Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, 29, said she has got her “day job back” and fought hard for the truth as she prepares to return to tennis after a 15-month ban.
The Russian and former World No 1, who tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, a medication she had been taking for 10 years within the rules before being reclassified as a banned drug.
She was banned for two years last June but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the suspension. She will return at next month’s Porsche Grand Prix, courtesy of a wildcard entry.
“Will it be difficult? Absolutely. In tennis you lose a lot of hand-eye coordination. Practice is never the same as matchplay, to face someone on the other side of the net,” She said.
Sharapova is free to return on April 26, two days after the start of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart meaning she won’t be able to attend the tournament until the day of her match.
Sharapova also has wildcards for May’s tournaments in Madrid and Rome, though she has already taken part in two exhibition events since her ban was reduced.
“When you love what you do, and you do it with passion and integrity and you work hard and have a team around you, and you’re the driving force, you know what you stand for and who you are,” she told an ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference. “I’ve got my day job back. It’s great. I’ve been training quite hard for the past four months,” she added.
According to BBC, Sharapova was a long-time user of meldonium and says she was unaware it had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016.
On appeal, CAS found she was not an “intentional doper” and reduced her suspension. “I fought so hard for the truth,” she added. “You don’t realise how much you love something until you lose it for some time.”
Recall that Serena Williams has not played competitively since winning an Open Era record 23rd grand slam title at the Australian Open in January. She withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells this month, revealing she had not been able to train due to a problem with her left knee.
Williams has been selective over which tournaments she has entered in order to give herself every chance of challenging for further major titles, but was yesterday included in the entry list for the Madrid Open.
This means the American legend and Maria Sharapova will both feature in Madrid next month.