Sharapova to return from ban in April at Stuttgart event

Sharapova to return from doping ban in April

MOSCOW — Maria Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a tournament in Germany in April.

Car manufacturer Porsche, which sponsors both Sharapova and the event in Stuttgart, said Tuesday that Sharapova has been given a wild-card entry into the tournament. It will be her first official competition since she tested positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

"I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favorite tournaments," said the 29-year-old Sharapova, who won the Stuttgart tournament from 2012-14. "I can't wait? to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love."

Sharapova will be eligible to return on April 26, the third day of main-draw play, which could leave her facing a busy schedule of matches in order to win a fourth Stuttgart title.

"I'm sure the fans will be excited to see her play," WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.

The Russian will have to rely on wild-card invites to tournaments, including Grand Slams, for a while because her ban means she has fallen out of the world rankings, which only count tournament performances over the preceding 12 months.

Sharapova was originally banned for two years but that was reduced on appeal in October. She said she had used meldonium for years for medical reasons and was not aware it had been banned for 2016.

During her ban, she has played in some exhibition events. Known for setting up her own confectionary brand and for an interest in the commercial side of tennis, Sharapova also enrolled in a two-week program at Harvard Business School last year.

© The Associated Press FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 10, 2016 file photo, Maria Sharapova speaks to members of the media prior to a World Team Tennis exhibition in Las Vegas, U.S. Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a…

Maria Sharapova to return from ban in April at Stuttgart event

Maria Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a tournament in Germany in April.

Car manufacturer Porsche, which sponsors both Sharapova and the event in Stuttgart, says Sharapova has been given a wild-card entry into the tournament. It will be her first official competition since she tested positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

Sharapova, who won the Stuttgart tournament from 2012-14, says "I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favorite tournaments."

Sharapova was originally banned for two years but that was reduced on appeal in October. She said she had used meldonium for years and was not aware it had been banned for 2016.


Maria Sharapova's Return Date from Doping Ban Announced

Maria Sharapova will make her return to tennis at April's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart after serving her 15-month doping ban. The Russian will be in action at the event in Germany, according to a report on Tuesday from the Associated Press (h/t the Denver Post).

Sharapova, who is sponsored by Porsche, expressed her delight at being able to participate in competitive action on April 26, per BBC Sport: "I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments. I can't wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love."

Steve Simon, CEO of the WTA, announced the news and noted how Sharapova's return will be great for the fans in Germany, according to the association's official site: "Maria is eligible to return to professional tennis beginning on April 26. This will be the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart's 40th anniversary and I'm sure the fans there will be excited to see her play."

It will be Sharapova's first appearance in a tournament since she was hit with a two-year suspension from the International Tennis Federation back in June 2016. Sharapova had been found guilty of violating anti-doping regulations.

At the time of the ban, Sharapova bemoaned the injustice of the sentence. She felt it was disproportional, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell: "I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years."

However, her ban was subsequently reduced to 15 months back in October, per an AP report (h/t the Denver Post). The event in Stuttgart is the first the Russian is eligible to appear in.

Yet the idea of a winning return shouldn't be easily assumed, even if her history suggests otherwise. Sharapova enjoyed a hat-trick of wins at this tournament from 2012-14, per the BBC Sport report.

Still, the same source has detailed how Sharapova will have to enter 2017's event as a wild card. She will no longer be a ranked player following her ban.

Those things will only make it tougher for Sharapova to keep pace with Serena Williams and the best of the WTA.

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