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Maria Sharapova 'couldn't be happier' as she confirms date of return

Tennis star to return from suspension April 26

(CNN) - Maria Sharapova is set to make her official return from a doping suspension on April 26 after the former world No. 1 was granted a wildcard entry to Stuttgart's Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

The tournament starts on April 22, with the 29-year-old Sharapova, who hasn't been involved a competitive match since the Australian Open in January 2016, due to play on the day her 15-month ban comes to an end.

The Russian has been keeping fit ahead of her comeback, appearing in a Las Vegas charity event in October 2016, and then playing an exhibition match against Olympic singles champion Monica Puig in Puerto Rico last month.

"I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favorite tournaments," said Sharapova, a three-time winner at the annual clay court event. READ: Will Roger Federer and Serena Williams add to major haul in 2017?

A welcome return?

The head of the WTA, Steve Simon, has already said he is looking forward to Sharapova's return -- a sentiment echoed by Porsche Tennis Tournament Director Markus Günthardt -- but not everyone on the tour has been so welcoming.

WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova, shortly after Sharapova admitted to the failed drug test, labeled her "unlikeable, arrogant, conceited and cold."

The Russian was initially banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium in January 2016.

In October, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the sanction by nine months, saying she bore "no significant fault or negligence."

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Günthardt described Sharapova's return at Stuttgart as "certain to be one of the sporting and emotional highlights of our anniversary tournament."


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