Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova says she has got her “day job back” as she prepares to return to tennis after a 15-month ban.
Sharapova was banned for two years last June after testing positive for meldonium, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) reduced the suspension.
The 29-year-old Russian will return at next month’s Porsche Grand Prix, courtesy of a wildcard entry.
“Will it be difficult? Absolutely,” said the former world number one.
“In tennis you lose a lot of hand-eye co-ordination. Practice is never the same as matchplay, to face someone on the other side of the net.”
‘I fought for the truth’
Sharapova is free to return on 26 April, two days after the start of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
That means she is not allowed to attend the tournament until the day of her opening match.
Sharapova also has wildcards for May’s tournaments in Madrid and Rome, though she has already taken part in two exhibition events since her ban was reduced.
She last played a professional tournament at the 2016 Australian Open, where she failed her drugs test.
“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 told an ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference.
“I’ve got my day job back. It’s great. I’ve been training quite hard for the past four months.”
Sharapova was a long-time user of meldonium and says she was unaware it had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016.
On appeal, Cas found she was not an “intentional doper” and reduced her suspension.
“I fought so hard for the truth,” she added. “You don’t realise how much you love something until you lose it for some time.”