Maria Sharapova will not discover if she is to be awarded a Wimbledon wild card until after a meeting on 20 June, according to the All England Club’s chairman Philip Brook.
The club’s sub-committee, which will be chaired by former British No 1 Tim Henman, will then meet and make a decision on Sharapova, as long as the Russian does not qualify by ranking and submits a wild card application.
Sharapova returned from a 15-month suspension last month following a positive test for meldonium and is due to play two more events before the 22 May cut-off date for direct entry into the Wimbledon main draw.
She is now ranked 262nd in the world and could qualify by right if she does well at the clay-court events in Madrid and Rome. But if the 30-year-old fails to accumulate the required points, Wimbledon will have to choose whether to grant Sharapova a free pass.
“We have a long-standing, tried and tested process,” Brook said.
“That process is that in the week before qualifying we have a meeting of our Tennis Sub Committee. We discuss all the wild card applications at that point. This year is no different. We will wait to see whether Maria applies for a wild card and, if so, we will consider the case alongside everyone else’s.”
The committee will be made up of Henman, three club members including Brook, Debbie Jevans and Richard Stoakes, tournament referee Andrew Jarrett and two LTA members, Martin Corrie and Cathy Sabin. Brook suggested Sharapova’s status as a former champion – she won Wimbledon in 2004 – would be one of the factors taken into account, along with any decision made by the French Open, which starts later this month.
Andy Murray, however, expects Wimbledon to grant Sharapova a wild card if she does not qualify off her own back.
World No 1 Murray, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, thinks Sharapova will take care of her own business but would expect the All England Club to offer her a lifeline if she fails to make it.
“There might not even be a decision to be made because she might be in the main draw after Madrid or Rome,” Murray said yesterday at the launch of next month’s Queen’s tournament.
“I think there’s a good chance Wimbledon would give her one to get into qualifiers. I’m not sure what they will do but I’m sure they are hoping they don’t have to make the decision.
“There’s a good chance that she can get in by right, which I’m sure is what she’s hoping for and that’s what Wimbledon would be hoping for.”
Murray has concerns closer to home to contend with as his first few months as the world No 1 have been far from ideal.
Early exits from the Australian Open and Indian Wells, coupled with injury and illness have prevented the Scot kicking on from his stellar finish to last year.
He is battling his way back to fitness and form, with a run to the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open last week, but is now entering a period of the season where he has a huge number of ranking points to defend. The three-time grand slam winner is insistent that being at the summit of the rankings has not contributed to a difficult 2017.
“I think that was more like at the end of last year,” he said. “All that stuff felt a bit different to me. I’m now getting asked about it every week.
“It’s almost like trying to find a reason for why this year hasn’t been as good as the end of last year but it did not have anything to do with being world number one, in my opinion.
“I haven’t felt different when I go on to the court, I didn’t feel different when I was preparing for the Australian Open as I did in previous years. I really don’t think it has been anything to do with that.
“Definitely at the end of last year, there was a lot going on. But this year and especially the last few months, I haven’t felt any different or any extra pressure when I go on the court.
“Maybe now when you lose as number one, it’s a bigger story. It feels like each time you lose, it’s treated like more of a surprise.
“But I have lost early in Monte Carlo before, I’ve lost early in Indian Wells before.
“I’ve started clay-court seasons badly, I’ve had difficult runs and I also wasn’t number one, so I really don’t think it’s to do with that.
“It’s been a tricky year so far, and I’m hoping now that I’m through the worst of it and I can finish strong.”