Former tennis world number one, Maria Sharapova, on Wednesday prepared herself for her return to tournament tennis after a 15-month doping ban.
The five-time grand slam champion has been awarded a wildcard for the Stuttgart Open and is due to play Italian Roberta Vinci in the Round of 32 of the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday not before 16:30 GMT.
The Russian, because her ban had only expired at midnight on Wednesday morning, had just one opportunity to practice on the official court before facing Vinci.
Sharapova spent an hour going through her routine with her training partner, fellow-Russian Alex Kuznetsov.
Whatever else is happening on any other tennis court in the world will become irrelevant as Russian multi-millionaire Sharapova, who turned 30 last week, resumes a career that made her the world’s richest sportswoman.
Debate still rages about Sharapova’s crime and punishment.
While some say Sharapova, initially banned for two years after testing positive for Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has done her time some fellow players are angry the red carpet is being rolled out.
With no ranking after such a long period without swinging her racket in anger, Sharapova could have been forced to work her way back from the lower rungs of the tennis ladder.
Instead, with tournament chiefs and sponsors well aware of her ticket-selling appeal, she has been handed wildcards into the claycourt events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.
Sharapova, whose defence was that she had not realised Meldonium had been added to a list of banned substances at the start of 2016, insisted the substance is as common as aspirin in Russia where it is known as Mildronate.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed that Sharapova was not an intentional doper and shortened her ban from two years to 15 months.
While admitting her mistake, Sharapova has hardly been full of contrition and has criticised the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for failing to notify her that Meldonium, a medication she said she had used for a number of years to treat health issues, had indeed been flagged up by WADA as ‘performance enhancing’.
Source: Channels Tv