Sharapova receives Australian Open wildcard

andrew hendrie /

Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova has been awarded a wildcard into the 2020 Australian Open after slipping out of the top 100 last year.

Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion, was limited to just eight events and 15 matches throughout 2019 as she battled a lingering shoulder injury.

The Russian slipped to a current ranking of No. 147 as a result, but she will get a chance to salvage that mark and climb back into the top 100 after being granted a wildcard into the Australian Open, which begins on January 20.

It’s welcome news for Sharapova, who was defeated in the opening round of the Brisbane International – where she also received a wildcard – on Wednesday night by qualifier Jennifer Brady of the USA.

Sharapova went down in a deciding set tiebreak, and although she struggled on serve, it wasn’t the shoulder that was bothering the five-time major champion during her stay in Brisbane.

Maria Sharapova during her match in Brisbane (PA Images)

“I’ve been fighting virus for a couple weeks and ended up in the hospital the other day, so that wasn’t fun,” Sharapova said.

“I just couldn’t keep anything in (but) that’s the extent that I’m going to share with you.”

Despite the defeat, Sharapova said she was happy with how she fought in her first match since the U.S. Open.

“I think I’m always disappointed because it’s a result-oriented sport but I have to be proud of my effort,” she said.

“Yes there are a lot of improvements I need to make but I fought really hard. Just getting out there and playing after having a rough couple of days, I think is a really good effort.

“I think I did a lot better than I expected of my body.”

Sharapova defeated Ana Ivanovic for the Australian Open title in 2008 and was a runner-up in 2007, 2012 and 2015.

The 32-year-old failed a doping test at the 2016 Australian Open after making the quarter-finals, causing her to be banned for 15 months. Sharapova returned in 2018 to make the third round, while she was eliminated in the fourth round last year by Ashleigh Barty.