May 19, 2013
Deja vu for 'cold' Sharapova in Melbourne
World number two Maria Sharapova must be feeling like she has been down this road before.
Last year the Russian arrived at the Australian Open without any match practice after struggling to overcome a nagging ankle injury sustained at the 2011 year-ending WTA Championships.
The problems forced her out of the Brisbane International, the only tournament she had been scheduled to play before the season's first grand slam.
Twelve months later, the four-times grand slam winner is again entering Melbourne lacking match practice after pain in her collar bone caused her to skip Brisbane, won by Serena Williams.
Not that Sharapova seemed too concerned.
"It's much more important for me to be healthy and to be ready than to try to go out and play a few matches," the 25-year-old said after her withdrawal in Brisbane.
"I've always built my career around the fact that it's very important for me to go into something like the Australian Open believing and knowing that I'm healthy, that I'm confident.
"I don't exactly need to play five tournaments in order to feel that way."
Despite coming into last year's Australian Open cold, Sharapova made it to the final, although she was blown away by Victoria Azarenka in just 82 minutes.
An error-strewn performance left some observers questioning whether it was the beginning of the end for the Florida-based Russian, who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old in 2004 by winning the Wimbledon title.
A career-threatening shoulder injury required reconstructive surgery in 2008 and recurrent injuries since were starting to take their toll as a new generation of young players began to match her power.