Russian tennis star, Maria Sharapova, says her love for the game has grown stronger after a difficult 15-month ban for doping.
Sharapova came back to competitive tennis after her ban for a banned substance in April, at the Stuggart Open, after organizers handed her a wildcard entry for the event in Germany.
However, despite missing out on place in Rolandd Garros, after she was denied a wildcard entry, and Wimbledon due to a thigh injury, the former world number one says her setbacks in the last two years have only strengthened her further.
“These last two years have been tougher — so much tougher — than I ever could have anticipated… my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it’s only grown stronger,” Sharapova said.
“I’m getting ready for the North American hardcourt season now, one of my favourites. I’ll play Stanford, then Toronto — and I’m going to give it everything I have.
Sharapova was criticized for doping and receiving wildcard entries to events in Stuttgart, Rome and Madrid, and according to her, she’s been affected by that, especially criticisms from her colleagues.
“I’m not oblivious. I’m aware of what many of my peers have said about me, and how critical of me some of them have been in the press… I don’t think that sort of thing will ever fully be possible to ignore,” she added.
“But at the same time I’ve always tried to keep a generous attitude toward critics in general… I’ve never wanted to respond to the people trashing me by trashing them back; that’s always been important to me.”
“I’ve always wanted to face my critics by simply taking the high road. And by showing them, by showing everyone, that taking the high road is a choice.”
After the tournament in Standard, which she’s currently preparing for, the 30-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner will play in the Rogers Cup expected to start on August 7.