What ban? Chinese in thrall to ‘goddess’ Sharapova

first_imgSuky, 26, flew from Xiamen in eastern China to see her hero in the flesh for the first time.Chinese flags flutter all over the country at this time of year to mark the founding of communist China, but the only flag on Suky’s right cheek was a smudged Russian tricolour. On her left arm and chest she had written her version of Sharapova’s signature in black biro.“I love Maria Sharapova,” she said. “She’s fair and beautiful, and so powerful and determined, she never gives up.”But what about that doping ban?ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City MOST READ On her first appearance back, in Stuttgart in April, the crowd gave her a polite reception and then in her Grand Slam return — at the US Open — the crowd was largely supportive.If her Chinese fans are keen to look forward, the Russian is too and in one press conference in Beijing she alluded to being “away from the game for a long time”, without saying any more.But in what is the sixth tournament of her stop-start comeback, she is more forthcoming when asked about the unwavering support she gets in China, where she won the Beijing title in 2014.“It’s always really nice to have that welcome and it’s really special to see fans that take the time and effort to make signs, to come up with wording,” she said.“For them to put in that effort is very special. For them to cheer and welcome me back to Beijing is really nice.” Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH View comments Gregorius, Judge, bullpen rally wild-card Yanks past Twins Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:06Palace: Up to MTRCB to ban animated movie Magellan in PH01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City “I think that’s an American secret,” she replied, lowering her voice slightly.Pushed to expand on her conspiracy theory, she pulled out her smartphone and tapped Chinese into a translation app.“Political intrigue” popped up on the screen in English. She declined to go into further detail.‘She’s beautiful and so tall’Vivian and Lucia, both 20 and volunteers at China’s biggest annual tennis event, are also diehard Sharapova fans.“She fights to win every game, even when it’s difficult and hard,” said Vivian, a student who only volunteered so she could catch a glimpse of the Russian.“She’s also beautiful and so tall. We walked past her and I was like, ‘Gosh!’”So that makes up for the ban?“So what? It doesn’t matter,” Lucia chipped in. “It’s in the past. So you never made a mistake?”Sharapova, who according to reports is not popular with some players because of her supposedly lofty attitude, had an initial two-year ban reduced to 15 months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled she was not “an intentional doper”.center_img Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a return during her women’s singles match against Ekaterina Marakova of Russia at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on October 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURIOne fellow player labelled her “a cheater” and she is said to be unpopular in the locker room, but Maria Sharapova remains a crowd favourite in China despite her doping ban.“Welcome back goddess,” said one banner at the China Open in Beijing this week, while a Russian flag had the words: “I got your back Maria.”ADVERTISEMENT The 30-year-old Russian was in the Chinese capital this week for the first time since coming back to tennis in April from a 15-month suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium.The former world number one is now 104 in the rankings and needed a wildcard to make it to the China Open, where she was to take on world number two Simona Halep later Wednesday.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutSharapova’s return to the tennis circuit divided opinion, with the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard among her biggest critics, calling the five-time Grand Slam champion “a cheater” who should never have been allowed to play again.But try telling that to Sharapova’s fans in Beijing, where along with Rafael Nadal she has been the biggest draw by far at the China Open. LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Frontrow holds fun run to raise funds for young cancer patients  BSP sees higher prices in November, but expects stronger peso, low rice costs to put up fight Nonong Araneta re-elected as PFF president Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Read Nextlast_img

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