Russian player Maria Sharapova and Puerto Rican player Monica Puig had very contrasting experiences in 2016. For Sharapova, the calendar year will be remembered negatively for her positive result for a banned substance early in the season, a test result that will ultimately cost her more than a year of her athletic prime. For Puig, she had an extreme high point as she won the Olympic gold medal in Rio at the summer games. In November, she was also honored as the Best Female Athlete at the Rio Olympics. For certain her tears of joy from winning in Brazil will remain one of the lasting images of women's Tennis from the 2016 season.

Sharapova and Puig will play in San Juan

Sharapova and Puig are scheduled to play an exhibition match later this month at the Monica Puig Invitational. Sharapova tweeted about the news back on November 15th: "Excited to join Monica Puig in San Juan 12/15 in an exhibition match at The Coliseo de Puerto Rico." The match takes on some interest, because it will give tennis fans a chance to see Sharapova in action, a player who fans have missed since early 2016. The match result won't be recognized by the WTA Tour, but Sharapova leads their series 1-0 with a straight-sets win on clay from Rome in 2014.

Serena Williams, Roger Federer make returns

December is the slowest time of the year with Davis Cup events over, ATP events over, and WTA events over.

Accordingly, the Monica Puig Invitational is one of the highlights of the month when it comes to tennis. However, the event joins the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) for non-tour events that will be running. The IPTL will see Serena Williams make a return to the tennis courts after an injury that cost her the late stages of her 2016 season.

She is expected to play IPTL matches in Singapore next week. Furthermore, Roger Federer, who has missed tour events since Wimbledon, is expected to play in the IPTL as well in a limited capacity.

However, you would think that neither Williams nor Federer would test themselves at all unless they felt that they had recovered from their recent injuries.

That bodes well for the start of the 2017 season as the two stars promise to be factors in the 2017 Australian Open. Puerto Rico's Puig may also prove an important player down under, while Sharapova will be sidelined with her suspension until the spring.

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