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Maria Sharapova emotional after winning return to tennis: ‘Best feeling in the world’

After a 15-month absence from the WTA Tour, former tennis Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova was delighted to return with a win on Wednesday

tennis Updated: Apr 27, 2017 12:44 IST
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Maria Sharapova plays a return to Italy's Roberta Vinci during the Grand Prix tennis tournament in Stuttgart on Wednesday. Sharapova was given a lukewarm welcome by 4,500 spectators upon her return to professional tennis after a 15-month doping ban. (AP)

Maria Sharapova described her return to action following a doping ban as “the best feeling in the world” after the Russian earned a straight-sets first-round win at the Stuttgart Open.

The five-time grand slam champion, in her first match back since a 15-month suspension for taking the banned steroid meldonium, overcame Roberta Vinci 7-5 6-3 on Wednesday.

Roberta Vinci had been one of many in the game to criticise the decision to hand Maria Sharapova a wildcard entry in Germany, but the 30-year-old was just delighted to be back on the world stage.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she said in her on-court interview. “Those first few seconds before you enter the arena – it’s been a stage of mine since I was a young girl and to know that I’d be walking back on it was really special. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“I spent a long time without hitting any balls. I didn’t know when I would be back. I went to school for a little bit, I grew my business and had a normal life. I put the racquet away for a little bit.

“I felt I had to grow as a person and I think I’ve done that.

“This is what I’ve done for so long. I’m a competitor, that’s when I’m at my best.”

Next up for Maria Sharapova is a meeting with compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, when she can likely expect another capacity crowd as she remains a major draw in the women’s game.

Maria Sharapova – who will learn on May 16 whether she will be given a wildcard for the French Open, which she has won twice – added of her round-two opponent: “She’s a lefty, but no matter who I play it is important for me to play points, play games, play sets. It’s a journey and this is just the start.”

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 10:44 IST