5 things that have changed in women's tennis during Maria Sharapova's ban

25 April 2017 07:24

Maria Sharapova will return to the WTA Tour on Wednesday following a 15-month doping suspension.

The 30-year-old has been given a wild card at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart and will face Italy's Roberta Vinci in her first game back.

Here, we look at five things that have changed during the Russian's spell out of the game.


The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion announced she was pregnant earlier this month - having won the Australian Open title while expecting. With the baby due in the autumn, she will now take a break from the game. Williams recently returned to the top of the world rankings and her absence will leave a void at the top of the game when Sharapova returns to the court.


Just as Williams is preparing to take a break, former world number one Victoria Azarenka is readying herself for a return to the game after becoming a mother. Former world number one Azarenka has not been seen since a first-round defeat in last year's French Open to Karin Knapp and gave birth to a boy in December. The Belarussian has pencilled in a return to the sport at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford at the end of July.


Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was stabbed in the left hand - her racket hand - by an intruder in her home on December 20 and needed a four-hour operation to repair the damage. Doctors initially said it would be six months before she could play again and she is progressing well, although there is no date for the Czech's return to the game. She last played in the Fed Cup final against France on November 12.


During Sharapova's absence, British number one Johanna Konta has gone from strength to strength, giving Britain a genuine Grand Slam-winning candidate and has climbed to number seven in the world. Konta claimed the most prodigious title by a British woman for 40 years earlier this month when she won the Miami Open and earlier in the year was also victorious at the Sydney International. The 25-year-old has now staked her claim to become the first British woman to win a major title since Virginia Wade's Wimbledon success in 1977.


As Sharapova was away from the sport, former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic brought an end to her playing career at the age of 29. Ivanovic became world number one after that 2008 triumph at Roland Garros but since then her career has been hindered by injury and she decided to bow out of tennis in December.

Source: PA