MOSCOW • Russian tennis supremo Shamil Tarpishchev on Thursday blasted players who oppose Maria Sharapova's hopes of getting a French Open wild card, describing the former world No. 1 as "irreproachable, and a true professional".
Sharapova will return to the sport at the Stuttgart tournament on April 26, the day her 15-month doping suspension ends.
However, the five-time Grand Slam champion will need French Open organisers to hand her a wild card at Roland Garros, where she is a two-time winner, as her world ranking was wiped off during her ban imposed for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open last year.
World No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga does not think Sharapova should get a Paris invitation, saying: "It's like if you give a sweet to a kid who did a bad thing, the kid's going to do it again. It sends the wrong message."
But Tarpishchev told Tsonga to keep his opinions to himself.
"It wasn't a smart move from (Tsonga) to comment on Maria's situation," www.rbc.ru quoted Tarpischev as saying. "Sharapova is an irreproachable athlete, a true professional. We all want her to gain her top form as soon as possible, to return to the sports elite."
World No. 2 Angelique Kerber was taken aback by the arrangement made for Sharapova to return in Stuttgart despite her ban expiring two days after the tournament's main draw begins.
"This is a strange situation," said the German. "I don't know what to say about this because it's a little bit strange for the other players that somebody can just walk on site on Wednesday and play on Wednesday."
Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, rebutted the notion that there was any sort of star treatment for Sharapova.
"She served a significant suspension for this issue," he said. "Her wild cards are based on what she's earned through her career, and the tournaments are making their decisions at their sole discretion."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES