Maria Sharapova gets wild-card entry in Rogers Cup
Russian star to make 1st Canadian appearance since 2014
Maria Sharapova has been granted a wild-card entry in the upcoming 2017 Rogers Cup in Toronto, Tennis Canada announced Tuesday.
"Maria is a Grand Slam champion and a fan favourite," said Karl Hale, tournament director, Rogers Cup Toronto. "She has served her suspension and we know our guests will be excited to see her play."
Sharapova made her return to professional tennis last month in Stuttgart, Germany following a 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium, a heart drug she insists she was taking for health purposes only, and that she started taking before it was banned.
At the Stuttgart tournament, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard said Sharapova was a "cheater" and should be banned for life for doping. Bouchard then defeated Sharapova 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
Other players, including Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, have been critical about Sharapova receiving free passes into events.
For now, Sharapova's focus is entirely on tennis.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Canada," Sharapova said. "I have some great memories of playing Toronto in the past, and the tournament and the fans have always been so supportive. This is one of the biggest events of the year and I hope to play my best tennis that week."
Wild cards are offered at the discretion of tournament officials to players whose ranking would not qualify them for the event on its own. Should Sharapova rise in the rankings before the tournament's entry deadline and make the main draw, her wild-card spot would be given back to Rogers Cup for use on another player.
Sharapova has also said she will play in the Wimbledon qualifying tournament, which begins June 26.
The Russian will need to win three matches to enter the main draw.
Sharapova initially was given a two-year suspension after testing positive at last year's Australian Open.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal, ruling she bore "less than significant fault" in the case and she could not "be considered to be an intentional doper."
With files from Canadian Press and Associated Press