Maria Sharapova Granted US Open Wild Card Entry
The USTA has granted Maria Sharapova a wild-card entry into the main draw of this year’s US Open, which will mark the Russian star’s first Grand Slam tournament since returning from a partially-served 15-month doping suspension.
Maria Sharapova doping ban news
Sharapova, 30, returned to the WTA Tour following her ban’s expiration in April, although she was not given a wild-card spot into the French Open and missed Wimbledon after withdrawing early from qualifiers with a thigh injury she initially sustained at the Italian Open in May.
The Russian — who has seen her world ranking fall to 148th — was suspended in March 2016 after testing positive for the heart medication meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, the first tournament she participated in after the drug had been prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and several other anti-doping agencies.
Sharapova’s initial ban was for two years effective after the end of the Melbourne tournament, which means she would have been forbidden from playing until Jan. 2018, but the punishment was reduced upon her appeal in October. The Russian claimed she did not know meldonium was prohibited, and that she had been using it since 2006 — the year she won the US Open — purely to treat a series of health problems including bouts of the flu, possible onset diabetes and a magnesium deficiency.
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Sharapova has not competed in a Grand Slam in nearly 18 months. On Tuesday, she thanked US Open officials on Twitter for giving her the opportunity to participate in the major:
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) August 15, 2017
Tennis legend Billie Jean King expressed her approval of officials’ decision to issue Sharapova a wild card in her own tweet:
Glad to see USTA give Maria Sharapova a wild card, suspension over, great for the sport to have her back. https://t.co/0l0jJuMKfL
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 15, 2017
“Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping program was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wild card selection process,” the USTA said of Sharapova in a statement. “Consistent with past practice, a wild card was provided to a past U.S. Champion who needed the wild card for entry into the main draw.”
In its statement, the USTA also listed former US Open champions who previously received main-draw wild cards, including Martina Hingis, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del Potro.
Seven other players besides Sharapova were awarded wild card entries into the 2017 US Open, including two Americans: Taylor Townsend and Kayla Day.
At this year’s Open — which begins on Aug. 28 in Queens, New York — Sharapova will also be talking to young tennis players about anti-doping regulations and about how crucial it is to respect the USTA’s rules with respect to drugs and other issues.
“Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis players at the USTA National Campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping program and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the program’s requirements,” the USTA statement said.
The U.S. Open wild card is the tenth Sharapova has been given this year. She earlier received them to gain entry into the first four tournaments she played this year (in Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome and Stanford, Calif.). She also received wild cards into several tournaments she was forced to miss due to injury (Birmingham, England; Toronto and Cincinnati) and for two events she plans to play in China this fall.
“I’m very fortunate and grateful for the tournaments that have provided me a wild card, and I’d say 99 percent of them have at this point,” Sharapova said two weeks ago at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. “So I’m very thankful. A lot of these events I’ve played at before, and I have a history with the people, the fans, the tournament itself. So the opportunities that I have, I’m taking it. I want to perform, and I want to perform well, and it means a lot to me to be there.”
Sharapova withdrew from the Bank of the West Classic due to soreness in her left arm.
The Russian’s last major title came in 2014, when she won the French Open. Sharapova also reached the US Open semifinals in 2012.
Caption:MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 22: Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a backhand in her third round match against Lauren Davis of the United States during day five of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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