Maria Sharapova’s failed drug test has been a constant source of debate in the Tennis community and the sporting world as a whole. Now, she finds herself handed a wildcard entry into the US Open main draw.
Sharapova had returned to action in April but had been denied a wildcard entry for the French Open main and qualifying draws due to the failed drugs test. She was then in line to return at Wimbledon, where her world ranking saw her eligible to enter the draw, but, injury blocked her this time.
So, why is the rumbling on of this saga still such a controversial topic? Some believe that due to Sharapova’s failed drugs test, she is no longer the figure in the sport that she once was. If anything, they see her involvement in the sport as now having a negative impact. To a degree, you can agree.
However, given the circumstances, there has to be a huge amount of leniency now she’s ‘done her time’. The positives her return to Tennis, and, form can have on the sport and those young participants also need to be considered.
So, it is no surprise that the US Open had been the one to break the trend and grant the five-time Grand Slam winner a wildcard entry into the main draw. The United States Tennis Association was quick to state that the decision was “Consistent with past practice, a wildcard was provided to a past US champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw.”
The decision has raised eyebrows, but, when you look at it in deeper context it could be ideal for all parties. The US Open will get more coverage and spark more conversation, whilst Sharapova is given a platform to build upon.
What’s more is that the ex-World no.1 has also said she will visit the USTA National Campus “about the importance of the tennis anti-doping program and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the program’s requirements.” So not only is this ideal for both the USTA and Sharapova but, it is now also going to benefit the young talent coming through in the US.
For this reason alone, the decision to give Sharapova a wildcard entry is warranted. If she is back to anything near her best, a clean athlete and helps to convey the importance of the anti-doping rules and regulations set out by WADA, then she repays her ‘controversial’ wildcard entry tenfold.
The effect of having someone of her calibre who has failed a drugs test giving them a seminar, is much greater than having any clean athlete doing so. Who knows, she might even win the US Open and make it an even more pertinent subject, and, perhaps, less controversial!
There is more success to be gained from this than not, so, you have to give the USTA a lot of kudos for this decision. Given Sharapova isn’t a special inclusion, it’s the way that the US Open has always worked. Giving out wildcards to past Champions is commonplace. Having a former no.1 in the draw who failed a drugs test, coming in to give an anti-doping talk to the USTA National Campus, is not commonplace.
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