Maria Sharapova will start her comeback road in Stuttgart.
The five-time Grand Slam champion announced she’s accepted a wild card into Stuttgart and will launch her comeback from a doping suspension at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April.
The 29-year-old Russian, who tested positive for the banned substance meldonium following her Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams last January, is eligible to return to the WTA Tour on April 26th, which is the third day of main-draw play in Stuttgart.
Launching her comeback in Stuttgart makes sense for several reasons. Sharapova is a three-time Stuttgart champion, she’s a long-time Porsche endorser and in recent years red clay has been her best surface. Four of Sharapova’s last five titles—the 2014 Roland Garros, Madrid and Stuttgart championships and 2015 Rome title—came on clay.
“I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favorite tournaments,” said Sharapova, who won the Stuttgart tournament from 2012-14. “I can’t wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”
Though she’s currently unranked, as a former Grand Slam champion Sharapova is permitted ulimited wild cards under WTA rules.
Last October, Sharapova scored a partial victory in her appeal of an initial two-year doping ban.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport partially upheld Sharapova's appeal reducing her suspension from two years to 15 months. Read the complete Court of Arbitration for Sport decision on Sharapova's case here.
In its conclusion, the CAS noted that though Sharapova committed the anti-doping rule violation with No Significant Fault or Negligence, Sharapova "bears some degree of fault, which prevents a reduction to the minimum measure of ineligibility."
Since scoring a partial victory in her appeal, Sharapova and the International Tennis Federation engaged in a public relations battle. Sharapova told PBS host Charlie Rose her partial appeal victory is a “repudiation” of the ITF. She said the organization failed to clearly communicate meldonium's addition to the banned list last year and charged the ITF with trying to make an example of her.
The 40th annual Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is scheduled for April 22-30th.
The tournament schedule—combined with Sharapova’s April 26th return day—means she’ll have to play daily to go deep in the draw.
“I’m sure the fans will be excited to see her play,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.