Racquet maker sticks by Sharapova

Racquet manufacturer HEAD says it will extend its contract with Maria Sharapova, despite her recent failed drugs test.

Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche have already suspended ties with the Russian following her confession earlier this week.

But HEAD, who also sponsor Andy Murray, is sticking by the five-time Grand Slam champion.

“Maria announced on March 7th, 2016 that she had tested positive for the use of meldonium, but that this was a mistake by her as she had not realized that mildronat or meldonium had been added to the WADA list of banned substances,” it said.

“Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her.

“We also know that for more than a decade, Maria Sharapova has been a role model and woman of integrity who has inspired millions of fans around the world to play and watch tennis.

“The honesty and courage she displayed in announcing and acknowledging her mistake was admirable. HEAD is proud to stand behind Maria, now and into the future and we intend to extend her contract.”

Sharapova’s suspension takes effect on March 12. She faces a ban of up to four years for taking the banned substance.