Maria Sharapova to miss French Open

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Image Courtesy: SI

Maria Sharapova’s hopes of playing at the French Open were given a big blow when she didn’t get a wild card entry to either play in the main draw or qualifying rounds.

The Russian is making a comeback from a doping suspension that kept her out of the game for 15 months (after her suspension was reduced from 18 months by CAS).

The decision of her not being part of the tournament was officially announced by the French Tennis Federation chief Bernard Giudicelli in a live streaming broadcast on Facebook. “Nobody can deprive Maria Sharapova of two titles at Roland Garros. But these two she won according to rules. I read the articles and the CAS ruling to reduce her sanction. But the independent tribunal had found her in violation of the Tennis Codes. I’m very sorry for Maria, her fans but it is my mission to protect the game, the high standards of game played without any doping in the sport. That’s our decision,” he said.

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“There can be a wild card for return from injuries; there cannot be a wild card for return from doping. She has served her doping suspension and returned to the game but she did violate the anti-doping code. I understand the expectations of the fans, sponsors and broadcasters,” he further added.

Sharapova, who has titles at all four majors, won at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.The French Open begins on May 28.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal, ruling she bore “less than significant fault” in the case and she could not “be considered to be an intentional doper.” Sharapova had been taking meldonium for many years, but overlooked announcements by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

“The Court of Arbitration reduced her suspension but also recognized that Maria was the sole person responsible for her misfortune,” Giudicelli said. “It’s not down to me to question that decision and, I repeat, we must respect decisions that were taken.”

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Top-ranked players Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray spoke out against Sharapova in the media about her receiving wild cards, while Eugenie Bouchard went too far as calling her a “cheater” who should be banned for life.

Italian Open organizers were the first to offer Sharapova a wild card, and they were criticized for not giving one to former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian. But on Monday, fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion, during her first-round match.

It was much the same reception as she got in Stuttgart, Germany, her first tournament back. At the time, WTA CEO Steve Simon told German broadcaster ZDF she had paid the price.

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“I don’t think a suspension should wipe out the career’s worth of work,” he said.

Sharapova got another wild card for the Madrid Open last week.

But she didn’t won enough at those two events to secure a spot in qualifying for Roland Garros, and so was reliant on a wild card into the main draw.

“I know that a lot of people might be disappointed by this decision. But nevertheless Roland Garros invests a lot — along with the other Grand Slams, the ATP, and the WTA — into the fight against doping,” Giudicelli said. “It was inconceivable to take a decision that would have been the opposite of this.

“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.”