Almost two years since the former world number one Maria Sharapova was barred from the tennis court due to a doping ban, she returned to her earlier campaign at the Brisbane International. On her way through the familiar court and opponent faces, the five-time Grand Slam champion while rediscovering her old charm has also noticed a disturbing discrimination on court. Sharapova says the women’s Brisbane International feels like a “second-hand” event because the men’s ATP Cup has taken over centre court, while women players stay relegated to outside courts.

Since the WTA event is taking place at the Queensland Tennis Centre alongside the Brisbane round, women’s events are being considered secondary while men take full advantage of this power play. “There’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre-court spot,” the five-time Grand Slam champion said, BBC reported. The 2004 champion retired with a left arm injury.

Sharapova was handed an Australian Open wildcard on Wednesday as she attempts to retry this season overcoming the injuries from 2019

Besides her, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens has also accused organisers of favouring male players, with women’s matches being played on outside courts. “We just weren’t in the conversation to even be considered,” the American, 26, said. She is on the WTA players’ council, said it was clear women had been side-lined.

Russia’s Sharapova, who lost in the first round to American qualifier Jennifer Brady on Tuesday, added, “You definitely recognise it and notice it. It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event.” ATP Cupevents will go on till Wednesday, so that means the women can only play on centre court from Thursday, the ATP Cup’s innovative tournament rules states.

Key Takeaways:

  • Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova was handed an Australian Open wildcard on Wednesday as she attempts to retry this season overcoming the injuries from 2019
  • On her return, she noticed discrimination at court. Sharapova says the women’s Brisbane International feels like a “second-hand” event because the men’s ATP Cup has taken over centre court, while women players stay relegated outside courts
  • “There’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre-court spot,” the experienced player said

Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley did not address the issue. “I’m not sure (but) I heard that because the way that the court is constructed, that it’s not regulation for us to be playing on centre court with the benches on the side. I don’t know what else it might be that’s preventing (us playing there), because I think there’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre court spot in this draw. Everyone should have a conversation about it, that’s just my outside view,” Sharapova added.

With a wildcard entry, she is eyeing to get one step closer to the dream of regaining the title. It’s been fifteen years since she shot to global fame when she captured the Wimbledon title, but most of her return campaign last year remained unfulfilled due to an injured forearm.

“It was what the ATP wanted – they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that’s kind of how it always is.”

READ: Sania Mirza Inaugurates Tennis Court For Kids In Hyderabad

The 32-year-old made a comeback at the tour in Mallorca last year after five months out to recover from right shoulder surgery in January. The five-time major winner and former world number one has nothing to show beyond the quarter-finals of a Slam since she returned from an 18-month drug ban in 2017.

Between 2004-2012, Sharapova played in seven WTA finals, winning Wimbledon in 2004 and two Birmingham crowns.

Her last major on-court appearance was at the St Petersburg Open in her native Russia in January 2019, eventually losing the French Open to Ashleigh Barty at round16 of the Australian Open.

READ: 83-Yr-Old Granny Is A Tennis Champ

Feature Image Credit: ABS-CBN News

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