Those criticising Sharapova's wildcard return are jealous 'journeymen', says agent

Johannesburg [South Africa], Apr 22 (ANI): Maria Sharapova's agent has said that people, criticising the embattled Russian tennis star for possibly receiving a wildcard into the French Open, just want to keep another title threat out of Roland Garros.

Sharapova, who was handed over a 15-month suspension after being tested positive for banned substance meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, will make her return to competitive tennis at the WTA Tour clay-court tournament in Stuttgart Open beginning April 26.

Stuttgart offered Sharapova a wildcard entry because she no longer has a world ranking -- a move that angered some players.

Meanwhile, the five-time Grand Slam champion has also been handed wild cards for Madrid (May 7-13) and Rome (May 15-21) tournaments.

Whether Sharapova will receive a wildcard at Roland Garros will be known just a week before qualifying begins for the second major of the season, which is slated to be held from May 28 to June 11.

Angered with Sharapova receiving the wild card entries, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland told the local media that she feels the Russian tennis star should not receive wild card entries for Grand Slam events.

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki had also criticised Sharapova's easy return to the tour's big events, saying, "I think it's very questionable, allowing a player that is still banned to play a tournament that week."

"I think it's disrespectful to other players and the WTA," she had said in March.

"All those 'journeyman' players like Radwanska and Wozniacki who have never won a slam and the next generation passing them. They are smart to try to keep Maria out of Paris," Sport24 quoted Eisenbud as saying in response to the critics.

"NO Serena, NO Maria, NO Vika, NO Petra, it's their last chance to win a slam," he added while acknowledging the fact that pregnant world number one Serena Williams, Czech Petra Kvitova and former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, expected to return in July after having a baby and are thus are not going to be participating in the tournament.

Sharapova's initial two-year ban was reduced to 15 months following an appeal to the court of arbitration for sport, which concluded she had not intended to cheat. (ANI)