Ready yourself for takes: the U.S. Tennis Association has granted Maria Sharapova a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw, meaning she will play her first Grand Slam since he return from a 15-month ban for use of the substance meldonium, a heart disease medication said to improve recovery. In general, wild cards are often granted to former greats returning from injury who would not otherwise qualify on ranking alone, or to plucky local upstarts deemed deserving of a chance to breakout. Sharapova is no novice and tour exile is not injury. Depending on how you feel about doping regulation—did she find herself on the wrong side of a blurry, poorly defined line that all her peers are constantly toeing, only more carefully? or did she do something totally beyond the pale of competitive sport?—you may, uh, have some strong opinions about this.
Frankly, though, the real question might hinge on your feelings about the nature of punishment. Does she deserve a clean slate after doing her time—i.e., should she be treated like exactly what she is, which is a five-time major winner returning from a long absence from the tour—or will her past misstep just continue to haunt her career indefinitely? Or for a deliberately provocative analogy: do you think felons should always be dogged by their past indiscretions or should they get a fair shot at redemption and re-entering the workforce?
Sharapova was offered the chance to enter Wimbledon via qualifying rounds (but withdrew with injury), and before that missed the French Open because the French tennis authorities refused to give her a shot to even qualify.
There will be no such barrier in New York; she’ll slide straight into the main draw. Sharapova must be eager to return to the major she won in 2006. She must also be salivating at the chance to play what may well be the last Serena-less Slam. (The baby is thought to be due in September.)