Former world no. 1 tennis player Maria Sharapova now has the ball in her court. The athlete had her suspension from tennis reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, following her appeal of the suspension brought on by a doping scandal.
Sharapova is now eligible to return to professional tennis in April 2017, nine months sooner than her initial suspension called for. The five-time Major champion was banned from the sport until January 2018 after she revealed she had failed a drug test during the 2016 Australian Open, having tested positive for the drug meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned-substances list at the start of the year. Sharapova admitted to taking the drug for the past decade for various health issues, but was unaware that it had been banned coming into the Australian Open, as it was believed to increase an athlete’s endurance.
As a result of the scandal, Sharapova was unable to compete in three of tennis’ four Grand Slams this year, as well as the Rio Olympics, and lost deals with notable sponsors Nike, Tag-Heuer, and Porsche.
However, the court’s verdict is a major turning point for Sharapova. Following the announcement, she issued a statement saying, “I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learned about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court.”
An April return date sets Sharapova up for a busy spring, with the French Open kicking off a month later and Wimbledon following suit right after. She will need to scramble to receive a wildcard entry into both tournaments, but having been away from the sport for over a year, something tells us she will be eager and more determined than ever to come back fighting.