Maria Sharapova responds to French Open snub as women's tour chiefs rally behind Russian tennis star

 
Frank Dalleres
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Women's tour chiefs have also criticised Sharapova's exclusion from the French Open (Source: Getty)

Former world No1 Maria Sharapova insists her exclusion from the French Open has only made her more determined to rediscover her grand slam-winning form.

Sharapova broke her silence on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced it would not be handing her a wild card for Roland Garros.

The FFT said it would be wrong to give a wildcard to a player whose failure to qualify for next week’s tournament owed to a doping suspension rather than injury.

Read more: Defending champion Murray suffers early Italian Open exit

“If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday,” Sharapova wrote on Twitter. “No words, games or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”

The head of the Women’s Tennis Association, which runs the elite tour, also criticised the FFT’s exclusion of Sharapova, whose 15-month ban for using the banned substance meldonium ended in April.

“I don’t agree with the basis for their decision,” said WTA chief executive Steve Simon.

“She has complied with the sanction. There are no grounds to penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters.”

Sharapova was initially banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who reduced the ban.

Day Ten: The Championships - Wimbledon 2015
Serena Williams has proven Sharapova's on-court nemesis, winning their last 18 meetings (Source: Getty)

The 30-year-old told CAS that she had used the heart disease drug, which was only banned in January 2016, for health problems for 10 years. CAS accepted that she had not been “an intentional doper”.

The Florida-based Russian won the last of her five grand slams in Paris three years ago but her chances of adding to that tally in the coming months have been boosted by the absence of a pregnant Serena Williams, who has won their last 18 meetings, including three major finals.

Wimbledon chiefs have until 20 June – 13 days before the tournament begins – to decide whether to hand Sharapova a wild card, although she may have another route via the qualifying competition.

Mutua Madrid Open - Day Three
Sharapova critic Bouchard beat the Russian in a highly-charged match in Madrid this month (Source: Getty)

Sharapova’s comeback has already stirred a reaction on the tour. Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard argued that she should not be allowed to compete again, calling her “a cheater”.

It drew a withering response from Sharapova, although the Canadian won when the pair met in Madrid earlier this month.

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