Maria Sharapova made her first appearance in the United States since her drug ban and while playing in San Diego, California, she remained confident and realistic of regaining her form following the 15-month suspension. Sharapova played for the Orange County Breakers in their season-opening match against the defending champions San Diego Aviators at the La Costa Resort and Spa. She is still working her way back from the comeback since testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
She returned to the tour in April by playing the Porsche Grand Prix and went on to play a total of three tournaments on clay. In Stuttgart, she reached the semifinals. In the next, she reached the second round of Madrid but suffered an early exit in Rome. To add to her disappointing day, she retired hurt with an injury and was told that she would not be playing at French Open after her request for a wild card was rejected. The thigh injury prevented her from competing in the grass court tournaments which culminated in the Wimbledon final.
But now she’s fit and ready for a summer run, hoping to cap it at the US Open. “It’s nice to have a schedule again and something that I really miss, having a tournament on the schedule and a calendar and knowing what I have to prepare for,” Sharapova said.
Many claim she got an easier pass despite the doping ban with her suspension also getting reduced. Thereafter she was given wild cards for the three tournaments she competed in – an anomaly. She says the only thing she can do by proving detractors wrong is by showing up to more tournaments. “I think just by doing what I do, and that’s playing tennis,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to do from the very beginning. I’ve done it. I’ve always had the choice of not doing it. I have had a lot in my career. I’ve had the support. As someone who is 30 years old, I achieved enough to call it a day. But there’s something deeper. It’s more than just the sport. It’s something I’ve done all my life and my career. I wanted to continue that. That’s where my focus is and not much else.”
Sharapova’s schedule leading up to the US Open includes another World Team Tennis (WTT) appearance and WTA Tour stops at Stanford and Toronto. She chose not to predict how she would fare at the season’s final Grand Slam in New York. “It’s not something that I think about; it’s not part of my job,” she said. Just because I have to be realistic that I haven’t played in a long time. With the injury, it was almost like a two-year break for me. The importance and significance of every tournament is much more in my mind than what I can or cannot do at the US Open.”