28 Jul 2017

Sharapova to play in Cincinnati

7:08 am on 28 July 2017

Maria Sharapova has been thrown a comeback lifeline after the Cincinnati Masters dealt the Russian tennis player a wildcard entry.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova Photo: Photosport

The decision means the 30-year-old former world number one, who served a 15-month ban after testing positive for a medication that was suddenly switched from legal to illegal in late 2015, will be playing for three consecutive weeks as she labours through a comeback.

The five-time grand slam winner is now ranked 173rd but will have a chance to lift that number as she competes next week in Stanford, followed by Toronto and Cincinnati.

Her US Open fate remains unknown after she missed both the French Open and Wimbledon. Sharapova also needed time to heal a hip muscle tear and tested herself this week in team tennis for a Californian side.

Sharapova owns 35 career titles and spent 21 weeks atop the rankings. The Russian stands 13-3 in Cincinnati, where the won the 2011 title and finished as a finalist a year earlier.

The tournament also gave wild cards to Victoria Azarenka, the 2013 champion, and American Sloane Stephens for the event which begins August 14.

Azarenka owns 20 titles, including two Australian Open crowns. The Belarusian, who gave birth in December, won three titles early in 2016 before stepping away after becoming pregnant. She reached the Wimbledon fourth round this month and stands 9-3 in Cincinnati.

The women's field is headed by Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep. Andy Murray will be the men's top seed.