Thu, 09 Apr 2020

SA coach Coetzee stunned by world No 1's suspension

17 Jan 2020, 22:13 GMT+10

Cape Town - They were hoping to complete a hat-trick of Grand Slam doubles titles in the forthcoming Australian Open - but the suspension of Robert Farah has thrown a disconcerting spanner in the works of the Colombian No 1 world doubles combination of Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal, who are coached by Tennis South Africa's Director of Tennis, Jeff Coetzee.

"We're focusing on the things we can control," Coetzee said from Melbourne on Friday while commenting on the ITF's provisional suspension of Farah as a result of failing a drug test in relation to the banned substance, boldenone.

And focussing initially on how to control the blow that has hit the winners of the 2019 Wimbledon and US Open's men's doubles titles was in finding a replacement for the forlorn Farah.

"It was a difficult undertaking at this late juncture," said Coetzee, who also captained the South African team in the recent ATP World Team Cup event. "But we have finally settled on top Spanish prospect, Jaume Munar, who is undoubtedly a star of the future."

Munar, however, is known more for his singles prowess than his doubles ability and whereas the Farah-Cabal combination were earmarked as the No 1 seeds in the Australian Open, the pairing of Cabal and Munar will be unseeded.

"That apart," said Coetzee, "we are waiting to see how the suspension issue develops in the next week or so - taking into account that Robert's suspension is currently of a provisional nature and a case is being implemented to fight the suspension."

Farah, meanwhile, has described the blow that has sidelined him from the Australian Open as "providing the worst moment of my sporting career - and among the worst of my life."

He points to the fact that he has undergone 15 successful drug tests, one of which was in October - only two weeks before the fateful one that detected the boldenone substance.

The Canadian-born Farah has also revealed that boldenone is an ingredient widely used in Colombia to improve the quality of cattle - ''and anyone eating meat in the country is liable to possess traces of the substance."

This is something which the Colombian Olympic Council has confirmed and warned against - while precipitating a major controversy in the country where Farah's plight is being viewed as a national tragedy.

"I am only affected indirectly," says Coetzee. "Farah's suspension is a devastating blow, nevertheless, and one can only feel for the boy."

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