Former world number one, Maria Sharapova will return to competitive tennis at the Porshe Tennis Grand Prix on Wednesday, April 26, 2017; the day her 15-month doping ban expires.
The tournament organisers made this announcement on Tuesday, revealing that the Russian had accepted a wildcard to feature at the meet, where she was champion between 2012 and 2014. The five-time Grand Slam winner has not played since the 2016 Australian Open, where she suffered a quarter-final defeat to Serena Williams. Sharapova announced in March that she had tested positive for the banned substance, Meldonium during the Australian Open, but she argued that she was unaware that the drug had become illegal.
Meldonium was only added to the banned list at the start of 2016.
Sharapova, who claimed she had used the drug for about a decade, was initially given a two-year ban, but her suspension was reduced to fifteen months following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports. Her ban officially expires on April 26, two days after the commencement of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. The 29-year-old Russian is naturally delighted with her impending return to the tour.
"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.", the Russian said.
WTA CEO, Steve Simon also shared in the excitement:‘Maria is eligible to return to professional tennis beginning April 26th. This will be the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart’s 40th anniversary and I’m sure the fans will be excited to see her play’.
Due to her lengthy suspension, Sharapova does not have an official world ranking, and was only able to get into the tournament via a wildcard. Past Grand Slam champions have access to an unlimited number of wildcard nominations. The Russian will hope to return to Grand Slam action at the French Open, which begins at Roland Garros on Sunday, May 28. Sharapova is a 2-time champion in Paris.