November 30, 2022

Maria Sharapova makes her return to the tennis court for first time since positive drug test at Australian Open in Las Vegas charity event

October 11, 2016


  • Maria Sharapova made an appearance at World Team Tennis Smash Hits
  • The charity event was to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation
  • First return since testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open
  • The Russian had a two-year ban reduced to 15 months last week

Maria Sharapova set foot on a tennis court for the first time since her positive drug test at the Australian Open on Monday, smiling throughout an appearance in the World Team Tennis Smash Hits charity event in Las Vegas.

The Russian star, who last week earned a reduction in her drug ban that will allow her to return to tennis in April, played in two light-hearted doubles matches in the event at Caesar’s Palace to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Sharapova lost her doubles match with American youngster Taylor Johnson when they faced Martina Navratilova and Liezel Huber.

The 29-year-old indicated she had felt a hint of nerves along with her 16-year-old doubles partner Johnson.

‘It was a big occasion for her (Johnson) and also for me,’ Sharapova told ESPN.

‘I haven’t been on a court for a while, for both of us, it was to have some fun and a bit of laughs,’ she added.

Sharapova later paired with US legend John McEnroe in the evening’s final game against Navratilova and Andy Roddick.

Sharapova had not played since testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open.

The 29-year-old, who has suffered from persistent shoulder injuries, admitted in March she had tested positive for meldonium during the Grand Slam, held in January.

A two-year ban was imposed by the International Tennis Federation in June, back-dated to January, and she appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) seeking a reduction.

Sharapova argued she had been using a Latvian-made heart disease drug under medical advice for a decade and had not realised it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list on January 1, 2016.

But an ITF disciplinary panel dismissed this explanation, pointing out meldonium had been on WADA’s ‘watch list’ of controversial drugs for over a year and there had been numerous warnings to athletes about it becoming prohibited in late 2015.

Her initial 24-month ban was then slashed to 15 months by CAS last Tuesday, a ruling which has divided opinion among her peers.

The Russian is allowed to compete again from April 25, 2017 which puts her in position to make her comeback at the French Open at Roland Garros in May.

‘Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court,’ said Sharapova after hearing the news.

‘I have taken responsibility from the very beginning for not knowing that the over-the-counter supplement I had been taking for the last 10 years was no longer allowed,’ said the former Wimbledon champion.

‘But I also learned how much better other Federations were at notifying their athletes of the rule change, especially in Eastern Europe where Mildronate is commonly taken by millions of people. Now that this process is over, I hope the ITF and other relevant tennis anti-doping authorities will study what these other Federations did, so that no other player will have to go through what I went through.’


%d bloggers like this: