Being temporarily banned from tennis was difficult: Sharapova

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Five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova opens up about serving a 15-month ban after testing positive for the use of meldonium. She will return to tennis at the end of April.

CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - The five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova opened up about being banned from competing in tennis at a news conference at the LPGA ANA Inspiration tournament on Tuesday.

"You don't realize how much you love something and how much something means to you until you lose it for some time," Sharapova said. She added, though, that the ban gave her a 'chance to live'.

She is expected to return to competition tennis at the Stuttgart Grand Prix on April 24.

Following a positive test for the drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, the Russian was suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) cut the ban by nine months last October, allowing her to return from April 26.

Her case divided opinion in the sport.

The Florida-based Sharapova had called the ITF's original ruling unfairly harsh because she had not intentionally violated anti-doping rules.

Meldonium was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances at the start of 2016 after mounting evidence that it boosted blood flow and enhanced performance.

CAS cut Sharapova's suspension but said she bore some degree of fault by relying on agent Max Eisenbud to check the banned list for changes and failing to ensure he had done so.

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