New Delhi: After suffering yet another defeat at the hands of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova found herself in the centre of a controversy regarding her willingness to represent Russia at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The president of Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Shamil Tarpishchev, has reportedly questioned the 28-year-old's intention, saying “If Sharapova wants to play at the Olympics, she will have to play for the national team."
“There are regulations set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). If Maria does not want to play for the national team but still wants to travel to the Olympics, she will have to lock horns with the ITF,” Tarpishchev was quoted as saying in a report in TASS.
Sharapova has repeatedly expressed her desire to represent Russia at the Games, but according to ITF guidelines, a player must play for the national team at least three times over the course of a four-year period.
And to fulfill that criteria, the world number five will need to play for Russia in the upcoming 2016 Fed Cup World Group encounter against the Netherlands in Moscow on February 6-7.
However, after the Australian Open quarter-final defeat to Serena, Sharapova said that she is not too sure of playing as she needs time recover from an injured forearm.
“I’m going to go to Moscow, be part of the team. I don’t think I’ll be playing. Then I’m not sure,” the former world number one said.
But her statement didn't go down well with Tarpishchev.
“I do not know why she made such statement after her match with Williams. Perhaps, she and her managers should thoroughly think it over once again,” Tarpishchev added.
Sharapova – who won the singles' silver medal at the 2012 London Games – played for the national squad twice last year.
Tennis tournaments at Rio Olympics will be held from 6 to 14 August, which is sandwich between the Wimbledon and US Open.