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Maria Sharapova returns to Bank of the West Classic at Stanford
Maria Sharapova returns a ball to Victoria Azarenka during the final of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford University on Sunday, August 1, 2010, in Stanford, California. Azarenka defeated Sharapova 6-4, 6-1. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Contra Costa Times/MCT/TNS)

Maria Sharapova returns to Bank of the West Classic at Stanford

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has been granted the wildcard to play at the Bank of the West (BOTW) Classic at Stanford after her 15-month ban for doping. The tournament will take place from July 31 to Aug. 6 at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium, with a 28-player single draw and a 16-team doubles draw. The BOTW Classic is the first American tournament that Sharapova will be playing in in the U.S. following her suspension.

Sharapova’s last tournament took place in Stuttgart, Germany, where she lost in the semifinals against Kristina Mladenovic. Sharapova has since missed two tournaments as she was denied the wildcard entry to the French Open and Wimbledon and missed the subsequent season due to an injury sustained in the Italian Open in Rome.

Sharapova’s return to the competitive scene has been a source of controversy due to her doping suspension, and she was denied entry to the French Open because of drug use. This decision was disputed by Steve Simon, CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), who argued that Sharapova had been penalized by the International Tennis Federation already. She was not discouraged, however, and remains determined to continue to play at the BOTW Classic this year despite dropping to rank 179 due to her absence from the sport.

The BOTW Classic is the longest-running women-only professional tennis tournament in the world and is the first stop of the U.S. Open Series. Sharapova’s attendance will be her fifth showing at this event, her most recent being in 2011. Sharapova’s best showing at the BOTW Classic was in 2010, when she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the finals.

Competitors in this year’s tournament include American rising stars Madison Keys, who placed amongst the top 10 players in the world last year after winning two WTA titles, and Cici Bellis, a Bay Area native. Past champions of the BOTW Classic include Serena and Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Billie Jean King, amongst others.

The arrival of the next BOTW tournament is an exciting time for all tennis fans, as it marks the beginning of the next round for the Women’s U.S. Open.

 

Contact Will Guo at willguo2000 ‘at’ gmail.com.