'Unpopular' Sharapova urged to be more friendly

Tennis great Boris Becker has delivered some stinging advice to "unpopular" Maria Sharapova ahead of her return from a doping ban.

 

The organisers of the French Open will decide on May 15 if the Russian will be invited after completing a 15-month suspension for doping.

French Tennis Federation officials told EFE that its president, Bernard Giudicelli, chose May 15 as the deadline to decide whether or not to invite Sharapova, former world No.1 and winner of five grand slams.

Six-time grand slam champion Becker says he hopes Sharapova's comeback will prompt a change in the Russian's attitude toward other players.

"There’s no secret that she was one of the most unpopular players in the locker room so a lot of players have their opinions about her," Becker told the UK's Daily Telegraph.

"The question is on her and how does she treat the comeback? Will she behave the way she behaved before? That would not be so good.

"Will she be a bit more charming and a bit more friendly to everybody? I hope so. People make mistakes, it’s the nature of things. I just hope she becomes a little more friendly towards the other players.

"She's still a young woman, there's still room for improvement on a personal level. On a professional level she was a grand slam champion, she is a superstar in her sport. So I hope she can add to it a little bit on a personal level."

Image: AAP

Sharapova is set to return to court in next week's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, with several competitors slamming the decision to grant her a wildcard at the expense of current players on tour.

"It's a German tournament (Stuttgart) and we have so many good German players, so this is a little strange," world number one Angelique Kerber said of Sharapova's inclusion.

Sharapova's first match comes on day three in Stuttgart, which just happens to be the day after her doping ban officially ends, prompting Caroline Wozniacki to accuse tennis officials of favouritism.

"Rules are twisted and turned in favour of who wants to do what," Wozniacki told the BBC.

"I think everyone deserves a second chance, but at the same time, I feel like when a player is banned for drugs, I think that someone should start from the bottom and fight their way back.

"I think it's very questionable allowing — no matter who it is — a player that is still banned to play a tournament that week.

"From the tournament side, it's disrespectful to the other players and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)."

Sharapova was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation in June following a doping test conducted in January 2016 during her participation in the Australian Open. The sanction was later dropped to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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