Depending on where you fall on the spectrum of women’s tennis fans, Maria Sharpova’s much-hyped comeback has either been really discouraging or really funny. What’s nice is that it’s actually news, although I would argue that the talented women in tennis don’t need the “sideshow” drama of Maria Sharapova to make news. All of this would be different – and less sordid – if Sharapova was merely an unpopular champion returning to the game after an injury. But she’s not. She’s an unpopular champion returning to the game after a well-deserved doping suspension. In the lead up to Sharapova’s return to the tour last month, we were gifted with glowing profiles and soft-focus interviews about how she is resilient and never gives up and oh, yeah, she’s also an attractive white woman. If a Williams sister had been suspended for doping, do you think the press around their return would have been so mild?
Anyway, Sharapova’s comeback has really not been that great, tennis-wise. She’s been entering into clay-court tournaments via Wild Card. Wild Cards are given at the prerogative of the tournament directors/organizers, many of whom just want a quick hit of publicity from Sharapova’s faded star power. At Stuttgart, Sharapova lost to badass Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinal. In Madrid, wild-eyed Canadian Genie Bouchard took out Sharapova in Round 2, in what was one of the best “grudge matches” of the year: Bouchard had publicly slammed “cheater” Sharapova for doping, then Bouchard continued to talk sh-t about Sharapova after beating her ass in Madrid. Just yesterday, Sharapova retired in the second round of the Italian Open citing a thigh injury. Like, girl, you’ve maybe played five matches in a year’s time and already you’re injured? But the injury (who knows?) came after the French Tennis Federation president announced that Sharapova would not be getting a Wild Card for the French Open, a major she has won twice before.
Two-time champion Maria Sharapova has missed out on a wild-card entry for the French Open because of her doping ban. Announcing the decision on a live Facebook broadcast on Tuesday, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said he told Sharapova in person that it was not possible.
“I decided not to give Maria Sharapova a wild card. I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans. They might be disappointed, she might be very disappointed,” Giudicelli said. “But it’s my responsibility, it’s my mission to protect the game and protect the high standards of the game.”
“This suspension is over and she can take her path toward new success,” Giudicelli said. “But while there can be a wild card for return from injury, there can’t be a wild card for return from doping.”
Sharapova, who has titles at all four majors, won at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014. Thanks to wild cards at her first two tournaments, she got her world ranking to outside the top 200 this week. But that wasn’t good enough to make the cut even for the qualifying field at Roland Garros, so she will miss the tournament for a second straight year. The French Open begins on May 28.
I’ll admit, I was surprised that the French Open didn’t want her, not even as a qualifier. It was always going to be a “step down” for a two-time French Open champion to only be allowed into the tournament through qualifying rounds, but Sharapova had let it be known that she was willing to do it if that’s what it took. And now she won’t even get the chance. Next up: Sharapova will have to wait and see if Wimbledon organizers will give her a Wild Card. Considering the French feel so strongly about it, I can’t say that her chances are looking that great at Wimbledon though. Especially since some of Sharapova’s loudest critics are the British tennis players, from Heather Watson to current world #1 Andy Murray.
PS… I will never stop loving Genie Bouchard’s sh-t talking.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Pacific Coast News.