WTA chief criticises Maria Sharapova's French Open wildcard snub, Russian issues response
Maria Sharapova will not compete at the French Open later this month after being denied a wildcard by the French Tennis Federation, but WTA chief executive Steve Simon condemned the reasoning for her snub.
The Russian, a two-time champion at Roland Garros, was informed that her request for entry into the forthcoming grand slam following her recent return from a drugs ban had been rejected on Tuesday.
Sharapova has competed at three events since returning to competitive tennis following her 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium, a sanction that was reduced from two years by the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS).
However, she was not able to acquire enough ranking points to secure an automatic place in qualifying for the tournament in Paris, with FFT president Bernard Giudicelli hinting that the rejection was due to her recent ban.
He said during a live Facebook broadcast: "It is my responsibility and my mission to protect the game and protect high standards of the game played without any 'doping' on the result, so that is our decision."
However, WTA chief Simon insists the FFT are not in a position to hand Sharapova further punishment.
He said in a statement: "Wildcards are offered at tournaments' sole discretion. I fully support the players that received wildcards and wish them the very best of luck. It's going to be a very exciting fortnight at Roland Garros.
"What I do not agree with is the basis put forward by the FFT for their decision with respect to Maria Sharapova. She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS.
"The tennis anti-doping program 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."
Sharapova later issued a response to the news, saying, in a tweet: "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many."
The Russian was forced to retire injured from her second-round clash at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome on Tuesday, having taken to the court just 30 minutes after Giudicelli's announcement.
That early exit against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, which came in a third set where she was a break up, means that she can no longer secure a place in the main draw at Wimbledon, though she is already assured of entry into qualifying at SW19.
The All England Lawn and Tennis Club could even hand the 2004 champion a wildcard for direct entry into the tournament, something the FFT opted against.
On denying her entry to the French Open, Giudicelli said: "Nobody can deprive her of her two titles here in Roland Garros, but these two titles she had conquered them according to the rules and behold nothing to anyone.
"Today this (doping) suspension is over and she can take her path towards the new success, but if there can be a wildcard for return from injuries then there cannot be a wildcard for return from doping.
"So it is up to her, day after day, tournament after tournament, to find alone the strength to conquer major titles without being held to anybody.
"I'm very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans. They might be very disappointed and she might be very disappointed.
"Of course I felt some pressure. We did not want to treat Maria Sharapova differently.... Maria won twice here, but we have a huge responsibility.
"I know the media dimension Maria has, I know the expectation fans and broadcasters have, but it didn't seem possible for me to go above the strong commitment and the respect for the anti-doping code."