Sharapova stunned by ban of her childhood idol Hingis
SHARAPOVA STUNNED BY HINGIS BAN
By Andrew Mullen, PA Sport, Hong Kong
Two-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova admitted she was surprised to see childhood idol Martina Hingis handed a two-year ban following a doping offence.
Hingis tested positive for cocaine following her defeat by Laura Granville at Wimbledon last year and on Friday was handed the ban by the International Tennis Federation.
The 27-year-old, who spent three years away from the sport before returning in 2006, retired from tennis last November after revealing she had tested positive.
The former world number one and five-time grand slam winner returned a positive result from a routine urine sample following the defeat by Granville, but has previously insisted she was "100% innocent."
And Sharapova, who suffered a 6-4 6-3 defeat by Venus Williams in the final of JB Group Classic in Hong Kong on Saturday, had nothing but praise for the Swiss star.
"Martina has always been super nice to me," she said.
"It is definitely sad to see as to this day I think she is an incredible champion and in front of my eyes she has always been an incredibly hard worker from spending extra hours on the court to extra time in the gym.
"She has been one of the toughest examples, especially when I was growing up, to see the work ethic she put in to what she did was incredible. I think it is just as surprising to me as it is to anyone else. I always wanted to be like her in those days when I was younger. She was always playing in the matches that you would want to be in - the ones that everyone wanted to watch."
Martina HINGIS [Australian Open 97/98/99, Wimbledon 97, US Open 97]
Kim CLIJSTERS [US Open 05/09/10, Australian Open 11]
Ana IVANOVIC [French Open 08]