Former world number one Maria Sharapova will be coming back after a 15-month absence amid criticism.

Maria Sharapova will face off against Roberta Vinci in Stuttgart on April 26, 2017.
Maria Sharapova will face off against Roberta Vinci in Stuttgart on April 26, 2017. ()

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova will play her first tennis match in fifteen months on Wednesday after she was suspended for doping. But not everybody in the tennis world is welcoming her back with open arms.

While some say Sharapova, initially banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has done her time, some fellow players are angry the red carpet is being rolled out.

Last week Sharapova's agent Max Eisenbud stoked the fires by saying the likes of Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska were "journeyman" players hoping to benefit from Sharapova's exclusion.

One critic of her return was Roberta Vinci, whom the Russian multimillionaire faces on Wednesday evening.

TRT World's Paul Scott has more.

"Wild card" welcome

With no ranking after such a long period without swinging her racket in anger, Sharapova could have been forced to work her way back from the lower rungs of the tennis ladder.

Instead, with tournament chiefs and sponsors well aware of her ticket-selling appeal, she has been handed a wild card into the clay court events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.

It is not an arrangement Vinci approves of.

"My personal opinion is (I do) not agree about wild cards ... about Rome, about other tournaments," she said in a press conference at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart on Monday.

"She is a great player – I don't have nothing against her. She made her mistakes for sure. She can return to play, but without wild cards. I know (Sharapova) is important for the WTA, for tennis, for everything. She is a great person, a great champion. My personal opinion is this."

Sharapova, whose defence was that she had not realised meldonium had been added to a list of banned substances at the start of 2016, insisted the substance is as common as aspirin in Russia where it is known as Mildronate.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed that Sharapova was not an intentional doper and shortened her ban from two years to 15 months.

While admitting her mistake, Sharapova has hardly been full of contrition and has criticised the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for failing to notify her that meldonium, a medication she said she had used for a number of years to treat health issues, had indeed been flagged up by WADA as "performance enhancing."

Sharapova will know on May 16 if she will be granted a wild card invitation for the French Open, the organisers of the May 28-June 11 grand slam tournament said on Wednesday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies