Former world No. 1, Maria Sharapova has dismissed speculations about her retirement, claiming that she still has a lot to offer the sport.
The five-time Grand Slam champion endured an injury-ravaged 2019, limping to an 8-7 record and falling to a year-end mark of 133, having begun the season inside the world’s top 30.
Sharapova was sidelined for over four months after undergoing shoulder surgery in February 2019, while the same problem forced an early conclusion to her season. She has not played since an opening round loss to Serena Williams at the US Open.
The Russian will return to action at next week’s Brisbane International, having got a wildcard into the tournament.
“I have had a fairly good off-season and I am motivated to compete on a high level again”, Sharapova said ahead of Brisbane. “At this point in my career, it’s a good sign when I have that feeling”.
“I never saw myself playing past 30 when I was younger but I still feel there is a lot in me to give”.
Sharapova had a fairly decent start to last season, reaching the quarter-finals in her season opener in Shenzhen and making the fourth round of the Australian Open, where eliminated then defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki and pushed local favourite and soon-to-be world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty to three sets, but her shoulder problems soon kicked in.
The 32-year-old withdrew from a Round of 16 meeting with compatriot, Daria Kasatkina in St. Petersburg in February, and would undergo surgery later that month. Sharapova returned in June for the grass court season, but she was soon back in the wars, as a forearm injury forced her to retire from her Wimbledon opener against Pauline Parmentier while trailing 5-0 in the final set.
The Russian returned in time for the North American hard court season, but she won just one match across Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open, before injuries finally put paid to her 2019 campaign.
“There were a lot of ups and downs in 2019; also times when I was ready but the shoulder wasn’t, Sharapova said. “I want a fresh start after a tough last season.”
Sharapova is determined to put all of her problems behind her as she looks ahead to a more successful 2020. The Russian is renowned as one of the fiercest competitors on the tour, but while that motivation remains intact, she admits that her health will be the ultimate determinant of how much farther she goes in her career.
“I still have a lot of fire and I am a big competitor; as long as the shoulder stays healthy and my body allows me to, I hope there is a lot of time left for me in tennis”.
“The results are important, but for me, it is more about how I feel day to day, making sure my shoulder holds up… If everything goes well, I am definitely up for that challenge.”
Sharapova starts her 2020 season at the Brisbane International, live from 6-12 January.