Former world number one Maria Sharapova said she would play in the juniors in order to regain her place among the WTA's elite after making a successful return from a doping ban.After serving a 15-month suspension in the sporting wilderness for taking the banned steroid meldonium, Sharapova was back in the spotlight in a 7-5 6-3 victory over Roberta Vinci at the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday.
Sharapova's comeback in Germany came via a wildcard entry, which angered a number of her rivals but the five-time grand slam champion is just grateful for the opportunity to be back on centre stage as she awaits a decision on whether she has been given a wildcard for the French Open."I think I'd be prepared to play in the juniors if I had to," Sharapova told reporters. "I think everyone in this room knows what a competitor I am and I don't take anything for granted and if I get the opportunity to be in a draw then I will take it."I'm being offered wildcards from the tournament directors and I'm accepting them to be able to compete in the draw.
I'm coming with no ranking and I'm not getting a wildcard to receive a trophy or a golden platter. I have to get through the matches and I still have to win them and that's my job."On the French Open itself, Sharapova said: "I don't think my mind is there yet. I know there's been a lot of talk about the French Open wildcard and whether I'll be playing or not, but coming from someone that hasn't competed for 15 months, the importance of this tournament and the next and the following one is crucial as well and I can't get ahead of myself."Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Vinci have been critical of Sharapova's return to the circuit.The trio have voiced their disapproval over wildcards being handed to Sharapova after failing a drugs test."I can't control what people say. I never have. The only thing I can control is what I do out there. Those are my words – I've always preferred to walk the walk, and I have.
And I've done that by winning five grand slams and being number one in the world," she said."It's not my job to think whether it's personal or not. It's not what matters. Word and quotes and articles is not what matters in life and I've learned that very well in the past year. There'll be articles after a match, after I win, after I lose – they go away, it's a news cycle and they go away, and that's not life. What matters is on the court and that's why I'm here."It has been a long and controversial road back for Sharapova but there is no animosity from her end."I'm not an individual that's angry or bitter. I let things go pretty quickly and I move on to the next page.
Over the past many months I've been present in everything I've done," the 30-year-old said. "I knew when I was coming back in April – many people were asking me 'are you looking forward to April? Are you excited about April? I didn't think about April. In November, December, in January – even a month ago, I wasn't there. I was very much present in my life. There's a lot of things I did I probably wouldn't have done in my 20s."I experienced it, it was very present and living it. I was studying, I was working, I was learning, I grew my business, I formed friendships that I didn't ever have the time to form. As a woman, as a 29-year-old, it was liberating. Was it a way I wanted to experience those things? Absolutely not. But I had the opportunity and I did."