Maria Sharapova refused to reveal if she will be seeking an alternative medication to the drug that got her banned from tennis for 15 months after marking her controversial return to competitive action by beating Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday night.
While the Russian was quick to admit her guilt after testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open last year, she has since maintained that she took the drug before it was banned and for health reasons only. Her doctor prescribed it, she said, for her to deal with problems such as an irregular heartbeat and a family history of diabetes.
After reaching the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Vinci Sharapova responded curtly when she was asked if she will request permission to use a different drug from meldonium now she is back on court. “That information is between myself, the WTA and the orthopaedic doctor I am working with,” she said.
Less than 24 hours after the end of her ban Sharapova was in action after being handed a wild card for Stuttgart, a decision that had been met with widespread criticism from many fellow players. Eugenie Bouchard was the latest to join in the chorus of disapproval on Wednesday. “She’s a cheater and I don’t think a cheater should be allowed to play that sport again,” the Canadian said in Istanbul.
Sharapova, who will play Ekaterina Makarova in the second round on Thursday, has also been handed wild cards to play in Rome and Madrid. Her ultimate goal is to gain entry into next month’s French Open. She will earn a place in the qualifying draw for Roland Garros if she reaches the final in Germany, while she is also targeting a spot at Wimbledon, even though she does not currently have a ranking.
Cool and defiant throughout her press conference, the 30-year-old did not offer an apology for falling foul of doping regulations, added that she does not care what her peers think of her and argued that she does not need to develop a better relationship with them. “I can’t control what people say,” she said. “To have nicer things to say about me in press conferences, what will that change to my tennis?”
Sharapova did not distance herself from comments by her agent, Max Eisenbud, that Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki are “journeymen players” who want to earn a last chance to win a first major by keeping her away from Paris. “I don’t control my manager’s words,” she said. “I’m sure he’s been watching everyone’s comments in the last 15 months and he is entitled to his opinion.”
Johanna Konta will play Anastasija Sevastova, meanwhile, after the British No1’s victory over Naomi Osaka, while on the men’s tour, Andy Murray reached the third round in Barcelona without hitting a ball after Australia’s Bernard Tomic pulled out of their match with a back complaint.