Sharapova awarded main draw wildcard at U.S. Open

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[August 16, 2017]  (Reuters) - Former world number one Maria Sharapova will make her first grand slam appearance in over 18 months after she was awarded a main-draw wildcard for the upcoming U.S. Open, organizers said on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Russian, who returned from a 15-month doping ban earlier this year, was denied a wildcard at the French Open, then missed the grasscourt season, including Wimbledon, with a thigh injury.

Sharapova tweeted on Tuesday: "Thank you, @usopen. This is so so special. #goosebumps".

Sharapova tested positive for the drug meldonium in 2016, which had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)banned substances list in January of that year.

The winner of five grand slam titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, said she was unaware of the change.

"Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping program was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wild card selection process," the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said in a statement.

"Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis players at the USTA National Campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping program and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the program's requirements."

Sharapova's U.S. Open preparations have been disrupted by an arm injury suffered during her first-round win over Jennifer Brady at the Stanford Classic earlier this month.

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Maria Sharapova (RUS) waves to the crowd after winning against Jennifer Brady (USA) in the Bank of the West Classic tennis tournament at Stanford University. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The world number 148 was forced to withdraw from the Rogers Cup and this week's Cincinnati Open as a precautionary measure before the final grand slam of the year.

Other wildcard recipients on the women's side were Americans Taylor Townsend, Kayla Day, Sofia Kenin, Ashley Kratzer, Brienne Minor and France's Amandine Hesse.

The U.S. Open runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, New York.

Both the men's and women's singles champions this year will earn $3.7 million.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry King and Ken Ferris)

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