Carlsbad - Maria Sharapova is realistic as she tries to
regain her form after a 15-month drug suspension.
"I think no road is easy," Sharapova said on
Sunday before a World Team Tennis match.
Sharapova played for the Orange County Breakers in their
season-opening match against the defending champion San Diego Aviators at the
La Costa Resort and Spa. It was Sharapova's first appearance in the US since
testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
She returned to the court in April and played three
tournaments in Europe. In her first event, the Russian star reached the Porsche
Tennis Grand Prix semi-finals.
A thigh injury prevented Sharapova from
competing in the grass-court season that ended at Wimbledon on Sunday. But now
she's fit and ready for a summer run, hoping to cap it at the US Open.
"It's nice to have a schedule again and something that
I really miss, having a tournament on the schedule and a calendar and knowing
what I have to prepare for," Sharapova said.
When her initial two-year ban was reduced to 15 months, some
questioned if Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, was given beneficial
"I served the suspension period and I think there's not
much more that I could add to that," Sharapova said.
Ken Macdonald, one of Sunday's spectators, welcomed her
"She's good for women's tennis," Macdonald said.
"She deserves a second chance."
But Sharapova also hears her detractors claiming she got a
pass. Sharapova, one of the world's most recognisable female athletes, said
that she's answering her critics by showing up.
"I think just by doing what I do, and that's playing
tennis," she said. "That's what I wanted to do from the very beginning.
I've done it. I've always had the choice of not doing it. I have had a lot in
my career. I've had the support.
"As someone who is 30 years old, I achieved enough to
call it a day. But there's something deeper. It's more than just the sport.
It's something I've done all my life and my career. I wanted to continue that.
That's where my focus is and not much else."
Sharapova said her schedule leading to the US Open will
include another WTT appearance and WTA Tour stops at Stanford and Toronto. She
declined to predict how she would fare at the U.S. Open, the year's final Grand
"It's not something that I think about; it's not part
of my job," she said. "Just because I have to be realistic that I
haven't played in a long time. With the injury, it was almost like a two-year
break for me. The importance and significance of every tournament is much more
in my mind than what I can or cannot do at the US Open."
Which brought her back to the WTT and the La Costa Resort
and Spa, where she won twice when it was WTA Tour stop.
"This was a great little addition to my schedule,"
she said. "I hadn't actually planned on playing World Team Tennis but I
just thought I could use the bonus matches as I like to call them. Play in
front of the crowds and come back to places that I've competed at before."