Shara­pova set for Rogers Cup

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

TORONTO — Rus­sian ten­nis star Maria Shara­pova will con­tinue her come­back from a 15-month doping ban at this sum­mer’s Rogers Cup in Toronto.

The tour­na­ment says she has been awarded a main draw wild card for the Au­gust event.

Since the end of her ban, Shara­pova has used wild-card en­tries to play three events on the WTA Tour.

In her first tour­na­ment in Stuttgart, she won three matches to reach the semi­fi­nals be­fore los­ing to Kristina Mlade­n­ovic.

Then, af­ter de­feat­ing Mir­jana Lu­cic-Ba­roni in her open­ing match in Madrid, she came up against Cana­dian Eu­ge­nie Bouchard, who said Shara­pova was a “cheater” and should be banned for life for doping. Bouchard won 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Other play­ers, in­clud­ing Andy Mur­ray and An­gelique Kerber, have been out­spo­ken about Shara­pova re­ceiv­ing free passes into events.

Rogers Cup tour­na­ment di­rec­tor Karl Hale called her a “fan favourite,” point­ing out that she had done her time for the doping in­frac­tion.

“She has served her sus­pen­sion and we know our guests will be ex­cited to see her play,” he said in a state­ment.

The 30-year-old’s best re­sult at the Rogers Cup came in 2009, when she ad­vanced to the fi­nal.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to com­ing back to Canada,” Shara­pova said of her first ap­pear­ance in the tour­na­ment since 2014. “I have some great me­mories of play­ing Toronto in the past, and the tour­na­ment and the fans have al­ways been so sup­port­ive.”

Wild cards are of­fered at a tour­na­ment’s dis­cre­tion to play­ers whose rank­ing would not qual­ify them for the event on their own. Should Shara­pova rise in the rank­ings be­fore the tour­na­ment’s en­try dead­line to make the main draw cut-off on her own merit, the wild card would be given back to Rogers Cup for use on another player.

She is cur­rently ranked 173rd in the world.

Last week, Shara­pova was granted a wild card to play in the preWim­ble­don tour­na­ment in Birm­ing­ham. The Ae­gon Clas­sic be­gins on June 19, two weeks be­fore Wim­ble­don.

Shara­pova has also said she will play in the Wim­ble­don qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment, which be­gins June 26.

The Rus­sian will need to win three matches to enter the main draw.

Shara­pova ini­tially was given a two-year sus­pen­sion af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for the banned heart drug mel­do­nium at last year’s Aus­tralian Open. The Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport re­duced the ban on ap­peal, rul­ing she bore “less than sig­nif­i­cant fault” in the case and she could not “be con­sid­ered to be an in­ten­tional doper.”

Shara­pova had been tak­ing mel­do­nium for many years, but over­looked an­nounce­ments by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

AN­DREW MEDICHINI, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Maria Shara­pova will par­tic­i­pate in this sum­mer’s Rogers Cup in Toronto.

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