Former world number one Martina Navratilova has urged players to stop focusing on Maria Sharapova after the Russian’s recent return from a 15-month doping ban.
According to a Reuters news report, Sharapova’s comeback has garnered widespread interest with current and former players offering their opinions on the 30-year-old, including men’s number one Andy Murray and Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, who labelled the Russian “a cheater”.
Bouchard beat Sharapova in the second round of the Madrid Open on Monday, saying that she felt partly inspired to win the match against the five-times major champion after receiving private messages of support from “people in the tennis world”.
“I think it’s time for the players to lay off Maria. She made a huge mistake, paid dearly for it, ‘done the time’ and now let’s play ball,” Navratilova, who won 18 grand slams during a glittering career, tweeted on her verified account.
Recently, men’s world number one Andy Murray had said that the level of media coverage surrounding Sharapova’s return to tennis from a doping suspension has been a key factor in the five-time grand slam winner being offered wildcards to events,
The Times reported this week that Sharapova would be awarded a wildcard by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to play at next month’s Aegon Classic in Birmingham.
Sharapova’s current ranking of 258, after a return from a 15-month doping suspension, was too low to merit a direct entry for the event and the organisers were looking to give her one of the four available wildcards, the report said.