PARIS: Maria Sharapova will learn on May 15 whether she can compete at the French Open after her drugs ban, French tennis officials said Thursday, insisting the absence of pregnant Serena Williams would have no bearing on their decision.
Two-time Roland Garros champion Sharapova controversially returns next week from a 15-month drugs ban at the WTA Stuttgart Grand Prix.
Stuttgart offered the 30-year-old Russian a wildcard entry because she no longer has a world ranking — a move that angered some players. Sharapova has also been invited to clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.
Whether she receives a wildcard for Roland Garros will be revealed just a week before qualifying begins for the May 28-June 11 Grand Slam.
French Tennis Federation (FTF) president Bernard Giudicelli said last month they faced a moral dilemma and hinted he was against it.
If Sharapova misses out the French Open will go ahead in the absence of the two biggest drawcards in the women’s game, with Williams announcing Wednesday the end of her season due to pregnancy.
“Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are two unconnected cases,” said Giudicelli.
“We’re staging a Grand Slam, not a casting.”
If the FTF decides not to offer Sharapova a wildcard she still has a chance of making Roland Garros via the qualifiers, but for that route she must pick up enough points by winning or possibly even making the final in Stuttgart.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, had an initial two-year suspension by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium.
This was a medication the Russian had been taking when it was within the rules but which was later reclassified as a prohibited drug.
The Russian takes to the tennis court next Wednesday — the first day she is eligible to play, with some rivals disapproving of the Stuttgart decision.
“It’s a German tournament and we have so many good German players so this is a little strange,” said Germany’s world number one Angelique Kerber.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki said the Stuttgart tournament’s generosity towards Sharapova is “disrespectful to other players and the WTA”.