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Maria Sharapova drugs test failure: Novak Djokovic backs under-fire tennis star 'to come out stronger'

By Eleanor Crooks

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has given his support to Maria Sharapova and said he hopes she "gets out of this stronger".

Women's tennis' most bankable star made the stunning announcement on Monday that she had failed a drugs test for Meldonium at the Australian Open.

Djokovic and Sharapova share a racquet sponsor and Djokovic has famously done impressions of the Russian on court.

He said: "I wish her all the best. I've known her for a long time. I feel for her with all that's happening and I just hope she gets out of this stronger."

Read more: Maria Sharapova: Knock-out drugs cheats says Carl Frampton

Chris Evert, though, has expressed her surprise at the lack of support for Sharapova.

The predominant response has been shock at how one of tennis' most professional and meticulous players could fail to take notice of warnings that a drug she had been taking for 10 years - which she says was for health reasons - had been banned.

There has been some support, with Sharapova's rival Serena Williams praising her courage in taking responsibility for her mistake.

But others have been less charitable. Three-time Grand Slam champion Jennifer Capriati wrote on Twitter: "I didn't have the high priced team of doctors that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up."

Read more: Maria Sharapova drug test failure: Tennis star feels heat as cost adds up

Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, said: "Maria Sharapova has always isolated herself from the rest of the tennis world. She's made that known, she can't be friends with the players.

"I'm not seeing a lot of support from a lot of the players.

"Whether it's shock or whether they don't want to become involved or have an opinion, it's surprising that not a lot of players have shown their support."

Sharapova has accepted a provisional suspension and will find out after a tribunal hearing what sanction she faces. The Russian admitted she received a link to the list of banned substances in December but did not click on it.

Read more: Maria Sharapova drugs test failure: Russian has got several questions to answer

Evert said: "Maria is the last person we'd expect this to happen to. To me, it's a good warning to all the superstars. It doesn't matter who you are."

The Russian has seen major sponsors Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche all distance themselves from her. Sharapova, the world's highest-earning female athlete for the last 11 years, faces losing a big chunk of her income but skincare company Supergoop is standing by her.

Sharapova signed a deal to be the face of the brand, which focuses on sun safety, in 2014 as well as becoming co-owner with founder Holly Thaggard.

Thaggard: "While we are surprised and disheartened by Maria Sharapova's recent announcement, we value our relationship as a co-owner and ambassador.

"We appreciate Maria's candour and will support her as the ITF investigation unfolds."

The ITF, meanwhile, confirmed Sharapova missed five opportunities in December alone to learn that Meldonium had become a banned substance.

Belfast Telegraph


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