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Opinion divided on Sharapova wildcard return

Having been hit with a 15-month ban for doping, Maria Sharapova's impending return will come amid split opinion on the WTA Tour.

mariasharapova - Cropped
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova's imminent return to the WTA Tour with a wildcard entry at the Stuttgart Open is causing unrest among some of her rivals, including fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber.

The Russian stunned the tennis world with her admission last year that she had failed a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.

Sharapova tested positive for meldonium in Melbourne, but insisted she had not been aware that the substance had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list.

Her 15-month ban – which was reduced from two years – ends next month, when the five-time grand slam winner will compete in Germany, but not everybody is relishing the 29-year-old's comeback, particularly as she has been handed a wildcard.

Kerber said: "It's a little bit strange, the situation, because I think she can just come on site on Wednesday [the day after Sharapova's ban ends], so it's a strange situation.

"I don't know what to say about this. It's a little bit strange also for the other players that someone can only just walk on site on Wednesday and play on Wednesday. So it's a little bit weird.

"I don't know yet who will get wildcards as well, but for me it's a little bit weird because it is a German tournament and for me, [there are so] many good German players and I think a few of us will need a wildcard to get into the main draw as well. So this is a little bit strange.

"The Germans are playing Fed Cup, we are playing for the country, and we are trying to make German tennis more famous again. More people are taking the racquets again. So yes, the situation is a little bit weird."

Andy Murray, the men's world number one, suggested recently that anyone found guilty of doping should forfeit their right to wildcards – a view which Simona Halep expressed some sympathy for.

"I heard what Andy Murray said. I think he's right in his position," said the Romanian. "I don't know what to say about this. I'm not there to make decisions, so maybe people who are working on this know better.

"In my opinion, she can receive wildcards because she was number one in the world, she's a grand slam champion, but I think even if she doesn't get wildcards she can come back easy."

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