For most of the clay court season one of the biggest stories has been Maria Sharapova. Returning after her 15 month suspension for doping, Sharapova has been frantically trying to find a way into tournaments. While she has already been granted wildcard entries to some tournaments, the biggest question was whether or not she would gain entry into the French Open. That answer came on Tuesday when news broke that Sharapova would not be granted a wildcard. This news comes as a blow for fans eager to see if the former championship could make noise in her first major back.
While many fans were excited to see Sharapova back in the spotlight, not everyone was so eager to accept her back. One of her harshest critics has been fellow tour player Eugenie Bouchard. Bouchard has gone on record as saying that Sharapova is “a cheater” and even went as far as to call for a lifetime ban of the former grand slam champion.
The Beginning Of A Rivalry
What had only been an indirect twitter feud turned into a rivalry when Bouchard defeated Sharapova in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open. The match ended with one of the most awkward handshakes in recent memory and Sharapova simply stating “well played.” After the match, Bouchard took another jab at Sharapova saying that she felt inspired by other players to win the match, indicating that many of them supported her comments.
While Sharapova not making an appearance in the French open is sad for her fans, the saddest part of this ruling is that her budding rivalry with Bouchard will be shelved for the time being. It is true that the two would most likely not have played head to head at Rolland Garros since the draw is so big, but at least the hope would have been alive.
Where Is The Intrigue?
Tennis is a sport built on the star power of its top athletes. This is the case for both men’s and women’s tennis. While the men’s side has Nadal vs Federer and Djokovic vs. Murray, the women’s game is missing a big name rivalry. In years past, players like Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Kim Clijsters were able to be competitive enough against each other to draw viewers due to their consistent performance. Adding a bit of fire in the form of a new rivalry would have been huge for the sport. Especially a rivalry with some legitimate bad blood between the players.
With Sharapova out, the most entertaining new rivalry on ice, and Serena Williams also missing the tournament, there isn’t a whole lot of intrigue left for casual fan. Whether you like or dislike Maria Sharapova, the fact that she is out of the draw inevitably makes the second grand slam of the year less interesting.