| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

Maria Sharapova returns to the court for the first time in nearly nine months when she makes her World TeamTennis Smash Hits debut on Monday, October 10, at 6:30 p.m. Pacific at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Sharapova, the popular global icon who burst onto the pro tennis scene at the age of 14, will be playing in the charity event for the first time in its 24-year history. WTT Smash Hits, which is co-hosted by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King, raises funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Sharapova joins an all-star field that includes John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Mardy Fish and Mark Philippoussis. Another new addition to the field is former world No. 1 doubles standout Liezel Huber who has won 53 WTA Tour doubles titles.

"I am really excited to get back on the court for a great cause,” said Sharapova. “I have been wanting to play this event for Billie and Elton for a long time so I am looking forward to a great night of tennis."

Sharapova is one of only six women in the Open era to win a career Grand Slam, taking home the title at the 2008 Australian Open, 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and twice at the French Open in 2012 and 2014.  She also captured the silver medal in singles at the 2012 London Olympics. The former world No. 1 has won 35 singles titles and three doubles titles on the WTA Tour. She also launched Sugarpova, a successful candy line, in 2012.

Since 1993, WTT Smash Hits has raised more than $14 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and local AIDS charities. Caesars Palace, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is also home to Elton John’s hit show, “The Million Dollar Piano.”

Captained by King and John, the players will form two teams and play a WTT match featuring singles and doubles action. The music legend is expected to participate in a celebrity doubles match to open the event. Last year, Team Elton took a 12-11 edge in the overall series with a 17-11 win over Team Billie Jean.