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Aussie coach's award win riles up Djoker's fan boys, as former client fears 'catastrophic' career blow

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16th December, 2023
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Darren Cahill has been named the ATP’s Coach of the Year for 2023 – a decision that has gotten under the skin of some Novak Djokovic fans.

The Australian was announced on Saturday AEDT as the joint winner of the award with Simone Vagnozzi for mentoring Jannik Sinner, the rising star of world tennis.

Cahill’s win came at the expense of Goran Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon champion who is coaching the world No.1 Djokovic.

It is the latest honour for the well-respected Adelaide-born Cahill, who also mentored the likes of former world No.1s Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep – who is currently facing a devastating drugs ban.

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Sinner took out the ATP’s Most Improved Player and Fans’ Favourite awards.

The 22-year-old Sinner led Italy to their first Davis Cup championship since 1976, won his first Masters 1000 trophy and made it to the title match at the ATP Finals before losing to Novak Djokovic.

Simona Halep French Open.

Romania’s Simona Halep returns the ball to Belgium’s Elise Mertens during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Monday, June 4, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Sinner also finished the 2023 season at a career-best No.4 in the rankings.

Djokovic finished at No.1 for the eighth time, adding to his record, after winning three grand slam titles and making the final at the year’s other major tournament.

Other ATP award winners included Jan-Lennard Struff for Comeback Player of the Year and 19-year-old Arthur Fils for Newcomer of the Year.

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Carlos Alcaraz won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, and Felix Auger-Aliassime received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award.

Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

Halep meanwhile believes her career will be over if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against her, while awaiting a ruling on her appeal of a four-year doping suspension. The two-time grand slam champion is no longer working with coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy, saying she hasn’t spoken to the Frenchman in months.   

“Four years is going to be a lot for my age,” Halep, a 32-year-old from Romania who has been No.1 in the WTA rankings, said in an interview with euronews posted online Friday.

“It’s catastrophic if it’s going to be four years,” she said. “And I don’t know how I will handle it. Probably it’s going to be (the) end of (my) career, yes.”

Cahill has been a staunch supporter of his former client.

A three-day hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport is scheduled for February 7-9 in her appeal against the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which ruled Halep “committed intentional anti-doping rule violations.”

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Halep tested positive for the drug Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open and also was cited for irregularities in her biological passport. Roxadustat stimulates the body to produce more of the natural hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, which has long been a doping product favoured by cyclists and distance runners.

Halep said in Friday’s interview she hasn’t spoken to Mouratoglou since “a few months ago.”

In a video Mouratoglou posted on Instagram in November he took blame for providing a tainted substance to Halep.

“We brought her collagen from a company. This collagen happened to be contaminated,” Mouratoglou said. “There was no way to know it. But I feel responsible for what happened because it’s my team – so me, basically – who brought her this collagen.”

Halep won the French Open in 2018 by beating Sloane Stephens in the final, and Wimbledon in 2019 by defeating Serena Williams in the title match.

She spoke with euronews in Paris and said she hopes she wins her appeal and will be eligible to compete in next year’s Summer Olympics in that city.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong and I know I’m clean,” Halep said.

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