Sharapova gets wild card entry into Rogers Cup

TORONTO — Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova will continue her comeback from a 15-month doping ban at this summer’s Rogers Cup in Toronto.

The tournament says she has been awarded a main draw wild card for the August event.

Since the end of her ban, Sharapova has used wild-card entries to play three events on the WTA Tour.

In her first tournament in Stuttgart, she won three matches to reach the semifinals before losing to Kristina Mladenovic.

Then, after defeating Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in her opening match in Madrid, she came up against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who said Sharapova was a “cheater” and should be banned for life for doping. Bouchard won 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Other players, including Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, have been outspoken about Sharapova receiving free passes into events.

Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale called her a ”fan favourite,” pointing out that she had done her time for the doping infraction.

“She has served her suspension and we know our guests will be excited to see her play,” he said in a statement.

The 30-year-old’s best result at the Rogers Cup came in 2009, when she advanced to the final.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back to Canada,” Sharapova said of her first appearance in the tournament since 2014. ”I have some great memories of playing Toronto in the past, and the tournament and the fans have always been so supportive.”

Wild cards are offered at a tournament’s discretion to players whose ranking would not qualify them for the event on their own. Should Sharapova rise in the rankings before the tournament’s entry deadline to make the main draw cut-off on her own merit, the wild card would be given back to Rogers Cup for use on another player.

She is currently ranked 173rd in the world.

Last week, Sharapova was granted a wild card to play in the pre-Wimbledon tournament in Birmingham. The Aegon Classic begins on June 19, two weeks before Wimbledon.

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 for the banned heart drug meldonium 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.”

Sharapova had been taking meldonium for many years, but overlooked announcements by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

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