How Maria Sharapova’s 2016 Ban Made Her Love Tennis Even More

Tennis star Maria Sharapova is no stranger to setbacks—the most recent of which being her withdrawal from a number of competitions to rest her right shoulder.

But even now, the darkest hour of her career remains her lengthy suspension from the world of tennis in 2016.

“I’ve definitely had a few. But in the last few years, it was my suspension and being away from the sport for over a year,” Sharapova said at the Fortune Most Powerful Women conference on Tuesday.

That year, Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a Latvian heart drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 due to concerns over its potential performance-enhancing qualities. Major sponsors such as Porsche wavered in their support.

But the story wasn’t so simple: Sharapova had been taking the drug long before its ban.

In October 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided that Sharapova had acted with “no significant fault” and reduced the length of her suspension to 15 months from two years.

The time between testing positive and the lifting of her ban, though, became a time of reflection for Sharapova. For instance, she learned that showing vulnerability was not always a weakness.

“[When] you start something at a very young age, it’s very easy to do it on a very repetitive level, and not really understand what is at the core of it and how you impact it,” she said. Since then, “the connection to my sport has grown so much more, [understanding] what it is, why do you wake up, and why do you do what you do.”

The interview comes just days after Sharapova ended her 2018 season early to rest her right shoulder—an issue that has followed the tennis star for over a decade. The same shoulder was operated on in 2008, giving the now 31-year-old a sense that something had been taken from her.

As a result, Sharapova sought a greater sense of responsibility and control, prompting the opening of her candy brand, Sugarpova.

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