AFTER serving a 15-month ban, Maria Sharapova stepped onto Centre Court in the Porsche Arena for her first-round match at the 40th Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
The five time Grand Slam winner returned as a ‘wild card’ after being banned for taking a heart stimulant, meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
Clearly showing some signs of ‘rust’ following her enforced absence from competitive tennis, she won her first match relatively easily and marched through to the semi-finals before being beaten in a tough three set battle with French player Kristina Mladenovic.
She now moves on to play another ‘wild card’ in Madrid followed by a tournament in Rome before she discovers whether she will be invited to play at Wimbledon which she won in 2004.
There has been criticism from fellow tennis players about the way in which she has been allowed back so quickly into high profile tournaments although it is hardly surprising that she played in Stuttgart as she is a past winner and is sponsored by Porsche.