Maria Sharapova‘s meldonium ban took her away from the WTA Tour for 15 months, but it also should extend her career to one more Olympics in Tokyo, her agent said, according to CNN.
“If [the suspension] didn’t happen, this probably would have been her last year,” said Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, according to the report. “I think she’ll play through Tokyo [if healthy].”
Sharapova, set to return from her ban next month, received a “third career” due to the forced break that allowed her body to heal from an accumulation of injuries, Eisenbud said, according to CNN.
Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.
Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.
She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.
In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. (Also in February 2016, Eisenbud reportedly said Sharapova would definitely not play in Tokyo)
One month later, her failed drug test was announced.
Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.
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