STUTTGART, Germany — Maria Sharapova returns after a 15-month doping ban Wednesday, determined to rediscover the glory which introduced her 5 Grand Slams, the world’s high rating and a spectacular multi-million greenback life-style.
The poster lady of ladies’s tennis gained’t essentially be welcomed back with open arms by rivals who had been already suspicious of the towering Russian’s ice-cold detachment even earlier than her fall from grace.
However, Sharapova isn’t shedding any sleep because the 30-year-old prepares for her first match since being defeated by Serena Williams in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals
READ: Sharapova’s doping ban lower from 2 years to 15 months
“That is the least of my concerns. I know that I am respected in my field. I see it in how my opponents play against me,” mentioned Sharapova who was controversially handed a wild card into this week’s Stuttgart occasion, a clay court docket event sponsored by Porsche, one in every of her headline backers.
She was even given a Wednesday begin as that’s the day her ban — imposed for testing constructive for meldonium ultimately 12 months’s Australian Open — involves an finish.
Sharapova, who begins her Stuttgart marketing campaign towards Italian veteran Roberta Vinci, had been taking the over-the-counter cardiac complement when it was inside the guidelines, however was later reclassified as a prohibited drug.
Far from being remorseful, Sharapova not too long ago hit out at tennis authorities for failing to present her ample warning that meldonium had change into a banned substance.
The Russian will step onto heart court docket at 1830 (1630 GMT) on Wednesday and will not have picked a greater event for her return, having gained the Stuttgart title 3 times, and struggling only one defeat.
If she will get by way of her opener, she might face Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, one in every of her fiercest critics, in the second spherical.
Radwanska, the sixth-seed in Stuttgart, expects a ‘fierce’ return from the Russian, however says Sharapova ought to have needed to qualify on advantage moderately than being given a free cross on a wild card.
“This kind of entry into the tournament should apply to players who dropped in the ranking because of injury, illness or some other random event. Not for those suspended for doping,” mentioned Radwanska.
Sharapova’s agent Max Eisenbud believes his consumer’s rivals are motivated solely by jealousy particularly with Sharapova battling additionally for a French Open wild card.
“All those ‘journeyman’ players like Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki who have never won a slam and the next generation passing them. They are smart to try to keep Maria out of Paris,” Eisenbud mentioned.
“NO Serena, NO Maria, NO Vika, NO Petra, it’s their last chance to win a slam,” he added, a nod to the absence of pregnant Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, anticipated to return in July after having a child.
Sharapova can anticipate loads of help from the Stuttgart organizers as her return is the spotlight in the event’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
As an envoy for Porsche, she is certain of a heat welcome. Her confectionary model — Sugarpova — can have a stand in the event’s retail village.
Tournament director Markus Guenthardt is aware of her presence will increase ticket gross sales.
“Her return in the Porsche Arena is a fabulous present for our fantastic spectators and is certain to be one of the sporting and emotional highlights of our anniversary tournament,” he mentioned.
As properly as Radwanska, lots of her different potential Stuttgart rivals have made it clear they disapprove of her getting a serving to hand into the principle draw.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, this 12 months’s high seed and the one participant to have crushed Sharapova in Stuttgart, mentioned her place ought to have gone to native expertise.
“It’s a German tournament, and we [have] so many good German players, so this is also a little bit strange,” mentioned Kerber.
“It’s also strange for the players, that she can walk on site on Wednesday and she can play on Wednesday.”
Dominika Cibulkova, the third seed, claims Sharapova is benefiting from unfair remedy.
“It’s not about her, but everyone who was doping should start from zero,” mentioned the Slovakian. CBB
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