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Apr 25th 2016

Is it the end for Maria Sharapova?

Maybe not. It's turning out to be a soap opera instead. Maria Sharapova seems to be a meticulous athlete after watching her press conference at Los Angeles last month. And it's ironic that she would call the media to admit a failed drug test. Meldonium became a household name. It could be an honest mistake, as tennis legend Martina Navratilova pointed out. But most of Sharapova's colleagues in the WTA Tour were silent. Some were diplomatic in their response, while a few didn't mince words for the former number one player.

Sharapova is one of the biggest draws in tennis. She burst into the tennis scene at a young age of 17, beating Serena Williams in the finals of the 2004 Wimbledon Championships. Fans were eager to see a rivalry, but it turned out to be a one-sided affair in favor of Williams. The endorsement deals would reveal a different picture, as the Russian would earn more than her prize money in the tour. Nike and Tag Hauer suspended their ties with Sharapova, but it may not be for long. Shamil Tarpischev, the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, sees Sharapova competing in the Rio Olympics. And the verdict on her case will be known before Wimbledon. She may only miss the clay court season.

Sharapova's admission came after a season where she only won two titles. A third Italian Open title, a Premier 5 event, would be the highlight of 2015. The rest of the year saw her loss in an early round or missing some tournaments due to injury. The native of Sochi is a fighter on court, but not a few wonder if injuries affect her form. Furthermore, the long-term effects of her failed drug test are yet to be known. Is it a blow in women's tennis? Maybe. The likes of Dominika Cibulková don't miss her at all, though. It's too early to dismiss Sharapova's chances this summer. (The Olympics is scheduled before the US Open.) There's no doubt that fans are witnessing a transition in the women's game, where no one can challenge Williams. Maybe Victoria Azarenka's Sunshine Double is a good sign. And Angelique Kerber will regain her winning form. In Sharapova's case, it remains to be seen.

Here are highlights of her career:

Sharapova is one of three Russian players who won a Grand Slam title in 2004. This was the only time when Sharapova had Serena Williams's number.

Sharapova, a native of Soichi, would win the WTA Championship later that year. The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) named her the female tennis player of 2004.

2008 would be Sharapova's best year. She won the Australian Open, reached the top of the WTA singles ranking, and was almost unbeatable during the first quarter of the year.

Sharapova won her first French Open singles title in 2012. She became the tenth female player to complete a career Grand Slam. (She won Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, and the Australian Open in 2008.) She won the silver medal at the London Olympics a few months later.

Sharapova won her second French Open crown two years later. It was her fifth major title, where would join an exclusive club of female players who won five Grand Slam singles titles or more. She would be number 30.

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