The critics keep coming as Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova looks to make her return to professional tennis on Wednesday in Stuttgart. Despite her 15-month doping suspension, the former world No. 1 was granted a wild-card entry into the Porsche Grand Prix, but some tennis stars think her admittance is unfair. Simona Halep and Alize Cornet were the latest athletes to speak out.
“For the kids, for the young players, it is not OK to help with a wild card the player that was banned for doping,” world No. 5 Halep of Romania told Tennis.com. “It is not about Maria Sharapova here, but it is about all the players that are found doped. I cannot support what the tournament director did, but also I cannot judge.”
Cornet of France also did not agree with the tournament directors.
“Generally speaking, I find it shameful that the WTA is promoting a player who tested positive after all. It’s normal that people talk about her, she’s an immense champion, but from there to promoting her return to such an extent … I find that unjust,” she told Tennis.com.
After the 2016 Australian Open, Sharapova received a doping suspension for taking meldonium, a heart drug. Her suspension ends Wednesday and she is scheduled to play Roberta Vinci in a first-round evening match at the tournament.
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On Monday, Vinci joined Caroline Wozniacki, Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber in publicly opposing wild cards for players returning from doping bans.
Sharapova was also granted wild cards for tournaments in Madrid and Rome in May, but organizers of the French Open have not decided whether or not to invite Sharapova.
Players like Karolina Pliskova and Kim Clijsters defended the five-time Grand Slam champion. Pliskova suggested that having a star like Sharapova is good for women’s tennis, especially since Serena Williams announced her pregnancy and announced she will not play until next year.
“Definitely it’s a big thing for this tournament, not only for Stuttgart but for all the tournaments that are going to be next,” Pliskova told Tennis.com. “From the tournaments’ side it’s a big plus. Obviously when Serena is going to be out now, tennis definitely needs a star like (Sharapova) is so I don’t have anything against it.”
“She has done her punishment,” Clijsters said. “I was disappointed and surprised when the news came out but she’s had the career that she’s had and I don’t think she needs to be punished more.”