Five-time grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been given a wildcard to play in the Italian Open in May, organisers said on Wednesday, which sparked further debate over whether players returning from doping suspensions should be given invitations to tournaments rather than having to work their way back up the rankings.
The former world No1 makes her return to the circuit in Stuttgart in April after completing a 15-month doping ban.
“We officially announce the wildcard for the three-time Rome champion @MariaSharapova into the main draw,“ organisers announced on Twitter.
Sharapova hasn’t played on tour since testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
An initial two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Andy Murray banished old memories of a heavy defeat to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez by cruising past the Spaniard 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday night to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai for a fifth time in his career.
The world No1 needed just 72 minutes to take out Garcia-Lopez and described his form this week as “way better” than the start of the year.
Murray began his 2017 campaign by losing the Doha final to Novak Djokovic – which ended his 28-match winning streak – and then suffered a shock fourth round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open.
After a five-week break, Murray returned to action in Dubai and has been convincing in his wins over Malek Jaziri and Garcia-Lopez in his first two rounds.
“It was way better than how I played at the beginning of the year, that's for sure,” Murray said on Wednesday after his second round win.
Murray was asked again about Sharapova & wildcards: Im extremely clear on how I feel about antidoping & yeah I dunno really what else to say— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) March 1, 2017
World No1 Andy Murray and seven-time champion Roger Federer both feature in a glittering evening session at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Scot Murray faces Guillermo García-Lopez in the round of 16 at 7pm while Federer comes up against Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy after the completion of that match.
Fourth seed Gael Monfils and Dan Evans will also go head to head earlier in the day on Centre Court.
See the complete schedule below: