Tennis

Sharapova may face critic Radwanska

Maria Sharapova was drawn against veteran Italian Roberta Vinci in her opening match at this week's Stuttgart tournament as the five-time Grand Slam champion returns from a 15-month doping ban.

The former world No. 1 was controversially handed a wildcard into the clay-court event after her suspension wiped out her ranking.

If Sharapova gets through her opener on Wednesday - the first day she is eligible to play - against the 34-year-old Vinci, she could face Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, one of her fiercest critics, in the second round.

Radwanska, who starts against Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, blasted Sharapova in an interview on Friday when she insisted that the sport's poster girl should not be awarded wild cards after her doping ban.

Sharapova was banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open but had her suspension cut to 15 months on appeal.

The Russian turned 30 on April 19 but, on the Stuttgart tournament's website, she describes her return as her "nicest present".

Tournament director Markus Guenthardt said that former No. 1's presence will boost ticket sales for the indoor tournament.

Sharapova can play her first match only on Wednesday as that is when her ban comes to an end.

As a result, she has to practice away from the venue.

Top seed Angelique Kerber has a bye in the first round and will face either Mirjana Lucic-Baroni or Kristina Mladenovic in her opener. 
- AFP

Maria Sharapovadrugstennis