Sus­pen­sion ‘sharp­ened’ Shara­pova

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Five-time Grand Slam cham­pion Maria Shara­pova says her 15-month dop­ing ban has only sharp­ened her pas­sion for ten­nis.

The for­mer world No 1 from Rus­sia, prepar­ing to play at Stan­ford next week in her first WTA tour­na­ment in the United States since her sus­pen­sion ended, wrote on the Play­ers’ Tri­bune web­site of the roller­coaster of emo­tions she has ex­pe­ri­enced since re­turn­ing to com­pe­ti­tion in April.

“Though these last two years have been tougher — so much tougher — than I ever could have an­tic­i­pated ... my pas­sion for the game never wa­vered,” Shara­pova wrote. “If any­thing, it’s only grown sharper.”

Stan­ford tour­na­ment of­fi­cials gave the 30-year-old Shara­pova a wild­card en­try as she gets set to com­pete in the tour­na­ment for the first time six years.

Sim­i­lar wild­cards of­fered upon her come­back sparked crit­i­cism from some of her WTA peers, who felt she should have to work her way back from sus­pen­sion with­out such ben­e­fits.

Shara­pova tested pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium, a heart and blood-boost­ing drug, at the 2016 Aus­tralian Open. She said that she had taken it for sev­eral years and did not know it had been placed on the banned list at the be­gin­ning of 2016.

Shara­pova was is­sued with a two-year sus­pen­sion, but the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport re­duced it on ap­peal.

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