PARIS: Maria Sharapova vowed to “rise up again” on Wednesday after she was refused a wildcard for the French Open following her 15-month ban for doping. The Russian former world number one also earned the backing of the head of women’s tennis, a day after the French tennis federation’s announcement that it would not grant her a wildcard for the event she won in 2012 and 2014.
“If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday,” Sharapova wrote on Twitter, in her first remarks on her snub. “No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.” The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, was banned for two years for using meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled she was not an intentional doper.
After the ban expired on April 26 she returned to competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi-finals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open, failing to earn a qualifying spot for Roland Garros, the second Grand Slam of the season and which starts later this month. Many of Sharapova’s rivals have hit out at other tournaments giving her preferential treatment, but WTA chief executive Steve Simon called the actions of the French federation (FFT) “groundless”, in a strongly worded statement backing her. Whilst 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.”
Announcing the FFT’s decision on Tuesday, president Bernard Giudicelli said giving Sharapova a wildcard would make a nonsense of tennis authorities’ ramped-up efforts against doping.
But Simon said: “She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS. The tennis anti-doping program (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.” Sharapova 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 leaving her reliant on wildcards, could have earned her spot at Wimbledon by reaching the semi-finals in Italy but retired against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the final set with a thigh injury. The Russian issued a statement afterwards that failed to address the French Open and said merely that she hoped her injury “is not serious”.