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Sharapova only has herself to blame: Watson

By Tom Allnut

Britain's Heather Watson believes Maria Sharapova deserves her punishment after the Russian was handed a two-year ban for failing a drugs test.

Sharapova will be suspended until January 26, 2018 after testing positive for prohibited substance meldonium at this year's Australian Open.

The 29-year-old expressed dismay at the verdict, which she branded "unfairly harsh", and said she would lodge an immediate appeal to the court of arbitration for sport.

An independent tribunal conceded Sharapova may not have known meldonium had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list in January but concluded she was negligent in failing to make necessary checks.

Watson was speaking at the announcement of Team GB's Olympic tennis squad yesterday, in which she was named alongside Johanna Konta, Andy Murray and Jamie Murray.

The British number two expressed little sympathy for Sharapova.

"I think she's made a mistake," Watson said. "When you get drug tested you're supposed to write down on the form all medication you take, and she didn't.

"Now she has to pay the price for it. It's like a soap opera. It's so interesting to see this has happened in our sport."

Konta, who lost to Sharapova in the first round at Wimbledon last year, was more conciliatory towards the five-time major champion.

"It is very much a battle Sharapova is facing herself," Konta said.

"I think she's doing it with the utmost dignity. She said she takes full responsibility. The integrity of our sport is of the utmost importance. It's for her to deal with."

Konta will be making her debut at the Olympics as Andy Murray looks to recoup the singles gold medal he won at London 2012.

Murray will also again partner his brother Jamie, who won the Australian Open doubles earlier this year and will return to number one in the doubles rankings next week.

The Scottish brothers lost in the second round at the Olympics in 2008 and the first round in 2012, but victory in last year's Davis Cup means they will head to Brazil as one of the favourites.

"I probably didn't quite do myself justice at previous Games but I'm playing some of the best tennis of my career and I'm really excited to get going," Jamie Murray said.

"There's pressure to do well because if you stuff it up you have to wait another four years.

"London was a real anti-climax for me. I didn't perform well at all so I want to try to make amends for that.

"When I look back on my career the Davis Cup matches will be the matches I remember in particular. I think for us it was a confidence booster to know we can get the job done in those circumstances."

Konta and Watson could team up in the women's doubles if they make the cut while the combination for the mixed is less clear.

Team leader Iain Bates also said Andy Murray will stay outside the athletes village in Brazil to maintain a similar routine to what he is used to on tour.

Meanwhile Roger Federer's victory against qualifier Florian Mayer in the Mercedes Cup saw him move to second place in the list of Open Era match wins.

The Swiss passed Ivan Lendl with 1,072 match wins thanks to a 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/1) success yesterday to seal a place in the semi-finals in Stuttgart.

Only Jimmy Connors (1,256) has now won more career matches than Federer.

The top seed will play Dominic Thiem in the last four.

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