As the aftershocks of Maria Sharapova’s announcement that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open continue to reverberate, fellow players are reacting to the stunning revelation.
World No. 1 Serena Williams said Sharapova “showed a lot of courage” by accepting responsibility for her actions and said she “hoped for the best” for the 28-year-old Russian, who is facing a suspension.
Former world No. 1 Justine Henin said Sharapova’s admission means “so many questions have to be asked.”
In a conference call with the media today to announce the July induction of Henin and fellow former world No. 1 Marat Safin into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the Grand Slam champions were both asked their views on Sharapova’s failed drug test and potential suspension from the sport.
Both Henin and Safin called the news “sad” and both stressed rules must be respected.
“Well I think it’s not nice what’s happening,” Henin told the media. “I think we’re sad and a little bit disappointed about the situation. It’s never good for the game or for anyone —the fans, for all the people who support the sport — and certainly not good for Maria at the moment. I’m not in the position to judge because we don’t know.”
Henin, who fell to Sharapova in the 2006 US Open final and defeated her in the gripping 2007 WTA Championships final in Madrid, said the five-time Grand Slam champion’s case raises many questions.
“So many questions have to be asked and it’s very difficult at the moment to give an opinion,” Henin said. “What I can just say is it’s not good for the game. Rules are important, that’s for sure. Rules have to be respected. That’s the thing we can say today. I feel a little bit sad about all of this.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Safin, who was Sharapova’s teammate on the Japan Warriors in the IPTL last December, said he “wants to believe” Sharapova did not intentionally violate doping rules.
“I think of course it’s definitely sad, first of all, for the sport,” Safin said. “Second of all, for Maria the situation is pretty difficult. But I think you have to understand, everyone has to understand, there a lot of technical, new things that they put on the (Banned) list. So it can be a technical mistake, also. But it depends on how they take it, how they see the situation.
“I don’t think it was her intentions (to violate the rules). Well, I believe so. I want to believe so. It has to be resolved in some certain, delicate way and not taken to a different level, not taken out of proportion…I hope everything will be resolved in the future. But of course, rules are rules, that’s for sure.”