The clock is ticking towards the first big red clay tournament on the WTA side of things. As usual, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix tournament manages to draw in the biggest of names like Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, and the returning Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova, who is a three-time winner of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix tournament, is set to make her return to tennis in the most spectacular of ways, having been given a Wild Card by the tournament. No one else has won the tournament on as many as three occasions since the tournament moved from Filderstadt to Stuttgart in 2006, which suggests that Sharapova was more than deserving of the Wild Card, but when you weigh up and focus on the positives and negatives of Sharapova’s return – is it really right?
Many talk about the different routes that players take in order to get back to the level they once were at, which could get hindered because of an injury or due to a subsequent ban from the sport due to doping. Look at the case of Barbora Strycova. The talented Czech player was banned for a substance called sibutramine. She didn’t have the same opportunities as Sharapova in the fact that she naturally started out in the first qualifying round of the tournament and went on to lose to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. That brings up the question, should Sharapova have to start from the small tournaments and move her way up the proper way? Or because of the star power she possesses and the things that she has achieved in the game, does that entitle her to the opportunities that she has been granted upon return?
There are certainly two ways of looking at the curious case of Maria Sharapova. The people that long for her return would suggest that she’s accomplished that much in her career, winning at every single Grand Slam, making professional women’s tennis as popular as it has become, deserves a certain level of privilege to say the least. Also, tournaments are looking to sell their events in the best way possible and whether it is with great taste, Sharapova may not be everyone’s favourite player, but she is a talking point. A talking point that encourages and influences people to attend the tournament whether it is great or bad to see in the long run. You could argue that a tournament without Sharapova is a much more “ordinary” tournament at that, which is surely why the powers-that-be went ahead with presenting the wild card to Sharapova.
On the other hand, it can be argued that Sharapova’s return isn’t great for a number of reasons. First of all, by giving the wild card to the five-time Grand Slam winner you are depriving the young German talent from making a name for themselves at one of their home events. Germany is a fantastic tennis nation that has created and nurtured some of the very best the sport has ever seen like Steffi Graf and now two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber. Surely in giving Sharapova that opportunity it holds back the evolution of the next batch of German stars. It is a tough decision, but there are certainly more than one way of looking at it.
Sharapova returns after over a year away from the sport. She will get a fast-track to the big WTA events simply because of the name she has made for herself over the years. It is probably the smartest business choice, but it certainly does leave a sour taste in the mouth of what is right and what is wrong.