By ERIC WILLEMSEN
STUTTGART, Germany (AP) – Maria Sharapova was given a lukewarm welcome by 4,500 spectators upon her return to professional tennis on Wednesday after a 15-month doping ban.
After receiving a polite applause and some whistling when she entered the sold-out arena, the five-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 is playing Roberta Vinci in an opening-round match at the Porsche Grand Prix.
It’s the Russian’s first match since losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of last year’s Australian Open, and her first match on clay in nearly two years.
Organizers handed Sharapova a much-debated wild card as the three-time winner of their event has lost her ranking due to the suspension.
Several players, including Vinci, have criticized the invitation for a player who has been caught doping.