Richard Gasquet says return will be 'tough' for Sharapova


Beijing (AFP)

French tennis player Richard Gasquet -- who was once banned after testing positive for cocaine -- said Wednesday that Maria Sharapova will face a "tough" return when her 15-month doping ban ends next year.

Gasquet faced an emotional comeback himself after he tested positive for cocaine at the Miami Open in 2009.

"It is never easy to come back, of course. I think she had 15 months... it's quite long to come back (after that). Mentally and physically it will be tough for her," Gasquet told AFP in Beijing.

The 30-year-old Frenchman was banned for just two and a half months after he persuaded the International Tennis Federation's tribunal panel that he had inadvertently ingested cocaine during a nightclub kiss with a girl who had taken the drug.

Sharapova had her two-year doping ban cut to 15 months by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday, after it ruled she was not an "intentional doper".

The 29-year-old Russian tennis star -- who is estimated to be worth $200 million -- said she aims to return to the tour in April next year.

At the time of his court comeback, Gasquet said that he had been too upset to pick up a tennis racket during his suspension.

But his career has since rebounded. He has ended three of the last four years inside the top ten and achieved his best ever Grand Slam performance this year, reaching the quarter finals at Roland Garros.

"(Sharapova) need(s) to play enough and of course it will be ok for her in the future. We will see... for every case it is different," Gasquet added.