French Federation says no to Sharapova wild card

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The French Tennis Federation announced the decision Tuesday, via Facebook live.

No wild card will be granted to two-time champion Maria Sharapova at the French Open this year.

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No main-draw wild card. Not even a wild card into the qualifying.

FFT president Bernard Giudicelli said his message to Sharapova in advising her of the decision was simple.

“No one can take away the titles she has won but today we cannot – and I cannot – give her the wild card she asked for,” Giudicelli said (translated from the original French) during the broadcast. “The titles she won here at Roland Garros, she won them without being beholden anyone, and she accomplished them within the rules.”

He said he was unable to speak with her directly. If he was trying to get in touch with her shortly before the announcement, that’s probably because she was trying to focus on the task at hand. Sharapova had a second-round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Rome Tuesday night.

Or maybe she blocked him.

Former champions roster thin

The decision means three illustrious former champions will not be in the tournament this year. Serena Williams is on maternity leave and Roger Federer announced Monday that he will skip it.

On the women’s side, defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will be the only players in the field who have hoisted the trophy.

Just a few minutes after the announcement, Sharapova took the court in Rome against Lucic-Baroni.

The Russian’s ranking already is high enough to get into the Wimbledon qualifying. So the British Lawn Tennis Association need not be concerned about being put in a position where they appear to be “anti” anti-doping, if they broke ranks and offered her a wild card.

Sharapova would need to make the semi-finals in Rome this week to get close to the top 100. If she does that, she would earn direct entry to the main draw. So it’s not too late. Tournament entries close Monday.

Giudicelli said he read articles 100 and 101 of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced the length of her suspension from two years to 15 months.

“But even if the court reduced the sanction, they still agreed with the panel that first ruled on it that she violated the anti-doping program and needed to have that 15-month suspension,” he said.

“That suspension is now over. And Maria is now able to resume her journey back to the highest level. She served that suspension with dignity, with respect. But if there is a wild card for return from injury, there cannot be one for return after doping. It’s up to her, day after day, tournament after tournament, to find the strength to win the major titles without being beholden to anyone.”

Live broadcast for decision

More than 1,000 people went online to watch the Facebook Live broadcast during which Giudicelli – a master of suspense – opted to announce the main draw and qualifying wild cards for the men first.

wild card

He immediately followed the statements about Sharapova with the announcement that the federation granted a wild card into the wheelchair tennis event to former champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan. Giudicelli lauded Kunieda’s career achievements. He also made a point of mentioning the Japanese player was coming back from an injury, and thus deserved it. “It was important that this great champion be able to play at Roland Garros,” he said. 

The FFT president said he realized many will be disappointed by the decision.

“The French Tennis Federation, along with the other Grand Slams, the ATP and the WTA, invests a lot in the fight against doping. It was inconceivable to make a decision that would contravene this,” he said. “In all good conscience, after thoughtful reflection, it was impossible for me to supersede the anti-doping code and its rules.”

The French Open qualifying wild cards will go to the following players: Harmony Tan (No. 372)  Manon Arcangioli (No. 395), Jessika Ponchet  (No. 442),  Jade Suvrijn (No. 449), Audrey Albie (No. 468) and Yasmine Mansouri (No. 67 in the ITF junior rankings).

Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, in a reciprocal exchange, received the final qualifying wild card. Tennis Canada gave Caroline Garcia a free pass into the Rogers Cup last summer in Montreal.

The French case is closed

The deadline for the qualifying is past. The qualifying cut, as of today, stands exactly at No. 200. Sharapova is entered in the qualifying, but with a ranking of No. 262. So she has absolutely no shot at getting in on her own.

Her only window of opportunity before the deadline was her comeback tournament in Stuttgart the last week of April. To make it, she would have had to reach the final. She fell one match short.

The announcement is not a major surprise. Giudicelli didn’t offer a lot of  hope from the get-go.

Back in March, in the early weeks of his tenure as French Federation president, he spoke about “integrity” as being one of the pledges of his new administration. “We can’t decide on one side to increase funds earmarked for the fight against doping and on the other … (invite her),” he said back then.

No. 1 French female player Kristina Mladenovic made a pronouncement on this during a busy couple of weeks of pronouncing.

“Regarding Grand Slams, I think it’s different. I think the French Open is going to shine with or without her, I have the feeling,” Mladenovic said in a new column for the Dubai-based Sports360 website. “It’s also a Grand Slam, it’s run by a federation, it’s different. It’s a federation kind of mentality and values. Let’s see what they decide. Knowing them, I think it’s (doubtful), but we’ll see. Maybe for them it’s also going to be interesting (on some level), I don’t know. We’ll see. But I think in Grand Slams, she shouldn’t get a wildcard.”

Ironically, the Facebook Live broadcast was going on while Mladenovic was in the press conference room in Rome, having just lost in the first round.

Of course, Mladenovic had thoughts.

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