The Australian Open organisers have faced serious criticism after having invited Maria Sharapova to conduct the draw for the Australian Open, despite having served a doping ban for the use of the banned substance, Meldonium.
Sharapova served a 15-month ban for having consumed Meldonium during her 2016 Australian Open campaign, and thus it came as a greater shock to fans that she was the one who was chosen for conducting the draw.
In the Women’s circuit it is often seen that organisers have looked to Sharapova to carry on the mantle of ‘fan fervour’, whenever Serena Williams is absent.
During the interview, the interviewer, Henry McLachlan, flirted with the issue of Sharapova’s ban, using the word ‘time out’ as a euphemism for the ban.
“What benefited you the most during your time out, the mind or the body?” he asked.
“Did you have a break given that you hadn’t really put a racquet down for 20 years?” he added.
“I took a couple of months off of not training and not playing, which for me was just so unreal because since the age of four that’s really all I did,” Sharapova said.
“I think the maximum of time that I would take off, apart from having shoulder surgery a few years back, was maybe just a couple of weeks at a time.
So maybe, having that period of time, just for my mind, I was able to do other things in my life and study. I was able to do some internships and what may people would say was a normal life, which I’ve never actually gotten to experience, so to have that — even though it wasn’t in the way that I wanted it to — it did bring a lot of normalcy into my life and to be able to share things and holidays and to actually be there with my friends and family.
Those are things I miss when I’m on the tour for 10 months out of the year.” Sharapova added.
While Tennis fans all over the world were already recovering from the fact that Sharapova was chosen for conducting the all important draw, they were left fuming when McLachlan termed her ban as a ‘time out’, meaning that it was not maybe a forced one.
Daily Mail’s Mike Dickson felt that honouring Sharapova was akin to Cricket Australia bringing out those giant 4 finger hands to signal the 4-0 score during the Ashes celebration.
“Wheeling her out had all the graciousness of Monday’s final Ashes presentation in Sydney, which featured those giant, nationally-coloured hands with erect fingers reminding everyone of the 4-0 score line.”
The Times’ Stuart Fraser felt that using the term ‘time out’ referred to her ban as something that was maybe indignant.
It is another shameful episode in which tennis has rolled out the red carpet for a doping offender,” Fraser wrote.
Do you think Serena’s absence or for that matter any reason justified Sharapova conducting the draw?
The Australian Open starts on the 15th of January.