The French Tennis Federation put weeks of speculation to rest earlier today when it announced its wild card selections for Roland Garros 2017. Conspicuously absent from the list was Maria Sharapova, who was ranked 256 at the tournament’s entry deadline and therefore was ineligible for direct acceptance into the main or qualifying draws.
After returning from a 15-month doping suspension, Sharapova received wild cards for tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid, and Rome, leading many to believe a French Open wild card was likely to follow. Instead, the tournament’s six women’s singles wild cards were all granted to French players. The decision was particularly unexpected given that many of women’s tennis’ most popular and marketable players — Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, and Victoria Azarenka — will miss this year’s tournament.
Said FFT President Bernard Giudicelli, “There can be a wild card for return from injuries; there cannot be a wild card for return from doping.”
Sharapova, a polarizing figure with legions of fervent fans and detractors, will have to turn her focus to qualifying for Wimbledon’s main draw. Her current ranking of 211 will grant her automatic entry into the qualifying tournament, but she would certainly prefer to remove those three extra qualifying matches from her workload.
Fans of tennis fashion won’t get to see Sharapova’s custom-made “Maria Flex tennis tank” in Paris, though she has been wearing it throughout the clay-court season. The orange Flex top paired with a purple skort has become an iconic look for Maria during her heavily publicized return to the WTA Tour. Furthermore, her limited-edition shoes — not for sale to the public — won’t be hitting the red dirt of France’s Grand Slam.
The decision to deny Maria Sharapova a French Open wild card will inspire a mix of spirited reactions from the tennis community. No matter which side of the debate you’re on, the tournament’s landscape was significantly altered today with a potential title contender out of the running. We’re looking forward to more twists and turns on the Paris clay this year.