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His NOC picked him

The strange case of Rainer Schuettler’s Olympics

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Originally published on 26/02/10 11:08

Even before a ball is struck in anger, the Olympic tennis event has already managed to stir up a little controversy.

Rainer Schuettler’s bid to reach Beijing has pitted German national federations and international sports bodies against one another – but the bottom line is he will now compete for Germany in the Games.

“The ITF wishes him the best of luck, even if he was not eligible for Beijing”

The International Tennis Federation has condemned the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling to allow Rainer Schuettler to represent Germany at the Beijing Olympics after he failed to meet the qualifying criteria.

And, in response, Schuettler has slammed the ITF, demanding a public apology for the statement carried on its website.

“I find the mentioned statement shocking, harming and damaging to my reputation due to the inaccuracy of its content,” said Schuettler in an open letter adressed to ITF boss Francesco Ricci Bitti.

In the ITF’s opinion, Schuettler was “not eligible for Beijing” before claiming that the decision sets a precedent which could “harm the rights of international federations to set qualification criteria.”

Despite being nominated by the German National Olympic Committee, Schuettler looked to have missed out because his world ranking of No.89 left him ineligible for the 64-man event.

But after his run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, the German received a 450-point boost on the rankings computer. Because Schuettler did not compete at Wimbledon in 2007 – the “ATP rankings”: are based on results over the preceding 52 weeks -he jumped to world No34.

Schuettler’s improved ranking took him above compatriot Denis Gremelmayr, who was world No.66 when the draw was made – but whose inclusion was not confirmed by his NOC.

To the ITF’s annoyance, Schuettler will now replace Gremelmayr after successfully appealing to the CAS on the basis that several eligible players have withdrawn.

“The CAS panel found that Schuettler was among the top players eligible for the Olympics according to the ITF criteria set up in their rules and that there was a discretion in the German NOC to enter the players of its choice from among such eligible players,” said the CAS.

“The German NOC did enter Nicolas Kiefer and Schuettler but chose not to enter Gremelmayr and Michael Berrer although both were ranked higher than Rainer Schuettler in the ITF ranking list.”

It was a decision that has clearly rankled tennis’ governing body, judging by this statement that appeared on their site.

“The ITF is very disappointed with the decision and feels that the precedent set today could ultimately harm the rights of international federations to set qualification criteria.

“It is very disturbing when players who do not meet the ITF qualification criteria, approved by the IOC, are entered at the expense of players who qualified and deserve to represent their countries at the 2008 Olympic Games.

“Every tennis event around the world uses the world ranking as the basis for entry and the ITF finds it difficult to accept that criteria can be changed from country to country depending on the views of particular NOCs.

“The German Olympic Committee used their criteria to refuse the entry of Gremelmayr who should have received direct acceptance under the ITF qualification system. The next German in the list was Berrer who was six places ahead of Schuettler at the entry deadline.

“Schuettler did not fulfil the entry criteria set by the German NOC until well after the June 9 deadline and, therefore, should not have been considered for entry.

“While recognising that the German NOC may not understand how professional tennis works, there is no excuse for Schuettler, who is prepared to take a place that was earned by his compatriot Gremelmayr and of next alternate Berrer.

“The ITF wishes him the best of luck even if he was not eligible for Beijing.”

Schuettler has only one singles win at the Olympics, beating Todd Martin in the opening round of the Athens Games before falling to Gustavo Kuerten in the next round.

However, he and Nicolas Kiefer won a silver medal in the doubles event in Athens, losing out to Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez after squandering four match points.

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His NOC picked him
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