Maria Sharapova acknowledges irreparable damage has been done to her reputation as she prepares to make her return from a 15-month doping ban next month at the Stuttgart Open.
The former world No. 1 tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at last year’s Australian Open and initially was prohibited from playing professionally for two years.
Maria Sharapova denied knowing that meldonium had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances at the start of 2016, and an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport saw her sanction reduced by nine months.
Saturday with a view ☀️ pic.twitter.com/FgvIr7Ck57— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) March 12, 2017
However, asked if she felt suspicions would linger around her for the remainder of her career, Sharapova told Vogue: “I think if I was trying to hide something, I don’t think I would come out to the world and say I was taking a drug for 10 years.
Active recovery days 💁🏼 pic.twitter.com/PN0Id8kOrc— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) March 16, 2017
“If I was really trying to take the easy way out, that’s not a very smart thing to do. But the answer to your question is, absolutely.”
When she does return to the WTA circuit, though, the five-time Grand Slam winner hopes to return quickly to her place among elite players.
That's a wrap! My memoir out this September. 🙈🙉🙊 pic.twitter.com/0m8S9Ek2QB— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) March 13, 2017
Sharapova said: “I have expectations of myself because I know what I’m capable of. Will I have those standards? Of course. Will I have to be patient? It’s not my greatest strength.”
However, renewing her battle with world No. 1 and 23-time major winner Serena Williams, who has won each of their past 18 meetings and holds a 19-2 record against the Russian, is not weighing heavily on Sharapova’s mind.
On set shooting my book cover 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/lpPFqHobVd— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) March 12, 2017
“We’re not celebrated as two women with completely different backgrounds who have created incredible opportunities for ourselves and our families,” said Maria Sharapova.
“Instead we are ranked against each other for our differences, our game, our earnings. I think the concept of lists and the amount that players make is bollocks.
“It would be so easy when you’ve gone through injuries and setbacks to just let it all go. But to have that desire still? The amount of respect that I have for her as an athlete is enormous.”