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Russian Tennis Star Sharapova Marks Comeback With Win In Stuttgart

Maria Sharapova at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London in 2015

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova marked her return from a 15-month doping ban on April 26 with a win over Roberta Vinci in Stuttgart and described her comeback as the "best feeling in the world."

Sharapova, the former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion, overcame a nervous start to eventually claim a convincing 7-5, 6-3 win against Vinci.

"It's the best feeling in the world to walk out (on court), it's been a stage of mine since I was a young girl and it was very special," said Sharapova, commenting on her comeback after having tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

"I have been waiting for this a long time."

Sharapova was given a wildcard to play in Stuttgart, where she has been champion three times, a move which drew criticism from rivals who believed she was receiving preferential treatment.

Sharapova received warm applause from the crowd, which included one fan who held up a Russian flag bearing the words 'Welcome back Maria.' She returned the warmth with a broad smile, blowing kisses to all corners of the Porsche Arena.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters