The Maria Sharapova saga just refuses to go away. Wildcards have been given, wildcards have been refused, rules have been carefully manipulated, and in all this harakiri, Sharapova has managed to put up a decent show on court, enabling her to sneak into the qualifying rounds for Wimbledon.
Wimbledon authorities have decided to pounce on that opportunity and create history by broadcasting the qualifying rounds for the first time across Europe. Eurosport holds the broadcasting rights for the main event, and will be taking up the qualifying rounds as well this year, mainly because of the involvement of Sharapova.
“We have already received terrific feedback from tennis fans following our live coverage of the qualifying tournaments from the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, and we’re delighted to be able to do the same for Wimbledon too,” Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton said.
“There is likely to be some high-profile players taking part in the Wimbledon qualifiers in 2017, so we’re expecting huge interest in our coverage from right across Europe.” he added.
Sharapova had conceded that she wouldn’t be requesting for a wildcard for Wimbledon, as she is ready to go through the grind and does not want any favours from the tournament organisers.
The qualifying tournament will be played from 26-29 June, and will be ticketed for the first time ever. 1000 tickets are for sale, with each of them priced at 5 pounds. Proceeds will go to the Wimbledon Foundation.
This year’s Wimbledon would also include inflatable covers on two courts and will have an improved player lounge. With Wimbledon bringing about a host of new changes for this year’s championships, BBC went onto ask Richard Lewis, the All England Club chief executive, if all these changes were being ringed in for Sharapova, to which he said, “I know it does seem very convenient timing but it is actually unrelated, genuinely unrelated, and we know that qualifying needs to continue to be improved, just like we improve facilities here at the championships. It’s part of an ongoing process.”
While the facility improvement process must have been in Wimbledon’s plans, the broadcasting plans have certainly been brought in because of Sharapova’s involvement.