By Mike McIntyre
The French Tennis Federation announced on Tuesday that Maria Sharapova would not be the recipient of a wildcard at the upcoming French Open. After serving a 15 month ban for using a prohibited substance, the two-time Roland Garros champion did not yet have a ranking that was high enough to gain direct entry to the tournament. Tennis fans and media alike have been buzzing for the past few weeks wondering if the Russian would receive special treatment based on her previous success in Paris. Today that possibility was put to rest and Sharapova will have to sit this one out.
While the WTA Tour has welcomed Sharapova back with open arms and wildcards into events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome, the decision in Paris rested solely with the French Tennis Federation. Their chief Bernard Giudicelli did not pull any punches when he explained that, "There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries - there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping."
Sharapova has gone 4-3 since her comeback, making the semi-finals in Stuttgart and then the second round in Madrid. She retired from her second round match in Rome on Tuesday while leading 2-1 in the third set with an apparent thigh injury. Despite her moderate success in the past two weeks the 30 year-old would have been considered among the favourites to win the French Open due to her prior victories there and the fact that her most dangerous opponent (and everyone else's for that matter) Serena Williams, will not be competing as she prepares to give birth to her first child later this year. With Sharapova now joining her on the sidelines, the draw will be as wide open as it has ever been in Paris. Only three former champions will be playing in the field this year: Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009), Francesca Shiavone (2010) and Garbine Muguruza who is the defending champ from a year ago.
Personally I agree wholeheartedly with the stance taken by Giudicelli. While it is true that Sharapova has served her time for her infraction, I don't believe that she should be the recipient of any special consideration. There are plenty of other players who have been working hard over the past year to have the opportunity to compete in this Grand Slam and it would be unfair for them to have their position taken by someone based on their name alone. I am certain we will see Maria Sharapova back at Roland Garros again in 2018 and with her talent level and competitive drive I am sure she will be contending for a title there once again.