Maria Sharapova’s hopes of a dream return from doping exile to a third French Open crown were shattered on Tuesdaywhen the Russian was surprisingly refused a wild card by organisers.
The 30-year-old, who emerged the queen at Roland Garos in 2012 and 2014, but had her career rocked by a 15-month doping ban last year, was widely expected to be fast-tracked into the year’s second grand slam tournament, through a wild card.
After returning to the circuit last month, Sharapova’s ranking now stands at 211, was not high enough to warrant an automatic place in the Roland Garros main draw.
It meant she needs a favour from the French Tennis Federation (FFT).
But in an unexpected development, especially as the French Open is already without pregnant Serena Williams and resting Roger Federer, the Federation took a moral stand that will please some of her rivals, but could hit the tournament’s ratings.
“You can get a wild card when you return from injury but you cannot get a wild card when returning from a doping suspension,” FFT president Bernard Giudicelli said during a news conference in Paris.
“I appreciate the media impact of Maria, I appreciate the broadcasters’ expectations but in conscience, it was not possible to go beyond the anti-doping code and beyond the application of the rules…
“I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans,” added Giudicelli.
“They might be disappointed, she might be very disappointed, but it’s my responsibility, my mission, to protect the high standards of the game.
The bold decision of the French federation now throws the ball in the court of Wimbledon, who will face a similarly difficult decision when they announce their wild cards on June 20.
Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004, will also need a wild card to get straight into the main draw at the All England Club.