Maria Sharapova's ban will end two days after the Stuttgart Grand Prix starts on April 24.
Maria Sharapova's ban will end two days after the Stuttgart Grand Prix starts on April 24.

Tennis champion Maria Sharapova is about to return to action after being suspended for failing a drug test last year.

She said she is excited about her return to competitive tennis next month, but feels vindicated by the reduction of her doping suspension and feels empowered by her time away.

Russia's former world number one was initially barred for two years after testing positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication she had been taking for 10 years legally, but had been reclassified as a banned drug.

Sharapova vigorously fought to overturn the ban, saying she had not been properly advised of the official change, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport cut the ban to 15 months and said in its ruling it did not believe she was "an intentional doper."

"Although I'm at a stage or age in my career where you're closer to the end than your beginning, you always want to end a chapter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice. That's why I fought so hard for the truth to be out," she said.

Sharapova's ban will end two days after the Stuttgart Grand Prix starts on April 24. Organisers gave her a wild card entry and a late start to allow her to return to action.

Sharapova is eager to get back on the court.

"I've been training quite hard for the past four months," she said, adding it would likely take some time to pay off.

"Practice is never the same as match play. But I know that my mind and my body still have the motivation to be the best tennis player I can be."

Reaction from other players

Some players have bristled at what they feel is preferential treatment for draw card Sharapova, who reigned as the highest earning female athlete in the world for 11 years in a row, according to Forbes magazine

"For me it's not ok, and I spoke to some other players and nobody is ok with it, but it's not up to us," world number four Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia said.

"It's not about her, but everyone who was doping should start from zero."

Sharapova, who turns 30 on April 19, said she does not worry about the reception she will receive and is confident in her integrity.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies