Maria Sharapova today learnt that her two year ban from tennis had been reduced to 15 months. The former world number one test positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open in January with the substance being on the banned list as of January 1st of that year. Maria announced this to the world on March 6th and admitted from the beginning she hadn’t checked the latest banned list.
The Russian will be able to return to tennis on the 26th of April next year. During this period the WTA tournament in Stuttgart on clay will be underway however I see it very unlikely that she will be able to on the entrants list for a tournament whilst she is still banned especially as the tournament technically begins before her suspension is over.
My personal feeling is the ban should have stood but the whole situation has been a mess from start to finish and I doubt it will end here. Sharapova, her team, ITF and WADA all have to have learnt from this as Sharapova has said herself today she has learned and she hopes the ITF has as well.
Now it becomes tricky. Sharapova took a banned substance that is a fact. She was neglicgent in not checking the banned substances lists and getting back into the big tournaments could be a struggle. Who will be the first big tournament to potentially take a hit and offer Sharapova wildcard into the main draw or qualifying of a major tournament as her ranking won’t be at a high enough level so straight into these draws so it will be interesting where these high profile tournaments stand. For example Wimbledon entrants list is done in late May which will be a month after her return and Roland Garros just a couple of weeks after she can return to the sport.
One of her big supporters during this time have been racket manufacturer HEAD who reacted to the news with the hashtag on Twitter #WeStoodWithMaria
It will be interesting to see what happens next for the Russian. Morocco or Prague look like being her first tournaments which is followed by that rush before Roland Garros with Madrid and Rome but like I said where will these high profile tournaments stand on giving out wildcards etc?