(Reuters) - Maria Sharapova’s comeback from a doping ban will include an appearance at the Rogers Cup in August after the former world number one was granted a wild card by the organisers of the Toronto tournament on Tuesday.
Sharapova returned to the court last month after serving a 15-month suspension when she tested positive for a banned substance at last year’s Australian Open and the Russian has so far been handed three wild cards to play WTA events.
The Russian reached the semi-finals of her first event back on the tour in Stuttgart but was surprisingly denied a wild card for the French Open with organisers uneasy about fast-tracking her into a tournament she has won twice.
Considered one of the biggest names in tennis, Sharapova will attempt to qualify for Wimbledon in July and has been invited to play in the Toronto event that serves as one of the main warm-up tournaments for the U.S. Open.
Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale called Sharapova a “fan favourite” with the 30-year-old saying she was keen to compete at an event she last played in 2014.
“I‘m really looking forward to coming back to Canada,” Sharapova told reporters. “This is one of the biggest events of the year and I hope to play my best tennis that week.”
Canada’s top female player, Eugenie Bouchard remains one of Sharapova’s fiercest critics and maintains the Russian “cheater” should have been banned for life and not welcomed back to tennis so enthusiastically.
The pair met in a feisty second round encounter in Madrid earlier this month with the 23-year-old Canadian emerging a 7-5 2-6 6-4 winner.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien