To borrow the famous song and lyric from The Sound of Music: How do you solve a problem like Maria? Apparently you don't let her anywhere near the French Open, that's how.
Maria Sharapova returned from a doping ban in April, and has been playing some of her best tennis. The 30-year-old Florida-based Russian would have been second favourite in the upcoming French Open which starts on May 28, but has been barred from playing there.
Why? Because tennis authorities have denied her a wildcard, that's why. Sharapova has not yet accrued enough ranking points to qualify for automatic entry, which meant she needed a helping hand from tennis officialdom.
But French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli announced on a dramatic Facebook live post that the two-time tournament champion was not welcome. In part, he said:
"You can get a wildcard when you return from injury but you can't get a wildcard when returning from a doping suspension.
I appreciate the media impact of Maria, I appreciate the broadcasters' expectations but in conscience, it was not possible to go beyond the anti-doping code and beyond the application of the rules.
She might be very disappointed, but it's my responsibility to protect the game."
Game, set and match: the doubles team of Monsieur Giudicelli and sport's moral high ground.
That Sharapova has been stopped from playing the only Grand Slam she's won twice (she's won the others once each) is ironic, not least because she's been working on a memoir entitled "Unstoppable".
It's also fascinating to watch the fallout from this decision. It's widely speculated that Sharapova is not the most popular player on tour, and some are saying this decision has been treated with great glee among the ranks of professional female tennis players.
One WTA player just now couldn't stop smiling after I told her Sharapova decision:"99% of players are against her, just afraid to say that."— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) 16 de maio de 2017
Sharapova has been granted wildcards to other lesser tournaments in the near future, but it's now believed she's unlikely to secure one for Wimbledon, which starts on July 3. Which you can imagine would not please Sharapova or her entourage at all.
Well this is appropriate ☺️ pic.twitter.com/LTLvCMYJbj— Team Sharapova (@team_sharapova) 16 de maio de 2017
Meanwhile Sharapova retired with a thigh injury while leading Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 2-1 in the third set of her Italian open second round match, just hours after learning of the French Open decision.
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