Commentary

Ljubicic: Gambling punishments don't necessarily fit the crime

Ivan Ljubicic, president of the ATP's player council, sheds light on today's hot topics.

Originally Published: February 29, 2008
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Ljubicic has served as president of the ATP's player council since August 2006.

The next big player meeting is scheduled for Indian Wells, Calif., in the coming weeks (the agenda has yet to be tabled), with the usual gathering in Australia last month bypassed because nothing urgent (as in, no major calendar issues) needed discussing.

Here's Ljubicic's take on some topics floating around the men's game.

The Italian bans
The ATP's crackdown on gambling led to suspensions last year for three Italians, two of whom (or perhaps one-and-a-half) might be considered journeymen.

Alessio di Mauro, a left-handed grinder who's spent about one of his 10 years as a pro in the top 100, received a nine-month ban and $60,000 fine in November. He reportedly bet on just over 100 matches, putting down $15-20 each time.

A month later, clay-court specialist Potito Starace, the highest-ranked member of the trio (he ended last season at No. 31), was hit with a six-week ban and fined $30,000, while the erratic Daniele Bracciali got three months and a $20,000 fine.

Starace, now back, spent a total of $130 and Bracciali forked out an average of $7 on about 50 bets, according to Italy's tennis federation.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Ljubicic focusing on quality

Ivan Ljubicic, once an inextricable face in the top 10, now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. Hampered by fatigue and other various maladies, he has painfully slipped down the rankings ladder. The Croat, however, vows to return to the upper echelon once again. Story

-- Ravi Ubha

"If you go against the rules you have to pay the price,'' Ljubicic said. "I personally believe the suspension was too harsh, but I definitely agree that the fine was good enough, maybe even give them a little bit higher fine, but just let them play. They bet on matches that they weren't involved in. They just really didn't know it was the rule. And the moment they realized they were doing wrong, they stopped.

"Definitely it was a big sign to everyone else who thinks about maybe doing something like that, that it's better not to do it. It was a stupid thing for them to do.''

A fourth Italian, Giorgio Galimberti, who's managed nine top-level wins in his 13 years as a pro, was suspended 100 days and fined $35,000 last week.

Davis Cup ranking points
Almost habitually, calls to alter the format of the Davis Cup crop up every January.

Some want a one-off tournament at the end of the year, others want a bi-annual event, and more than a few have suggested dropping the round-of-16 series in the world group (like the Fed Cup).

All proposals, it seems, are intended to help make sure top players play. Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, a Spaniard, have routinely opted out of the first round. Ljubicic said ranking points will be offered starting next year, though in small doses, a compromise made so the players can get the Davis Cup dates they desire. Points are up for grabs at the Olympics.

"The guys were definitely not against it, and we all felt, 'OK, if someone is playing really well in the Davis Cup, he deserves to get some more points,'" Ljubicic said. "We can test it for three or four years and then go back to the normal Davis Cup competition. I don't think it's going to make a big impact in the rankings.''

Next year's Davis Cup dates and points scheme will be revealed in April, coinciding with the quarterfinals, the International Tennis Federation, which governs the competition, said in an e-mail.

ATP 1000s
It might be easier to understand for the players, but changing the Masters Series label to 1000s next year has drawn its fair share of criticism. Those opposed to the change argued that fans at least knew a Masters event was something big. The 1000 refers to points the winner receives, hardly fan-friendly terminology.

"It's going to take some time to get used to that, the rewards and that number and pointwise, but I think it's just a matter of time,'' Ljubicic said.

Tier 1 doesn't sound so bad, after all.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

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