SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Australian Open organisers are confident Maria Sharapova will play at the first grand slam of the year despite her withdrawal from a lead-up event.
The Russian has not played since November last year because of a shoulder problem and was in doubt for the Open after pulling out of this week's Australian women's hardcourt championship on the Gold Coast.
But a tournament spokesman said organisers were still expecting her to play in Melbourne after her management called them on Friday to say she would be arriving in Australia on Sunday.
"Her management contacted us to arrange a pick-up on her arrival so that's a fair indication," the spokesman said.
News of Sharapova's pending arrival in Australia is a welcome relief for tournament organisers after four-times champion Andre Agassi announced on Thursday he was pulling out because of an ankle injury.
Marat Safin, the reigning men's champion, is in serious doubt because of a long-term knee injury while French Open champion Rafael Nadal is in danger because of a foot problem that forced him to pull out of next week's Sydney International.