Maria Sharapova will make her professional tennis comeback following her doping ban at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart in April. The former world number one is serving a 15-month ban after testing positive for cardiac drug meldonium last January and is eligible to compete again on 26 April. The tournament starts on 24 April but the 29-year-old, who will enter as a wildcard, will not be allowed to attend until the Wednesday, the day of her first match. “I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” she said. “I can’t wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”
The World Cup will be expanded to host 48 teams, up from 32, FIFA has decided. An initial stage of 16 groups of three teams will precede a knockout stage for the remaining 32 when the change is made for the 2026 tournament. The sport’s world governing body voted unanimously in favour of the change at a meeting in Zurich on Tuesday (today). The number of tournament matches will rise to 80, from 64, but the eventual winners will still play only seven games. The tournament will be completed within 32 days – a measure to appease powerful European clubs, who objected to reform because of a crowded international schedule.
Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world’s best player at the inaugural Best FIFA Football Awards in Zurich. Real Madrid and Portugal forward Ronaldo, 31, beat Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann to the prize. Ronaldo also won the Ballon d’Or in December, with both honours recognition for success in the Champions League with Real and Euro 2016 with Portugal. Carli Lloyd of the United States was named the world’s best female player. Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri was named best men’s coach, ex-Germany boss Silvia Neid won the female coach award, while Penang’s Mohd Faiz Subri received the Puskas award for the best goal of 2016.