By Ros Satar
- The French Federation deny Maria Sharapova a wildcard for either the Main Draw or the Qualifying Draw
- Decision made as she is due to take to the court, for her second round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
- Retires up a break in de
PARIS, FRANCE – Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) took to Facebook live to announce the main draw and qualifying wildcards for Roland Garros – with Maria Sharapova receiving neither.
No Roland Garros wild-card for Maria Sharapova in either draw
The Facebook Live announcement, shortly before Maria Sharapova’s scheduled second round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, announced in French the main draw and qualification of the men’s and women’s competition.
Eyebrows were raised when she was not announced for the Main Draw, but when she was not mentioned in the Qualification. With no Serena Williams, many argued that the ‘big name’ factor would need to be met but the FFT disagreed.
Giudicelli opted for an English translation after delivering his original statement in French, saying: “There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,”
He added: ”I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans. They might be very disappointed, she might be very disappointed, but it’s my responsibility, my mission, to protect the high standards of the game played without any doubt on the result.”
With her opening round win at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia this week she has secured a spot in the Wimbledon Qualification tournament, and would need to reach at the semi-final in Rome to ensure a main draw spot, and thus remove the task from Wimbledon, when they announce their wildcards on 20 June.
The issue then facing the All England Club is how to deal with the inevitable media interest, In Stuttgart the facilities for the small but high quality WTA Premier field saw hundreds of requests and the facilities increased to cope with the interest, which waned enough after Sharapova’s opening win, and dwindled back to the regulars who cover the women’s tour after she lost in the semi-final.
There is no small sense of irony that her two losses so far this year have come to two of her fiercest critics on the tour, and perhaps the comparative safety of a tournament with just a 32 draw was a lull into a false sense of security.
Injury strikes in Sharapova’s third tournament
After a slow start in Rome, she had to come for a set behind in her second round against Lucic-Baroni for the second time in as many weeks, but this time, despite levelling the match and going up a break.
A lengthy time-out saw her emerge from off-court treatment with heavy strapping on her upper thigh and it was immediately obvious that she could not push up off her leg. Her coach Sven Groeneveld was shaking her head and by the time the first changeover came – the decision was made and she retired.
Skipping the post-match press conference for continuing medical assessment, on Wednesday Sharapova posted a defiant message on her twitter feed:
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 17, 2017
Quietly defiant it may be, but there were again more questions that anwers when WTA CEO Steve Simon chimed in with a statement of his own after the wildcards were announced:
— WTA (@WTA) May 17, 2017
So what now for Sharapova?
So to recap, as it is was not confusing enough that the Facebook Live announcement was done on Giudicelli’s own Facebook Page, linked by the FFT, an addendum to the press release confirming the wildcards added:
Bernard Giudicelli, President of the FFT, informed Maria Sharapova of his decision as follows:
I merely wished to say that I had decided not to award you the wild card that you had requested. No-one will ever be able to take away the two titles which you won here at Roland-Garros, because you won them according to the rules, owing nothing to anyone. I read very carefully articles 100 and 101 of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which reduced the length of your ban.
While it is true that the CAS reduced your ban, it agreed with the independent tribunal which stated that you had violated the anti-doping programme which applies to tennis, for which you were suspended for 15 months.
You served your ban with dignity and respect, and now it is in the past.
Nevertheless, while wild cards can be awarded to players returning from injury, this cannot be the case for those coming back from doping bans.
It is now up to you, day by day, one tournament after the next, to find the strength within you to win more major titles, without owing anything to anyone.
A lot of people believe the win-win situation would have been a wild-card into the qualifying event, and to let her take her chances. The strain of competition has most likely been a bit of a wake-up call judging by the injury – she may not have even made it out of qualifying and everyone would have been happy.
As it stands now, Wimbledon will need to stand by their confidence that they can handle the extra interest when the qualifying events are held in the small grounds of Roehampton. Or – give her a wild-card to the main draw. Their decision will be made on June 20, with Wimbledon Qualifying will take place between 26-29 June.
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