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Sharapova Announces return as doping ban nears end

The 29-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova will make her return to competitive tennis after serving a 15-month doping ban when she enters the main draw at the WTA Premier Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in April.Image result for Sharapova pics

The Florida-based Sharapova was originally banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.

The former world number one, one of the highest paid athletes in the world in the past decade, admitted she had used meldonium for years and was not aware it had been banned since the start of 2016.

Her suspension was later cut to 15 months on appeal.

“I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” Russian Sharapova, who won the indoor clay event three years running from 2012, said on the tournament website.

“I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” said Sharapova in a press release. “I can’t wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”

In the past, Stuttgart has been a happy hunting ground for Sharapova, who has lost just once — to current world number one Angelique Kerber in 2015 — at the WTA tournament and won the title in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“I’m really happy for Maria that she’s back after a long break. Particularly pleasing for me is that it’s going to be our audience that gets to watch her comeback live,” said tournament director Markus Guenthardt.

Kerber will be defending her title in Stuttgart with eight of the world’s top 10 scheduled to play in this year’s tournament.

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