World number one Serena Williams applauded Maria Sharapova for the way she revealed news of her failed dope test on Tuesday, while playing down fears the doping bombshell would damage tennis.
Speaking in New York where she is due to play Caroline Wozniacki in an exhibition match this week, Williams admitted she was stunned by news that Sharapova had tested positive for banned substance meldonium.
Russian star Sharapova announced the news at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, claiming she had simply made a mistake by continuing to take the drug without checking to see if it was banned. Meldonium was added to the list of banned performance-enhancing drugs in January.
“I think most people were surprised and shocked by Maria but at the same time most people were happy that she was just upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at,” Williams told reporters.
Williams, a long-time rival of Sharapova, described the Russian star’s announcement as brave.
“She’s always showed courage in everything that she’s done. And this is no different,” Williams said.
Williams meanwhile played down suggestions that the scandal and a looming ban for one of the sport’s most high-profile stars would be damaging for tennis.
“I’m not concerned, I think there’s a lot of great stars,” Williams said.
“There’s a lot people that play tennis. I think that there’s a lot of personalities.”