Maria Sharapova’s 15-month suspension may be over, but the controversy surrounding it definitely isn’t.
The five-time Grand Slam winner tested positive for a recently banned substance, which put an end to her 2016 season. The drug in question, meldonium, was blacklisted at the start of last year but Sharapova continued to use it. She was fairly flippant when it came to the positive test, dismissing it as simply an “oversight”. But her critics and the International Tennis Federation took a harsher view.
Her suspension is now over and she’s wasted little time getting back into the swing of things. The 30-year-old has been granted a wildcard into the Madrid Open and Italian Open, and is already through to the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open.
Looking forward, Sharapova is hoping to be granted entry for the upcoming French Open, a Grand Slam she has won twice. Given her performance so far at Stuttgart, it’s looking pretty likely. She has yet to drop a set, but has looked a little rusty at times.
If she makes the French Open, she’ll face some stiff competition from the likes of Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep, and Angelique Kerber. But she won’t have to worry about Serena Williams, who is pregnant and will miss Roland Garros.
The former world number one was at her most dominant around the mid-2000s, and with all the new talent coming in, it’ll be tough for her to pick up any major titles this season.
Her personal brand remains tainted as well. Her positive test was met with condemnation by stars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. And most recently, Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard called her a “cheater” during an interview.
This is a pivotal year for the Russian superstar. If she can stage a comeback, it could revitalize her career. But if she underperforms, it could be the beginning of the end.
Maria Sharapova Odds
Odds on Sharapova’s best finish at a 2017 Grand Slam
Early rounds: 19/1
Odds Sharapova reaches the finals of a 2017 Grand Slam: 5/2
Odds Sharapova tests positive for a banned substance by year-end 2018: 25/1
O/U on 2017 WTA titles for Sharapova: 1.5
Photo credit: Justin Smith (flickr) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0]