Maria Sharapova will not give up on her hope to save her tennis career.
The five-time grand slam winner announced on Monday she failed a drug test at the Australian Open after testing positive for meldonium following her quarter-final defeat against Serena Williams in Melbourne.
The medication, which Sharapova said she had legally taken throughout her career, was placed on the banned list by the World Anti-Doping Agency at the beginning of the year following “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.
The former Wimbledon champion thanked her fans in a message on Facebook for “support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession”.
She added: “I’d like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn’t anything else but to say thank you. Thank you very much.”
Women’s tennis’ most bankable star received a welcome boost with the backing of world No 1 and long-time friend Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic told TMZ.com: “I obviously wish her all the best. I’ve known her for a long time. I feel for her with all that’s happening and I just hope she gets out of this stronger.”
Chris Evert has expressed surprise at the lack of support within tennis for Sharapova.
The predominant response has been shock at how one of tennis’ most professional and meticulous players could fail to take notice of warnings that a drug she had been taking for 10 years had been added to the banned list.
Sharapova’s long-time rival Serena Williams praised her courage and she has also received the backing of the WTA.
Evert, who won 18 grand slam singles titles, told ESPN: “Maria Sharapova has always isolated herself from the rest of the tennis world. She’s made that known, she can’t be friends with the players.
“I’m not seeing a lot of support from a lot of the players. I think everyone is being mum right now.
“Whether it’s shock or whether they don’t want to become involved or have an opinion about it, it’s sort of surprising that not a lot of players have shown their support for her.”
Sharapova has accepted a provisional suspension and will find out after a tribunal hearing in due course what sanction she faces.
The Russian admitted she received a link to the list of banned substances for 2016 in December but did not click on it.
Evert said: “It’s just incredulous to me because she has such a very comprehensive and a very professional team. For everybody in the tennis world, Maria Sharapova is the last person we’d expect this to happen to.
“To me, it’s a good warning to all the superstars out there that they mean serious business and that the sport is not protecting you if you’re bringing in money for the sport, if you’re bringing in TV ratings - it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport