Former world no.1 Maria Sharapova’s new season is already off to a rocky start with a first-round loss at Brisbane International, but her Australian Open main draw dream lives on as she is awarded a wild card.
After a season plagued with injury and match losses, Sharapova will have a chance once again to redeem herself at the first Grand Slam of the year. The Russian only played seven tournaments in 2019 and failing to go past even the round of 16 at any of the tournaments.
However, as she recovered from her injury and with renewed motivation, she returned to Brisbane in the new year hoping to finally register a successful comeback. Despite winning the first set off Jennifer Brady, the American proved to be too much for the 32-year-old as she succumbed to the former 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3).
Currently ranked at 147, far from her glory days, the Russian would not have qualified for the main draw. However, giving Sharapova one more chance to return to Melbourne Park, tournament director Crag Tiley announced that she would receive a wild card into the main draw.
Sharapova’s 2020 season began not only with a loss but also with compromised health as she revealed that she was “fighting virus for a couple of weeks and ended up in the hospital” a few days earlier.
The former Australian Open champion of 2008 will return to Melbourne Park where the tournament will begin on January 20.
Disappointed with her result at the Brisbane International, Sharapova was proud of herself for outperforming her expectations but extremely critical of the event as the inaugural men’s ATP Cup took precedence over the women’s event at the Pat Rafter Arena.
Before Sharapova spoke out, Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova both did not shy away from talking about the disrespectful and unfair practise as the women, equals in the sport, played their matches in the outside courts while the men held on to the centre court and the more comfortable time slots.
Even Australia’s very own Ashleigh Barty who is currently the top-ranked player of the world will play on centre court four days into the event which features six of the top ten players. Only once the ATP Cup flies to Sydney post the robin round matches, the Brisbane International matches will play on the premier courts.
Barty takes on Brady in their second round match at the Brisbane International on Thursday.