'Not OK': Heather Watson and Dominika Cibulkova question Maria Sharapova's 'easy' return from 15-month doping ban

Naveen Ullal
Maria Sharapova

Heather Watson and Dominika Cibulkova have expressed their unhappiness after Maria Sharapova was handed a wild card paving the way for the return of the Russian tennis star after serving a 15-month ban for doping.

The 29-year-old's ban will end effectively two days after the 2017 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix kick-starts on 24 April. She was handed the ban after she tested positive for meldonium following her 2016 Australian Open quarter-final defeat to Serena Williams.

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Sharapova's return to next month's tournament in Stuttgart was confirmed by the Women Tennis Association (WTA). The former world number one will play her first match - without rankings – midway through the tournament.

Watson has questioned the wild card as she believes she does not deserve it.

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"From the tournament standpoint she will bring in the crowds, make money, but from a moral standpoint you should have to work your way back up if you've been on a ban. It just seems a bit easy," Watson said, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

Cibulkova revealed that other women tennis players too are unhappy with the WTA's decision. The current world number four said banned tennis players should always "start from zero" and added she is not "OK" with the Russian star being handed an easy return.

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"I don't think it's right but what can we do about it? She's still banned but she can come on site on Wednesday, that's pretty strange," Cibulkova stressed.

"For me it's not OK and I spoke to some other players and nobody is OK with it, but it's not up to us. All the people who are taking care of these things should know the rule and do the right thing. It's not about her, but everyone who was doping should start from zero."

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