Maria Sharapova will learn on May 15 whether she can compete at the French Open after her drugs ban, French tennis officials said Thursday, insisting the absence of pregnant Serena Williams would have no bearing on their decision.
Two-time Roland Garros champion Sharapova controversially returns next week from a 15-month drugs ban at the WTA Stuttgart Grand Prix.
Stuttgart offered the 30-year-old Russian a wildcard entry because she no longer has a world ranking – a move that angered some players. Sharapova has also been invited to clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.
Whether she receives a wildcard for Roland Garros will be revealed just a week before qualifying begins for the May 28-June 11 Grand Slam.
French Tennis Federation (FFT) president Bernard Giudicelli said last month they faced a moral dilemma and hinted he was against it.
If Sharapova misses out the French Open will go ahead in the absence of the two biggest drawcards in the women’s game, with Williams announcing Wednesday the end of her season due to pregnancy.
Waking up to 30 like....🤗🤗🤗 pic.twitter.com/JkcNspzB8z— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) April 19, 2017
“Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are two unconnected cases,” said Giudicelli. “We’re staging a Grand Slam, not a casting.”
If the FFT decides not to offer Sharapova a wildcard she still has a chance of making Roland Garros via the qualifiers, but for that route she must pick up enough points by winning or possibly even making the final in Stuttgart.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, had an initial two-year suspension by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium.
This was a medication the Russian had been taking when it was within the rules but which was later reclassified as a prohibited drug.
The Russian takes to the tennis court next Wednesday – the first day she is eligible to play, with some rivals disapproving of the Stuttgart decision.
“It’s a German tournament and we have so many good German players so this is a little strange,” said Germany’s world number one Angelique Kerber.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki said the Stuttgart tournament’s generosity towards Sharapova is “disrespectful to other players and the WTA”.
Whilst the rest of the ATP Tour are battling it out in Monte Carlo, Roger Federer was spotted training in Dubai this week – a home from home for the tennis legend – as he gears up for a big couple of months ahead.
A fan posted a picture with the 35-year-old this week (below), believed to be after one of his practice sessions in the city.
Federer is now back in full training mode following a period of rest but he has yet to confirm whether he will play in next month’s French Open.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion has previously stated that he wants to limit his time on clay and focus on going for more glory at Wimbledon – a tournament he has won on seven occasions.
For the Swiss – 2017 has gone as well as it possibly could have done. After famously claiming the Australian Open title, he went onto win back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and the Miami Open.
Earlier this month, Federer participated in The Match for Africa 3 exhibition clash against Andy Murray in Zurich – raising money for his foundation’s charitable work.
And on April 29, he will be in Seattle to face John Isner in the fourth installment of the series.
Andy Murray admits that he will only find out the state of his injured right elbow when he steps onto the clay of the Monte Carlo Masters this week and fires his first serve.
The world number one begins play in the second round on Tuesday or Wednesday after a bye, against either Tommy Robredo or Gilles Muller, as he bids to regain full fitness after the injury that forced him out of Miami last month.
“I was not optimistic after playing Roger (Federer) in Zurich (exhibition last week), my serve felt much slower than normal,” the Scot said on Sunday. “But every day I was building up. Often the elbow can get sore if I’ve not served for a week or 10 days. But each day started to get better.
“That’s what we had been hoping for. I had to take two or two and a half weeks off for it so I don’t know which it was, the lack of serving or the injury.”
The 29-year-old said that Monte Carlo will be a good test of his fitness.
“I would not be playing if I felt I was taking a risk. For the last two days I’ve been serving normally,” he added. “By the time of my match I will have had five days of serving at the right speed.”
Murray, who has endured a mixed start to 2017 after soaring to the top of the world rankings in November, said that his elbow problem might have stemmed from the big push he made to reach the top of the rankings.
“But I feel fine now, even if the start of the year was a bit tough. I’ve been lucky with injuries,” he said. “I have a lot of big events coming on and I’m looking forward to them. My clay expectations are very high.”
Murray has amassed an impressive 35-4 win-loss record on clay over the past two seasons. The Brit is defending 3,160 on the red dirt over the next seven weeks, having reached the Monte Carlo semis, Madrid final, won Rome and made the Roland Garros final last year.