Maria Sharapova’s imminent return to tennis next month is causing conflicting opinions to say the least - and now the Russian’s fellow WTA players have had their say on the issue.
Sharapova, who received a reduced 15-month ban for a doping violation after being caught using Meldonium at the Australian Open last year, will mark her competitive return to tennis at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart next month.
The former World No. 1 and five-time grand slam champion controversially received a wildcard into the Premier-level tournament - despite still being banned when the event gets underway and being prohibited from entering the grounds until she plays her first round on Wednesday. Sharapova has also been awarded wildcards at prestigious clay tournaments following Stuttgart at Madrid and Rome.
Opinion: Why the fashion in which Maria Sharapova is returning to tennis is disgraceful
Already not the most popular player among her peers, the red carpet treatment laid down for Sharapova upon her return is a big topic of conversation as the first Premier Mandatory tournament of the year - the BNP Paribas Open - taking place this week at Indian Wells.
German Angelique Kerber, who will return to World No. 1 after Indian Wells, said Sharapova being immediately rewarded with wildcards after a doping ban was ‘weird’.
"It's a little bit strange, the situation, because I think she can just come on site on Wednesday. So it's a strange situation. I don't know what to say about this. It's a little bit strange also for the other players that someone can only just walk on site on Wednesday and play on Wednesday. So it's a little bit weird.
"I don't know yet who will get wildcards as well, but for me it's a little bit weird because it is a German tournament and for me, [there are so] many good German players and I think a few of us will need a wildcard to get into the main draw as well. So this is a little bit strange. The Germans are playing Fed Cup, we are playing for the country, and we are trying to make German tennis more famous again. More people are taking the racquets again. So yeah, the situation is a little bit weird."
Angelique Kerber (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Open finalist and World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova wasn’t giving too much away but did declare that tennis would be better for the return of Sharapova.
"Definitely I think tennis needs a person like she is, so on one hand it's good that she's gonna be back. It doesn't matter how she's gonna play.
"On the other hand, obviously there are all these discussions now about how she's gonna get the wildcards. I think it depends on the tournaments and the directors who decide on the wildcards. I have my own opinions but I'm just not going to say it."
But most erred on the side of caution when confronted with the topic.
Simona Halep agreed with Andy Murray’s comments in Dubai last month
, where the men’s No. 1 said that players should have to work their way back to the top levels of tennis after being convicted of doping - not be rewarded with wildcards.
Simona Halep (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
"I heard what Andy Murray said [about this]. I think he's right in his position,” Halep said.
Svetlana Kuznetsova also didn’t know how to feel about her compatriot’s foray back into tennis.
"It's a very hard call. I wonder what to do in this situation because there is one case and then there's another case. Each case is different. It's really hard to make a call.
"I understand because if we talk about cheaters, people who cheat, then you say why would cheaters get a wildcard? [But] if [it was because of] some mistake, then it's a little bit different story. But it's really hard to say. I understand all the sides. It's really hard."
The WTA has also come under fire for a tweet they sent out on Thursday.
The tour’s organising body tweeted that players were looking forward to Sharapova coming back to tennis - a claim that was immediately shut down by France’s Alize Cornet.
Both tweets have since been deleted.
Sharapova’s comeback tournament - the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix - begins next month on April 24.