Tennis shock: French turn noses up at Sharapova
In a stunning rebuke by the French Tennis Federation, two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova was denied a wildcard into both the main and qualifying draw of the tournament, leaving the 2012 and 2014 champion out of Roland Garros for the second straight year.
The announcement was made on a surreal made-for-the-internet Facebook Live post on the personal page of Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the FFT.
Sharapova, who's only in the fifth week of her comeback, didn't have enough rankings points to get into either draw (with another two or three weeks, she would have) and thus was in need of the wildcard.
It wasn't much of a surprise the Russian didn't get an automatic bid into the main draw - the entire idea that there would be an Oscar-like reveal for the qualification wildcards portended that.
But for the FFT to deny Sharapova - who's already earned enough points in three tournaments to rise to No. 211 in the world and could be ranked in the 40s if she wins Rome - a spot in the 48-woman qualification draw just seems spiteful.
It's as if the decision was informed by the countless players who've lobbed jabs at Sharapova before, during and after her 15-month ban for meldonium, a drug that had been legal as recently as days before Sharapova's positive test.
"There can be a wildcard for return from injuries; there cannot be a wildcard for return from doping," Giudicelli said. "She might be very disappointed, but it's my responsibility to protect the game, and a game played without any doubts of results."
Fine. But if Sharapova already did the time for her supposed crime, then what is the FFT protecting besides its own arrogance and superiority? She's paid her dues. She's back.
If tennis is the meritocracy idealists want to believe it is, then give Sharapova a spot in the qualies and let her play her way in. She wouldn't have bumped out a more deserving player.
She'd have bumped out a wildcard recipient who couldn't get in 12 months the amount of points Sharapova has earned in one.
Sharapova isn't owed anything by the French Open, the same way she wasn't owed a wildcard by the four tournaments that have already given her one - Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome and Birmingham.
It's the FFTs tournament and they can do with it what they want. But if the goal is to put on the best tennis tournament possible, then you clearly extend an invitation to one of the - and this is a conservative estimate - 20 best players in the world.
Now, the French is without Sharapova, Serena Williams (pregnancy) and Roger Federer (rest) - the three biggest stars in the game.
Even with Serena in the semi-finals and finals last year, the tournament had the unsightly appearance of wide areas of empty seats in the lower half of Court Philippe Chatrier. Imagine the no-shows for a final between Karolina Pliskova and Anastasija Sevastova.
It's simply bizarre. One minute, Maria Sharapova was the French Open favourite. The next minute, she was out of the tournament entirely, subject to the whims of a governing body using its power to send a message that had already been received, loud and clear.