Tennis keen to see Sharapova return
French Open organiser and fans especially happy ‘unfairly harsh’ doping ban soon to end
BERLIN — Fivetimes grand slam champion Maria Sharapova will return to competitive action at the Stuttgart Grand Prix in April, following a 15month doping ban, the Russian said yesterday.
The Floridabased Sharapova was originally banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.
The former world number one, one of the highest paid athletes in the world in the past decade, admitted she had used meldonium for years and was not aware it had been banned since the start of 2016.
Her suspension was later cut to 15 months on appeal.
“I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” Russian Sharapova, who won the indoor clay event three years running from 2012, said on the tournament website.
“I can’t wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”
She will return to action in time to contest the season’s second grand slam at Roland Garros. The French Open be gins on May 22.
“I’m really happy for Maria that she’s back after a long break. Particularly pleasing for me is that it’s going to be our audience that gets to watch her comeback live,” said tournament director Markus Guenthardt.
“[It] … is certain to be one of the sporting and emotional highlights of our anniversary tournament.”
Sharapova, who will turn 30 on April 19, had earned $29,7 million in 2015 as the world’s highest paid female athlete.
She had called the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) original ruling “unfairly harsh” as an independent tribunal had found that she had not intentionally violated recently changed antidoping rules.
In this October 2016 file photo, Maria Sharapova speaks to members of the media prior to a World Team Tennis exhibition in Las Vegas. Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a tournament in Germany in April.