Five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova has received an invitation to play at the WTA Stanford tournament at the end of next month as the Russian star continues her return from a doping suspension. Sharapova’s comeback from a 15-month doping ban will include a stop at Stanford University for the July 31-August 6 event, organizers announced on Wednesday. Officials gave the 30-year-old Sharapova a wildcard entry as she gets set to compete in the tournament for the first time six years. “I am excited to return to the Bank of the West Classic and would like to thank the tournament for giving me the opportunity to play,” Sharapova said. Former world number one Victoria Azarenka is also in the 28-player singles draw.
Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a heart and blood boosting drug, at the 2016 Australian Open. She said that she had taken it for several years and did not know it had been placed on the banned list at the beginning of 2016. Sharapova was issued a two-year suspension, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal. Sharapova, ranked 173rd in the world, made her tour return in April at Stuttgart, reaching the semi-finals. She had been due to try to qualify for Wimbledon but she pulled out earlier this week, citing a muscle injury. She was denied a invite to the French Open, which wrapped up Sunday.—AFP