Maria Sharapova's chances of finishing the 2017 season as the World No. 1 player are slim. First and foremost the Russian will turn 30 during 2017. That's certainly not too vast of an age to get the No. 1 ranking, however she is at the upper range of her prime now. The younger players on tour are getting better and they will have increased confidence against the former World No. 1. However, besides her age Sharapova's suspension is a major blow to any serious thoughts of finishing the season ranked so as the top player.

Maria Sharapova's return date April 25th, 2017

Sharapova, who tested positive in early 2016 for a banned substance, will not return to the WTA circuit until late April of 2017 and that means that a few key tournaments will not factor into her year-end ranking.

Most notably, she won't contest the 2017 Australian Open and that will leave up to 2000 ranking points uncontested. The year-end No. 1 in each of the last two seasons has won the Australian Open, so missing the event is not a small matter. Furthermore, Indian Wells and Miami are two early-season Premier Mandatory events that Sharapova won't be able to challenge for and each carries a substantial amount of ranking points.

That Sharapova can start the season in April still leaves three Grand Slams and several Premier Mandatory events on the table for her. However, you don't go from the sidelines to top-notch Tennis in a heart beat. Accordingly, Sharapova could struggle at the 2017 French Open and she may exit early from the event as she finds her rhythm.

If that's the case, then it would mean that she basically gets no points from the first two majors of the season, which would leave her at a huge deficit to finish the season No. 1.

Sharapova plays Monica Puig next week

It's good that Sharapova is expected to play in next week's Monica Puig Invitational tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Puig, who won the Olympic gold medal, is a quality opponent that Sharapova can stay sharp against. The Russian would be smart to try and schedule similar matches for herself in an attempt to stay match-sharp as she serves her lengthy suspension. However, exhibition tournaments often feature a lot of post-shot giggles and they are a poor substitution for serious regular tour events.

The Russian is 33 to 1 to finish 2017 as the top-ranked player with Paddy Power, odds that reflect the challenge that she has before her. The odds make her the 7th favorite in the market behind Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, and three others.

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