fans all those years ago can never be condoned, it is time for Venus and Serena to either forgive and forget, or be prepared to face the consequences of a continued boycott.

Under "Roadmap" rules, any top player skipping Indian Wells should receive zero ranking points and be ineligible for the following two tournament weeks. If WTA Tour chairman Larry Scott was serious about making his policy work, he had the ideal opportunity to lay down the law.

Instead, he has allowed the Williamses to exploit a loophole that permits them to avoid suspension by performing promotional duties for the tournament.

Now that the precedent has been set, it will be used liberally in the future. So much for defiance; Scott and his cronies just allowed an escape clause to be blasted open that renders its initiative worthless.


DROP SHOT

The decision to play the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tie behind closed doors due to security fears robbed fans of the chance to witness one of the most exciting matches in tournament history. All four singles went to five sets, with Harel Levy outlasting Andreas Vinciguerra in a nail-biting final contest to clinch a 3-2 victory for the Israelis.

USE YOUR FREQUENT FLYER MILES

Don't let the annual Williams boycott to put you off - it's time to head for the desert for the first Masters Series event of the year at Indian Wells. Novak Djokovic has a stack of points to defend and needs to perform well if he is to achieve his short-term goal of catching Roger Federer at the No. 2 ranking. An early exit would give No. 4 Andy Murray the chance to start snapping at his heels.

CLEAN WINNER

Andy Roddick's failure to add to his one career Grand Slam title has frustrated many U.S. tennis fans. However, Roddick's continued commitment to the Davis Cup cause is admirable and impressive. His two victories over Switzerland in Alabama took him to 31 match wins in the event – second place on the all-time list behind John McEnroe, whose record of 41 will be in Roddick's sights over the next few years.

LAST WEEK'S WINNERS

Davis Cup: Argentina 5 Holland 0; Czech Republic 3 France 2; Croatia 5 Chile 0; United States 4 Switzerland 1; Germany 3 Austria 2; Sweden 2 Israel 3; Spain 4 Serbia 1; Romania 1 Russia 4.

MonterreyOpen, Monterrey: Marion Bartoli

THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS

After breaking with tradition and performing rather well over the last couple of weeks, The Monday Slice is a bit disappointed there will be no tournament concluded this week. Three tournament winners out of four two weeks ago and seven correct results (with six correct scores) out of eight in the Davis Cup has given this column an inflated sense of self-worth. No doubt it will be back down to earth with a bump before too long. Meanwhile, we look ahead to Indian Wells, which starts midweek but doesn't end until March 22.

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells: Rafael Nadal

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells: Elena Dementieva

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