Chasing dreams: Maria Sharapova has received backing from WTA CE Steve Simon. Picture: REUTERS
Chasing dreams: Maria Sharapova has received backing from WTA CE Steve Simon. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — Maria Sharapova vowed to "rise up again" on Wednesday after she was refused a wildcard for the French Open following her 15-month ban for doping.

The Russian former world No1 also earned the backing of the head of women’s tennis, a day after the French tennis federation’s announcement that it would not grant her a wildcard for the event she won in 2012 and 2014.

"If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday," Sharapova wrote on Twitter. "No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many."

The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, was banned for two years for using Meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled she was not an intentional doper.

After the ban expired on April 26 she returned to competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semifinals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open, failing to earn a qualifying spot for Roland Garros, the season’s second Grand Slam which starts later in May.

Many of Sharapova’s rivals have hit out at other tournaments giving her preferential treatment, but WTA CE Steve Simon called the actions of the French federation "groundless", in a strongly worded statement backing her.

Whilst acknowledging that wildcards were granted at a tournament’s discretion, Simon said: "What I do not agree with is the basis put forward by the French federation for their decision with respect to Sharapova."

Announcing the federation’s decision on Tuesday, its president, Bernard Giudicelli, said giving Sharapova a wildcard would make a nonsense of the tennis authorities’ ramped-up efforts against doping.

But Simon said: "She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS. The tennis antidoping programme is a uniform effort supported by the Grand Slams, WTA, ITF and ATP. "There are no grounds for any programme member to penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters."

Sharapova is guaranteed a qualifying spot at Wimbledon in July after winning her opening match at the Rome Masters, although she missed a chance at direct entrance into the main draw after a second-round exit on Tuesday.

Sharapova, whose ranking has plummeted to 211 leaving her reliant on wildcards, could have earned her spot at Wimbledon by reaching the semifinals in Italy but retired against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the final set with a thigh injury.

The Russian issued a statement afterwards that failed to address the French Open and said merely that she hoped her injury "is not serious".

"Nobody can deprive her of her two titles at Roland Garros, but today I can’t grant her the wildcard requested," Giudicelli said, ahead of the May 28-June 11 tournament that will also be missing its other major name — the pregnant Serena Williams.

"The titles won here, she won within the rules without owing anything to anyone. While wildcards exist for players returning from injury, there is nothing for a return from a doping ban," Giudicelli said.

"I know the media dimension of Sharapova and I’m measuring the expectations of the public and sponsors, but in all conscience it didn’t appear possible to me to go beyond the strict application of the world anti-doping code."

AFP

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