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Russian team boss slams Sharapova wild card critics

Moscow: Russian tennis supremo Shamil Tarpishchev blasted players who oppose Maria Sharapova’s hopes of winning a French Open wild card, describing the former world number one as “irreproachable, and a true professional”.

Sharapova will return to the sport in Stuttgart on April 26, the day her 15-month doping suspension ends.

However, the five-time Grand Slam title winner will need French Open organisers to hand her a wild card at Roland Garros, where she is a two-time winner, as her world ranking was wiped off during her ban imposed for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

France’s world number eight Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said he didn’t think Sharapova should get a Paris invitation.

“I would not do it,” he said. “It’s like if you give a sweet to a kid who did a bad thing, the kid’s going to do it again. It sends the wrong message.”

But Tarpishchev told Tsonga to keep his opinions to himself.

“It wasn’t a smart move from him (Tsonga) to comment on Maria’s situation,” www.Rbc.Ru quoted Tarpischev as saying.

He added: “Sharapova has no relation with doping whatsoever. Furthermore, it was proved meldonium is not doping, it’s a prohibited drug.

“Sharapova is an irreproachable athlete, a true professional. We all want her to gain her top form as soon as possible, to return to the sports elite.