Women's tennis chief Steve Simon has defended the decision to hand former world No1 Maria Sharapova a wildcard entry into this week’s Stuttgart Open following the expiry of her drugs ban.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova’s 15-month suspension for using meldonium ends on Wednesday and she will face Italy’s Roberta Vinci in the opening round in Germany.
Sharapova’s invitation to the tournament’s main draw has received widespread criticism and has been questioned by Vinci as well as leading players Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.
“You have to look at how other leagues and tours have handled players who have come back,” said Women’s Tennis Association boss Simon. “They come right back to the team and start playing.
“She is starting at ground zero. It is going to affect her seedings in big tournaments so she’s still going to pay a penalty for a while. If you think about other leagues, most of those bans are half of a season or a full season. She’s had a year and a half.”
It is believed that Sharapova is to be given a wildcard into next month’s French Open qualifying.