Rafael Nadal was one of the first to call for punishment after Maria Sharapova failed a drugs test at the Australian Open in 2016.
The Russian was found to have taken meldonium, a drug which increases endurance capabilities and was prohibited early last year.
Sharapova was originally suspended for two years but had her ban reduced to 15 months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport deemed she acted with “no significant fault.”
It means the former world No 1 can return to tennis next month. She’s set to feature in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix after receiving a wildcard entry to the Stuttgart tournament.
Although some are upset that Sharapova’s punishment was reduced, Nadal felt it was important that she paid the price for her error.
“It is difficult to imagine that something like this can happen, but mistakes happen,” the Spaniard said last year, per the Daily Mail. “She should be punished.
“I want to believe it is a mistake for Maria. She didn't want to do it. But obviously it is negligence. She must pay for it.”
Nadal's changed his tune
It would appear that Nadal has changed his tune since making those comments, however.
In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Sharapova revealed that the Australian Open finalist sent her “a lovely message” during her ordeal.
“He sent me a very lovely message showing me his support,” Sharapova said, per Tennis World USA. “I have a big respect for him.”
So it seems Nadal wanted to make clear his stance on doping while also not upsetting anyone.
Sharapova's route back
Sharapova has also been granted wildcards into the Madrid Open and the Rome Open. Both events are ranks as WTA Premier Tournaments, meaning a strong showing will likely see Sharapova return to the top 100 in time for Wimbledon.
The ease at which the Russian has been allowed to return to the sport’s major events has upset her peers, including Britain’s Heather Watson.
“From the tournament standpoint, she will bring in the crowds and make money,” Watson said, per the Independent.
“But, from a moral standpoint, you should have to work your way back up if you've been on a ban. It just seems a bit easy.”
Has Sharapova's route back been too easy? Let us know in the comments section below!
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