MARIA Sharapova returned to tennis yesterday as the fallout from her drugs test failure continued to reverberate.
The 28-year-old showed little sign of strain as she laughed and joked with her trainer during a knockabout on the beach in LA.
The star was pictured still wearing Nike workout gear, despite being dropped by the brand in the wake of the drugs scandal.
The sports clothing giant was one of three sponsors to ditch Sharapova on Tuesday.
Watch firm Tag Heuer severed ties with the tennis ace, while Nike and Porsche both suspended their relationships with her.
The deal with Nike alone was worth Â£50million for seven years.
Other sponsors, including American Express, Evian and Avon, are said to be considering their positions.
Shaarapova, the worldâ€™s top-earning sportswoman, admitted she failed a test for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.
She said she had used it since 2006 due to a family history of diabetes but it was banned for athletes on January 1 this year.
The blonde star broke her silence on Wednesday night as she took to Facebook to thank fans for their “loyalty and support”.
In the post, she stated she was “determined to play tennis again” and hoped she would be given the chance to do so.
Sharapova added: “In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans.
“Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession.
“I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face. I’d like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so.
“Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn’t anything else but to say thank you.”
Sharapova’s confession has divided the tennis community. Czech-born American legend Martina Navratilova said: â€œI donâ€™t have all the facts. I hope itâ€™s an honest mistake.â€
Former British No1 Jo Durie added: â€œI think that Maria is, in my opinion, an honest person whoâ€™s made a very big mistake.â€
But two-time Australian Open winner Jennifer Capriati said she should be stripped of her 35 professional titles and added: â€œHow much did it take from the other personâ€™s food plate?â€
The International Tennis Federation said Sharapova would be provisionally suspended from March 12. It could lead to a four-year ban but former UK Sport anti-doping chief Michele Verroken said there could be â€œsome Âleniencyâ€ if she could prove she took it for medical reasons. – Daily Mirror