Maria Sharapova walked out to the courtroom dressed all in white however this clearly wasn’t Wimbledon, not with music blasting as followers carried wine glasses towards seats that surrounded a multicolored courtroom.

In precise miles and within the present state of her profession the 5-time Grand Slam champion was removed from the middle of the tennis world, the place Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza danced on the Wimbledon champions’ ball Sunday night time. Sharapova’s suspension for testing constructive for the banned drug meldonium on the 2016 Australian Open led to April however her comeback ran aground in her third event, when she injured a thigh muscle in Rome in mid-Might. Her hope of qualifying for Wimbledon vanished when the damage lingered and ended her grass-courtroom season.

The relaunch of her return started on Sunday in an surroundings that was pleasant and fortunately unconventional. Sharapova performed a set of girls’s doubles and a set of singles for the Orange County Breakers of World Workforce Tennis towards the San Diego Aviators, utilizing the competitors on the Omni LaCosta Resort & Spa to launch a journey she hopes will restore her to the highest at age 30.

Her throaty grunt was again. So have been her serve and a few of her photographs, although the format made it troublesome to gauge her match health. She’s scheduled to play once more on July 24 on the Palisades tennis membership in Newport Seashore.

“This can be a nice little addition to my schedule. I wasn’t planning truly on enjoying World Workforce Tennis,” she stated earlier than the occasion, which included her 5-three singles loss to Shelby Rogers in a 17-14 victory for San Diego. “I simply thought I might use the bonus matches, as I wish to name them, enjoying in entrance of a crowd, come again to locations I’ve competed at earlier than.”

She made her WTT debut in 2002 at 15, a willowy Russian prodigy. It appears a lifetime in the past for Sharapova, whose rating hit No. 1 in 2005 and once more in 2007 and fueled a profitable endorsement and enterprise profession. She was ranked 171st by means of Sunday.

“Coming in and enjoying these matches is just a little bit totally different than once I was 15 years previous. It’s a pleasant little tuneup as I get able to play Stanford in a few weeks,” she stated. “And there’s nothing like getting into entrance of a crowd, and this can be a event that I’ve performed.”

However a few of her rivals have stated she shouldn’t be enjoying due to her constructive check for meldonium, which will increase blood move and carries extra oxygen to muscle tissues.

She had been prescribed the drug — also referred to as mildronate — nicely earlier than it was added to World Anti-Doping Company’s record of banned substances in 2016. The Worldwide Tennis Federation suspended her for 2 years however the time period was lowered on attraction by the Courtroom of Arbitration for Sport, which dominated she had “a point of fault” for taking the drug however hadn’t meant to cheat.

Her constructive check and ban turned a polarizing matter. Some gamers stated she paid a stiff sufficient worth by being suspended; others thought she deserved an extended or everlasting ban. Andy Murray was amongst those that questioned why she was given wild-card entries into tournaments in Stuttgart, Germany, Madrid and Rome after her ban, although her capability to promote tickets was apparent motivation. Canadian Genie Bouchard referred to as her a cheater and stated Sharapova ought to have been banned for good, triggering a clumsy assembly on the internet when Bouchard defeated her within the second spherical at Madrid.

That others may disappove of her presence doesn’t hassle Sharapova, who was warmly welcomed Sunday. “I served the suspension interval and I feel there’s not far more that I might add to that,” she stated. Requested if she obtained a good shake she replied, “That’s not for me to discuss.”

To compete within the yr’s remaining Grand Slam — the U.S. Open — she should get a wild card or get by means of qualifying. For the second, she cared solely that she was capable of compete on Sunday. “I’ve to be real looking about the truth that I haven’t performed in a very long time and even earlier than the 15 months I used to be additionally injured, so it was virtually like a two-yr break for me the place I didn’t compete so much,” she stated. “The significance and significance of each event is rather more in my thoughts than what I can or not do on the U.S. Open.”

Each step towards that aim will reawaken the talk over her drug ban. She doesn’t care. “I feel I all the time had the chance to say that, as somebody that’s 30 years previous, I’ve achieved sufficient to name it a day, however there’s one thing deeper in that for me than simply the game,” she stated. “There’s one thing that I’ve completed all my life and my profession. I needed to proceed that and that’s the place my focus is, and never a lot on else.”

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Comply with Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen