Maria Sharapova may not get French Open tennis wildcard | tennis | Hindustan Times
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Maria Sharapova may not get French Open tennis wildcard

Maria Sharapova served a ban due to a doping offence. French tennis federation chief says giving suspended players free ride is contradictory to spending millions on anti-doping measures.

tennis Updated: Mar 03, 2017 16:27 IST
Maria Sharapova reacts after a point during a World Team Tennis exhibition to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation on Oct. 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. (File photo)
Maria Sharapova reacts after a point during a World Team Tennis exhibition to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation on Oct. 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. (File photo) (AP)

Bernard Giudicelli, the recently-elected president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), has said Maria Sharapova may not be given a wild card to play at the French Open this year, potentially her first Grand Slam after serving an anti-doping ban.

Maria Sharapova is currently serving a 15-month suspension for testing positive for the use of banned substance meldonium. Her suspension is set to end on April 25 following which she will be eligible to play WTA tournaments.

Entry to tournaments is given on the basis of WTA rankings for six weeks prior to the start of the competition.

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a forehand in her quarter final match against Serena Williams of the United States during day nine of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2016. (Getty Images)

Since Maria Sharapova has not played professional tennis for an extended period of time, her ranking is too low to be given entry for tournaments.

However, tournament organisers can decided to give wild cards entries to players who are outside the required rank if they feel it will improve competition or prestige at the tournament.

Sharapova is set to play in the Stuttgart Open, beginning April 26, having been given a wild card entry. She is a three-time former champion at the tournament.

She was also given wild cards for the Madrid and Rome Opens.

Maria Sharapova at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 4, 2014 in London. (Getty Images)

However, Giudicelli feels it is contradictory to make million-dollar investments in anti-doping measures and then accept a recently suspended player like Sharapova back into competition without her having to work to get her ranking up to the required level.

In a conversation with a French journalist via Facebook Live, Giudicelli said the decision was yet to be made on whether Sharapova would be given a wild card for the French Open.

“It’s going to be complicated,” Giudicelli said when asked if players found guilty of doping in past should be helped by tournaments after serving their suspension. “Roland Garros, it’s Roland Garros. One does not invest a million-and-a-half in anti-doping and...

“Today, (the decision) has not been taken.”

Maria Sharapova had admitted to use of meldonium for several years upon testing positive for the substance. She said she was unaware it had been banned as of 2016 in accordance with tighter constraints by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

On March 1, organisers of the clay-court Italian Open in Rome announced via Twitter that Sharapova would be given a wild card entry for the tournament.

Men’s singles world No 1 Andy Murray has taken exception to the awarding of the wild cards saying players returning from a doping ban should be made to work to improve their ranking.

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after winning her third-round women's singles match against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on July 3, 2015. (Reuters)

Authorities of the esteemed Wimbledon tournament -- the next Major after the French Open -- are yet to decide on giving Sharapova a wild card entry.

Murray believes that given the fact that Sharapova has plenty of time until the famed grass court English tournament, she should work to improve her rank enough that she does not need the wild card.

Maria Sharapova reacts to winning a point against Alison Riske during their women's singles third round match on day six of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon. (AFP)

“I think you should really have to work your way back. However, the majority of tournaments are going to do what they think is best for their event,” Murray was quoted as saying by the Times newspaper.

“If they think having big names there is going to sell more seats, then they’re going to do that. She [Sharapova] has an opportunity to try to improve her ranking up until that point [start of Wimbledon] and potentially not need a wild card. But then if she doesn’t, that becomes Wimbledon’s decision and how they want to play that.”