Sharapova plots a splashy wildcard return after her doping ban lifts

It's the age-old question. Do cheaters prosper?

Maria Sharapova was caught and found guilty of using a banned drug last year during the Australian Open. We all know that. She was given a two-year sentence, suspended from playing professional tennis, and used her power and money to knock it down to fifteen months. Guess what, it's that time, when her punishment clock finally runs out and the controversy that died down in the past six months can ramp up again!

What's the controversy now, do you ask?

Most reasonable people would assume a cheater who got caught and hung out to dry would slink back quietly into the rotation, and try to make her come-back as routine as possible. Nope, nada, not this chick. Not when you are worth many hundreds of millions of dollars and you've got Big Bucks Sponsors who've been waiting for you to80show us the money81again.

Just a heads up for you tennis ? novices: the rules say she can ask for as many wildcard nominations as she wants because she's a former Grand Slam Champion and she's won the WTA Finals. So she's not doing anything wrong by asking. It's the ones she's received that are causing the stir... Oh and one more tidbit: She won't have a ranking as she returns to play, so the whole point of the wildcard is to allow her to be seen in major events when she wouldn't be by ranking.

So the controversy unfolds as Maria Sharapova intends to return to professional tennis in less than six weeks. How many wildcard entries should a returning doper receive? Or should the reason for the suspension not play into the decision?

And seriously, who expects a former Grand Slam Champion and former-It Girl to stick to only lower-level Challenger Tournaments during her come-back? No one, that's who. Sure, her competition would like to see it happen, or at least would prefer to not see her receive any favoritism.

Now current-Number One, Angelique Kerber has some valid points on the effect of awarding a wildcard to Maria at the Stuttgart Open.  Stuttgart made the questionable choice of allowing Sharapova to begin the tournament on the 3rd day...since her ban is still in effect on the day the tournament begins.

While Germany is in a battle in the race for a Fed Cup title, surely they would wish all their eligible players to have match experience at the Stuttgart Open? Hint hint? With a wildcard selection going to Sharapova, one German woman will not get to play. Hmmm, serious controversy in Germany at a German tournament with a German sponsor -- Porsche --which sponsors Maria.

So the latest blogging has centered around money, marketing and Ms. Sharapova and how to milk her return.

Player reaction to the generous offers of wildcard entry has been mostly negative.  Outside of Kerber's specific reasons for the late start and wildcard offering at Stuttgart, Caroline Wozniaki also had tough talk on that same issue:

One veteran player of note took a softer, more diplomatic stance, and was quoted by CNN as saying,

237I think the bodies have made their decision

247Maria Sharapova: Drugs-ban return generating buzz248

Image: Sharapova in action at the 2015 WTA Finals, Shutterstock

The controversy has reigned since both Rome and Madrid have also granted Sharapova wildcard entrée into their tournaments this spring, and is at a low boil while officials debate whether to offer her a wildcard entry to the French Open as well.

French player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, has a strong opinion...

As does hard-core Scot Andy Murray!

Hey, a lot of fans think so too, and apparently so do fancy sports writers for rags like Sports Illustrated or Tennis blogs.

489say what?490

537match tough538

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