Maria Sharapova: Russian happy to have 'day job back' after doping ban

    Story highlights

    • Sharapova can return to action on April 26
    • Russian banned for 15 months for doping
    • She says she has her "day job back"

    (CNN)It is a sporting return which has generated mixed reactions, but as Maria Sharapova prepares for her first competitive match following a doping ban the five-time grand slam champion says she feels vindicated and empowered.

    The 29-year-old Russian was suspended last June after testing positive for meldonium, an over-the-counter heart medication commonly used in countries formerly comprising the Soviet Union.
    Initially barred for two years, her ban was cut to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport who said in its ruling it did not believe the player was an "intentional doper."
    Sharapova, who is scheduled to play in April's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, said she had "fought hard for the truth."
    "Although I'm at a stage or age in my career where you're closer to the end than your beginning, you always want to end a chapter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice," she told the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference.
    Sharapova argued she hadn't realized the drug -- which she had taken for more than a decade for various health issues -- had been put on the 2016 prohibited list.

    'I've been training hard'

    Her ban ends two days after the Stuttgart tournament starts on April 24.
    The decision to schedule the former world No.1's first match for April 26 to allow her to compete has generated mixed reaction among players.
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    Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki questioned whether Sharapova should be allowed to make her comeback in Stuttgart.
    But Sharapova, a wildcard entry in Germany, says she is not worried about the reception she will receive and says it feels great to have her "day job back."
    "When you love what you do, and you do it with passion and integrity and you work hard and have a team around you, and you're the driving force, you know what you stand for and who you are," she said.
    "I've got my day job back. It's great. I've been training quite hard for the past four months."
    Sharapova last played a professional tournament at the 2016 Australian Open, where she failed her drugs test.
    She has also received wildcards for tournaments in Madrid and Rome in May.