Angelique Kerber has questioned whether Maria Sharapova should be allowed to start her comeback from an anti-doping suspension in Stuttgart, where the Russian has been given a wild card.
Kerber, like Sharapova, is sponsored by Porsche, which is also the title sponsor of the tournament in Stuttgart (Porsche Tennis Grand Prix).
The German, speaking at a pre-event press conference in Indian Wells, called Sharapova's entry into the tournament "a little bit strange," given that she will still be suspended until the third day of the tournament. Sharapova has been scheduled to play her first-round match on the third day, and as anti-doping rules require, would not be allowed to enter the tournament grounds until that day.
Kerber suggested that others on the WTA tour were asking whether the rules were being bent for the former No. 1.
"It's a little bit strange, also, for the players," said Kerber, "that she can walk on site on Wednesday and she can play on Wednesday."
Sharapova was given a reduced 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium, which she said she had taken for many years and did not know it had been banned at the beginning of 2016. There has been plenty of debate of late as to whether she should be receiving wild cards into tournaments. Sharapova, who does not currently have a WTA ranking and would not otherwise be eligible to play tour events, has also received wild cards into clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.
Kerber noted that Sharapova's wild card means there will be a German player who does not receive a wild card. The tournament's title sponsor, Porsche, also sponsors the German Fed Cup team. Germany has five other Top 100 players on the WTA tour: Laura Siegemund, Annika Beck, Carina Witthoeft, Andrea Petkovic and Mona Barthel. The tournament will have three other wild cards to provide.
"It's a German tournament, and we [have] so many good German players, so this is also a little bit strange," added Kerber. "We are playing Fed Cup. We are playing for our country."
World No. 4 Simona Halep said she did not have a problem with Sharapova getting into events as she returns.
"In my opinion, she can receive wild cards because she was No. 1 [and a] Grand Slam champion," she said.
Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion.
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