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Maria Sharapova thanks fans for their support

The tennis star announced this week that she failed a doping test in January.

FILE: Maria Sharapova attends the Nike Tennis Primetime Knockout event in August 2010 in New York City. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Disgraced tennis star Maria Sharapova has reached out to her fans, thanking them for their support after she this week announced that she had failed a doping test.

She was informed by the International Tennis Federation that she tested positive for Meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances on 1 January this year.

Below is the text of a letter she posted to her fans on Facebook and on her website on 9 March:

I woke up yesterday morning with an inbox, in full capacity of love and compassion.

The first email I immediately opened was from my best friend, you know, the type of person who can make you smile and cry with only one word and who I spent the evening on the phone with, checking up on me, how was I doing?

On average, I love the mornings. New day, new start. It is fair to say that this day was not average. Nothing came to mind at 6am except that I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so. I wish I didn't have to go through this, but I do - and I will.

I needed to sweat, to push through and grind as I have done most of my life, so I made my way to the gym. That's when I realized a bunch of tinted windowed cars were following me. The good old paparazzi, back on the trail.

I have not been online much except the odd search for a new antique coffee table (random, I know), but my friends made a collage for me with all your beautiful messages and hashtags that you created (#IStandWithMaria and #LetMariaPlay). I spent the afternoon reading them next to my dog, who couldn't quite understand why this was more important than the walk he was expecting to take.

In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans. Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession.

I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face. I'd like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn't anything else but to say thank you. Thank you very much.

Maria Sharapova