Former World No.1 Maria Sharapova is set to make her comeback to tennis, after a 15 month doping ban, with a wildcard entry in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. The Russian is being allowed to make her return midway through the tournament, since her ban runs out on the third day of the event.
While a lot of tennis fans around the world are eagerly waiting to see Sharapova get back on the court, a number of tennis players, including Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova, Andy Murray and most recently Heather Watson feel that the Russian should start by playing smaller events on the bottom tier of the tour.
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Watson, who recently got eliminated in the first round of the Miami Open, admitted that her participation would attract crowds and more money, but felt that Sharapova should "work her way up" rather than having it so easy.
"From the tournament standpoint she will bring in the crowds, and make money. But from a moral standpoint you should have to work your way back up if you've been on a ban. It just seems a bit easy," The Daily Mail quoted Watson as saying.
A few days earlier, world number four Dominika Cibulkova also criticised the move to allow Sharapova to play in the Porsche Grand Prix.
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"I don't think its right but what can we do about it? She's still banned but she can come on site on Wednesday, that's pretty strange. For me it's not OK and I spoke to some other players and nobody is OK with it, but it's not up to us. All the people who are taking care of these things should know the rule and do the right thing," Cibulkova said.
Despite all these players criticising Sharapova's inclusion, Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, does not seemed to be bothered. Sharapova is being squeezed in to play the last day of the first round schedule and Simon said it was normal for players to arrive late. He also said that the fact that she admitted her mistake was a big deal as not a lot of athletes do that.
"There are many instances when the player is not at the tournament until the night before or the morning of the match based upon where they are travelling from, so that is not a factor. They have to be available for their match in the first round," Simon said.
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"If Maria's suspension had ended on the Thursday she wouldn't have been able to play, period. Traditionally this tournament plays its first round over three days. She has stepped up the minute she made a mistake. We like to see all of our athletes do that. We've had too many times where they've denied and then been proven wrong."