MADRID (AP) — Maria Sharapova is not yet worried about whether she will be awarded a wild card for Wimbledon following her doping ban.
After moving into the second round of the Madrid Open on Sunday, Sharapova said it’s too early to think about the July tournament.
“I mean, look, I would love to be in a position to compete in that event,” she said. “It’s very meaningful to me. But it’s just too far down the line right now.”
Sharapova defeated Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia in three sets for her fourth victory since serving a 15-month ban for testing positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open. She was eliminated in the semifinals in Stuttgart last month in her first tournament since the ban.
“I feel like I’m like a broken-record player, but these tournaments are really important,” Sharapova said. “The match play that I have, getting myself in these situations, getting out of them, will ultimately help me for those big events whether I’m in there or not.”
Sharapova, who is also expected to play in Rome later this month, has been playing on wild-card entries because she lost her ranking following the doping suspension.
The decision on her wild card for Wimbledon may not come until June 20, according to tournament officials. The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player will know on May 16 if she will be able to compete on a wild card in the French Open, which starts May 22.
A win in the second round in Madrid against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, one of the most outspoken players against Sharapova’s return to tennis, could be enough to let the Russian qualify for Wimbledon on points, without needing a wild card.
Bouchard, who called Sharapova “a cheater” and said she should be banned for life from tennis, was a finalist in Wimbledon in 2014. Sharapova won the 2004 title in Wimbledon.
Sharapova said playing as many matches as possible is the most important thing for her at the moment.
“I feel like it’s still a learning experience, and it’s still just getting back in the groove and understanding what I need to work on and improve,” she said. “But those are all things that are normal and are part of the process, part of kind of the journey that I’ve started.
“You can train for as much as you want, but playing the matches and being in that competitive environment is just not the same. You can never replicate it,” she said. “Expectations of how I play, I’ll get back into that. But, as I said, the match play is the most important thing right now.”
Sharapova said she is not being affected by the off-the-court controversy involving her return to tennis.
“I’m very much in my element. I think it’s always great to be the person that’s kind of in control of your actions while everything around you is moving in a different way,” she said. “Not much has changed from my end. I still go through my routines. I still go through my training. I’m around my team. But then there’s a little bit more around. I definitely feel it, but it doesn’t change anything that I do.
“I’m kind of the driver of that,” she said. “I like being in that position. I like doing my work. I love being quiet about it and letting everyone around speak or have the noise, whatever it is.”
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