WTA Tour

WTA chief defends Sharapova's wildcard handouts

Maria Sharapova (AFP)
Maria Sharapova (AFP)

Cape Town - WTA Chief Steve Simon has defended the right of the tournament organisers to issue wildcard entries to the returning Maria Sharapova.

The Russian superstar returns to tennis after serving a 15-month doping ban at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

However, the German tournament is not the only event where organisers have extended their hand to Sharapova, as Madrid and Rome have also granted her a wildcard entry.

This, combined with Stuttgart tailoring the event to suit her timely return (her ban ended on Tuesday) and her role as a Porsche ambassador has sparked a backlash from players and tennis fans alike.

However, Simon indicated that her return is consistent with how other sports treat returning players that have failed drug tests.

"You have to look at how other leagues and tours have handled players who have come back," Simon told BBC Sport.

"They come right back to the team and start playing."

Simon added that Sharapova’s long absence has affected her world ranking and will have to fight her way back up to be eligible for the grand slams.

"She is starting at ground zero," added Simon.

"It is going to affect her seedings in big tournaments so she's still going to pay a penalty for a while.

"If you think about it from other leagues, most of them [bans] are half of a season or a full season. She's had a year and a half."

Sharapova faces Roberta Vinci in the second round in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

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