Murray expects Sharapova to be granted wildcard entry for Wimbledon

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Maria Sharapova.

World number one Andy Murray would expect Wimbledon to grant Maria Sharapova a wildcard if the returning Russian does not qualify for the tournament off her own back.

Sharapova is back on the WTA Tour after a 15-month ban for doping and made the semi-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in her first event last week, giving herself a ranking of 262 after collecting 185 points.

The 30-year-old, who won at SW19 in 2004, has two more tournaments before the deadline for outright Wimbledon qualification and deep runs in Madrid and Rome should see her earn enough points to make the main draw.

Murray, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, thinks Sharapova will take care of her own business but would expect the All England Club to offer her a lifeline if she fails to make it.

“There might not even be a decision to be made because she might be in the main draw after Madrid or Rome,” Murray told a number of national newspapers at the launch of next month’s Queen’s tournament on Tuesday.

“I think there’s a good chance Wimbledon would give her one to get into qualifiers. I’m not sure what they will do but I’m sure they are hoping they don’t have to make the decision.

“There’s a good chance that she can gets in by right, which I’m sure is what she’s hoping for and that’s what Wimbledon would be hoping for.”

Murray has concerns closer to home to contend with as his first few months as the world number one have been far from ideal.

Early exits from the Australian Open and Indian Wells, coupled with injury and illness have prevented the Scot kicking on from his stellar finish to last year.

He is battling his way back to fitness and form, with a run to the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open last week, but is now entering a period of the season where he has a huge amount of ranking points to defend.

The three-time grand slam winner is insistent that being at the summit of the rankings has not contributed to a difficult 2017.

“I think that was more like at the end of last year,” he said. “All that stuff felt a bit different to me. I’m now getting asked about it every week.

“It’s almost like trying to find a reason for why this year hasn’t been as good as the end of last year but it did not have anything to do with being world number one, in my opinion.

“I haven’t felt different when I go on to the court, I didn’t feel different when I was preparing for the Australian Open as I did in previous years. I really don’t think it has been anything to do with that.

“Definitely at the end of last year, there was a lot going on. But this year and especially the last few months, I haven’t felt any different or any extra pressure when I go on the court.

“Maybe now when you lose as number one, it’s a bigger story. It feels like each time you lose, it’s treated like more of a surprise.

“But I have lost early in Monte Carlo before, I’ve lost early in Indian Wells before, I’ve started clay-court seasons badly, I’ve had difficult runs and I also wasn’t number one, so I really don’t think it’s to do with that.

“It’s been a tricky year so far, and I’m hoping now that I’m through the worst of it and I can finish strong.”

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Sharapova welcomes new anti-doping drive

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Maria Sharapova, who is rebuilding her career after a 15-month doping ban, on Friday welcomed plans to nearly double the number of annual drug tests and ramp up funding as part of a fresh drive to root out tennis cheats.

The former world number one beat Anett Kontaveit on Friday to progress to the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open and said she is happy to be tested more.

The new measures come into effect on May 1 and players will be scrutinised via a biological passport programme, while more samples will be placed into long-term storage, allowing reanalysis, officials said.

The significant increase in testing up to an annual total of 8,000 samples (from 4,899 in 2016) is being backed by a 50 percent budget hike to around $4.5 million (4.1 million euros) in 2017.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner who is making her comeback in Stuttgart after a 15-month doping ban, backed the new measures announced by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

“I definitely welcome that — I am not against it,” said the 30-year-old, who tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

“We only have to give an hour slot to drug testing every single day of the year, but that is part of the job and if they test us more, that’s great.”

The ITF says the move is aimed at weeding out more doping violators.

“Protecting the integrity of tennis is an ongoing priority of the governing bodies of tennis to ensure that tennis is and remains a clean sport,” said ITF president David Haggerty.

“These enhancements will make a positive contribution to achieving that priority.”

Provided by AFP

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Genie Bouchard lashes out at "cheater" Sharapova

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Eugenie Bouchard pulled no punches when addressing the topic of Maria Sharapova’s return to the court via a Wildcard entry in Stuttgart, labelling the Russian “a cheater”.

Sharapova made her controversial return from a 15-month doping ban on Wednesday at the WTA tournament against Roberta Vinci.

In an interview with TRT World, Bouchard strongly opposed the decision to allow the former World No.1 to return, insisting that she should’ve been banned for life.

“I don’t think that’s right (Sharapova’s return). She’s a cheater and so to me, I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again.

“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true. So, I think from the WTA, it sends the wrong message; cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms. She’s not someone who I can say I look up to anymore because it’s definitely ruined it for me a little bit.”

The Canadian was in Turkey this week for the Istanbul Cup but suffered an early exit on Tuesday, falling 6-0, 6-4 to Slovak Jana Cepelova.

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