The French Open has a dilemma: Do tournament organizers grant two-time French Open winner, five-time Grand Slam champion, and recently returned doper Maria Sharapova a wild card into the main draw, ensuing she’s part of the tournament when the first round begins on May 28? Should she receive a wild card into the qualifying draw, giving her a good chance of playing her way into the main draw (though it wouldn’t be guaranteed)? Or should Sharapova not receive a wild card at all, meaning Wimbledon would be her first Grand Slam back?
After Sharapova lost in the semifinals at Stuttgart last week, her first tournament back, her world ranking jumped to 262. If she had made the final, her ranking likely would have been good enough to earn a spot in the qualifying round, which starts May 22. But even before she lost in the semis, French tennis federation chief Bernard Giudicelli and French Open tournament director Guy Forget said they would announce on May 16 whether Sharapova would be getting a wild card. The announcement will reportedly be broadcast live.
“There is no reason why we should make an exception for Maria Sharapova, there is no reason why we should announce a wild card before the others,” Guidicelli said.
There is a reason, though, to make an exception and it’s the same reason Guidicelli is staging a dramatic presser to announce the decision regarding Sharapova: She’s a star and people pay attention to stars. Especially stars on controversial redemption tours. The French tennis federation needs to look like it’s tough on cheaters, even though Sharapova’s infraction was relatively minor and she served her punishment already, but they also surely want to cash in on Sharapova’s slightly bruised popularity. The fact that they’re already using her name and current situation to drum up buzz and schedule a big reveal, weeks out, makes me think the second of these two competing interests will win out.