Gasquet puts drug woes behind him with victorious comeback

France's Richard Gasquet, who was cleared in December of a doping offence after testing positive for cocaine, has made a winning comeback at the Brisbane Open, defeating Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round.


AFP - Controversial French tennis player Richard Gasquet said he was trying to stay relaxed on his return to the court after he was last month cleared of a serious doping offence.

Gasquet beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday, battling for a tick over two hours before overcoming the Finn in three sets 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

The win came just three weeks after Gasquet was given the all clear to play by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The 23-year-old Frenchman only found out on December 17 that he had escaped a prolonged ban after testing positive for cocaine earlier in the year.

Gasquet served an initial three-month ban from May to July, but the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) both appealed the length of the sentence and argued for a tougher sanction.

However, the CAS cleared Gasquet and acknowledged that he was likely to have been inadvertently contaminated with a minute trace of cocaine after kissing a woman in a Miami night club.

Gasquet, who finished 2009 out of the top 50 for the first time in five years, said he had enjoyed being able to play without the threat of a suspension hanging over his head.

"I could have won, I could have lost, but it was most important to play relaxed," he said.

Gasquet said he was finding it hard to come back to the tour after missing three months, then playing with the prospect of a lengthier ban.

"I had a hard story, but I'm not a different player (than I was before the ban)," he said.

"I was so happy to win because it's hard to come back, for sure."

He added he now wanted to make up for lost time.

"I stopped (playing) for a long time so I want to come back and play good matches, to be relaxed and take pleasure (from tennis), and try to do my best."

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning