Maria Sharapova is a former champion at WTA Cincinnati, however, she has not been a mainstay in the main draw over the years. The first time that she contested the event was in 2010, a tournament where she lost to Kim Clijsters in the final. The next season she would win the title through Vera Zvonavera and Jelena Jankovic in the late rounds. Since then she has made two appearances in the main draw, but none since 2014. This year she will be a wild card according to the tournament's official homepage.

Sharapova adds to tournament's depth

Tournament director Andre Silva claimed that Sharapova, among the other wild cards, adds to the tournament's "already strong player field" (Silva qtd.

at He continued: “We anticipate the WTA’s No. 1 ranking to be on the line during the Western & Southern Open, and adding players of this caliber will make the battle for the top spot even more compelling.”

Silva is spot-on with regard to the likelihood that the No. 1 ranking will be on the line. Currently, Karolina Pliskova holds the top spot, however, her chances of staying ranked that high over the next couple of months look slim at this point. Pliskova is ranked No. 1 thanks in large part to results that are about to drop of her ranking points total. Specifically, last year she won WTA Cincinnati and she made the US Open final. When her title from WTA Cincinnati 2016 is no longer a factor in her ranking, she will be at risk of sliding.

While Sharapova is not in contention for the No. 1 ranking at this point, the situation is one for Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza to watch. Those are two players that are in the hunt for top spot at this point, especially Muguruza, who has a lot of ranking points to gain in the months ahead.

Sharapova's wild card promises to draw ire

Sharapova's wild card eligibility has drawn some mixed reactions from fellow players and tennis commentators.

Her ranking is low, because she missed basically all of 2016 and some of 2017 due to her suspension from a positive test for a banned substance. Many feel that she should not get wild cards into tournaments due to this. Earlier this season she was denied entry into the French Open. Most recently, Chris Evert claimed that she did not think that Sharapova should get a wild card into the upcoming US Open's main draw.

Sharapova will be in the WTA Toronto main draw via wild card. If she does well in both Toronto and Cincinnati then the ranking points could be substantial for her. As of the July 24th rankings, Sharapova is the World No. 173. However, it's entirely possible for her to get into the top 30 should she post distinguished results in the two upcoming events.

Furthermore, she might do well in the WTA Stanford draw next week, although that event is low-tiered. Nonetheless, a good run over the next handful of weeks would put wild card issues to bed after the US Open, as she would then have a ranking that would qualify her for direct entry into any WTA Tour event.