MELBOURNE: Maria Sharapova on Saturday said she is in good shape and not worried about a lack of match practice going into the Australian Open after an injury-hit start to the year.
The fifth seed, attempting to win her first title at Melbourne Park since 2008, pulled out of the season-opening Brisbane International with a left forearm problem, but the upbeat 28-year-old said she’s raring to go.
“I feel really good, I got to Melbourne earlier than I wanted to. But it gave me a chance to practice here this week. Had great days on a lot of the courts,” she said.
Sharapova has been plagued by injury since July, after she lost in the Wimbledon semi-finals to Serena Williams, but insisted she has shrugged off any lingering effects.
Despite not playing a match this year, she said she was experienced enough to make the best use of her time on the practice courts to compensate.
“You can’t replicate what you do out on the court when you’re playing a match in front of thousands of people, there’s nothing like it, you can never compare it,” she said.
“But I’ve always been someone that’s been able to treat their practice as something meaningful, there’s something on the line, you’re not just going through the motions.
“That’s one of the reasons I believe in myself knowing, okay, I may not have played five matches in Brisbane, but if I commit myself, train well, get some practice sets in, I know with that mindset I’ll be able to take it.
“Yes, I might be rusty, make a few more unforced errors than I would like, but I’m ready to go.”
The latter half of Sharapova’s 2015 season was wrecked by injuries, first to her right leg which forced her to miss the US Open.
She retired from her comeback match at the Wuhan Open in China in September with a left forearm injury, only returning for the WTA Tour finals in Singapore at the end of October.
Despite this she managed two tournament wins (Brisbane and Rome) last year, with a 39-9 win-loss record and an extra US$3.9 million dollars in prize money in the bank.
Sharapova gets her Australian Open underway against Japan’s Nao Hibino with a potential quarter-final against her nemesis Williams, who beat her in the final last year and has won every match they have played since 2004.
But the Russian said she was not looking beyond her first round clash.
“I can’t look too far ahead of myself. I haven’t played for a few weeks,” she said.
“I have to keep my expectations quite low and just work my way, work my game, work my mindset through this draw.”