WARSAW (Reuters) - Former world number one tennis player Maria Sharapova should not be fast-tracked into next month’s French Open as she returns from a doping ban, insists Polish rival Agnieszka Radwanska.
With double French Open champion Sharapova currently unranked, all eyes will be on the French Tennis Federation (FFT) next month when it decides whether or not to hand the 30-year-old a wildcard into the tournament.
A decision will be announced during “the week of May 15”, the French federation, which organises the tournament, said in a statement to Reuters on Friday.
The French Open starts on May 28.
Sharapova makes her comeback to the WTA Tour after 15 months out in Stuttgart next week, after gaining a wildcard, and has also been given invites to play in Madrid and Rome.
Roland Garros organisers will be wrestling with the moral conundrum surrounding a wildcard — or free entry into the French Open — given that Sharapova is the biggest draw card in women’s tennis right now, and arguably much needed given the absence of Serena Williams who earlier this week announced her pregnancy.
Regardless, Radwanska believes entry to the year’s second grand slam tournament would be a step too far.
“Now in Germany, next in Spain, but so far she hasn’t been invited to play at slams in Paris and London and in my opinion that’s how it should remain,” world number eight Radwanska told Poland’s sports daily Przeglad Sportowy.
“She should win her place thanks to good results.”
Sharapova was originally banned for two years following a positive test for the newly-banned drug Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open but the sanction was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Last week she criticised the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for not doing enough to warn her that Meldonium — a product she had used legally throughout her career to combat health issues — had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances in late 2015.
Sharapova, 30, is likely to receive a lukewarm reception in Stuttgart next week with several players, including another former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, also questioning whether she should have received a wildcard.
Men’s world number one Andy Murray has also voiced his disapproval about the return of Sharapova who was caught out by the sport’s anti-doping laws after failing to realise that Meldonium, previously legal, had been added to the banned list.
“I’m not hiding my views. I think the same as Andy Murray,” Radwanska, who has beaten Sharapova only twice in 15 attempts, told the newspaper.
“This kind of entry into the tournament should be available only for players who were dropped in the ranking due to injury, illness or other random accident.
“Not for those suspended for doping. Maria should rebuild her career in a different way, beginning with smaller events.
“She wouldn’t have a chance for (a wildcard) from my hands (if I was a tournament director).”
With the main draw deadline passed Sharapova’s hopes of playing in the tournament she won in 2012 and 2014 could rest with FFT president Bernard Giudicelli who last month admitted the decision was “complicated”.
The absence of three-times winner Serena Williams, could be a factor as the women’s game is short on big personalities.
Playing through the qualifying tournament is also a possibility for Sharapova, although in order to have a high enough ranking for the May 1 deadline to enter that she would probably have to win the Stuttgart title.
Reporting by Martyn Herman in London; Additional reporting by Julien Pretot and Piotr Kwiatkowski; Editing by Ossian Shine