Maria Sharapova thanks fans for 'love and compassion' after drugs test failure
Maria Sharapova has thanked fans for their "love and compassion" following her drugs test failure.
The Russian tennis player stunned the sporting world by announcing she had failed a test during January's Australian Open for the banned substance Meldonium, a drug which she said she had taken on medical advice for 10 years.
Sharapova accepted full responsibility for failing to read a notice sent to her in December by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which added the drug to its banned list this year because of fears that it was being used to enhance performances.
Following her announcement Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche terminated their sponsorship with the athlete while the investigation is underway.
However tennis racquet manufacturer Head have announced they will extend their sponsorship deal with the star.
Posting on her Facebook page Maria said:
"I woke up yesterday morning with an inbox, in full capacity of love and compassion.
"The first email I immediately opened was from my best friend, you know, the type of person who can make you smile and cry with only one word and who I spent the evening on the phone with, checking up on me, how was I doing?
"On average, I love the mornings. New day, new start. It is fair to say that this day was not average. Nothing came to mind at 6am, except that I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so. I wish I didn't have to go through this, but I do - and I will.
"I needed to sweat, to push through and grind as I have done most of my life, so I made my way to the gym. That's when I realized a bunch of tinted windowed cars were following me. The good old paparazzi, back on the trail.
"I have not been online much except the odd search for a new antique coffee table (random, I know), but my friends made a collage for me with all your beautiful messages and hashtags that you created (#IStandWithMaria and #LetMariaPlay). I spent the afternoon reading them next to my dog, who couldn't quite understand why this was more important than the walk he was expecting to take.
"In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans. Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession.
"I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face. I'd like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn't anything else but to say thank you. Thank you very much."
Belfast Telegraph Digital