Sharapova to return at Stuttgart

Maria Sharapova will make her return to competitive tennis following her 15-month ban at the WTA clay-court tournament in Stuttgart in April, it was announced on Tuesday.

Her suspension started from January 26, 2016, and will expire this year on April 26, which will allow her to compete at The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix that will be held from April 22 to 30 in Stuttgart.

The former world number one is now serving a 15-month suspension after testing positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

Sharapova will return to tennis without a ranking and organisers face a big decision as to whether she should be invited to their events in the early months of her comeback.

The tournament has proved to be a stepping stone for the Russian as every time she has prevailed in Stuttgart, she has reached the final at the French Open, winning the title at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014 defeating Sara Errani to complete her Career Grand Slam, and Simona Halep two years later but she lost in 2013 to Serena Williams.

"I can't wait‎ to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love", the 29-year-old tennis star said.

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It might have been expected that Sharapova would have been kept away from action for at least a week but it seems she will be granted special treatment by her main sponsors Porsche.

He went on to say Sharapova's return "in the Porsche Arena is a fabulous present for our fantastic spectators and is certain to be one of the sporting and emotional highlights of our anniversary tournament".

Sharapova's first match falls on a Wednesday.

"I'm sure the fans will be excited to see her play", WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. Sharapova is officially eligible to make her comeback on April 26 this year. In addition, she claimed to be unaware the drug had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list.

Sharapova, one of the biggest names in women's professional tennis, has not played since last year's Australian Open after failing a doping test, BBC Sports noted.