Melbourne: Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova was Wednesday handed an Australian Open wild card as she attempts to resurrect her career after an injury-plagued 2019.
The 32-year-old, who won the tournament in 2008, has slipped down the rankings to 147, outside automatic qualification, and was bounced out of the Brisbane International this week in the first round.
But the Russian remains a big name and she will line up at Melbourne Park once again after it was announced on the tournament website that she would be a wild card.
Until Brisbane, Sharapova had not played since a first-round loss to career-long rival Serena Williams at the US Open in August, with her season ruined by a shoulder injury.
“It was a long match. I think this is going to be a good test for my shoulder, not so much right now, but maybe tomorrow and the day after to see how I feel,” she said after her Brisbane defeat on Tuesday.
“I definitely lost speed on it and strength toward the end of the match, but that comes with time. I have to be patient with that.”
Sharapova, who made her Australian Open debut in 2003, also revealed she had been battling a virus “where I just couldn’t keep anything in”.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has laughed off a temper tantrum that saw him clip his father’s arm while smashing a racket, and said he is feeling “good with his game” heading into the Australian Open.
The hot-headed world number six lost his temper after dropping the first set to temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios, who was on his best behaviour, at the ATP Cup on Tuesday evening on his way to defeat.
He slammed his racket into the Greek team bench, where his father and captain Apostolos Tsitsipas was sitting, catching him on the forearm.
It left his dad bleeding from a small cut, with his mother coming down from the stands to give him a talking to.
“It happened accidentally. I didn’t mean to do it and straight away forgot about it and moved on from there,” the 21-year-old said in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“It happens. I wasn’t aiming to do that, so it’s just it went out of control, unfortunately.”
Asked if he will be punished by his parents, he joked: “Maybe I’ll stay in my room for three days, grounded by my father.”
Despite his meltdown and loss to Kyrgios, Tsitsipas said he was happy with how he was doing heading into the opening Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park this month.
He has so far totted up just one win out of three, also losing to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in two tough tiebreak sets while thrashing world number seven Alexander Zverev.
Tsitsipas, who made the Australian Open semi-finals last year, will play at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event in Melbourne next week as he fine-tunes preparations for the Grand Slam, which starts on January 20.