Maria Sharapova expects mixed reaction upon return from suspension

by: Kamakshi Tandon | March 17, 2017

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Maria Sharapova will return to the WTA tour in Stuttgart in late April. (AP)

Maria Sharapova says she anticipates a mixed reaction to her return to competition from an anti-doping ban.

Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium, has said she took the drug for many years and did not know it had recently been banned when she took it during the 2016 Australian Open. The Russian received a reduced 15-month ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which found that she did not intend to break anti-doping rules.

But in an interview with Vogue, Sharapova acknowledged that she would still be subject to suspicions when she returns.

"I think if I was trying to hide something, I don't think I would come out to the world and say I was taking a drug for 10 years," she said. "That [wouldn't be] a very smart thing to do. But the answer to your question is ‘absolutely.’"

Some players have questioned her use of the drug and whether she should receive wild cards during her comeback, with few fellow pros offering much backing for the former No. 1.  But Sharapova says she has had a warmer reception from the public, including when she played an exhibition against Monica Puig in Puerto Rico and a World TeamTennis event.

"I received really nice receptions when I walked out to play my exhibition matches,” she said. “Ever since all this happened, I've had so many strangers actually come up to me. Like chefs coming out of the kitchen. I've had tunnel vision about my career, and I don't think I ever realized the effect I've had on people."

She indicated that she will still be aiming high when she comes back.

"I have expectations of myself because I know what I'm capable of," Sharapova said.

Sharapova is scheduled to begin her comeback with a wild card in Stuttgart, and has also received wild cards into Madrid and Rome. She will be unranked upon her return.

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