Steve Simon criticizes FFT for not handing Maria Sharapova a French Open wildcard

The WTA CEO said that it was unfair that the Russian, twice a winner at Roland Garros, was being punished further than the 15-month ban that had been deemed appropriate

Steve Simon criticizes FFT for not handing Maria Sharapova a French Open wildcard
Steve Simon, pictured at the Miami Open, has been critical of the FFT for punishing Maria Sharapova further than her 15 month ban (Getty/Julian Finney)

Steve Simon, the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, has heavily criticized the French Tennis Federation for their decision to not hand Maria Sharapova a wildcard into the French Open this year.

Though Simon admitted that handing out wildcards was down to the tournament’s discretion, and wished those who had received a wildcard good luck for the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, he said that he did not agree with the reasoning behind the choice to snub Sharapova, saying that the TADP [the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme] has no right to “penalize any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decision” in any doping suspension case.

His statement is likely to be hugely controversial and picked up heavily in press conferences today at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Many WTA, and ATP, players have been critical of the way in which Sharapova has been allowed to return through wildcards and it seems that Simon’s statement will attract a lot of criticism.

Simon heavily critical of the FFT’s ruling

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of Sharapova’s doping case since she announced her positive test for Meldonium back in March last year, Simon has been broadly supportive of the Russian but had not yet criticised any decision that had gone against her until the announcement yesterday.

Maria Sharapova with Steve Simon and Li Na ahead of her clash against Agnieszka Radwanska at the 2015 WTA Finals (Getty/Clive Brunskill)
Maria Sharapova with Steve Simon and Li Na ahead of her clash against Agnieszka Radwanska at the 2015 WTA Finals (Getty/Clive Brunskill)

Simon, who replaced Stacey Allister as the CEO of the WTA back in October 2015, has previously defended tournaments that have handed the Russian a wildcard and in his statement last night said that he did not agree “with the basis put forward by the FFT for their decision” about Sharapova’s case.

Furthermore, he commented that “the tennis anti-doping program is a uniform effort by supported by the Grand Slams, WTA, ITF, and ATP,” adding that “there are no grounds for any member of the TADP to penalize any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these manners,” showing that he felt that the 15-month ban Sharapova had received was all the punishment necessary for her doping violation.

WTA players likely to criticize Simon’s view

Simon’s comments come less than two weeks ahead of the start of the French Open amidst the Italian Open, the final big tournament before the second Grand Slam tournament of the year.

With both high profile WTA and ATP players are at the tournament it seems likely that several players will have an opportunity to express their opinions on both Sharapova’s snub and Simon’s comments, though it seems likely that Simon’s comments will be criticized by many female players.

Maria Sharapova in action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia against Christina McHale this week (Getty/Giuseppi Bellini)
Maria Sharapova in action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia against Christina McHale this week (Getty/Giuseppi Bellini)

High profile WTA stars such as Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki, amongst others, have been critical of tournaments handing the Russian wildcards, and them, and several other players who do not believe that Sharapova should have been allowed straight into tournament main draws, are likely to disagree with Simon’s comments.

Tennis