Former world number one Maria Sharapova made a winning comeback to the tour on Wednesday following her 15-month doping ban, beating Italian Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the first round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix.The 30-year-old Russian, a three-time winner on Stuttgart’s clay courts, received a controversial wild card for the German tournament, having had no ranking points after more than a year out following her suspension.She had a nervous start in front of a supportive crowd but quickly found her strokes and her trademark shrieks to power past the world number 36 7-5 6-3 and set up a second-round clash against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova.”It’s the best feeling in the world. To know I would be walking back into the arena was very special,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview. “I was waiting for this moment for a long time.”She added: “When I am on the court, because I have been doing it for so long, even though you are rusty and trying to get a rhythm, you try to block everything out. I am a competitor by nature. That’s when I am at my best.”Sharapova has also received invitations to play in Madrid and Rome and will find out in May whether she will be given a wild card for the French Open.Some players, including Vinci, have criticised the wild card awards, saying a doping offender should have to start from scratch and build up their ranking by playing in the lower tournaments again.advertisement”I am not an individual that’s angry or bitter. I let things go,” she told a post-match news conference. “I am being offered wild cards from tournament directors. I am not getting a wild card to receive a trophy or a gold platter.”I still have to go through matches and win them.”REDUCED BANSharapova’s initial two-year suspension was reduced to 15 months after she tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication the Russian had been taking within the rules but which was then reclassified as a banned drug.”It’s important to play, points, games, sets. It is a journey that officially starts today and I look forward to playing as many matches as I can,” said Sharapova, the second highest paid female athlete last year according to Forbes.”I spent a long time without hitting any balls. I didn’t know when I would be back. I went to school for a little bit, I grew my business and had a normal life. I put the racquet away for a little bit.”I felt I had to grow as a person and I felt I had to step up and do it.”Sharapova was clearly nervous at the start, firing three forehands long in the first game, double-faulting on her first service game point and being broken by the Italian who took a quick 2-0 lead.It took 15 minutes for Sharapova to win her first game but she gradually improved her service, started attacking Vinci’s and clinched the first set after an hour.Sharapova, growing in confidence with every point despite a dozen unforced errors in the first set, broke the Italian early in the second, and her 11th ace put her 5-3 ahead.She broke the 34-year-old again to secure the win on her first match point.
Canning (WB): One person was killed and two others received bullet injuries after a clash broke out between two groups in South 24 Parganas district on Sunday, police said. The incident happened at Canning bus stand under the jurisdiction of Canning police station. Trouble began after the two groups, belonging to the same party, clashed at a rally organised by its youth wing, a police officer said. Shots were fired during the clash and 18-year-old Mizanur Rehman Sardar was killed on the spot, the officer said, adding, two other persons also suffered bullet injuries. They have been admitted to Canning sub-divisional hospital, he said.
Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met with poll whiz Prashant Kishor at Nabanna on Thursday afternoon, whose latest success is ‘Project Jagan Mohan Reddy’ in Andhra Pradesh.After a reported two-hour meeting in Kolkata, Kishor signed up as the party’s poll strategist for the Assembly elections scheduled to be held in 2021. Kishor will kick off his assignment very soon and his primary job, as per party sources, will be to prepare a plan to counter the BJP which had bagged as many as 18 seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections with the ruling TMC winning 22 seats. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP could manage only two seats in the state while the TMC had won 34. In terms of 294 Assembly seats, the saffron party could manage lead in as many as 121 Assembly segments against the TMC’s 164. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: MamataSources in Nabanna informed that Kishor was taken to the Chief Minister’s chamber at Nabanna by Abhishek Banerjee who is the president of All India Trinamool Youth Congress. According to party sources, the two deliberated over the causes of TMC’s performance in the parliamentary polls and Kishor explained his readings seat by seat for Bengal. It may be mentioned that TMC had sought the assistance of Kishor even in 2016 but the deal did not materialise due to the latter’s reluctance. Kishor had then just bagged the Congress contract for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections at that time. Also Read – Lightning kills 8, injures 16 in stateKishor is credited with successfully organising the political campaigns for Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The YSR Congress won 22 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats and 151 out of 175 Assembly seats. The incumbent Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s party was voted out of power in the parliamentary polls. It is learnt that after the convincing victory of Reddy, few more political parties in the state have been approaching Kishor for being their poll strategist. Kishor is credited with handling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He joined Nitish Kumar and strategised the election campaign for his party during the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections. His venture to revive the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, however, was a flop. Kishor had joined politics last year as the vice-president of Bihar’s Janata Dal-United.