Sharapova plans to play Oz Open but to give Tokyo Olympics a miss - GulfToday

Sharapova plans to play Oz Open but to give Tokyo Olympics a miss

Amir Naqvi

Sharapova plans to play Oz Open  but to give Tokyo Olympics a miss

Maria Sharapova serves to Ajla Tomljanovic during their match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Associated Press

Maria Sharapova — one of the highest paid female athletes and glamorous faces of the sport — plans to play in the Australian Open next year, despite battling with lingering shoulder problem throughout 2019.

On Friday, the Russian star battled past Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-5 at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship being played at the International Tennis Stadium in Zayed Sports City.

She had to dig deep to finally prevail over Tomljanovic. The five-time major champion, who took to the court for the first time since her US Open first round exit in August, rallied from a break down in each set to overcome the Australian.

“I definitely look forward to going to Australia and seeing how things go, see how the body holds up there,” said the former world No.1.

Sharpova also confirmed that she will not be playing the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She has already committed herself to playing a tournament in California during the week of the Tokyo Games.

She has agreed to play two matches in two WorldTeam Tennis matches in Newport Beach on July 28 and 29 in the middle of the Tokyo 2020 tennis tournament.

World TeamTennis is a mixed-gender professional tennis league played with a team format in the US.

It will be the second consecutive Olympics the Russian has had to sit out, after missing Rio 2016 because of a 15-month doping ban.

Sharapova had carried Russia’s flag at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, winning a silver medal in the women’s singles, where she was beaten in the final by American Serena Williams.

The odds of the 32-year-old Sharapova qualifying for Tokyo 2020 were always slim, as she has struggled to regain her best form following her drugs suspension after a positive test in February 2016 for meldonium.

Expressing delight over the victory, she said: “Definitely I’m coming out of this match happy that I was out there again and it can only get better from here.”

Due to injury, she was only able to enter eight events in last season.

“Any chance that I get to come out and play competitively is a really good day because I just haven’t played a lot.

“I really love what I do. I think you see it when I am on the court, when I do have the chance to compete, I really enjoy being there. I really have a great purpose for what I do,” she added.

Looking to reach the peak again, the 32-year-old said instead of getting disappointed over the injury she gets inspired by players like Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, who had overcome injuries.

“From his point of view, he likes a lot of matches to feel confident, but you need to be healthy in order to do that, so you have to make the right decisions and that’s certainly something that I can learn from him,” she said of the Spanish world number.

“I still really have the passion for tennis. I enjoy seeing the effort that I’m able to put in, and I think that hard work will always ultimately come to the surface,” added Sharapova, who is currently world No.131.

The former world number one had said Murray’s announcement that this year’s tournament Down Under would be his last had underlined her determination to make the most of her time in the spotlight.

“You realise that you’re not immortal, you’re never going to play this forever, even though we’ve done it as long as we can think of,” she said.

However, she conceded her thoughts at times had turned to life after tennis.

“At one point, life goes on and there’s a lot of things to look forward to,” she said.

“You have family, children, other business ventures. To me, that doesn’t make me sad, that makes me excited.”

Tomljanovic was the first Australian, male or female, to feature at the Mubadala World Championship after replacing Amanda Anisimova, who picked up an injury ahead of the tournament.

Related articles