Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova could stage a comeback in January 2017, despite being banned for two years in June this year by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for an anti-doping rule violation.
Sharapova's ban runs till 28 January, 2018 but if the President of the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Shamil Tarpishchev, is to be believed, then the 29-year-old will be seen in action much before the ban ends.
"Everything will be decided in September. It is impossible to say for certain but I think she will start playing again by January," Tarpischev is quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.
The Russian, who is a former World No 1, was suspended from the sport after admitting that she took banned substance meldonium and failing a drugs test at the Australian Open earlier this year. She was also named in Russia's official entry list for the ongoing Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro but her suspension meant she was unable to take part.
Sharapova appealed against the suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), claiming it was unfair. The CAS last month decided to defer its decision until 19 September as both Sharapova and the ITF said they needed more time to respond to their respective evidentiary submissions.
Sharapova is one of the most popular athletes in the world due to her success on court and glamour off it. She won five Grand Slam titles and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics. She has won a total of 38 tournaments, and despite the ban, is the second highest paid female athlete in the world.