Maria Sharapova’s return after a reduced doping ban has rankled a number of her fellow competitors, but the Russian insists she does not care.
The five-time major winner spent 15 months on the sidelines — reduced from two years — for using a banned substance called meldonium and returned overnight with a straight-sets win as a wildcard at the Stuttgart Grand Prix.
Sharapova’s opponent in her return match, Roberta Vinci, and Eugenie Bouchard were among the most recent critics — with the Canadian saying “she’s a cheater” who should never have been allowed back in the sport.
Eugenie Bouchard walks past Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open
Walk on by … Eugenie Bouchard (right) said unequivocally that Sharapova was a “cheater”.(Reuters: Brandon Malone)
It could make for some awkward interactions in the locker room, but Sharapova insisted she did not see the point in becoming friends with her peers.
“In order to do what? To have nicer things to say about me in press conferences? What will that change to my tennis?” she said after being asked if she would try to mend fences.
“I don’t spend too much time there [in the locker room]. I do my job and my job consists of practising — I’ll go in there and take an ice bath. It’s like 10-15 minutes.
“I’ll change, Ill get my stuff and I’m out of there, so that’s not very impactful in my life.
“I have a great amount of friends at home and all over the world that I speak to. Those matter to me, those friendships really matter to me.”
Sharapova’s agent takes aim at Wozniacki, Radwanska
It is probably for the best that Sharapova has no interest in being best buds with her competitors, because there are more than a few players who may want little or nothing to do with her after her break.
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska said wildcards in Stuttgart and Madrid were one thing, but free entry to the French Open had to be earned.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki went one step further, saying it was “disrespectful” to allow her to return to the main draw of an elite tournament the day her ban ended.
“I feel like when a player is banned for drugs, I think that someone should start from the bottom and fight their way back,” Wozniacki said.
“All those journeyman players like Radwanska and Wozniacki who have never won a Slam and the next generation passing them,” he told leading tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg.
“They are smart to try and keep Maria out of Paris. No Serena [Williams], no Maria, no Vika [Victoria Azarenka], no Petra [Kvitova] — it’s their last chance to win a slam.”