Stuttgart: Maria Sharapova returned to competitive tennis yesterday after 15-month doping ban, to face Italian faces Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix here.
All eyes were on the Russian who became eligible to compete again - her first appearance on the WTA Tour since reaching the quarter-finals of last year's Australian Open, when she tested positive for meldonium.
The former world number one, who rose to stardom by winning Wimbledon in 2004, admitted taking the cardiac drug at a press conference last March, insisting her only mistake was not realising the substance had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016. Asked if she expected the suspicion to linger for the rest of her career, Sharapova told Vogue last month: "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."
Sharapova, a three-time winner in Stuttgart, triumphing in 2012, 2013and 2014, was welcomed on court with a loud cheer from fans and brilliantly took the first set 7-5 despite losing the opening two games. At the time of going to print, she was leading Vinci 2-0 in the second set.