Sharapova back in business, like it or not
Maria Sharapova returns after a 15-month doping ban Wednesday, desperate to rediscover the glory which brought her five Grand Slams, the world's top ranking and a spectacular multi-million dollar lifestyle.
The poster girl of women's tennis won't necessarily be welcomed back with open arms by rivals who were already suspicious of the towering Russian's ice-cold detachment even before her fall from grace. However, Sharapova isn't losing any sleep as the 30- year-old prepares for her first match since being defeated by Serena Williams in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals.
"That is the least of my concerns. I know that I am respected in my field. I see it in how my opponents play against me,"said Sharapova who was controversially handed a wild card into this week's Stuttgart event, a clay court tournament sponsored by Porsche, one of her headline backers.
She was even given a Wednesday start as that's the day her ban — imposed for testing positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open — comes to an end.
Sharapova, who starts her Stuttgart campaign against Italian veteran Roberta Vinci, had been taking the over-the- counter cardiac supplement when it was within the rules, but was later reclassified as a prohibited drug.
Far from being remorseful, Sharapova recently hit out at tennis authorities for failing to give her sufficient warning that meldonium had become a banned substance.
The Russian will step onto centre court at 1830 (1630 GMT) on Wednesday and could not have picked a better tournament for her return, having won the Stuttgart title three times, and suffering just one defeat.