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Sharapova announces return date after serving doping ban

The former world number one and five-times Grand Slam winner will return to the WTA Tour during the clay season in Stuttgart on April 26.
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Sharapova announces return date after serving doping ban

Former world number one Maria Sharapova will make her return to competitive tennis after serving a 15-month doping ban when she enters the main draw at the WTA Premier Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in April.

The 29-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Ban reduced on appeal

Her two-year ban, imposed by the International Tennis Federation, was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and she will play her first match in Stuttgart on April 26 -- the day her ban expires.

In the past, Stuttgart has been a happy hunting ground for Sharapova, who has lost just once -- to current world number one Angelique Kerber in 2015 -- at the WTA tournament and won the title in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Sharapova "couldn't be happier"

"I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments," said Sharapova in a press release. "I can't wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love."

Sharapova has been given a wildcard to appear in Stuttgart after being dropped from the WTA rankings last October for failing to play in at least three tournaments during the previous year while she served her ban. After Sharapova appears in three WTA tournaments – Stuttgart and probable wildcard entries into Madrid and Rome in the run-up to the French Open – she will be restored to the rankings.

"I'm really happy for Maria that she's back after a long break. Particularly pleasing for me is that it's going to be our audience that gets to watch her comeback live," said tournament director Markus Guenthardt.

Kerber will be defending her title in Stuttgart with eight of the world's top 10 scheduled to play in this year's tournament.