Many tennis fans have been quite anxious for Maria Sharapova to make her return. But the date and location of her return has raised eyebrows from some spectators. After shortening her ban from two years to fifteen months, the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) decided that Sharapova could officially compete on April 26. There is no tournament beginning on the day of Maria’s return since it is a Wednesday so it was originally announced by the WTA Tour that the earliest she could compete would be a small tournament in Prague on the first of May. However, it appears that Maria will now be able to play at the Porsche Grand Prix, despite the tournament beginning on April 24. This is one of Sharapova’s favorite tournaments, given that Porsche is was one of her sponsors prior to her doping suspension. She has also won the tournament three years in a row from 2012 to 2014 so her chances of success bode well. And because she cannot officially play until two days after the tournament starts, Maria will have to play back-to-back matches in an incredibly short amount of time in order to walk away with the trophy. Some believe it is unfair and that Sharapova is being given special treatment by beginning her tournament in the middle of the week.
But during an online conversation with writer Andrew Henrie, former ATP Anti-Doping chief Richard Ings said Sharapova’s return in the midst of the tournament is within the rules. Ings writes, “Totally OK under the rules. But a lesson for CAS arbitrators is to nominate a return tournament not a return date.”
Some followers of the sport are not pleased with this sudden change in where Sharapova is expected to return, as they fear it is a poor representation of tennis in its entirety. Tennis underwent numerous scandals in 2016, from numerous suspensions for match-fixing to, most notably, Sharapova’s suspension for doping. To some, the sheer haste of bringing Sharapova back in the middle of a tournament espouses the feeling of desperation. It comes off as if the WTA Tour is showing favoritism and is discontent with the already diverse and high-level of competition. Giving her a wildcard into the tournament might also prevent other hardworking players to compete in the prestigious tournament, which has been voted tournament of the year by WTA players 7 out of the past 9 years.
Despite some feeling it is unfair, the timing of Sharapova’s return is completely within the rules. Perhaps the rules may need revision, or perhaps some should put their personal bias aside and simply view the rules as rules. One thing is for certain, tickets for April 26 at the Porsche Grand Prix have already sold out.