Maria Sharapova to arrives in Brisbane. Picture: Peter Wallis
Maria Sharapova to arrives in Brisbane. Picture: Peter Wallis

Sharapova still in love with tennis

RUSSIAN star Maria Sharapova hopes the new year brings with it a change of fortune in her bid to return to the top of women's tennis.

Sharapova has elected to start her 2020 campaign at the Brisbane International, being granted the final wildcard in a top-notch 30-player field.

The last time Sharapova contested the tournament, in 2015, she won it.

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But things have since gone pear-shaped for the former queen of tennis, who is now ranked 131 in the world.

She was banned from the game in 2016 for testing positive to a banned substance at that year's Australian Open.

Sharapova returned to tennis in April 2017, but has been unable to recapture her past glories, with a lingering shoulder injury restricting her to just eight tournaments in 2019.

 

However, the 32-year-old right-hander is remaining positive, saying her passion for tennis is as strong as ever.

"I'm still doing what I love," Sharapova told The Courier-Mail after arriving in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"I get to travel around the world and be a competitor, and be a professional athlete and that's one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Maria Sharapova arrives in Brisbane. Picture: Peter Wallis
Maria Sharapova arrives in Brisbane. Picture: Peter Wallis

"I've done that since I was a young girl, and to still be doing it, and not just be doing it, but to wake up in the morning and love what you do, is a really good feeling."

One of only 10 women to have won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments, Sharapova is third on the WTA all-time prizemoney list with $55,258,896.

"I certainly have a lot of opportunities to do other things, but there's something about tennis that still gets me going," she said.

"I love the team that I have around me and the motivational aspect that everyone brings to the table every day. I love going to do my work. My office is a very cool place."

Sharapova said the strong Brisbane International field - which includes Queensland's own world No.1 Ash Barty, defending champion and world No.2 Karolina Pliskova, world No.3 Naomi Osaka and seven-time Grand Slam singles titles winner Venus Williams - was the ideal preparation for her tilt at a second Australian Open title.

"If there's a way to prepare for one of the biggest tournaments of the year, it's definitely here," she said.

"I spent most of my off-season in Italy so coming here to get used to the heat in preparation for (the Australian Open in) Melbourne was the best decision."