'Gussie' was well ahead of her time

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Gertrude “Gussie” Moran, who shocked the modest midcentury tennis world when she took the court at Wimbledon with short skirt and ruffled underwear, has died at age 89.

Moran had recently returned from a long hospital stay with colon cancer when she died Wednesday night in her small apartment in Los Angeles, said Jack Neworth, a tennis writer who befriended Moran in her final year.

As a 25-year-old seventh seed at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop at the All-England Club in London when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper for women at the time.

She lost the match, but her striking fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world, the British press dubbing her “Gorgeous Gussie.”

“Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time,” tennis great Jack Kramer said in 2002 in the Los Angeles Times, which first reported her death.

ARMSTRONG RIPPED: Novak Djokovic slammed Lance Armstrong’s long-delayed doping admissions, saying the seven-time Tour de France winner is a disgrace to cycling and “should suffer for his lies.”

At the same time, the No. 1-ranked man in tennis says the drug testing program in his sport is “good,” while conceding that for the last six months he hasn’t had a blood test in the anti-doping program.

“I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,” Djokovic said of Armstrong.

“It would be ridiculous for him to decline and refuse all the charges because it has been proven. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story.”

The Armstrong doping saga also raised questions over drug testing in tennis, and Djokovic said he supported the International Tennis Federation’s current program.

“At least from my perspective, it’s really good,” he said, outlining the current regime where tennis players have to give anti-doping authorities details of their whereabouts each day, in case they’re required for out-of-competition testing.

Djokovic admitted that the blood tests that can detect the presence of EPO, a known oxygen booster in the blood which could help a tennis player cope better in long rallies and extended matches, have been a rarity for him lately.

He was asked to respond to reports that ITF records show that in 2011, only 18 blood tests were taken of the top players.

“Yeah, I wasn’t tested with blood for last six, seven months,” Djokovic said. “It was more regular ... two, three years ago. I don’t know the reason why they stopped it.”

Maria Sharapova said after her win over Venus Williams later Friday that the Armstrong revelations are “just a really sad story, sad for that sport.”

“I’m happy that our sport is as clean as it can be and that we’re constantly tested,” she said. “So as long as we’re getting tested, whatever it takes, urine, blood, we’re all here to make the sport as clean as it can be.”

Djokovic also said he’s confident of the integrity of tennis.

“I believe tennis players are (among) the cleanest athletes in the world,” Djovovic said. “So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing.”

SILVER LININGS: No American men reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year, but Sam Querrey doesn’t think it’s necessarily a reflection on the state of American tennis.

The top American player, No. 13 John Isner, pulled out before the tournament began with a knee injury and veteran Mardy Fish, currently ranked 27th, skipped the Australian Open as he continues to recover from heart problems.

“If they were here, hopefully one of them would have made it,” Querrey said.

Querrey, seeded 20th, was the last American man standing in Melbourne until he lost in the third round Friday to 15th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

“We’re doing our best,” Querrey said. “I don’t think the state of American tennis is poor, you know, I think it’s pretty solid if you compare it to most countries. You can argue we’re in the top five overall, maybe.”

The U.S. didn’t have any men in the fourth round last year, either. And that was with Isner, Fish and the now-retired Andy Roddick playing in the tournament.

No American man has won the Australian Open since Andre Agassi in 2003, and no one has won a major since Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open.

EXPENSIVE OUTBURST: Jerzy Janowicz’s on-court meltdown at the Australian Open is going to cost him.

The 24th-seeded Pole became irate over a line call during his second-round match against India’s Somdev Devvarman and repeatedly screamed at the chair umpire, spat on the court and hit the umpire’s chair with his racket.

The tantrum went viral on YouTube with more than 750,000 views in two days.

Janowicz won’t escape without punishment, however. On Friday, he was fined $2,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Janowicz was incredulous when told by The Associated Press that he had received a fine.

“For sure I will not believe this because I didn’t say anything bad,” he said. “I didn’t do anything bad. I was just shouting. You get fined for shouting?”

The fine is the highest of the 2013 Australian Open tournament thus far, but it could have been worse. Last year, David Nalbandian received an $8,000 fine for throwing water at a staff member at Melbourne Park after another disputed line call.

Marcos Baghdatis, meanwhile, was penalized just $1,250 for smashing four rackets during a changeover at last year’s tournament - an outburst that also became a hit on YouTube, with more than 1.4 million views <0x2014> and counting.

NO MORE RACKET BUSTING: Has fatherhood changed Marcos Baghdatis? No racket rage this year. No record-long matches.

Baby Zahara was born Oct. 20, shortly after Baghdatis married Croatian tennis player Karolina Sprem in July.

“Everything is good” on the baby front, said Baghdatis, who is 27 years old and ranked 28th. “I miss her when I’m away for so long.”

Baghdatis will be able to return home soon. He lost his third-round match to No. 4 David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

The spirited Cypriot said that he regretted last year’s outburst.

“Everybody does some stupid things in their life. Mine was last year when I broke those four rackets,” he said, adding that fatherhood has little to do with this year’s perspective on racket abuse.

“I don’t think it’s because I came a father that I didn’t do it this year,” he said.

CELEBRITY COACH: Li Na’s new coach has been the talk of the tournament - and she fears other members of her team are getting jealous.

The former French Open champion hired Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s former coach, after Wimbledon last year to help raise her game. The Chinese star hasn’t reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event since her breakthrough win at Roland Garros in 2011.

The new partnership has brought immediate results: Li has won two titles and amassed a 28-8 win-loss record.

She’s also into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-1 on Friday, and hasn’t dropped a set at this year’s tournament.

Li is happy with her new celebrity coach, but is tired of fielding questions about him. So tired, in fact, she invited Rodriguez down to the court after her victory to answer questions himself in her post-match TV interview.

“After he was (coaching) me, every time in the press conference, ask about Carlos. So Carlos, you should stand here and answer some questions,” she said.

Rodriguez, however, had already slipped out of Rod Laver Arena. “He’s just gone, I can’t even see him,” Li said, laughing.

Rodriguez may not be able to take all the credit for Li’s strong play at the Australian Open this year. Two years ago, she complained that her husband’s snoring had kept her awake the night before her semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki - a match she won to reach her first Grand Slam final.

This year, she’s getting more sleep. “I am staying in a suite - two rooms!” she tweeted on Friday.


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