Maria ex­cited about next month’s come­back

New Straits Times - - Sport -

RAN­CHO MI­RAGE: Ten­nis star Maria Shara­pova said on Tues­day she is ex­cited about her re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion next month, feel­ing vin­di­cated by the re­duc­tion of her dop­ing sus­pen­sion and em­pow­ered by her time away.

Rus­sia’s for­mer World No 1 was ini­tially barred for two years af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive at the 2016 Aus­tralian Open for mel­do­nium, a med­i­ca­tion she had been tak­ing for 10 years within the rules, but that was re­clas­si­fied as a banned drug.

Maria vig­or­ously fought to over­turn the ban, say­ing she had not been prop­erly ad­vised of the of­fi­cial change, and the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport cut the ban to 15 months and said in its rul­ing it did not be­lieve she was “an in­ten­tional doper.”

“Al­though I’m at a stage or age in my ca­reer where you’re closer to the end than your be­gin­ning, you al­ways want to end a chap­ter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice,” Maria told the ANA In­spir­ing Women in Sports con­fer­ence at Mis­sion Hills.

“That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out,” the five-time grand slam win­ner said at the pro­gramme that in­cluded ten­nis and women’s sports pi­o­neer Bil­lie Jean King, Olympic cham­pion gym­nast Aly Rais­man and 2014 ANA In­spi­ra­tion cham­pion golfer Lexi Thomp­son.

Maria’s ban will end two days af­ter the Stuttgart grand prix starts on April 24. She has been given a wild card by or­gan­is­ers, who sched­uled her first match on the Wed­nes­day in her com­pet­i­tive re­turn. Reuters

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