Maria Sharapova back on tennis court for first time in 15 months since ban for drug meldonium

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return of the queen

Russian five-time Grand Slam winner plays Italian Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Stuttgart Open as a wildcard

MARIA SHARAPOVA’S serve was broken in her first tennis match in 15 months since being banned for taking the drug meldonium.

The Russian five-time Grand Slam winner plays Italian Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Stuttgart Open as a wildcard this evening.

EPA

Maria Sharapova played her first match in 15 months since her drugs ban – and had her serve broken

Sharapova is a three-time winner in Stuttgart, but the eyes of the tennis world will be on a packed centre court as she takes on 2015 US Open finalist Vinci.

As she bids to get her career back on track, the former world number one will want to play well ahead of finding out next month if she has been given a wildcard for the French Open qualifying.

As well as Stuttgart, Sharapova has been granted wildcards by the organisers of the events in Madrid and Rome.

Her entrance onto the court at Stuttgard was muted from the crowd

AP:Associated Press

Her entrance onto the court at Stuttgard was muted from the crowd


That is despite not having a world ranking, as her points expired during her suspension and – and will only get automatic French Open qualifying if she reaches the final in Stuttgart, as she will move into the world’s top 200.

Vinci has questioned the decision to give Sharapova wildcards, but it has been defended by WTA chief Steve Simon who said it the same treatment as how dopers are treated in other sports.

With a backdrop of red lighting, a focused Sharapova walked on court with steely determination, with a muted expression from the crowd.

The signs are not good for a Vinci win, as she has met Sharapova twice before, with the Russian winning 6-2 6-1 in Indian Wells five years ago and 6-0 6-1 at the US Open in 2007.

 



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