MARIA SHARAPOVA is ready to get back to the ‘day job’ as she builds up to her tennis return after a 15-month doping ban,
The five-time grand-slam winner was initially barred for two years after testing positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium but her ban was reduced on appeal — the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it did not believe she was ‘an intentional doper’ — which she says made her feel vindicated.
She had been taking the medication legally taking for ten years but it was reclassified as a banned drug and she argued she had not been properly advised of the official change on the change in status.
Next month she will make her competitive return to the court and the 29-year-old Russian said: ‘Although I’m at a stage or age in my career where you’re closer to the end than your beginning, you always want to end a chapter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice. That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out.
Sharapova’s ban will end two days after the Stuttgart grand prix starts on April 24 but she has been given a wild card by organisers, who scheduled her first match on the Wednesday in her competitive return.
Some players, including Britain’s world No.1 Andy Murray, have bristled at what they feel is preferential treatment for a star name player, who reigned as the highest earning female athlete in the world for 11 years in a row, according to Forbes.
But Sharapova insists she does not worry about the reception she will receive and is confident in her integrity.
During her absence from tennis, Sharapova took a class at Harvard Business School, spent another 10 days in London studying leadership, interned at an advertising agency, spent a week shadowing NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and a week with Nike designers besides attending to her Sugarpova candy brand.
She said: ‘I learned that life can be OK without tennis. It was empowering.’
But looking forward to her return, she added: ‘I’ve got my day job back. It’s great.’