#Maria Sharapova's #suspension is well underway and less than 100 days away from being fully served. The Russian can return to WTA tennis in late April. It will be an interesting time on the women's tour as reactions to Sharapova's return promise to be mixed.
Maria Sharapova's recent history
The Russian received a suspension in 2016 after testing positive for a banned substance at the 2016 #Australian Open. The substance was only recently added to the banned substance list. However, that didn't stop her from receiving a full two-year ban from the tour. Later that was reduced to 1 year and three months with April 2017 her return date..
She will be eligible for the French Open and, even though her ranking probably won't get her in unless she wins a lot of matches in April/May, she should receive a Wild Card by virtue of her two championships at Roland Garros this decade.
Mixed reactions expected for Sharapova
Surely there will be those that will never really support Sharapova again. Many fans and players alike have a zero-tolerance attitude to performance enhancers and these people may not regard the Russian as anything but a cheater. Complicating the matter for Sharapova is the fact that she has enjoyed tons of commercial success over the years with endorsements. What Sharapova lost due to the suspension someone else had to gain. Jealousy might be more of a part of Sharapova's lengthy suspension that many cares to admit.
However, another attitude toward Sharapova might be that the political process ran its course in regard to her banned substance usage and suspension: she cheated, got caught, served her sentence, and when she's eligible to play again she should be accepted.
Personally, I think the suspension went overboard precisely because of the fact that the rule had just changed. I believe in a grace period for rule changes that sees relaxed punishments for breaking recently changed rules.
That doesn't mean that Sharapova should not have been punished at all, but a suspension in the three to maybe six-month length would have been sufficient given that her usage wasn't that long and the rule was a new one. That was my stated opinion before the poorly-contested and boring women's Australian Open was played as per an article I wrote on December 21, 2016, at AthenaSportsnet.com.
Hopefully, when Sharapova returns to tennis, she returns playing well for the sake of the tour. The recently completed Australian Open was dismal with regard to quality of play in the women's draw. Serena Williams was the only great player that played well. Other players that went deep in the draw, did not play great: it was just that someone had to be left over in each section. Even Venus Williams played far below the standard of a normal Grand Slam runner-up with so many unforced errors in her matches.
As for how poorly semifinalists Coco Vandeweghe and Mirjana Lucic played in the semifinal round, I need hardly comment for anyone that actually watched the matches.
The merits of the suspension aside and whether Sharapova should be the whipping post for Russian transgressions in sport aside as well, I think that the women's game needs Sharapova back. For starters, Petra Kvitova is still sidelined until at least the summer. Victoria Azarenka is training again after giving birth, but who knows when she is playing well again? Even if you don't agree that Sharapova was over-punished, I think that the she-served-her-time approach is the better one to take than a non-forgiving one.