Williams praises Sharapova's 'courage and heart'


Serena Williams thinks Maria Sharapova showed "a lot of courage and a lot of heart" to take responsibility for failing a drugs test at the Australian Open.

The former world number one revealed on Monday she had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium at the first grand slam of 2016.

Sharapova, who will serve a provisional suspension from March 12, claimed she had been taking the medication since 2006 for health reasons and was unaware it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances on January 1 this year.

Williams backed the Russian, who she beat 6-4 6-1 in the quarter-finals in Melbourne, for owning up to her mistake and tackling the controversy head on.

"It's just taking responsibility, which she admitted she was willing to do and wanted to do, so I just hope for the best for everyone involved," the world number one said.

"To be honest I think in sport and in life there's always a double standard and everyone knows that, whether it's a race thing or a sex thing.

"However, this is a different thing and she said she's ready to take responsibility and that shows a lot of courage and a lot of heart, but she's always shown that in her career.

"I am not concerned [by damage to the WTA Tour], there are a lot of stars and personalities on the WTA Tour."

Sharapova has subsequently had her relationship with sponsor Nike suspended, while TAG Heuer announced it would not be renewing its deal with the 28-year-old.

Williams is also endorsed by the sportswear giant and would not comment on its swift decision to distance itself from the Russian.

"They're a successful, huge, billion-dollar company and they make their own decisions," she added.

Caroline Wozniacki said the majority of athletes take extreme care over what medications they use, but was not critical of Sharapova.

"I don't think there's any more to add, I think Serena said it," said the Dane. "Anytime you take any medication we double and triple check because even things like cough drops or nasal sprays can be on the list.

"So, as athletes we try to really make sure there's nothing in them that can give an advantage."