Shara­pova re­turns to court in Las Ve­gas

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LAS VE­GAS:

Maria Shara­pova re­turned to the ten­nis court for two ex­hi­bi­tion matches on Mon­day, her first ap­pear­ance since testing pos­i­tive for the banned sub­stance mel­do­nium at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary.

The Rus­sian former world num­ber one played at the World Team Ten­nis “Smash Hits” event in Las Ve­gas, which raises money for the El­ton John Aids Foun­da­tion.

Shara­pova, who has slipped to 93rd in the world rank­ings, part­nered Amer­i­can Tay­lor John­son and lost her first match to Martina Navratilova and Liezel Hu­ber. “It’s very spe­cial to be back on the court,” she told re­porters be­fore the match.

“It’s been about seven months since I’ve played in front of spec­ta­tors and played in a sta­dium en­vi­ron­ment. Ob­vi­ously, very thank­ful for the in­vi­ta­tion, happy to be part of this cause.

“It’s been around for 24 years and it’s my first at­ten­dance. Thrilled to be part of it.” Shara­pova, whose ban was cut from two years to 15 months by the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion last week, can re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion in April, one month be­fore the French Open.

The 29-year-old, who teamed up with John McEnroe to beat Navratilova and Andy Rod­dick in her se­cond match, ac­knowl­edged that the jour­ney back would be a tough one.

“Yeah, I will look to play maybe a cou­ple of ex­hi­bi­tion events lead­ing up to my first tour­na­ment in April,” she added.

“I don’t know what those will be, but I think that’s one of the things that will be re­ally im­por­tant be­cause match play, you can never re­ally repli­cate it. You can prac­tise as much as you want but there’s noth­ing re­ally like it.” — Reuters

LAS VE­GAS: Ten­nis player Maria Shara­pova com­petes in the World Team Ten­nis Smash Hits char­ity ten­nis event ben­e­fit­ing the El­ton John AIDS Foun­da­tion at Cae­sars Palace on Mon­day in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada. — AFP

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