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French Open Fears Hypocrisy Over Potential Sharapova Wild Card

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Maria Sharapova pictured at the 2014 French Open (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova’s return to the tour next month is causing apprehension for officials at the French Open as they ponder whether to award the Russian a wild card.

 

The former world No.1 will return to the tour at the Stuttgart Open in April after serving a 15-month doping suspension. Sharapova tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium and was originally slammed with a two-year ban until she successfully appealed for a reduction. Throughout the controversy the Russian has insisted that she was unaware the drug has been banned (which it has been since January 1st, 2016) and she never took it to enhance her performance.

Despite successfully having her ban reduced, the Court of Arbitration for Sport concluded that Sharapova was guilty of failing to ‘meet the anti-doping obligations imposed on an athlete’ over the management of the substances she was consuming.

Sharapova’s return to the tour has been aided by a trio of wild cards being given to her by tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. Despite the warm welcome of those tournaments, officials in charge of the next grand slam of the year are more cautious about the implications of their decision.

The newly-elected head of French Tennis, Bernard Giudicelli, has told the AFP that the French Open fears sending out the wrong message if they hand out a wild card to a player who has just ended their doping suspension.

“It’s complicated. We prefer that she returns completely rehabilitated,” Giudicelli said about Sharapova.
“Integrity is one of our strong points. We cannot decide, on the one hand, to increase the amount of funds we dedicate to the anti-doping battle and, on the other, invite her.”

Guidicelli has insisted that no decision has been made about Sharapova, who won the tournament in 2012 and 2014. If she is not awarded a pass, the Russian faces a tough task of generating enough points in time to even enter the qualifying draw (unless she wins Stuttgart).

The comments come shortly after world No.1 Andy Murray spoke out against handing players wild cards into tournaments if they have violated doping rules. During an interview with The Times, the Wimbledon champion said that those found guilty of doping must be made to ‘work their way back’ into the tour.

The 116th French Open will start on May 28th with Novak Djokovic and Garbine Mugurza being the defending champions.

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Adrian Mannarino sets up quarter final match against Radu Albot at the Singapore Open

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Top seed Adrian Mannarino beat Roberto Marcora 6-3 7-5 to advance to the quarter finals at the Singapore Tennis Open. 

 

Mannarino converted his second break point at deuce in the fifth game of the opening set after six deuces to take a 3-2 lead, as Marcora hit his forehand into the net. The Frenchman earned three set points in the ninth game. Marcora saved the first two chances, but Mannarino sealed the first set on his third chance after 50 minutes. 

Marcora went down 0-40 in the second game of the second set, but he saved all three break points to hold serve at deuce. Mannarino held his serve in the next games and earned two match points on return in the 12th game. He sealed the win, as Marcora sent his backhand into the net. 

“At this stage there is no easy match. I never played against Marcora before, but I knew he had a couple of good games before. In the second set, he got used to the pace and was winning points in the big moments and it looked like it could go either way. I am pretty happy that I managed to keep my focus and win the second set”, said Mannarino. 

Mannarino set up a quarter final against Moldova’s Radu Albot, who fended off three match points to beat Yannick Hanfmann after 2 hours and 42 minutes. Albot fended off match points at 4-5 15-40 and in the second set and at 6-7 in the tie-break. 

Australia’s Matthew Ebden cruised past his compatriot John Millman 6-4 6-1 in 72 minutes. Soonwoo Kwon won 31 of his 38 first service points to beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3 6-4 setting up a quarter final against Marin Cilic. Soonwoo Kwon claimed his third ATP Challenger Tour title in Biella beating Italian Next Gen star Lorenzo Musetti.

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Benoit Paire beats Nicholas Jerry to move into the quarter final at the Cirdoba Open

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Benoit Paire claimed a 6-2 6-4 win over Nicholas Jarry after 1 hour and 17 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the Cordoba Open. Paire has improved his head-to-head record against Jarry to 4-0. 

 

The Frenchman fended off the eight break points he faced and broke twice in the third and fifth games and once in the second set. 

“I am really happy because I didn’t make too many double faults. I saw I was number one at the Australian Open with only one match and 23 double faults, so I am really happy to save it. Even when I was under pressure in the second set, I tried to push a little bit more. I am really happy about how I saved my break points in the second set. He made some mistakes on a few, but I was happy to fight. I did not say anything”,said Paire. 

Paire set up a quarter final against Federico Coria, the younger brother of former world number 3 Guillerrmo Coria. 

Federico Coria came back from one set down to beat Francesco Cerundolo from Argentina, who won three ATP Challenger titles in 2020. Coria reached the quarter final at Rio Open and qualified for his first Masters 1000 main draw in Rome. Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalik rallied from one set down to beat Chilean qualifier Marcelo Tomas Vera 4-6 6-2 6-3 after 2 hours and 12 minutes setting up a quarter final match against Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis, who beat his compatriot Federico Delbonis 6-4 7-5. 

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Iga Swiatek reaches her first WTA Tour semifinal since her Roland Garros triumph

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Iga Swiatek has advanced to her first semifinal since her Roland Garros title last October, when Danielle Collins was forced to retire as she was trailing 2-6 0-3 in the second set. 

 

The 19-year-old Polish player fired 17 aces and and won all 10 points on Collins’ second serve. She held three hard fought service games at deuce at 2-0 and 5-2 in the first set and 1-0 in the second set. 

Swiatek earned an early break to open up a 3-0 lead. Collins broke back in the fifth game for 2-3, but Swiatek broke twice in the sixth and eighth games of the first set and once in the second game of the second set to build up a 6-2 3-0 lead, before Collins was forced to retire following a medical time-out. 

Swiatek set up a semifinal clash against Jill Teichmann, who battled past Anastasjia Sevastova 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 7-5 after 2  hours and 57 minutes. Sevastova saved five match points in the tie-break of the second set. Teichmann faced two match points, as she was serving at 4-5 in the third set. 

Sixteen year-old qualifier Coco Gauff came back from 2-6 2-4 down to beat Shelby Rogers 2-6 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 50 minutes. 

Rogers broke twice in a row in the fifth and seventh games to win the first set 6-2 and earned two of the three breaks at the start of the start of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Gauff rallied from 2-4 down by winning four consecutive games with two consecutive breaks to take a 6-4 lead. The third set started with a trade of breaks. Rogers broke at love in the fifth game to take a 4-2 lead. Gauff reeled off four games with two consecutive breaks to close out the third set 6-4. The 16-year-old US player won 14 of her 38 WTA main draw and qualifying matches in three sets and came back from one set down in 10 matches.

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