Maria Sharapova can get back to her best and we will stand by her, says WTA chief in Hong Kong
Steve Simon feels the former world number one is poised to have a stand-out season after putting difficulties of 15-month doping ban behind her
Maria Sharapova will be back fighting for the biggest prizes next season and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will continue to stand by her, according to the governing body’s chief executive.
The five-time grand slam champion returned from a 15-month doping in April but endured mixed form after suffering with injury.
However, the former world number one gave a glimpse at the US Open she was ready to reach her former heights after a sparkling run to the fourth round, and she is through to the quarter-finals of this week’s Tianjin Open.
“I think she is certainly driven to get back to the top of her game,” said WTA head Steve Simon at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.
“Maria is an unbelievable competitor and is very professional in her approach to the game. She strives for the highest level of excellence that she can reach.
“She will have a full year next year, which she couldn’t this year. Barring injuries and things like that I think she will have a great year.”
Sharapova, 30, made her comeback at the Stuttgart Open after being given a wild card by tournament organisers.
The move attracted criticism from some of her fellow players, including Eugenie Bouchard who claimed Sharapova should have been banned for life after testing positive for meldonium ahead of the 2016 Australian Open.
The French Open opted against granting Sharapova a wild card, though, with Simon condemning their reasoning at the time.
“I stand by the position I took,” he said at Victoria Park. “She had the right to the wild cards. It’s at the sole discretion of the tournaments to give her one.
“This wasn’t about saying only Maria should get one, it’s their right and our rules provided her the ability to get the wild cards if the tournaments wanted to give them.
“They did that based upon what she brings to the game and we’ll stand by her and continue to support her.”