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Maria Sharapova relishing return to tennis after doping ban

By Eleanor Crooks

Maria Sharapova will make her professional tennis comeback following her doping ban at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart in April.

The former world number one is serving a 15-month ban after testing positive for cardiac drug meldonium last January and is eligible to compete again on April 26.

The Stuttgart tournament is an obvious comeback event given Porsche is one of her main sponsors, but it had been thought she would not be able to play because it starts two days before her suspension runs out.

Sharapova will not be allowed to attend the tournament until the Wednesday, the day of her first match.

She said: "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."

Sharapova will return to tennis without a ranking and needs a wild card to enter the tournament. Whether to invite one of the game's biggest stars will be a big decision for many events in the initial months of her comeback. The two-time French Open champion would need a wild card to play in Paris, and the situation will almost certainly be the same come Wimbledon.

Stuttgart is one of Sharapova's most successful events, with the 29-year-old having won the title for three years in a row from 2012 to 2014.

She last played a professional tournament at the Australian Open almost 12 months ago, where she failed the doping test.

Sharapova was a long-time user of meldonium and was unaware it had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016.

The five-time grand slam champion was initially banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation but that was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in October.

Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios' controversial career took another turn on Monday night when he was pictured wearing a '**** Donald Trump' T-shirt at a press conference in Sydney.

The Australian changed into the top, which also displayed a picture of the US President complete with devil horns, shortly after defeating Rafael Nadal in five sets in a Fast4 exhibition match in his homeland.

When asked about wearing the T-shirt, Kyrgios said: "It's pretty explanatory."

Kyrgios was fined twice by the Association of Tennis Professionals, firstly for an on-court remark about Stan Wawrinka's girlfriend during their Rogers Cup match in Montreal in 2015 and then a year later for his behaviour during a defeat to qualifier Mischa Zverev at the Shanghai Masters.

British number one Johanna Konta reached the last eight of the Sydney International with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Australian Daria Gavrilova.

The 25-year-old dropped only four points on serve in the first set.

Belfast Telegraph


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