French Open rebuffs Maria Sharapova to 'protect the game'

Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser debate whether French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli made the right call in not giving Maria Sharapova a wild-card entry for the French Open.

PARIS -- Two-time champion Maria Sharapova has missed out on a wild-card entry for the French Open because of her doping ban.

Announcing the decision on a live Facebook broadcast Tuesday, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said he told Sharapova in person that it was not possible.

"I decided not to give Maria Sharapova a wild card. I'm very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans. They might be disappointed. She might be very disappointed," Giudicelli said. "But it's my responsibility, it's my mission to protect the game and protect the high standards of the game.

"This suspension is over, and she can take her path toward new success. But while there can be a wild card for return from injury, there can't be a wild card for return from doping."

Sharapova, who returned to tennis last month after a 15-month ban for doping, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that she is determined to "rise up."

Sharapova, who has titles at all four majors, won at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014. At 6-1 odds, she had been the second-favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook -- behind Simona Halep (9-2) -- to win this year's French Open, which begins May 28.

"Must be tough for her, but it's the way it is," Novak Djokovic said at the Italian Open, where Sharapova exited with an apparent thigh injury Tuesday. "In some tournaments she's going to get that help in wild card and invitation; some not. Unfortunately, it's Grand Slam, which is for sure for her a big one."

Thanks to wild cards at her first two tournaments, she got her world ranking to outside the top 200 this week. But that wasn't good enough to make the cut even for the qualifying field at Roland Garros, so she will miss the tournament for a second straight year.

Sharapova used a wild card to play in the Italian Open this week. By winning her opening match in Rome on Monday, she earned enough points to enter the top 200 next week and gain direct entry to the qualifying tournament for Wimbledon.

"She has to go through a tougher way back," Djokovic said. "After being absent from the tour for a long time, she's going to be patient, at least as much as she can, to slowly build her rankings and get back to where she has the quality to [enter tournaments directly]."

Sharapova initially was given a two-year suspension after testing positive for heart drug meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

She had her ban reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that Sharapova bore "less than significant fault" in the case and that she could not "be considered to be an intentional doper." Sharapova had been taking meldonium for many years but overlooked an announcement by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

"The Court of Arbitration reduced her suspension but also recognized that Maria was the sole person responsible for her misfortune," Giudicelli said. "It's not down to me to question that decision and, I repeat, we must respect decisions that were taken."

Top-ranked players Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray spoke out against Sharapova receiving wild cards, while Eugenie Bouchard went as far as calling her a "cheater" who should be banned for life.

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Maria Sharapova has played in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome since her return from a doping ban, but the French Open opted not to invite the two-time champ. Said French Tennis Federation president Bernard: "There can't be a wild card for return from doping."

Italian Open organizers were the first to offer Sharapova a wild card, and they were criticized for not giving one to former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian. But on Monday, fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion, during her first-round match.

It was much the same reception as she got in Stuttgart, Germany, her first tournament back. At the time, WTA CEO Steve Simon told German broadcaster ZDF she had paid the price.

"I don't think a suspension should wipe out the career's worth of work," he said.

On Tuesday, Simon said Sharapova had already served her punishment and should not be further sanctioned by the French Open.

"There are no grounds for any member of the [tennis anti-doping program] to penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters," Simon said in a statement.

Sharapova got a wild card for the Madrid Open last week.

"I know that a lot of people might be disappointed by this decision. But nevertheless Roland Garros invests a lot -- along with the other Grand Slams, the ATP, and the WTA -- into the fight against doping," Giudicelli said. "It was inconceivable to take a decision that would have been the opposite of this.

"I know the media dimension Maria has. I know the expectation fans and broadcasters have. But it didn't seem possible for me to go above the strong commitment and the respect for the anti-doping code."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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