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Sharapova defiant - Russian star vows to 'rise up again' after French Open wildcard snub

Sports | May 18, 2017
Maria Sharapova vowed yesterday to "rise up again" after she was told she would not be given a wildcard for the French Open following her 15-month ban for doping.

The Russian superstar had hoped to return to Grand Slam competition at Roland Garros this month but French tennis officials said she would not be granted a wildcard for the event she won in 2012 and 2014. "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday," she wrote on Twitter, in her first apparent remarks on her snub. "No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many."

The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, was banned for two years for using meldonium. The penalty was later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled she was not an intentional doper.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon attacked the French federation's refusal to grant Sharapova a wildcard as "groundless."

Announcing the decision, federation president Bernard Guidicelli said he was sorry for Sharapova but added "it is my responsibility and my mission to respect the high standards of the game to be played without any doping."

While acknowledging that wildcards were granted at a tournament's discretion, Simon said: "What I do not agree with is the basis put forward ... for their decision.

"[Sharapova] has complied with the sanction imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The tennis anti- doping program is a uniform effort supported by the Grand Slams, WTA, ITF and ATP.

"There are no grounds for any member of the TADP to penalize any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters."

After the ban expired on April 26, Sharapova returned to competition at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi- finals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open, too late to earn herself a qualifying spot for Paris.

She is guaranteed a qualifying spot at Wimbledon in July after winning her opening match at the Rome Masters, although she missed a chance at direct entry into the main draw after a second- round exit.

Sharapova, whose ranking has plummeted to 211, could have earned her spot at Wimbledon by reaching the semi-finals in Italy but retired from her match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the final set with a thigh injury. She was leading 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 when she quit.

French Open tournament director Guy Forget had earlier said the decision over whether Sharapova would receive a wild card was going to be "very controversial."

Last month former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard blasted Sharapova as a "cheater" and suggested the Russian should be kicked out of tennis for life.

Sharapova's absence leaves the French Open field wide open with Serena Williams sitting out the rest of the season as she prepares to give birth to her first child.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE



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