Tennis: Sharapova to plead case for French Open wild card

Sharapova (above, in 2015) will meet French Tennis Federation chief Bernard Giudicelli to plead her case.
Sharapova (above, in 2015) will meet French Tennis Federation chief Bernard Giudicelli to plead her case.ST FILE PHOTO

PARIS (AFP) - Maria Sharapova will meet with French Tennis Federation (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli to plead her case for a wild card at Roland Garros as the two-time champion makes her return from a doping ban.

Giudicelli told AFP on Friday (March 3) that he had agreed to meet the Russian superstar despite his initial reservations after her agent wrote to the FFT requesting discussions.

"We're going to meet her (Sharapova), listen to her arguments and then talk it over with Guy (Forget, tournament director) and we'll make a decision," said Giudicelli, who was only elected to the FFT hotseat on Feb 18.

The former world number one will return to the tour on April 26 in Stuttgart, the day that her 15-month ban for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium ends.

But Giudicelli said on Thursday they would face a moral dilemma if they handed Sharapova a wild card into this year's Grand Slam event which she would need as her world ranking has disappeared during her absence.

"It's complicated. We prefer that she returns completely rehabilitated," said Giudicelli.

"Integrity is one of our strong points. We cannot decide, on the one hand, to increase the amount of funds we dedicate to the anti-doping battle and, on the other, invite her," he added.

Giudicelli's reservations echoed those of men's world number one Andy Murray. "I think you should really have to work your way back," Murray told The Times.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, the winner at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014, has already been handed wild cards into the Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome tournaments with organisers fully aware of the former world number one's immense pulling power.

Should the 29-year-old fail to win over Roland Garros organisers, she would have to take her chances in the qualifying tournament held at the Paris venue in the week preceding the main draw.

However, to even make the qualifying event, Sharapova would still need to build up her ranking points - and that can only be done by winning the Stuttgart title.

The cut-off for French Open qualifying falls just after the Stuttgart tournament but before Madrid (May 7-13) and Rome (May 15-21).

This year's French Open runs from May 28 until June 11.