PARIS: Maria Sharapova swaps sweltering Melbourne for wet and chilly Paris on Monday hoping her love affair with the French capital will help bury her Australian Open nightmare.
The world number three was a shock fourth-round loser at the season-opening Grand Slam, going down to eventual finalist Dominika Cibulkova, her hopes hamstrung by a hip injury.
But Paris only brings back warm recent memories for the Russian star who will start the WTA indoor tournament this week as top seed at the city’s Stade Coubertin, just a short walk from Roland Garros where she clinched the French Open in 2012, completing a career Grand Slam.
Sharapova was also runner-up at Garros last year although her only previous visit to the January indoor hardcourt tournament in Paris’s plush 16th arrondissement ended in a quarter-final run.
Sharapova’s Melbourne campaign was just her second event since a shoulder injury ended her 2013 season in August, a setback which also ruled her out of the US Open.
“I think it’s a success in terms of that I’m back and that I’m healthy,” she said after her Australian Open exit.
“That’s quite important otherwise I wouldn’t give myself a chance to play.
“So on that note, I have to look at the positives and see where I have come from in four or five months. I haven’t played a lot of tennis in those six months.”
Sharapova gets a first-round bye in Paris before a match-up with Slovak veteran Daniela Hantuchova or Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.
Monday, however, sees the 26-year-old don her businesswoman’s hat when she heads for the Champs-Elysees and the launch of her candy line.
Once she has finished in Paris, the in-demand Sharapova will turn her attentions to TV, working as colour commentator for NBC at the Winter Olympics.