While Maria Sharapova is still banned from competitive play until April, that doesn't mean she can't get on the court for fun or charity.
On Monday night, the former No. 1 took part in the WTT Smash Hits charity event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The event was co-hosted by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and included an auction to start the night.
Joining the five-time Grand Slam winner on Team Billie Jean was 16-year-old American junior Taylor Johnson, Mark Philippoussis and John McEnroe. Team Elton included Mardy Fish, Martina Navratilova, Liezel Huber and Andy Roddick.
The first mini-set saw Sharapova's grand debut, playing in her first public match since the Australian Open.
"It’s very special to be obviously on the court," Sharapova said. "It’s been about 7 months since I have played in front of spectators and played in a stadium environment. Obviously, very thankful to be a part of this cause. It’s been around for 24 years and its my first attendance—thrilled to be part of it."
She teamed up with Roddick to beat McEnroe and Navratilova 3-1, but that didn't count for the overall score.
Fans were excited to see Sharapova back on court, and there was a lot of laughs on Monday, but the drama surrounding her 15-month suspension after testing positive for meldonium isn't exactly going away anytime soon.
Momentum took a small drop for the Russian when she teamed up with Johnson to lose 5-2 against Huber and Navratilova. But, at least she finally got to wear her Nike US Open kit.
Team Elton would win both the men's singles and men's doubles sets. Sharapova returned for mixed doubles play, with Team Billie Jean trailing by seven, to beat Navratilova and Roddick, 5-3.
In the end, Team Elton would secure the win in extended play, 19-14. But everyone was a winner that night with more than $600,000 raised for the foundation.