French Open organisers are bracing for controversy ahead of Tuesday’s decision on whether to grant Maria Sharapova a wildcard for Roland Garros.
The decision on whether the former world number one, returning from a 15-month doping ban, will gain wildcard entry for the Grand Slam is to be announced at 1700 GMT by the president of the French Tennis Federation Bernard Guidicelli.
Maria Sharapova on WC for French Open: "I won't be following the Facebook live of the FFT, I'll be focusing on my match."— Giulio Fedele (@fedele_giulio) May 15, 2017
“Some say she shouldn’t get it, others say she served her time,” tournament director Guy Forget told the BBC.
“As you talk with players, it’s very controversial. So no matter what happens, there will be a lot of questions around that wildcard.”
The five-times Grand Slam winner was banned for two years for using meldonium, but the penalty was reduced to 15 months on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which ruled she was not an intentional doper.
After the ban expired last month, the Russian returned to competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi-finals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open, too late to earn herself a qualifying spot for Paris.
On Monday she won her opening match at the Rome Masters, guaranteeing a qualifying spot at Wimbledon and she could earn a slot in the main draw if she reaches the semi-finals of the event she has won three times.
In an interview with CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies, tennis great Roger Federer sat down to outline his plans for the French Open and to reflect on his return to the heights of the game following a substantial lay off in 2016.
Speaking ahead of the clay court season, the 18-time grand slam champion refused to confirm whether he would compete at Roland Garros in May, following a remarkable return to form that has seen the 35-year-old win the Australian Open, Indian Wells and the Miami Open.
Having now reached fourth in the World Rankings, Federer tells Davies that becoming World Number One is no longer a priority to him, with his focus now on maintaining his health and form.
Despite this, Federer confirmed to CNN that he still had no intentions to retire from the sport, and explained how he is approaching the tours in his later years.
“I don’t think I will skip [the French Open], but I will have to see in, say, four or five weeks how I feel when I get on the clay and how my mood is then,” said Federer.
“If I feel like I’m not 100 per cent in it, that I’m [not] really fired up — and I believe that is something possible — then it is better to skip it. Maybe the break is a long one, it will be 10 weeks until the grass – that could be a bit long. But I think I will play the French.”
You can watch the full video, courtesy of CNN and exclusive to Sport360 in the region, above.
Ever wondered what the protocol was when a player decides to hire her friend’s former coach, or hitting partner?
The coaching carousel on the women’s tour never stops and it’s often tough to keep track of the constantly changing players’ entourages.
I still think of Petra Kvitova when I see David Kotyza, even though he now coaches her fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova; while Sascha Bajin, Serena Williams’ former hitting partner, will always be associated with the American legend in my mind, even though he has worked with three other players since.
Bajin is a recent addition to Team Caroline Wozniacki, who has hired him as a hitting partner on a trial basis until Charleston (starts in April).
He spent years working with Serena Williams before joining Victoria Azarenka, who is now taking time off after delivering her baby last December.
Bajin was briefly seen working with American Sloane Stephens but is now with Wozniacki, who is a good friend of Williams.
“I definitely talked to Serena about it, too. Just wanted to hear. And also how she feels about me working with him. You just want to know that you don’t clash,” Wozniacki said on Monday.
“She said he’s a very hard worker, and she has nothing bad to say about him. She likes him a lot.
“We are trying it out a little bit until Charleston, and then from there we both want to see how it’s going and how we feel. But he’s a great guy. He know knows what he’s doing. He brings a lot of positive energy, as well. He’s a hard worker.
“I’m enjoying having him on my team, and we had a good start so far. Let’s hope that it continues.”
Wozniacki, who is coached by her father Piotr, admits Bajin’s role is beyond that of a hitting partner.
“He helps my dad. He looks at the matches, too. He scouts and they talk a lot what they feel I can improve on and things like that,” said the world No15.
“He comes with inputs and practices. He’s definitely a hitter plus. Assistant coach, I guess.”
Fuzzy on the rules
Wozniacki may be making smart hiring decisions, but when it comes to the WTA rules, she did get a bit confused yesterday.
The Dane is seeded No10 in Dubai, while Barbora Strycova, who had the same number of ranking points as Wozniacki during the week the seedings were made, is No9 in the draw.
After Johanna Konta’s last-minute withdrawal, Strycova took the Brit’s spot in the draw, which gave her a first round bye.
Wozniacki however did not have a bye as the No10 seed.
“Unfortunately I didn’t have a bye which I would have loved right now,” said Wozniacki, who made the Doha final last Saturday and played her opening round in Dubai on Monday (Doha and Dubai are a 45-minute flight apart).
“I have the same amount of points, I think, as Strycova. I’m not sure quite how it’s calculated. I think they told me it’s because she had played more tournaments than me last year, which doesn’t really make sense.
“But anyway, I’m through to the next round. I’m not gonna complain. It’s all right. I’m just gonna grind it out.”
The actual rule is that when players have the same number of points, the tiebreaker for the higher ranking spot is the number of points accumulated at the grand slams, Premier Mandatories and the Premier 5s.
If those points are tied, then the number of tournaments played is the tiebreaker.
Strycova had 75 more points that Wozniacki in the categories mentioned above, which is why she had the higher seeding and got the bye following Konta’s withdrawal (thanks to WTA Insider for making the calculations).
I’m sure Wozniacki will agree that that makes more sense.