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Returning Sharapova unfazed by criticism

TENNIS

Returning Sharapova unfazed by criticism

Maria Sharapova is preparing to return to the court in Stuttgart, following a 15-month doping ban, and she has brushed off criticism from fellow pros.

Maria Sharapova is preparing to return to the court in Stuttgart, following a 15-month doping ban, and she has brushed off criticism from fellow pros.

Maria Sharapova has brushed off criticism from her rivals as she prepares to make her return next week in Stuttgart following her 15-month doping ban.

Sharapova stoic

"That is the least of my concerns," the 30-year-old Russian told Thursday's edition of Stern magazine.

"I haven't wasted a single thought on it. I know that I am respected in my field.

"I see it in how my opponents play against me."

Sharapova, a five-times Grand Slam champion, had an initial two-year suspension by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium. It is a medication Sharapova had been taking when it was within the rules, but which was later reclassified as a prohibited drug.

Return in Stuttgart

The Russian makes her return next Wednesday - the first day she is eligible to play - having been given a wildcard for Stuttgart's WTA tournament with some rivals disapproving of the organisers' decision.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki said the Stuttgart tournament's decision to grant Sharapova a wildcard is "disrespectful to other players and the WTA".

However, Sharapova could not have picked a better place to make her return. She has won the Stuttgart clay-court tournament three times and lost just once - to Kerber in 2015 in the first-round.

The Russian can expect a warm welcome from the organisers as she is an ambassador for luxury car manufacturers Porsche, who sponsor the Stuttgart tournament.

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