Sharapova Will Be Welcomed Back, Says WTA Chief

Steve Simon, the head of the Women's Tennis Association, has remarked Maria Sharapova can expect a spree of wild cards after she makes a return to the game.

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The 15-month doping ban will leave the tennis star without ranking points and many in the sport fraternity had questioned whether major tournaments such as the French Open and Wimbledon might turn their back on her because of her doping conviction. However, the WTA chief remarked he believes the game will welcome Sharapova back. Simon remarked he would not want to put them in a position and added Maria has conducted herself with a great deal of integrity.

The head of the Women's Tennis Association said Maria admitted the positive test and she went through the process, and she came out with an extended penalty which she is now serving. Simon said she will deserve to be welcomed back when it is finished. The WTA chief added Maria has marketability and she is a player who can sell tickets. Simon added she will be starting from scratch on the rankings table but he is sure she will be hungry to get back to the top of the game.

Maria has criticized the International Tennis Federation after the Court of Arbitration for Sport released its verdict. In its statement, the CAS reduced the doping ban imposed on Maria Sharapova.

Maria said the ITF tried to make an example of her and wanted her to get banned for a period of four years. The ITF defended itself and said the ITF took the position that it is the independent tribunal's responsibility to determine what the appropriate sanction should be and added this included the decision as to whether Sharapova met the requirements set out in the tennis anti-doping program - which are the same as those in the WADA code - for a reduction from the default four-year suspension for the use of a non-specified substance such as Meldonium. It was further remarked by the ITF that it did not try to ban Sharapova for four years. The ITF also remarked the members of the independent tribunal, which consisted of a barrister as chairman and medical and scientific experts as co-members, are appointed by the ITF and also commented that the legal team of Sharapova was given the opportunity to object to any member of that tribunal, and they agreed in writing that they had no such objection.

The CAS ruled degree of fault of the 29-year-old former Wimbledon champion and ex-world No. 1 fell short of the ITF’s description of “significant” but added Maria was “still the sole author of her own misfortune” in carrying on continuing making use of Meldonium after the drug had been added to the World Anti-Doping agency’s banned list.

Maria Sharapova will be free to make a return to competition on April 26 next year. Theoretically, Sharapova's first tournament back could be the French Open but the tennis star may need to quickly accumulate ranking points so she can qualify for Paris and Wimbledon, unless she is given wildcards. The former world no. 1 won Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004 and also the French Open in 2012 and 2014.

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