The five-time major tournament winner Maria Sharapova will not be granted a wild-card entry into the French Open Tennis Live, the president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, announced Tuesday.The federation also declined to offer a wild-card spot in the qualifying tournament to Sharapova, who has won the French Open twice.
Sharapova, 30, returned to the tour last month in Stuttgart, Germany, after a 15-month suspension for a doping violation. Her suspension, initially a two-year ban, was reduced on appeal last year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that she had not doped intentionally but was not without fault.
Despite public and back-room opposition by some players, Sharapova has received wild-card entries into the main draw of regular tour events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome
Currently ranked No. 211, Sharapova had not acquired enough ranking points to earn direct entry into the French Open, leaving her with no opportunity to compete in the first Grand Slam tournament to be contested since her return.“She has handled her suspension with dignity and respect,” said Giudicelli, who announced the decision, along with the other wild-card entrants, via a Facebook Live stream. “But nonetheless, though there can be a wild card after an injury, there cannot be one for a return from doping. So it is up to Maria day after day, tournament after tournament, to find alone the strength she needs to win the big titles without owing anything to anyone.”
Giudicelli said the decision to deny Sharapova a place in the tournament, which begins May 28, had been a difficult one. He added that he had tried three times to inform her by telephone of the decision on Tuesday, without success.“While it’s true that the C.A.S. has reduced her sanction,” Giudicelli said, referring to the arbitration court, “it is still a violation of the tennis antidoping program.”The court “recognized that Maria was the only one responsible for her misfortune,” he said.Giudicelli added: “It is not for me today to question that decision. I respect, and we should respect, the decision that was first taken by the International Tennis Federation’s independent tribunal and then considered on appeal by C.A.S.” French Open Tennis Live Stream
With a first-round win in Rome against Christina McHale of the United States on Monday, Sharapova earned a spot in Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament. She needed to reach the semifinals in Rome to have enough points for entry into Wimbledon’s main draw (the cutoff is Monday), but she retired in the second round Tuesday with an injured thigh while leading Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, 4-6, 6-3, 2-1.
The match began less than an hour after Giudicelli’s announcement. Sharapova did not hold a news conference after the match and released a statement that did not address the decision.
“I apologize for having to withdraw from my match today with a left thigh injury,” she said. “I will be getting all the necessary examinations to make sure it is not serious. I want to thank the tournament for giving me the opportunity to play this special event again.”
Giudicelli, a Corsican who was elected president of the French federation in February, indicated shortly after his election that it would be “very complicated” to give Sharapova a wild card. But he met with Sharapova in March during the tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., in a tête-à-tête that took place while Sharapova was still suspended.
Giudicelli said at the time that he and the French Open tournament director, Guy Forget, would discuss the subject. Giudicelli emphasized that no decision had been made, raising hope among Sharapova’s team and supporters that the French Open might follow the lead of the WTA Tour events. The WTA event in Strasbourg, a clay-court tournament the week before the French Open that the French Tennis Federation once operated but ceded to a private agency with deep connections to the federation, had even offered Sharapova a wild card.
Giudicelli said he made the final decision about the French Open “after hearing from lots of people internally” at the French federation. He said none of the other members of the administrative team were in favor of awarding Sharapova a wild card.
“I think we were all on the same wavelength,” said Giudicelli, who said he had not consulted the leaders of the other three Grand Slam tournaments.
But not everyone in the tennis community was in agreement, including Steve Simon, chief executive of the WTA Tour. French Open Tennis Live Stream 2017
“We all are part of the antidoping program, and we support both the results and the disciplinary actions that come from it, but I think the basis on which they levied their decision is adding additional penalty or discipline to the decisions that were set down by C.A.S.,” Simon said in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg, Fla. “The basis for this just extends the penalty.”Justin Gimelstob, a Tennis Channel analyst and member of the ATP board of directors, said in reference to Giudicelli on Monday that he was “very concerned this new president is going to try to make a statement and shut her out of the tournament.”Gimelstob added, “If he does that, it’s a huge travesty and a mistake.”Opinion is clearly divided. Lucic-Baroni said after Tuesday’s match that she thought the French federation had made “the correct decision.”“I feel it is, let’s say, brave of them, because everybody is pressured,” she said. “People want to see Maria. That’s fine. But if you want to do the right thing, you have to do the right thing. If you want to invest more money in doping tests, then you can’t award a person who failed a doping test, no matter how you guys want to wrap it up and make it sound pretty.”
Giudicelli acknowledged outside pressures but said commercial interests were not a valid reason to give Sharapova the wild card. He said any lack of star power caused by the withdrawals of Serena Williams and Roger Federer also did not influence his thinking.
“The choice was not easy, because Maria is a champion and she won our tournament twice, and she’s a star,” Giudicelli said. “But she cannot be treated separately. It’s on the court she should show her singularity. It’s a Grand Slam tournament, not a rock concert where we invite the best singers on the planet. It’s a tournament where each player can be challenged by another player.”He said he and Forget felt that “the tournament is stronger than the players, and the defense of the interests of the tournament takes priority over the defense of the interests of the players.”There were mixed signals on Tuesday, however. The French federation did award a wild card into the men’s qualifying tournament to Constant Lestienne, a French player who was banned for seven months last year for placing bets on 220 matches through online accounts between February 2012 and June 2015. Half of the sentence was suspended.Shortly before last year’s French Open, the French federation stripped Lestienne of his wild card into the main draw because of the pending investigation. Giudicelli was asked why the same logic that applied to Sharapova did not apply to Lestienne this year, too.
“Because Constant has paid his debt,” Giudicelli answered. “He made a mistake and paid his debt and accepted to start again on the circuit, and he showed, I would say, his will to come back to the high level. At some stage, there is no reason, once again, to refuse him this wild card because he was part of the group in terms of ranking who were in contention.”
Others think Sharapova has already paid her debt French Open Tennis Live 2017.“It’s a really tough thing, and I think Maria, she already finish her penalty,” Svetlana Kuznetsova, a fellow Russian player, said Monday in Rome. “She served it. So once again, I wish it could be over and we can move on.”Clearly, that time has not yet come, and with Wimbledon set to announce its main-draw wild cards on June 20, there could be more mixed emotions ahead.