Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open

How did she get away with it? Samantha Stosur slams Maria Sharapova’s reduced drug ban

Australian player says the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport sets a bad precedent after the Russian’s two-year suspension was cut to 15 months

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 2016, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 9:02am

Australian star Samantha Stosur said she was surprised by the decision to reduce Maria Sharapova’s ban for testing positive for banned substance meldonium, saying it was remarkable that the Russian was able to get away with it.

Five-time grand slam champion Sharapova tested positive in January and was slapped with a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation. On Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cut the ban to 15 months, which means she can return to the circuit in April.

Sharapova had been using the drug – taken to treat a lack of blood flow to parts of the body – since 2005 while it was legal and said she didn’t realise meldonium had been placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list at the start of 2016.

“I can’t believe it actually,” said Stosur on Friday at Victoria Park, where she will be taking part in the Prudential Hong Kong Open starting on Saturday. “I think it ... I don’t even know what to say.

“I don’t know how you can get away with that excuse [that she didn’t know it was banned], and have that [two-year ban] overturned. I think it’s remarkable that you can use that excuse and get away with it.

“It really sets a bad precedence for athletes moving forward where you can almost put your hands up and say it was not my fault.”

The 32-year-old Stosur, who won the 2011 US Open singles title and reached the 2010 French Open final, said her feelings were generally shared by other players on the circuit.

“I’ve spoken to a few people and we all seem to have the same idea,” she said. “We had the same idea beforehand, and now we have the decision. So I wouldn’t imagine there’s a whole lot of support from the playing group.”

When asked if Sharapova would receive a hostile welcome when she returns to the court, Stosur said: “It would be interesting to see [the reception] when she does come back.”

World number 18 Stosur made her Hong Kong debut last year when she reached the semi-finals before bowing out to runner-up Angelique Kerber.

She comes into the 2016 event looking for a lift after losing to good friend Zhang Shuai, of China, in the first round in Beijing. The previous week, she was beaten in the early rounds of the Wuhan Open by Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.

“[My form] could be a little bit better, it has been difficult for two weeks,” said former world number four Stosur, who said she went for a walk in Hong Kong on Wednesday night and experienced a foot massage. “They were not necessarily bad losses but I should do better and need to pick up my level of play.

“I need to play well in my style of tennis and I feel if I can do that and impose my tennis on my opponents I can do well. There are some great players here so it’s not going to be easy.

“It’s towards the end of the year so maybe we are a little bit fatigued so to be in a place [like Hong Kong] that’s exciting and fun, you can draw a little bit of energy from it.

“We’ve played in Asia for many years and really enjoy the week in Hong Kong. There’s a lot to do here, it’s exciting and a really good atmosphere in the city.”