Maria Sharapova steps up return at Brisbane International ahead of Australian Open

Former world No 1 competed at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in her first match since August

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 31: Maria Sharapova of Russia practices ahead of the 2020 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on December 31, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Tertius Pickard/Getty Images)
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Maria Sharapova will make her return to competitive tennis at the Brisbane International next month after receiving a wildcard for the tournament.

Former world No 1 Sharapova was sidelined with a shoulder injury since losing in the first round of the US Open in August and made her return at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

Competing in the one-off women's match, Sharapova defeated Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-5.

After her participation at MWTC, Sharapova was scheduled to compete at the Hawaii Open exhibition tournament but withdrew, saying she needed more time to prepare for the new season.

The five-time grand slam champion will now kickstart her year in Brisbane where she will be joined by the WTA Tour's top-three ranked players, Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, and Naomi Osaka, at the Queensland Tennis Centre from January 6-12.

"It's a fresh start after a tough last season," Sharapova told Australian Associated Press on Tuesday, reflecting on a 2019 campaign that comprised just 15 matches due to her injury troubles.

"There were a lot of ups and downs, there were times when I was ready but the shoulder wasn't. But I have had a fairly good off season and I am motivated to compete. At this point in my career when I have that feeling, it's a good sign."

Sharapova has been troubled by shoulder problems throughout her career and the current issue required surgery early last year with lingering problems hampering her throughout the 2019 season.


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"To be fair when I was younger I never saw myself playing past 30," she said. "But I still feel there is a lot in me to give. I still have a lot of fire in me and I am big competitor. As long as the shoulder stays healthy and my body allows me to, I hope there is a lot of time left for me."

Sharapova's lowly ranking of No 133 means she will also need a wildcard to get direct entry into the main singles draw for this year's Australian Open, which begins on January 20.

"While it is about results for me, it is more about how I feel day to day, making sure my shoulder holds up, but I am definitely up for that test," she said.

Sharapova won her third major title at Melbourne Park in 2008 but also tested positive for a banned substance at the tournament in 2016 and served a 15-month suspension from the game.