Maria Sharapova: Agent criticises 'journeyman' rivals of returning Russian

Maria Sharapova
Former world number one Maria Sharapova is set to make her competitive comeback from a doping ban next week

Maria Sharapova's agent has accused "journeyman" rivals of trying to prevent the Russian playing at next month's French Open because it is their "last chance to win a Slam".

Sharapova, 30, is set to return from a 15-month doping ban at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

Her wildcard entry was called "disrespectful" to other players by ex-world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

Agnieszka Radwanska said Sharapova should not be invited to Grand Slams.external-link

Sharapova plays Roberta Vinci of Italy in the first round in Stuttgart, and victory over the world number 35 could set up a second-round tie with Radwanska, who faces Ekaterina Makarova.

Britain's Johanna Konta is in the other half of the draw and will start against a qualifier.

Sharapova, twice a winner at the French Open and a former world number one, is currently unranked and will require a wildcard to compete at Roland Garros, with the France's tennis federation yet to announce its decision.

Referring to Radwanska and Wozniacki, Sharapova's agent Max Eisenbud said the "next generation [is] passing them" and that they are "smart to keep Maria out of Paris" in a statement released to tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg.external-link

Neither Polish world number eight Radwanska, 28, nor 26-year-old Dane Wozniacki have won a Grand Slam title, but both have competed in Grand Slam finals.

Eisenbud added that if there was "no Serena [Williams], no Maria [Sharapova], no Victoria [Azarenka], no Petra [Kvitova]" at the French Open, it would be the "last chance" for "journeyman" players like Radwanska and Wozniacki to claim a Grand Slam.

World number two and 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams will miss the tournament after announcing her pregnancy, while former world number one Azarenka gave birth to her first child in December and is expected to return to competition at the end of July.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova has said she has a "chance" of making a shock return at the French Open next month as she recovers from a career-threatening hand injury sustained when she was stabbed by an intruder in December.

Sharapova was given a two-year ban last year, backdated to 26 January 2016, after testing positive for heart disease drug meldonium at the Australian Open.

Her suspension was reduced to 15 months in October, following her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Eisenbud also said other players "have no clue" about Sharapova's case because they have not read paragraphs 100 and 101 of the Cas ruling.

Paragraph 100 states the panel accepts Sharapova "did not endeavour to mask or hide her use of mildronate [meldonium]", while paragraph 101 adds that "under no circumstances, therefore, can [Sharapova] be considered to be an 'intentional doper'".

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