Maria Sharapova receives US Open wild card for first grand slam appearance since doping ban
Russian tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open and was suspended by the International Tennis Federation until April
Five-time major champion Maria Sharapova of Russia will play her first grand slam since serving a 15-month doping suspension after receiving a wild card into the US Open.
The move by the US Tennis Association (USTA) comes after Sharapova, who is ranked 148th this week, was rejected for a wild card spot into the French Open and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury.
Sharapova tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open and was suspended by the International Tennis Federation, a ban that ended in April.
Since then, Sharapova has needed wild cards to get into tournaments, drawing criticism from some fellow professionals.
“Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping programme was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wild card selection process,” the USTA said.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) August 15, 2017
“Consistent with past practice, a wild card was provided to a past US champion who needed the wild card for entry into the main draw.
“Previous US Open champions who have received US Open main draw wild cards include Martina Hingis, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del Potro.”
Former world number one Sharapova won the 2006 US Open as well as Wimbledon in 2014, the 2008 Australian Open and the 2012 and 2014 French Opens.
Sharapova will also speak to youth about the benefits of the anti-doping programme and the need for players to be vigilant about the banned substance list, something she admitted not doing when she did not catch meldonium being added to the ban list in 2016.
“Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis players at the USTA national campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping programme and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the program’s requirements,” the USTA added.
Sharapova has shaken off criticism from rival players about wild cards and the French Open snub, tweeting after being denied a spot at Roland Garros, “If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”
Sharapova has withdrawn from US Open warm-up tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati after suffering a left forearm injury at Stanford.
In her first US match since March 2015, Sharapova defeated American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 at Stanford.
But in the triumph, Sharapova suffered the forearm injury that has sidelined her since, even after arriving in Cincinnati hopeful of playing as a wild card in the final major tuneup before the US Open.
“Following the doctor’s advice on-site, as a precaution for the US Open, I am unfortunately withdrawing from the tournament with the left forearm injury I sustained in Stanford,” Sharapova said.