New York - Five-time
major champion Maria Sharapova of Russia will play her first Grand Slam
event since serving a 15-month doping suspension after receiving a
wildcard on Tuesday into the US Open.
The move by the US Tennis Association (USTA) comes after Sharapova,
ranked 148th this week, was rejected for a wildcard spot into the French
Open and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury.
Sharapova tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open
and was suspended by the International Tennis Federation, a ban that
ended in April.
Since then, Sharapova has needed wildcards to get into tournaments, drawing criticism from some fellow professionals.
"Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping program was
completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our
wildcard selection process," the USTA said in a statement.
"Consistent with past practice, a wildcard was provided to a past US
champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw. Previous
US Open champions who have received US Open main draw wildcards include
Martina Hingis, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del
Former world number one Sharapova won the 2006 US Open as well as
Wimbledon in 2014, the 2008 Australian Open and the 2012 and 2014 French
Sharapova will also speak to youth about the benefits of the
anti-doping program and the need for players to be vigilant about the
banned substance list, something she admitted not doing when she did not
catch meldonium being added to the ban list in 2016.
"Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis
players at the USTA national campus about the importance of the tennis
anti-doping program and the personal responsibility each player has to
comply with the program's requirements," the USTA said.
Sharapova has shaken off criticism from rival players about wildcards
and the French Open snub, tweeting after being denied a spot at Roland
Garros, "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all
the way, everyday. No words, games or actions will ever stop me from
reaching my own dreams. And I have many."
Players in Cincinnati for this week's WTA event welcomed Sharapova back into Grand Slam tennis.
"I'm sure this is a great moment for her to have an opportunity to be
back to a place where she has done so well," ninth-ranked Venus
World number six dismissed any notion it would be wrong to give
Sharapova a wildcard, saying, "Either way it's not a controversy. I
don't have a problem with that."
Sharapova has withdrawn from US Open warm-up tournaments in Toronto
and Cincinnati the past two weeks after suffering a left forearm injury
In her first US match since March 2015, Sharapova defeated American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 at Stanford.
But in the triumph, Sharapova suffered the forearm injury that has
sidelined her since, even after arriving in Cincinnati hopeful of
playing as a wildcard in the final major tuneup before the US Open.
"Following the doctor's advice on-site, as a precaution for the US
Open, I am unfortunately withdrawing from the tournament with the left
forearm injury I sustained in Stanford," Sharapova said.