It has been reported that the ITF committee has changed its eligibility rule for the 2016 Olympics by doubling the amount of ties players will have to play leading up to the next Olympics.
Maria Sharapova is not in favor of this rule and has said this about the announcement:
“I met with them once in Miami. They didn’t listen to us at all.”
Currently, you have to make yourself available for two ties in the two years preceding the Olympics, but the new rule states that you now have to be available for four ties in the four-year period leading up to the Olympics and Sharapova argues that this kind of rule change can cause some trouble in the players’ schedules on the tour.
Sharapova herself did take part in two ties for Russia during the 2011 and 2012 Fed Cup seasons but you have to argue that she only did that in order to get herself to become eligible for the Olympics. Otherwise she usually blames an injury, fatigue or a busy schedule for her inability to participate in the Fed Cup when it isn’t mandatory. So it goes without saying that even though this new rule is in place, if a spot at the next Olympics is at stake, Sharapova will no doubt comply with the new rules in order to get there. It seems rather odd that other players haven’t opposed this rule change yet, but if they happen to, only then it will become an issue that needs to be looked into.
I personally don’t think other players have a problem with this rule change and if you do the math, four ties in the four years leading up to the Olympics is only one mandatory appearance per year which I think would be a great incentive for players to go out and play for their country at least once if they want to represent their country in the Olympics. If they don’t have the desire to represent their country in the Fed Cup, what kind of message does it send to let them represent their country in the Olympics, assuming they’re just going for the gold without any regard for the country they have chosen to represent.
If you are a citizen of a country and choose to retain the nationality of that country while playing a sport, the least you can do is play one tie a year in the Fed Cup; especially when it comes to Maria Sharapova, who has been known for opting out of many Fed Cup ties and who is now complaining that there are too many compulsory ties to play if you want to get to the Olympics.
You should be proud to represent your country no matter if you’re playing in the Fed Cup or the Olympics. And if you can’t make an appearance once a year to represent that country, maybe you shouldn’t take a spot that could be taken by someone who considers it an honor to represent their country in an international event.