Melbourne storm as Maria Sharapova is handed a starring role

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

It's been nearly six years since Maria Sharapova was world No 1 and a decade since she won the Australian Open, but the Russian still hopes to achieve both once more as she rebuilds her tennis career.

The 15-month suspension followed her positive test for Meldonium, which had been banned since the start of that year.

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It will cover a 500-metre radius from the procession route, the Quirino Grandstand and Quiapo Church. But church officials and sociologists say devotees see the event as a challenge.

The Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley spoke about the choice of inviting Maria Sharapova at the draw ceremony on Thursday.

She [Maria] accepted the invite.' He also added, 'In fairness to Maria, the adjudication has occurred on that [her doping violation]. I certainly will hope that I put myself in that position'.

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It's her 10-year anniversary, like it's the 30-year anniversary of this great Melbourne Park.

She drew Germany's Tatjana Maria in the first round of the Open.

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Those comments were aired in the immediate aftermath of Ireland's hammering at the hands of Denmark in the November World Cup play-off.

Roger Federer, last year's champion, was one of the guests, but with Serena Williams not here to defend her title, Sharapova, the 2008 champion, was invited to take the stage and formally hand over the women's trophy.

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