The chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Steve Simon, has criticised the surprising decision to deny returning three-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova a wildcard for the upcoming French Open.
The 30-year-old, a singles champion at Roland Garros in both 2012 and 2014, was left relying on the French Tennis Federation to grant her a place in either qualifying or the main draw at Roland Garros having failed to amass the necessary ranking points by losing in the semi-finals on her return to competitive tennis following a 15-month ban at last month's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
Revealing the governing body's decision on Tuesday evening (16 May), FFT president Bernard Giudicelli declared that "while there can be a wildcard for return from injury, there can't be a wildcard for return from doping".
Sharapova was originally suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for heart disease drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but later saw that ban reduced on appeal after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) ruled that under no circumstances can she considered to be an "intentional doper".
The Russian right-hander claimed she was unaware that the substance in question had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) list of banned substances at the beginning of the year.
In a statement reacting to the FFT's announcement, WTA chief Simon acknowledged that wildcards are offered at a tournaments' sole discretion but said there were no grounds for any member of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme to dish out further punishment after a player has served their suspension.
"What I do not agree with is the basis put forward by the FFT for their decision with respect to Maria Sharapova," he said. "She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS. 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 penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters."
Sharapova appeared to issue her own response to the decision on Wednesday, writing on Twitter: "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many."
To add further insult to injury, Sharapova, who reached the second round of the Madrid Open earlier this month before losing an epic to arguably her harshest critic in Eugenie Bouchard, was forced to withdraw from an Italian Open clash with familiar foe Mirjana Lucic-Baroni having suffered a thigh injury while leading 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 in the third set.
Sharapova guaranteed her place in the Wimbledon qualifiers by beating Christina McHale in the first round and ensuring that her depleted ranking will now climb back inside the world's top 200, but needed to reach the semi-finals in Rome in order to secure a spot in the main draw at SW19. She will have to wait until 20 June to discover if she will be handed a wildcard for the tournament proper, if not she will have to play at Roehampton the week before.