Maria Sharapova to return from ban in April at Stuttgart event

by: AP | January 10, 2017

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Maria Sharapova will be eligible to return on April 26, the third day of main-draw play. (AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Maria Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a tournament in Germany in April.

Car manufacturer Porsche, which sponsors both Sharapova and the event in Stuttgart, said Tuesday that Sharapova has been given a wild-card entry into the tournament. It will be her first official competition since she tested positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

"I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favorite tournaments," said the 29-year-old Sharapova, who won the Stuttgart tournament from 2012-14. "I can't wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love."

Sharapova will be eligible to return on April 26, the third day of main-draw play, which could leave her facing a busy schedule of matches in order to win a fourth Stuttgart title.

"I'm sure the fans will be excited to see her play," WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.

The Russian will have to rely on wild-card invites to tournaments, including Grand Slams, for a while because her ban means she has fallen out of the world rankings, which only count tournament performances over the preceding 12 months.

Sharapova was originally banned for two years but that was reduced on appeal in October. She said she had used meldonium for years for medical reasons and was not aware it had been banned for 2016.

During her ban, she has played in some exhibition events. Known for setting up her own confectionery brand and for an interest in the commercial side of tennis, Sharapova also enrolled in a two-week program at Harvard Business School last year.

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