Shara­pova plays Rus­sian roulette with Olympic dream

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

Maria Shara­pova at­tempts to re­main on course for the Rio Olympics when Rus­sia take on the Nether­lands in the Fed Cup this week­end even if she courts con­tro­versy by not ac­tu­ally play­ing. The world's rich­est sportswoman has been named in the four-woman Rus­sian squad for the World Group clash in Moscow de­spite in­sist­ing that she is un­able to play due to a fore­arm in­jury suf­fered in her Aus­tralian Open quar­ter-fi­nal loss to Serena Wil­liams.

Un­der qual­i­fi­ca­tion rules, a player must be nom­i­nated three times in an Olympic cy­cle in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for the Games in Rio in Au­gust. So far, the 28-year-old star has fea­tured in just two ties since 2012, the year when she won the sil­ver medal at the Lon­don Olympics.

Shara­pova was warned last week by Rus­sian ten­nis chief Shamil Tarpishchev that she risked miss­ing out on Rio if she failed to turn out for the Fed Cup tie. But she was adamant she was un­likely to com­pete in Moscow to rest her in­jured arm. "I'm go­ing to go to Moscow, to be part of the team but I don't think I'll be play­ing," she said. Shara­pova was as good as her word as she was pic­tured on so­cial me­dia on Thurs­day at the Fed Cup din­ner in Moscow along with team­mates Svet­lana Kuznetsova, Eka­te­rina Makarova, teenager Darya Kasatk­ina and team cap­tain Anas­ta­sia Myskina.

The In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion (ITF), which over­sees the Fed Cup, said that Shara­pova did not nec­es­sar­ily need to play the tie in or­der to ful­fil her Olympic cri­te­ria. "The Olympic ten­nis event qual­i­fi­ca­tion reg­u­la­tions re­quire a player to be in the nom­i­nated Fed Cup team at the time of the draw on three oc­ca­sions," a spokesman said on the eve of the draw for the tie. "A player does not need to play a match."

Shara­pova won all four Fed Cup rub­bers she played in 2015 in­clud­ing the two sin­gles matches in the fi­nal which Rus­sia lost 3-2 to the Czech Re­pub­lic. Rus­sia have de­feated the Dutch on all three oc­ca­sions they have met. The vis­i­tors' task will not get any eas­ier on Satur­day and Sun­day as their top-ranked player is Kiki Bertens at a lowly 106 in the world.

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