WTA chief attacks Sharapova's French Open snub
Paris - The head of women's tennis on Wednesday attacked the
French tennis federation's refusal to grant Maria Sharapova a wild card for the
French Open as "groundless".
The Russian former world number one was told on Tuesday that
despite serving her 15-month ban for doping she would have to miss the second
Grand Slam of the season.
Announcing the decision, FFT president Bernard Guidicelli
said he was sorry for Sharapova but added "it is my responsibility and my
mission to respect the high standards of the game to be played without any
WTA chief executive Steve Simon took issue with the FFT's
hard line stance on the two-time French Open champion in a strongly worded
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
"She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS (the
Court of Arbitration for Sport).
"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."
The five-time Grand Slam champion was banned for two years
for using meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by CAS which ruled she was
not an intentional doper.
After the ban expired on April 26, the Russian returned to
competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi-finals, and progressed to
the last 32 of the Madrid Open, too late to earn herself a qualifying spot for
She is guaranteed a qualifying spot at Wimbledon in July
after winning her opening match at the on-going Rome Masters, although she
missed a chance at direct entrance into the main draw after a second-round exit
Sharapova, whose ranking has plummeted to 211, could have
earned her spot at Wimbledon by reaching the semi-finals in Italy but retired
from her match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the final set with a thigh
"I apologise for having to withdraw from my match with
a left thigh injury," the player said in a statement. "I will be
getting all the necessary examinations to make sure it is not serious."
The 2012 and 2014 French Open winner has yet to publically
comment on her Roland Garros snub which was delivered by Guidicelli on Facebook
Live, ahead of the May 28-June 11 tournament.
"Nobody can deprive her of her two titles at Roland
Garros, but today I can't grant her the wild card requested," he said.
"The titles won here, she won within the rules without
owing anything to anyone.
"While wild cards exist for players returning from
injury, there is nothing for a return from a doping ban," he added.
"I know the media dimension of Maria and I'm measuring
the expectations of the public and sponsors, but in all conscience it didn't appear
possible to me to go beyond the strict application of the world anti-doping
French Open tournament director Guy Forget had earlier on
Tuesday said the decision over whether Sharapova would receive a wild card was
going to be "very controversial".
"As you talk with players, it's very controversial. So
no matter what happens, there will be a lot of questions around that
wildcard," Forget told the BBC.
Last month former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard
blasted Sharapova as a "cheater" and suggested the Russian should be
kicked out of tennis for life.
"I don't think that's right. She's a cheater and so to
me, I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport
again," Bouchard, the world number 52, told TRT World while playing at the
Sharapova's absence leaves the women's French Open field wide open with Serena Williams, a three-time champion in Paris, sitting out the rest of the season as she prepares to give birth to her first child.