Ten­nis keen to see Shara­pova re­turn

French Open or­gan­iser and fans es­pe­cially happy ‘un­fairly harsh’ dop­ing ban soon to end

The Witness - - RACING -

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.

PHOTO: AP

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.

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