French Open chiefs di­vided on Maria in­vite

New Straits Times - - Sport -

PARIS: French Open chiefs said on Thurs­day they are re­luc­tant to grant Maria Shara­pova a wild card into this year’s Grand Slam event de­spite the two-time cham­pion re­turn­ing from a dop­ing ban.

The Rus­sian su­per­star will re­turn to the tour on April 26 in Stutt­gart, the day that her 15month ban for test­ing pos­i­tive for the banned sub­stance mel­do­nium ends.

But French Tennis Fed­er­a­tion (FFT) pres­i­dent Bernard Gi­u­di­celli said or­gan­is­ers would face a moral dilemma if they handed Maria a wild card which she would need as her world rank­ing has dis­ap­peared dur­ing her ab­sence.

“It’s com­pli­cated. We pre­fer that she re­turns com­pletely re­ha­bil­i­tated,” said Gi­u­di­celli, who was only elected to the FFT hotseat on Feb 18.

“In­tegrity is one of our strong points. We can­not de­cide, on the one hand, to in­crease the amount of funds we ded­i­cate to the an­tidop­ing bat­tle and, on the other, in­vite her,” added Gi­u­di­celli, who was keen to stress that a de­ci­sion on whether or not to hand Maria a spot in the main draw has not yet been taken.

Five-time Grand Slam cham­pion Maria, the win­ner at Roland Gar­ros in 2012 and 2014, has al­ready been handed wild cards into the Stutt­gart, Madrid and Rome tour­na­ments with or­gan­is­ers fully aware of the for­mer World No 1’s im­mense pulling power.

Should the 29-year-old fail to win over Roland Gar­ros or­gan­is­ers, she would have to take her chances in the qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment held at the Paris venue in the week pre­ced­ing the main draw.

How­ever, to even make the qual­i­fy­ing event, Maria would still need to build up her rank­ing points — and that can only be done by win­ning the Stutt­gart ti­tle.

The cut-off for French Open qual­i­fy­ing falls just af­ter the Stutt­gart tour­na­ment but be­fore Madrid (May 7-13) and Rome (May 15-21).

This year’s French Open runs from May 28 un­til June 11.

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