Andy Roddick, Nick Kyrgios weigh in on Maria Sharapova wild-card controversy

NEW YORK -- Andy Roddick is split when it comes to the growing controversy about whether Maria Sharapova, who will return next month from a 15-month doping suspension, should be awarded a wild card into the French Open.

"It's two different issues -- the issue of morality and how you view it, and the issue of business," Roddick, the last American men's Grand Slam champion, told in advance of his appearance Monday at the BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition in New York's Madison Square Garden. "If there's a smaller event that will benefit from having Maria, I don't begrudge them giving her the card. The Grand Slams are different. They're held to a higher standard because there's so much interest in them."

It's a unique situation. Other players suspended for doping violations have sought to rebuild their careers, but none with the résumé -- or celebrity -- of five-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 Sharapova.

Roddick was responding to comments made recently by Andy Murray and by the president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli.

"I think you should really have to work your way back," Murray said last week, referring to Sharapova's return. The Russian star is 29, and she'll be unranked when her ban expires on April 26. She has already been offered wild cards into three events, including one that will already be underway the day her suspension ends.

The Stuttgart tournament, which starts the week of April 24, will delay the completion of first-round matches in order to squeeze Sharapova in on the day she becomes eligible to play. French Open tuneup tournaments in Madrid and Rome have also already offered Sharapova wild cards. But even if she runs the table at those events, Sharapova will not have earned enough points to be a direct entry into the French Open.

Although Sharapova is a two-time French Open champion, Giudicelli expressed reservations about offering her a wild card.

"It's complicated." Giudicelli said, according to Agence France-Presse. "Integrity is one of our strong points. We cannot decide, on the one hand, to increase the amount of funds we dedicate to the anti-doping battle and, on the other, invite her."

"I'm anti-anything that's performance-enhancing, massively against it. I'm not the one to say what [violators] should -- or shouldn't -- get afterwards, but it doesn't make sense to support people who cheat."
Nick Kyrgios

Said Roddick: "If the French Federation doesn't want to give her the wild card, that's their prerogative. The higher level of interest in that event also means a higher level of responsibility. But it's naive to pretend that their situation isn't different from that of a small tournament that can really benefit from Sharapova's presence."

Other active players on hand for the exhibition had varied opinions.

"I'm anti-anything that's performance-enhancing, massively against it," Nick Kyrgios said. "I'm not the one to say what [violators] should -- or shouldn't -- get afterwards, but it doesn't make sense to support people who cheat."

American Jack Sock, who won the Delray Beach Open a couple of weeks ago, didn't have a strong opinion.

"I haven't thought about it, to be honest," Sock said. "I don't know. It's a tournament director's decision who gets [wild cards]. As a player, I have no say one way or another."

Wimbledon, where Sharapova hoisted the winner's trophy in 2004, might face the same dilemma as the French Open.

"If she [isn't successful], that becomes Wimbledon's decision and how they want to play that," Murray said. "I'm sure they'll think long and hard about it, and how they feel people will view it, and then make the right decision for them."

Murray wouldn't hazard a guess at what that decision might be. Look for a precedent to be set one way or the other by the French Open.