Injured Sharapova pulls out of Australian Open

January 11th, 2009 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Maria Sharapova Melbourne, June 11 (DPA) Defending champion Maria Sharapova Sunday withdrew from the Australian Open due to a slow return from the chronic shoulder problems which have kept her off court since last summer. The Russian’s management dropped the bombshell to tournament organisers, saying she is still not ready to compete after autumn arthroscopic surgery and rehabilitation.

“I am very sorry to announce that I am not going to be able to defend my title at this year’s Australian Open,” Sharapova said in a statement.

“My shoulder is doing great, but I just started training a few weeks ago and I am just not near the level I need to be to compete at the highest levels.”

Sharapova won the event a year ago over Ana Ivanovic without dropping a set during the fortnight to lift her third Grand Slam title.

“The Australian Open is one of my favorite tournaments, they have the best fans in the world and I am going to miss everything about the tournament,” Sharapova said. “I promise I will see everyone next year.”

Sharapova had been entered in last week’s Hong Kong exhibition but was unable to make that trip as well. Her last match was a walkover to Ai Sugiyama in Montreal July 31 with the Russian unable to take to the court.

She joins fellow Russian Nikolay Davydenko in withdrawing after the men’s number five pulled out with a heel injury.

Women’s top seed Jelena Jankovic is fighting the effects of influenza and will enter next Monday’s start after having played just one match in Hong Kong.

Men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic is trying to kick-start his preparation by playing Sydney this week after a first-round loss in Brisbane, while compatriot Ivanovic lost in the Brisbane quarter-finals and is also short of match play.

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