Return Date Confirmed: Maria Sharapova Granted Wildcard Into Stuttgart Open - UBITENNIS
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Return Date Confirmed: Maria Sharapova Granted Wildcard Into Stuttgart Open

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova will return to professional tennis on the same day her doping ban expires after organisers of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart awarded her a wildcard into the main draw.

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match on the tour since last year’s Australian Open after serving a doping ban. Sharapova tested positive for meldonium in 2016, but argued that she was unaware that the drug was added to the list of prohibited substances. As a consequence the International Tennis Federation (ITF) slammed her with as 24-month suspension before it was reduced to 15 months after an appeal to the court of arbitration for sport.

Sharapova’s ban ends on Tuesday, April 25th, the same week as the Stuttgart Open takes place. In an unexpected move, the tournament has opted to grant the Russian a wildcard and have agreed to allow her to wait until the Wednesday to play her first match. In accordance to her ban, Sharapova is prohibited to enter the grounds of a WTA tournament until the 26th April.

The controversial exceptions granted to Sharapova are no surprise considering she is a three-time champion at the event (2012-2014). Furthermore, her partnership with Porsche (who also sponsors the Stuttgart tournament) is likely to have played a pivotal role in her wildcard.

“I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” said Sharapova.
“I can’t wait‎ to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”

Tournament director Markus Günthardt also spoke of his delight about welcoming Sharapova back to the tour. Referring to her doping ban as a ‘a long break’, Mr Günthardt described the news as a ‘fabulous present’.

“I’m really happy for Maria that she’s back after a long break. Particularly pleasing for me is that it’s going to be our audience that gets to watch her comeback live,” he said.
“Her 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.”

ITF backs wildcard decision

Following the announcement of Sharapova’s wildcard, Ubitennis contracted the ITF for clarification regarding the decision of the Stuttgart officials. The governing body of world tennis stated that Sharapova is allowed to be given the wildcard during her ban. According to the rulebook, it doesn’t state that a player’s ban must have ended before the start of a tournament that they wish to compete in.

“Under the rules of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, Sharapova is entitled to return to competition on April 26, the Wednesday of the Stuttgart tournament.” The ITF told Ubitennis.net.
“The wording of the rule does not require the tournament to start after a ban ends.”

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix will get underway on April 22nd. World No.1 Angelique Kerber has already confirmed her intention to play in the tournament.

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Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka dig deep to set up re-match against Barbora Krejikova and Katerina Siniakova in Indian Wells doubles final

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Unseeded team Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka had to dig deep to beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan 6-2 7-6 (7-5).

Mertens and Sabalenka built up a 6-2 5-2 lead, but Dabrowski and Yifan won three consecutive games thanks to a break-back in the ninth game to draw level to 5-5. Mertens and Sabalenka took the 7-5 edge in the tie-break.

“Two days ago I lost my singles match and then I went to play doubles and we won that match. For me that’s the best recovery. It’s always nice to play doubles and stay in a tournament especially in this tennis paradise. It’s cool to be here. It does not matter singles or doubles”,said Sabalenka.

The Belgian and Belarusian team set up a doubles final against reigning Roland Garros and Wimbledon doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who battled past Chan Hao Ching and Latisha Chan 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 10-6 after saving match points in a hard-fought second set.

Mertens and Sabalenka will be looking to take a re-match against Siniakova and Krejcikova, who came back from one set down to win 2-6 6-2 6-3 of the Australian Open third round match.

 

 

 

 

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Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos advance to the Indian Wells doubles final in their second tournament as a team

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Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos have advanced to the Indian Wells final in just their second tournament as a team after beating Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-3) on Thursday.

Mektic and Zeballos earned the first break in the second game and held on their service game to open up a 3-0 lead. Marach and Pavic won three consecutive games with a break-back in the fifth game to draw level to 3-3. The first set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Mektic and Zeballos sealed the tie-break 7-3 on the first of their three break points.

The second set went on serve with no breaks until the tie-break. Mektic and Zeballos converted the first of their third set points to wrap up the tie-break 7-3. The Argentine and Croatian player won 75 % of their service games.

“It’s crazy because most of the teams know each other for a long time. We are enjoying it, we are having a really nice time together on the court and I think we are both good players, so that’s why I think it’s working. It would be great. This is amazing. This is my first ATP Masters 1000 final, so I am happy ”, said Zeballos.

Zeballos has clinched 11 ATP Tour doubles titles and reached eight finals, but he will play his first Masters 1000 title match.

Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini will take on Poland’s Lukasz Kubot and Brazil’s Marcelo Melo in the other semifinal.

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Gael Monfils In Doubt For Miami Masters

The top 20 player has once again been hit by injury woes following a successful start to 2019.

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Gael Monfils (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

France’s top ranked male player is unsure if he will be able to play in next week’s Miami Masters after being forced to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.

Gael Monfils pulled out of his quarter-final clash with Dominic Thiem due to a problem with his Achilles. During a press conference, the world No.19 confirmed that he has inflammation in his left Achilles after undergoing a scan. An issue that has been bothering Monfils over the past couple of days.

“I felt my left Achilles a little bit. Day after day I have been treating it with my team. And last night (Wednesday) after my match, it was actually not so good.” Monfils told reporters in Indian Wells yesterday.
“I tried a little jog in the morning, and I couldn’t really actually push on it.”
“I had an ultrasound with the doctor here (in Indian Wells), and we could see, like, a big inflammation.” He added.

Whilst not a severe injury, it is in unclear as to how long the recovery process will be. Raising the chances of Monfils skipping the Miami tournament, which relocates to the Hard Rock Stadium this year. He has already missed the past two editions of the Masters 1000 event. In 2017 he was sidelined by an ankle injury, followed by a back issue in 2018.

“It depends how fast I will heal. Definitely try the other treatment tonight.” He said.
“I will take it really easy with everything and then see how I feel, if I feel that I can play Miami or not.
“So far it’s tough to say how long, but I will stay positive and hope in a couple days I’ll be fine.”

The setback comes after what has been a solid start to the season for the Frenchman. His win-loss record for 2019 currently stands at 14-4. At the Rotterdam Open Monfils won the eighth title in his career and only the second at an ATP 500 event. He also reached the semi-finals of tournaments in Rotterdam and Dubai.

“Sometime, some people are more fragile. And I guess I’m kind of fragile with some parts of my body.” The 32-year-old admits. “That’s why I always try new routines.”
“I guess I need to stay tough mentally, because it’s never easy. But I have been through that. I have no fear, I know, for this one (injury.”

As a result of his withdrawal, Thiem will play Milos Raonic in the semi-finals at Indian Wells on Friday.

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