Maria Sharapova handed US Open wild card and set for first grand slam since drug ban

 
Frank Dalleres
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Bank of the West Classic - Day 1
Sharapova has played just nine matches since her comeback (Source: Getty)

Former world No1 Maria Sharapova is set to play her first grand slam event since returning from a drug ban after she was granted a wild card for this month’s US Open.

Sharapova failed to qualify automatically after plummeting down the rankings during a 15-month suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

She made her playing comeback in April but was controversially refused a wild card for the French Open the following month and abandoned plans to enter Wimbledon qualifying due to a thigh injury.

Read more: Sharapova and women's tour hit back at French Open snub

The Russian has played just nine matches this year and skipped this week’s Cincinnati Masters after being forced out of action by an elbow injury in Stanford earlier this month.

Sharapova, 30, reached the semi-finals of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart on her return to action but since then has won only three times, at events in Madrid, Rome and Stanford.

She is a five-time grand slam winner, the second of which came at the US Open in 2016. This year’s tournament at Flushing Meadows runs from 28 August to 10 September.

The women’s draw is missing six-time winner Serena Williams, who is pregnant, while a number of the leading men’s players have been plagued by fitness concerns.

Britain’s Andy Murray, Wimbledon winner Roger Federer and US Open champion Stan Wawrinka have all missed this week’s event in Cincinnati, while former world No1 Novak Djokovic is out for the rest of the year.

Ten-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal, set to replace Murray at the top of the men’s rankings next week, is the only top-six player competing in Ohio.

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