Maria Sharapova doesn’t plan to play for Russia in Fed Cup against the Netherlands in the first week of February, which will jeopardize her Olympic chances.
“If she withdraws from playing with Netherlands and we lose the match she will not play at the Olympics,” Russian tennis federation boss Shamil Tarpishchev said, according to Agence France-Presse, citing comments in Russian to news agency TASS.
Sharapova must be part of a Fed Cup team one more time to be eligible for the Rio Games.
Sharapova was named to Russia’s initial team last week for its Fed Cup date with the Netherlands in Moscow from Feb. 6-7. Russia will be heavily favored to advance, since it has seven players ranked in the top 91. The Netherlands’ best player is ranked No. 95.
Sharapova, who lost to Serena Williams in the 2012 Olympic final and again in the Australian Open quarterfinals Tuesday, said after her latest match that she doesn’t plan to play again until March due to a forearm injury that she’s dealt with since before last week’s Fed Cup announcement.
“I’m going to go and take care of my forearm first,” she said Tuesday. “I think that’s really important. I’m going to go to Moscow [for Fed Cup], be part of the team. I don’t think I’ll be playing. Then I’m not sure.
“But I think this will be a time to just get myself ready for a long year. I don’t see myself playing anything before Indian Wells [in March].”
Regardless of if Russia wins or loses against the Netherlands, it will play Fed Cup again in April, but Tarpishchev said Sharapova’s Olympic eligibility will be tied to Russia winning in February.
“If Sharapova wants to compete at the Olympics she has to play for Russia in the Fed Cup,” Tarpishchev said, according to AFP. “That’s the rule, and she needs either to play against Netherlands or in Russia’s next Fed Cup match if we manage to go through.”
The International Tennis Federation said Sharapova doesn’t need to play Fed Cup to be eligible, but she must be on the team.
“In order to complete her eligibility for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Maria Sharapova must be part of the final nominated Russian team,” an ITF official said in an email. “She does not need to contest a rubber, however she must be present at the tie. If she chooses not to join the team for the first round [against the Netherlands], she will have the opportunity to meet the Olympic criteria again in the semifinals and play-offs in April.”
Sharapova missed the 2008 Olympics due to a shoulder injury and the 2004 Olympics because she wasn’t ranked high enough when the Russian Olympic team was determined, before she won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon that year.
She carried the Russian flag at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and was among the final torch bearers at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
NBC Olympics producer Dan Levinsohn contributed to this report.