Maria Sharapova
Sharapova says it is not correct for players to keep criticising her Getty

Maria Sharapova has hit back at her critics as she prepares to make her return to competitive action at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany.

The 29-year-old will be back on the court after serving a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Sharapova, now unranked, has received wild cards to participate in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome in an issue that has divided the sport.

While some, like Venus Williams and Boris Becker, are ready to welcome the Russian star back, others are not so welcoming, taking issue with the fact that she is not working her way back in.

"I've been serving my sentence," Sharapova said, as quoted on Tennis.com. "So why persist? Is there any reason to keep punishing me? I don't see it."

"When the case [details] were still a bit unknown, everyone had the right to judge. But now that I have been through the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is neutral, I say stop. If the players keep criticizing me, then that is not correct."

Sharapova also criticised the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for their handling of the ban of meldonium in January 2016 — a drug she had been using regularly to assist with her colds and flu.

The former world number one played in the Fed Cup in Prague in November 2015 and claims ITF authorities knew she was taking it at the time but did not inform her that it was being monitored as a potential banned drug in the future.

"It was an ITF event," she added, in an interview with The Times. "So why didn't someone come up to me and have a private conversation, just an official to an athlete, which would have taken care of the confidentiality problem they talked about later? But nothing was said by anyone."

"But ultimately the fault was mine. I had been getting clearance on everything I was taking for seven years and I became complacent. I got too comfortable. But then so did the ITF."

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix qualifiers will commence on 24 April.