The WTA Tour will roam its herd all over the Europe for the upcoming months during the clay court swing. The first stop on the radar is the event in Stuttgart, Germany - a premier category tournament consisting of a big pot of WTA Tennis stars. Moreover, this event will mark Maria Sharapova's return to action given the fact that she was subject to a 15 months ban from competing after failing a drug test at 2016 Australian Open.

Having no ranking position at all, the Russian who recently turned 30 was handed several wild-cards for the upcoming clay court tournaments. Stuttgart is just one of them with other two big WTA events to play next. The Premier Mandatory event from Madrid and the Premier 5 from Rome are next two stops for the former world no. 1 in women's singles and five times Grand Slam champion.

Sharapova will resume her career against Roberta Vinci

The main draw puts Maria Sharapova in the first half of the board with some difficult opponents ahead.

In the opening round, the Russian tennis star, three times champion here between 2012 and 2014 will face Roberta Vinci (35 WTA) a 34-year-old Italian veteran of the professional tour and the runner-up of 2015 US Open. In head to head stats, their common history consists only from two encounters both being won by the Russian. The first one took place at 2007 US Open while the second one occurred five years later at 2012 Indian Wells.

But those were on a hardcourt while the upcoming clash is on clay. Besides, both athletes are far from their peak of form due to lack of playing or poor form. If she gets past Vinci, Sharapova will face either E. Makarova (44 WTA) or A. Radwanska (8 WTA). In the same half of the draw, there are also big names like Angelique Kerber, the world no. 1 and the winner of last two editions, Dominika Cibulkova (4 WTA), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, this year's Australian Open semifinalist and Kristina Mladenovic, the young tennis star from France. So, for Sharapova, it won't be easy to collect some valuable ranking points.

Sharapova's glorious past gives her a second chance

Maria Sharapova might want to thank herself for the past success on the WTA Tour. Without that history, she was unlikely to receive wild-card entries on so many big WTA events. Widely criticised by her rivals from the professional tour, Sharapova could again climb the mountain in a matter of weeks. For the French Open, her participation is still hanging by a thread as the event organisers haven't decided yet if Sharapova will receive a wild-card.

But, some solid clay court results could give the Russian the necessary amount of points to attend at least Wimbledon during the grass court session. It's going to be interesting to watch whether or not Sharapova still has the hunger in her core. Coming after a long hiatus has never been easy for a professional tennis player.

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