NEW YORK: Caroline Wozniacki slammed as “unacceptable and questionable” the US Open decision to give Maria Sharapova back-to-back matches on the showpiece Arthur Ashe Stadium in the Russian’s first Grand Slam appearance since serving a doping ban.
Wozniacki was furious that she was sent to play her second-round match on an outside court while five-time major winner Sharapova was scheduled twice on the tournament’s biggest arena.
“I think putting out a schedule where the fifth seed is playing on Court 5, fifth match on after 11 p.m. – I think that’s unacceptable,” said Wozniacki who, like Sharapova, is a former world number one but who has never won a Grand Slam title.
“When you look on Center Court, I understand completely the business side of things, but someone who comes back from a drugs sentence — performance enhancing drugs — and all of a sudden gets to play every single match on Center Court, I think that’s a questionable thing to do.
“I think it doesn’t set a good example and I think someone who has fought their way back from injury and is five in the world deserves to play on a bigger court than Court 5.
“Finally they moved us to Court 17, which is a really nice court actually and we had great atmosphere out there but I think they should probably look into what they need to do in the future.”
Wozniacki, the 2009 and 2014 runner-up in New York, became the fourth top-10 woman to exit the US Open on Wednesday night when she lost 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1 to Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.
Sharapova, the US Open champion in 2006, had earlier seen off Hungary’s Timea Babos on the 24,000-capacity Ashe, two days after she had knocked out world number two Simona Halep on the same court.
Sharapova served a 15-month suspension for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open and only returned to the tour in April.
She was refused a wild card to play at the French Open because of her suspension while injury ruled her out of Wimbledon.
The US Open, however, awarded a wild card into the tournament, the season’s final Grand Slam.
Ukraine fourth seed Elina Svitolina, who made the third round on Thursday by seeing off Evgeniya Rodina on Ashe, said she preferred not to get involved in a public slanging match.
“I don’t really care about her case. I have my own path. I have my own career. I have to really focus on that. I don’t really have to think about other players,” she said.
“I don’t like to be one of those speaking behind someone’s back.”
Scheduling on the prestigious Ashe court has raised eyebrows this week.
Rodina, ranked 89, played both her matches on the stadium, the biggest tennis arena in the world.
In Wednesday’s first round, she defeated Eugenie Bouchard, one of the sport’s top poster girls and media-savvy players.