Women’s tennis chief slates Sharapova snub

Maria Sharapova
Picture: GETTY IMAGES

The head of women’s tennis yesterday attacked the French tennis federation’s refusal to grant Maria Sharapova a wildcard for the French Open as “groundless”.

The Russian former world No 1 was told on Tuesday that despite serving her 15-month ban for doping she would have to miss the second grand slam of the season.

Announcing the decision, FFT president Bernard Guidicelli said he was sorry for Sharapova but “it is my responsibility and my mission to respect the high standards of the game to be played without any doping”.

Women’s Tennis Association chief executive Steve Simon took issue with the FFT’s hardline stance on the two-times French Open champion in a strongly worded statement.

While acknowledging that wildcards were granted at a tournament’s discretion, Simon said: “What I do not agree with is the basis put forward by the FFT for their decision with respect to Maria Sharapova.

“She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport].

“The tennis anti-doping programme (TADP) is a uniform effort supported by the grand slams, WTA, ITF and ATP.

“There are no grounds for any member of the TADP to penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters.”

The five-times grand slam champion was banned for two years for using meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by CAS which ruled she was not an intentional doper.

After the ban expired on April 26, the Russian returned to competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semifinals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open, too late to earn herself a qualifying spot for Paris.

She is guaranteed a qualifying spot at Wimbledon in July after winning her opening match at the ongoing Rome Masters, although she missed a chance at direct entrance into the main draw after a second-round exit on Tuesday.

Sharapova, whose ranking has plummeted to 211, could have earned her spot at Wimbledon by reaching the semifinals in Italy but retired from her match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the final set with a thigh injury.

The 2012 and 2014 French Open winner has yet to publicly comment on her Roland Garros snub which was delivered by Guidicelli on Facebook Live, ahead of the May 28June 11 tournament.

“Nobody can deprive her of her two titles at Roland Garros, but today I can’t grant her the wildcard requested,” he said.

“I know the media dimension of Maria and I’m measuring the expectations of the public and sponsors, but in all conscience it didn’t appear possible to me to go beyond the strict application of the world anti-doping code.”

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