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Sharapova to make her Grand Slam return at the US Open


By Evan Bartlett

Maria Sharapova will make her first Grand Slam appearance in over a year after being awarded a wildcard for the upcoming US Open. The former World No.1 and five-time Grand Slam winner tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in 2016 and was handed a 15-month doping ban.

The Russian has only played nine matches since returning to the tour in April and her world ranking of 148th was too low for entry into major tournaments.

She was denied a wildcard to the French Open in May and then missed the grass court season and Wimbledon with a thigh injury.

"Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping programme was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wildcard selection process," a statement from the US Tennis Association yesterday read.

"Consistent with past practice, a wildcard was provided to a past US champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw.

"Previous US Open champions who have received US Open main draw wildcards include Martina Hingis, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Cljisters and Juan Martin del Potro.

"Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis players at the USTA National Campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping programme and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the programme's requirements."

The 30-year-old is one of seven players given entry into the women's side of the draw by wildcard, although the Russian she is by far the most recognisable face.

Other recipients are Americans Taylor Townsend, Kayla Day, Sofia Kenin, Ashley Kratzer, Brienne Minor and France's Amandine Hesse.

Sharapova first rose to prominence in 2004 when winning Wimbledon as a 17-year-old and has since gone on to complete the career Grand Slam - including the US Open in 2006.

Her last appearance at Flushing Meadows came in 2014 when she lost in the last 16 to Caroline Wozniacki.

This year's tournament - which begins on August 28 - will be just the second time Sharapova has entered unseeded. The last, her US Open debut in 2003, she was ranked 54 in the world.

Her preparations have been hampered by an arm injury suffered during her win over Jennifer Brady at the Stanford Classic a fortnight ago.

Sharapova was then forced to withdraw from both the Rogers Cup tournament and the ongoing Cincinnati Open as a precautionary measure .

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