Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova says her passion for tennis has never been stronger.
The 30-year-old Maria Sharapova will make her first Grand Slam appearance since serving a 15-month suspension for doping offences as a wildcard at the US Open next week.
She was originally suspended for two years after testing positive for the banned heart and blood-boosting drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal.
Writing on the Players’ Tribune website, Sharapova said: “When it comes to tennis, good or bad – there’s only one thing that I know for certain – I’ve missed it.
“Though these last two years have been tougher, so much tougher than I ever could have anticipated, my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it has only grown stronger.”
Sharapova, who is ranked 148th in the world, made her return in April at Stuttgart reaching the semi-finals as a wildcard but such invitations have attracted criticism from some rivals.
“I’m aware of what many of my peers have said about me and how critical of me some of them have been.” she added. “If you’re a human being with a normal beating heart, I don’t think that sort of thing will ever be possible to ignore.”
The US Tennis Association defended its decision to offer Sharapova a wildcard saying: “Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping programme was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wildcard selection process.”
The five-time Grand Slam champion was refused a wildcard at the French Open and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury.
Source: Players Tribune