Former world no.1 Maria Sharapova is set to make her long, awaited return to tennis tomorrow where she will face Italian Roberta Vinci at the Stuttgart Open. The Russian was banned from competing in any form of tennis for 15 months after she tested positive for banned substances. Sharapova will be looking to get off to the best possible start at Stuttgart in the hopes of competing in the Grand Slam tournaments.
The Russian already missed the Australian Open as she was serving her 15-month ban, but should she get a chance to compete at the French Open later this year, she will have to go through the qualifying rounds. French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli met Sharapova last month and felt that she was not ready for a main-card, wild card just yet.
"We will have to reflect on it ... it is about an important topic like doping," Telegraph quoted Giudicelli as saying.
Serena Williams is set to miss the rest of the 2017 season due to her pregnancy, Victoria Azarenka's participation is also uncertain as she is a new mother and knife-attack victim Petra Kvitova all are in line to miss the French Open. This would leave the French Open short of global stars and giving Sharapova the opportunity to compete will certainly benefit the French Tennis Federation.
Check out Maria Sharapova practicing ahead of the Stuttgart Open.
Ahead of her return match against Vinci, the Italian, just like a number of other tennis stars, did not approve of the wild card being handed out to Sharapova. Part of the reason as to why Vinci did not approve it was because her compatriot Francesca Schiavone is likely to miss out on a place in Rome in three weeks' time.
"I don't agree about the wild card here and about the wild card in Rome and the other tournaments. I think she Sharapova is a great player, person. She made her mistakes, for sure, but she paid and she can return to play but without any wild cards, any help, but just to play," Vinci said.
"And, for me, probably she would play two or three tournaments and be in the top 30, for sure. I don't want to think right now about the wild cards. I'm just staying focused as I have to play against her."
The All England Club is set to face the same problem as the French Tennis Federation. However, if Sharapova manages to collect 600-odd rankings points from now until the Internazionali BNL D'Italia, then she will earn a place in the Wimbledon main draw by right. With that being highly unlikely, Sharapova could get entry into the Wimbledon qualification if she collects 260-odd rankings points.