World number one Serena Williams applauded Maria Sharapova for the way she revealed news of her failed dope test, while playing down fears the doping bombshell would damage tennis.
She [Sharapova] has always showed courage in everything that she's done. And this is no different.
Tennis world number one Serena Williams
Williams, speaking in New York where she is due to play Caroline Wozniacki in an exhibition match, admitted she was stunned by news that Sharapova had tested positive for banned substance meldonium at this year's Australian Open.
Russian star Sharapova announced the news at a press conference in Los Angeles yesterday, claiming she had simply made a mistake by continuing to take the anti-ischemic drug Mildronate — also known as meldonium — without checking to see if it was banned.
|Maria Sharapova praised by tennis rival Serena Williams for her 'courage' to admit meldonium doping violation|
"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 said.
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."
Sharapova has already paid a financial cost for her doping violation, with German car manufacturer Porsche, sportswear giant Nike and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer distancing themselves from sponsorship deals with the tennis star.
Nike and Porsche suspended their sponsorship of the Russian, while TAG Heuer announced it would not renew its marketing contract, which expired at the end of 2015.