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Roberta Vinci has questioned the decision to grant Maria Sharapova a wildcard for this week’s Stuttgart Open with the two players set to go head-to-head in the first round on Wednesday.
Former world number one Sharapova will be playing her first competitive match since returning from a 15-month drug suspension for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.
The five-time major winner has been handed a wildcard entry into this week’s event at the Porsche Arena and her first-round opponent Vinci has no problem with the Russian returning to the game, but she feels she should not be handed a wildcard place.
“She is of course a great player, I have nothing against her,” Vinci said. “She made her mistakes, for sure, but she paid and I think she can return to play – but without any wildcards.”
Sharapova has also been handed wildcard entries into the upcoming tournaments in Madrid and Rome, although she will have to reach the final in Stuttgart to be eligible for French Open qualifying.
Vinci is not the first player to question the decision to allow Sharapova a direct route back into tournaments, as former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and current world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska have also criticised the call.
Sharapova is priced at 1.33 to make a winning return to action against Vinci, who is available at 3.10 to win the match.
Whoever wins the first-round contest will face a difficult-looking match in the last 16, as they will come up against former top ten player Ekaterina Makarova.