LONDON: Maria Sharapova withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday after failing to recover from a thigh injury, dealing another blow to the superstar’s bid to rebuild her career following a doping ban. The 30- year-old Russian, who was champion at the All England Club in 2004, was due to play in the qualifying event in the hope of making the main draw. “After an additional scan, the muscle tear that I sustained in Rome will unfortunately not allow me to compete in the grass court tournaments I was scheduled to play,” she said in a statement. “I will continue to work on my recovery and my next scheduled tournament is in Stanford from July 31.” The former world number one returned from a 15-month doping ban in April but has relied on wildcards to get into tournaments because her world ranking points expired while she was banned.
At the moment the five-time Grand Slam title winner is ranked at 178. She was initially banned for two years for using meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled she was not an intentional doper. After her ban expired, Sharapova returned to competition in April at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi-finals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open. She failed to earn a qualifying spot for the French Open and was then denied a wild card into the main draw by Roland Garros organisers despite being a two-time champion.
On the same day, she suffered the thigh injury which has now sidelined her from Wimbledon for a second successive season. Bruised by the Roland Garros snub, Sharapova decided not to request a Wimbledon wildcard, deciding instead to take her chances in three rounds of qualifying. She was still controversially handed a wildcard for the WTA grasscourt event in Birmingham later this month, a key warmup for Wimbledon.
But the injury she suffered in the Rome claycourt event in May has scuppered her plans, leaving her to probably hope for a wild card into the US Open, the season’s final Grand Slam event. She was champion in New York in 2006. “I want to thank the LTA (Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association) for their amazing support on my return and providing me with a Birmingham wild card, a tournament which I hope many of you will be able to attend,” Sharapova added in her statement. “I look forward to meeting you there next year.” Only two weeks ago, Wimbledon decided that the qualifying event, held at nearby Roehampton, would be broadcast for the first time. However, a spokeswoman for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the tournament organisers, told AFP that this was one of several “long-planned” changes and not a decision made in response to the added interest in the event caused by Sharapova’s presence. Qualifying is also to be ticketed for the first time. — AFP