Maria Sharapova

Madrid, May 5 (IANS) Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova will be playing her opening game at the Madrid Open, which kicks off on Saturday, against compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

After sitting out a provisional 15-month suspension, Sharapova, 30, made an impressive comeback last week at Stuttgart knocking out all her opponents up to the semi-finals, reports Tass news agency.

Sharapova’s performance at Stuttgart returned her to the WTA rankings, from which she was excluded in October, earning the tennis player her current 262nd standing.

Her next opponent, 25-year-old Pavlyuchenkova is currently ranked 25th in the WTA rankings.

Although having no place in the WTA rankings earlier in the year due to the previously imposed suspension, the world’s former No.1 Sharapova was granted wildcards for tennis tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome, which raised some eyebrows in the tennis world.

The 30-year-old was initially set to serve a two-year suspension for violating anti-doping regulations starting January 26, 2016. However, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on October 4, 2016 to cut her suspension term from 24 to 15 months.

Sharapova is Russia’s most decorated tennis player having won a total of five Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open in 2008, the French Open in 2012 and 2014, Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006.

She also clinched the silver in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and was the 2008 Federations Cup champion.

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