Maria Sharapova, who was once one of the most acclaimed tennis athletes in the world, has been subjected to a lot of criticism from her fellow players off lately.
Things haven’t been particularly easy for the former World No. 1, who served a reduced 15 months suspension from the tour after she was tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. Ever since her return on the circuit in April 2017, not only has she failed to get a firm grip on her form, but the constant rifts with her fellow players are also adding another layer of aversion towards her.
Maria Sharapova started her campaign in WTA Stuttgart, a tournament which she won thrice in a row. Having been given the wildcard, she managed to reach the semifinal where she lost to the Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in three sets.
She then went to play in the Madrid Open, where she found herself on the receiving end of harsh condemnation.
Before the tournament started, the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard branded Sharapova a cheater on her return to the tour after being tested positive for doping.
This feud was taken to the next level when they met in the second round in Madrid. It was an intense, three setter match where the former top 10 player secured the win with 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
Bouchard later revealed that her motivation to defeat Sharapova stemmed from her need to back up her criticism. In addition to this, she also said that she was doing it for those people who were too scared to speak against the five-time Grand Slam winner.
In a way, she became a face for those people who were against Sharapova’s return to the circuit.
A similar scene was seen in the recently concluded US Open as well, where she received a wildcard entry. But what irked the other players most, particularly the Dane Caroline Wozniacki, was the preferential treatment Sharapova was given.
The two time finalist at the Flushing Meadows played her second round match against Ekaterina Makarova in the outer courts at late hours, which she moved on to lose in three sets.
At the same time, the Russian was enjoying her return to the US Open in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which she began with a sensational win over the top 3 player Simona Halep.
In all fairness, Wozniacki does have a point. Being the World No. 5 who rose to the top again after struggling with injuries, the court selection for her was quite surprising.
And while Sharapova is a high profile player who also was the highest earning female athlete for a significant time, putting her on the Arthur Ashe Stadium does make a bit of sense, at least from the business side of things.
However, considering that the Russian came back after serving a drug sentence, to put her every game on the centre court was quite questionable to say the least. Anyway, she failed to move past the fourth round where she lost to the Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.
The Sharapova saga is set to add another controversial chapter this season with the release of the Russian’s autobiography ‘Unstoppable: My life so far.’ In an excerpt of the book published in the Guardian, Sharapova justifies her usage of meldonium. The drug is quite prominent in the Baltic and Russia, where it can be purchased over the counter.
Moreover, at the time she received the life-changing email from the International Tennis Federation, she had been taking the drug for 10 years, with her doctor’s approval. As it turns out, she even had written approval that it was permissible to use the drug.
However, what led to her downfall was her failure to read an email from the ITF in January 2016, that listed newly-banned substances. Needless to mention, Meldonium was a part of it. By the time Sharapova realized what had happened, it was too late. All she could do was go with the flow and ride it out.
This season has still got a couple of good tournaments to go, where we’re likely to see Maria give her best in an effort to build some momentum for 2018.