Would the WTA be smart to get Maria Sharapova back faster?

In the wake of the attack on Petra Kvitova, Shane Lambert looks at the upcoming WTA season and sees one that lacks some star power.

I’ve always felt that the suspension of Maria Sharapova was unduly lengthy. Part of the reason definitely had to do with the fact that she broke a recently-changed rule. Β I’m not saying that she should have got off Scot-free, but I think the original two years and even the one-year-plus-three-months reduced suspension that she received was excessive. I felt that three months would have been enough, given how recent the changes were regarding the banned substance that she used.

Obviously other bodies saw things differently and perhaps Sharapova is a victim of her national identity. The Russians have been in the media a lot lately for banned substances with their entire Olympic team under scrutiny in 2016. A fair question is if Sharapova’s lengthy suspension is political in nature.

However, that’s not the question I’m looking at right now. Rather I think the WTA needs to work to get Sharapova back as soon as possible in light of the depleting stars on the 2017 WTA Tour.

Two things happened in the world of women’s tennis on December 20th. Firstly, Petra Kvitova suffered a tragic attack in her home, one that left her with debilitating wounds in her left hand. She’ll be out for months now. Secondly, Victoria Azarenka gave birth to her child, but it’s still not clear when she returns to tennis competitively.

When you factor in Sharapova’s suspension, Serena Williams’ age, and Venus Williams’ age the WTA might be without the big headliners we are used to on tour for a big chunk of 2017. In the case of Kvitova, Azarenka, Serena, andΒ Venus there’s nothing that can be really be done: injuries, getting back to fitness after pregnancy, and aging are hands that play themselves. However, if there is a way to get Sharapova back into the mix early then I think the WTA should now want that based on their sports’ depleted star power.

I don’t see returning Sharapova to tennis early as unfair. I think that when a new rule gets implemented there should be a grace period before full-punishment for breaking the rule goes into effect. That doesn’t mean that a partial-punishment shouldn’t apply during the grace period, but I really think Sharapova having only broken a recent rule change (ie. the substance she used was only recently banned) should be considered inherently mitigating. If she saw her suspension reduced to time already served, then it would not bother me. However, if she is being punished in the broader context of all the news of Russian cheating in international sports then that would bother me a lot.

The upcoming Australian Open won’t be without major WTA stars even if the absence of Kvitova, Azarenka, and Sharapova. However, a final lacking a major star is only a few upsets away from happening. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if we ended up with something like Carla Suarez Navarro against Kiki Bertens in a semifinal. I’m not saying that it’d be a bad match, but it wouldn’t be a ratings magnet and that would be bad for women’s tennis. Getting Sharapova back in the mix after what is already a more than fair amount of time served might make Melbourne Park more interesting. As for any political difficulties involved with that: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Shane Lambert
    • haizdesign

      There are so many questions about her unreasonably prolonged use of this substance. Letting her back early because of a lack of other players is a bizarre justification. What about ignoring the official emails? No excuses.

      • osetleo

        I agree with the article. I also think that she should be given a suspension but not this long. Political motivation seems to be quite a reasonable opinion and it should not on the way with real sport. I believe the WTA management was pushed into this decision instead of objecting it. Having Sharapova back in tennis world will only benefit everyone.

        • palurien

          Sorry, but I disagree. She took this drug which was not approved anywhere but a handful of countries. For supposed health reasons it does not actually improve. Did she tell anyone she was taking it when she had her shoulder surgery? I doubt it. In fact I think no one on her team knew she was taking it except her Russian doctor who prescribed it So of course, they would not have paid attention if they saw it on a banned list. I think she knew exactly what she was doing.

          • Anandakumar Ramasamy

            All you are saying is ‘I think blah blah blah’, ‘I think blah blah blah’. All are your assumptions. No concrete information.

            • palurien

              Sorry sweetcheeks, but I am an anesthesiologist. She has claimed she took it because of a family history of diabetes, and a magnesium deficiency/irregular heartbeat/frequent flu. Yadda yadda yadda. Meldonium is an anti-ischemic. It treats none of the above. That is fact, not opinion.

            • dedal

              Exactly!!! She is a not only a CHEATER, but #TheCheaterOfTheDecade !!!

            • mike black

              thank you, Palurien.

              i suuuuure would like to know the motivation for this article :-/

    • Romeo Danton

      I wonder how much Sharadopa paid you for this horseshit of an article. And I’m guessing you must have graduated from the university of Donald Trump, because you absolutely seem to have no class and no ounce of integrity. Do you even care about tennis as a sport? Do you care about the integrity of the sport? Or you just want to watch girls in skirt, regardless of if they are doping or cheating?

      It’s disgraceful enough that a cheating doper got a reduced sentence, but you want the doper to comeback sooner because of lack of star power?? Get the fuck outta here. Sharapova may be a star to you and evidently your idol, but she isn’t a star to real tennis fans and nobody wants her on tour until she has fully served her punishment. It’s deplorable classless idiots like you that give a bad name to sport.

      • Don’t worry. Craig Reedie and co care about tennis as a sport. He is boss of WADA mafia still… Await new TUE for american sportsmen. Just a business.

      • Roy Baty

        Don’t start with Trump comments, it was Hillary that compromised our national security to avoid freedom of information (FOI) requests because she was playing “pay to play” with foreign governments and businesses while pretending to be Secretary of State, and then she deleted 30,000 incriminating emails. DO you think we are stupid? Hillary and Bill would be in jail if they were average citizens.

    • Walz Izak

      I’m in absolute agreement with Sharapova being brought back early from off of suspension but not because of a lack of star power given the fact that there’s still Muguruza, Pliskova, and Kerber playing as well as up and coming star’s in Konta and Cibulkova alongside former slam winner Kuznetsova as well.

    • Mr Truth

      LOL @ this article. Had Serena been popped for the same thing Maria got popped with, people would be trying to destroy her entire career. Yet, you want the WTA to bring Sharapova back EARLY? Come on maaaaannnnn.

      The entire Russian Federation of Athletes were cheating in some form or another. And Maria was definitely part of that group.

      Tennis doesn’t need Maria. In fact, she may be one of the most overhyped tennis players in history. She has never won more than 1 Grand Slam in a given year. Only has a .500 record in Grand Slam Finals in just 10 Finals appearances. Has been COMPLETELY DOMINATED by Serena ( which probably led to her doping ).

      Maria is more of a fashion model / commercial endorser anyway, than a great tennis player. Only 2 Grand Slam wins since 2009, but the WTA “needs” her? No they don’t.